You’ve listened to it so many times you lost your track of space and time. When you found out the ‘lunatic’ in your head wasn’t you, you realized the ‘great gig in the sky’ was more than just ‘us and them’. ‘Ticking away the moments’ you found ‘money, [is] a crime’. Time goes on. And you thought you’d get ‘a good job with good pay and [you'd be] okay, but, ‘the sun [remained] the same in a relative way, [and] you’re older’ now. The ‘rabbit’ in you ran. It ‘forgot the Sun’. After you ‘dug that hole’ and the work got done, you didn’t sit down. It was time to ‘dig another one’. You ‘breathed in the air’ and decided to ‘choose your own ground’. Alas! By then, ‘you find ten years [got] behind you’. ‘Eclipsed by the moon’ you know ‘there is no dark side really’. ‘It’s all dark’. And still you’re there, forty years since it was first launched. Forty years later you’re still listening to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of The Moon.
In 1965, four lads from Cambridge formed a band. From the 1950s, the young in Britain became deeply influenced by the Rock n’ Roll and the Blues emanating from the other side of the Atlantic in the USA. The four lads were not immune. They decided to be called Pink Floyd after the Blues Guitarists from the Mississippi Delta, Pink Anderson (1900-1974) and Floyd Council (1911-1976). The four mates from Cambridge were Syd Barrett (1946-2006) singer, songwriter, composer and guitarist; Roger Waters (born 1943) singer, songwriter, composer and bass guitarist; Nick Mason (born 1944) drummer; and Rick Wright (1943-2008) pianist. In 1967 the band launched their first album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. That was the first and the last time the world would see and hear of the derailed schizophrenic genius Syd Barrett who sunk deeper and deeper into mental illness and went into oblivion after becoming ‘obscured by clouds’. David Gilmour (born 1946) joined as a session guitarist and then became a full member of the band. Considered by the band as the official date, on March 24, 1973, Pink Floyd launched their eighth album, The Dark Side of The Moon, from Abbey Road Studio in London. The rest was more than just ‘another brick in the wall’. The rest was history.
By the mid 1960s, Rock ‘n Roll came of age. Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones once said, the 1960s was a time when all that was black & white turned into Technicolor all of a sudden. Through experimentation, psychedelic rock was born. The Beatles, The Byrds, The Yardbirds in the UK; The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the USA pioneered this genre. Bursting on the scene with Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd gradually started to find tunes, beats and themes of their own. By 1973, Pink Floyd was ready to embark on a journey on creating some of the best concept albums in Rock.
Concept Albums- tunes or songs that evolve around a common theme or message- in Western popular music is not new. Pink Floyd certainly wasn’t the first. Bob Dylan’s mentor Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) was composing Concept Albums in 1940 with Dust Bowl Ballads that narrated the hardship of migrant workers in the 1930s during the Great Depression in the US. By the 1960s The Beach Boys came up with Pet Sounds (1966) and The Beatles emerged with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of The Moon stands out for its single extended piece that deals with the depravity of human experience- a concept till then not explored in Rock. Musically, The Dark Side of The Moon combines psychedelic rock; progressive rock (experimental and technological innovations in music), synthesizing rock and blues with such beauty, it leaves you in awe to ask why nobody had done such a concept like this before. The central themes of life and death (the heartbeat at the beginning and the end); greed (Money); and mental illness (Brain Damage, an acknowledgement to Syd Barrett) are still relevant across generations and spaces as they were in 1973. Even after forty years, you’ll find stunning moments in the album, the moment it starts with ‘Speak to Me’! Having spoken about its philosophical and creative depth, Pink Floyd never designed The Dark Side of The Moon to be a commercial success. It just happened to become one, ranking as one of three albums to have sold 50 million copies and staying in the US Billboard chart for a record 741 weeks, fourteen years between 1973 and 1988.
At the end of the day when all have gone and all is lost, it’s the sages, the poets and the musicians whose tunes and words keep vibrating like Confucius of China, Homer of Greece and Ferdowsi of Persia. The heartbeat doesn’t stop. The ‘pulse’ stays alive. Pink Floyd and The Dark Side of The Moon rank alongside these great sages of antiquity. After 100 or even 500 years from now, if ‘the band you’re in starts playing different tunes; I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon’. But then, did you know ‘There is no dark side of the moon really? Matter of fact it’s all dark’! Does it matter? The lads from Cambridge will keep shining on like ‘Crazy Diamonds’.
(The author teaches economic theory at Jahangirnagar University. This Post Campus is dedicated to Jahangir Roney, founding anchor of Gaan Golpo, BBC Bangla, for whom a piece on Pink Floyd was long overdue.)