The Dark Side of the Moon: A Fiftieth Anniversary Retrospective


The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd will turn 50 years old on March 1st, 2023. The Dark Side of the Moon is among one of the most famous and influential albums of all time having sold roughly 45 million copies. It was the first album in Pink Floyd’s discography to fit the label of a concept album, which is a term that has become synonymous with the band. But what sets The Dark Side of the Moon apart from Pink Floyd’s other concept albums like Animals and The Wall? And most importantly, why does it still hold up today, 50 years after the album’s initial release?

The album opens with “Speak to Me”. This Instrumental track features distant chatter in the background along with sound effects from songs that appear later in the album, while a heartbeat crescendos seamlessly into track two, “Breathe (In The Air)”. Lead vocals are sung by Pink Floyd’s guitarist, David Gilmour. The song gives a sensation that you are floating. The calm drumbeat and bass line act as a complement to the smooth guitar and keys playing behind the lyrics. ”Breathe” acts as a set up for the themes and melodies that will come up in the rest of the album. The lyrics below encapsulate the thematic tone showcased throughout the whole album:


For long, you live and high you fly

And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry

And all you touch and all you see

Is all your life will ever be

The slower pace of “Breathe” transitions into the fast pace of the next track, “On the Run”. Much like “Speak to Me”, this song is also an instrumental, featuring background chatter once again. Though this chattering may seem unimportant, in many cases it gives context to the ideas of the songs. Throughout the beginning of the song, we can hear a voice that seems to be giving directions at an airport. The rapid tempo throughout the song along with the dialogue alludes to the idea of how our lives are fast paced, and its hard to stop and smell the roses sometimes. The themes of “On the Run” carry over into the next song, “Time”, which (as you can probably guess) is about the passage of time. The track opens with many ticking clocks that all chime in a cacophony of noise before the instrumental starts. Before the vocal line, we hear a two minute drum solo, preformed by Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason. The drums build to David Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright’s vocals. The melodic theme sung in “Breathe” comes back in “Time” as we transition to “The Great Gig in the Sky”.

“The Great Gig in the Sky” opens with a beautiful piano intro by Richard Wright. A faint guitar builds in the back as the piano continues to play under the voice of Gerry O’Driscoll who says, “I am not frightened of dying, you know. Any time will do, I don’t mind…” From this, we can gather the song is about death, and a person’s thoughts or feelings around the idea of it. The piano solo finishes, and the rest of the instruments are brought in under the main vocal line, preformed by Clare Torry. Torry was brought into the studio to record vocals for this song, which were all improvised. Soon, the rest of the instruments fall away, and its just Torry’s vocals and Wright’s piano once again, as side one of the record is closed out.

[The Dark Side of the Moon] has left behind an undeniably important legacy…

Side two opens abruptly with the looping sounds of coins and cash registers, which signal the starting of track six, “Money”. The prominent bass line throughout the song was preformed by Pink Floyd’s bassist, Roger Waters, while vocals were sung by David Gilmour once again. The song covers the idea of greed and consumerism, and how money affects people. The song also includes a saxophone solo, preformed by Richard Parry. The song closes out with more interview segments which continue into the next track, “Us and Them.” The lyrics, which are again sung by David Gilmour and Richard Wright, talk about violence and fighting, alluding to ideas of war, and how opposing forces can react to each other, and in the end we are all just people trying to get by. The song immediately transitions into an instrumental “Any Colour You Like”, consisting of prominent keyboard and guitar solos throughout the song. “Any Colour You Like” has no lyrics or interview clips, and much like the title suggests, the song can be interpreted in any way the listener perceives it. 

After “Any Colour You Like”, we are brought to “Brain Damage”, which features Roger Waters on vocals. “Brain Damage” relates to the idea of “insanity” and how it affects a person’s mind. The song is also in part a tribute to Pink Floyd’s former guitarist, Syd Barrett, who left the band in 1968. The lyrics, “You lock the door and throw away the key, and there’s someone in my head, but it’s not me”, imply a mental battle going on inside the speaker’s brain and how they feel locked out of their own senses, which seem to be controlled by someone else. Finally, we transition into the closing track, “Eclipse”. “Eclipse” brings back the lyrical structure that “Breathe” has, with most lines in the song beginning with “and all that…”. The lyrics which are once again sung by Roger Waters, explain how everything in life comes and goes, and eventually how, “everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”. The album finishes with the same heartbeat, now fading out, from “Speak to Me”.

So why is The Dark Side of the Moon considered to be so influential, and why do its themes still hold up today, especially when going up against the other concept albums Pink Floyd has made? I think the most important reason is that The Dark Side of the Moon covers all spheres of life from money, to mental health, to the passage of time, and death. These are themes that anybody can relate to. These spheres of life that have been talked about in the album are recurring themes in everyone’s life. While The Dark Side of the Moon covers many aspects of life, Pink Floyd’s other concept albums go more into detail about themes that The Dark Side of the Moon brings up. For example, The Wall covers ideas of loneliness and isolation, and the idea of building a mental wall around yourself. Animals showcases the ideas of societal classes and power. Even though both The Wall and Animals bring up important topics, The Dark Side of the Moon is a lot broader, and the many themes may be a bit easier for listeners to relate to.

In the 50 years that The Dark Side of the Moon has been released, it has left behind an undeniably important legacy, not just for Pink Floyd, but for the music industry. The themes on the album are still important to our lives today, and have stood the test of time ever since its release date in 1973.