10 things you didn't know about Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon album

1 March 2022, 18:58

Pink Floyd circa 1972: Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright
Pink Floyd circa 1972: Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright. Picture: RB/Redferns/Getty Images

The all-time classic album was released in March 1973 - but how much do you know about the making of this masterpiece?

By Martin O'Gorman

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  1. The songs were performed live before they were recorded in the studio

    One of the key ideas behind Dark Side Of The Moon was that Pink Floyd created an album that could be played in its entirety, meaning the material was road-tested well in advance of the band entering the studio.

    Some of the new songs were given their public debut at Brighton Dome on 20th January 1972, while the whole Dark Side Of The Moon suite was unveiled to the press over four nights at The Rainbow theatre in Finsbury Park in February 1972. Weekly paper Melody Maker called the work "lacking framework and conception".

    Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon tour, complete with the famous circular screen
    Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon tour, complete with the famous circular screen. Picture: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty
  2. Pink Floyd were not the first band to use the title Dark Side Of The Moon

    Floyd's intention was to make an album about mental health and the fragility of life. The phrase "dark side of the moon" was an ideal metaphor for both the unknown and the ancient and outdated concept of the "lunatic" (a term derived from the Latin "luna" and the idea that one's mental state fluctuated around the phases of the moon).

    However, this idea was scuppered when Stafford-based prog rockers Medicine Head released their third album on John Peel's Dandelion label in the Spring of 1972. It was titled Dark Side Of The Moon.

    The other Dark Side Of The Moon: Medicine Head's 1972 album
    The other Dark Side Of The Moon: Medicine Head's 1972 album. Picture: Press

    “We were annoyed because we had already thought of the title before the Medicine Head album came out," guitarist David Gilmour later said. Pink Floyd then suggested the new album could be called Eclipse... that is until Medicine Head's album failed to perform commercially - it didn't even make the UK Top 40 chart and would prove to be their last release for Dandelion. This meant Pink Floyd could revert to their original idea.

  3. Paul and Linda McCartney were due to appear on the album... but were left off.

    Dark Side Of The Moon was recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios, which proved useful for one of bassist Roger Waters' ideas. "I wrote questions down on a set of cards. Whoever was in the building came and did it. They would read the top card and answer it - with no one else in the room . So, for instance, when it said 'When was the last time you were violent?' the next one said, 'Were you in the right?' The questions that provided us with the best material were the ones about violence."

    Frequenting Abbey Road at the time were Paul and Linda McCartney, who were working on the second Wings album, Red Rose Speedway. The celebrity couple were drafted in to answer Waters' questions, but didn't deliver. “He was trying to be funny," the frustrated Pink Floyd man later told biographer John Harris, "which wasn’t what we wanted at all."

    Trying to be funny: Paul and Linda McCartney during the Wings years, May 1973
    Trying to be funny: Paul and Linda McCartney during the Wings years, May 1973. Picture: Ian Dickson/Redferns/Getty

    However, Wings guitarist Henry McCullogh did end up on Dark Side Of The Moon: he's the voice that says "I don't know... I was really drunk at the time" at the end of Money.

    Henry McCullough in November 1971
    Henry McCullough in November 1971. Picture: Jorgen Angel/Redferns/Getty Images
  4. Naomi Watts' dad appears on the album

    Naomi Watts poses at the opening night for Stephen Sondheim's "Company" on Broadway, December 2021
    Naomi Watts poses at the opening night for Stephen Sondheim's "Company" on Broadway, December 2021. Picture: Bruce Glikas/WireImage/Getty Images

    The actress, who's now best-known for the films The Ring, King Kong and Mulholland Drive, is the daughter of Peter Watts, Pink Floyd's then-road manager. Watts is one of the random voices that appears throughout the album, laughing repeatedly and musing on the subject of morality: "I never said I was frightened of dying." Watts would die in 1976 from a heroin overdose, aged just 30.

  5. The album features British-made synthesisers!

    The sounds heard on the track On The Run are made by the VCS-3, a small synthesiser made by EMS, Electronic Music Studios. It was nicknamed "The Putney", because EMS's offices were based by Putney Bridge in South West London. Pink Floyd also used the EMS Synthi A, which was a portable synth that could be carried about in its own suitcase.

    Made in Britain! The "Putney" aka the VCS-3 synthesiser, as used on Dark Side Of The Moon
    Made in Britain! The "Putney" aka the VCS-3 synthesiser, as used on Dark Side Of The Moon. Picture: Jorgen Angel/Redferns/Getty
  6. There's a colour missing from the spectrum on the cover design

    Which colour is missing? The full gatefold sleeve of Pink Floy's Dark Side Of The Moon
    Which colour is missing? The full gatefold sleeve of Pink Floy's Dark Side Of The Moon. Picture: Alamy Stock Photo

    Hipgnosis, the art collective featuring Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, designed the cover for Dark Side Of The Moon, which was put together by graphic artist George Hardie. Tasked by the band to come up with a "simple and bold" design, the finished artwork features a beam of white light shining through a prism, which then fragments the ray into its constituent colours. However, there's one colour from the spectrum missing: indigo. The artwork shows red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

  7. The band would stop recording to watch Monty Python

    Engineer Alan Parsons recalled that the Pink Floyd's studio routine would change depending on which day of the week it was. "If it was football night, we would always finish early," he told Rolling Stone in 2003. "If it was Monty Python night, we'd do the same. Roger was very into football. Very often, they'd stop for Monty Python and leave me to do a rough mix."

    One of the sketches from the third series of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Terry Jones and Graham Chapman attempt to "Summarize Proust"
    One of the sketches from the third series of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Terry Jones and Graham Chapman attempt to "Summarize Proust". Picture: Don Smith/Radio Times via Getty Images

    Python's third series began on BBC-1 in October 1972, right in the middle of the Dark Side Of The Moon sessions, although David Gilmour claims the band was more disciplined than people made out. "We would sometimes watch them, but when we were on a roll, we would get on," he told Uncut.

    Pink Floyd were genuine Python fans - so much so that they put some of the profits made from Dark Side Of The Moon into financing the film Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

  8. There was no single taken off Dark Side Of The Moon

    Pink Floyd's last UK single had been Point Me At The Sky in December 1968, which failed to trouble the chart. Alongside Led Zeppelin, Floyd became one of those "serious", progressive bands that concentrated more on albums rather than the increasingly irrelevant world of the singles chart. So in their native Britain, there was no single - you had to experience Dark Side Of The Moon as a whole piece. In the US, it was a different story, and Money was plucked from the record, making No 10 on the Cash Box chart when it was backed with Any Colour You Like.

    Money was also issued as a single in Germany
    Money was also issued as a single in Germany. Picture: Alamy Stock Photo
  9. The idea that you can sync Dark Side Of The Moon with The Wizard Of Oz is a myth

    One long standing urban legend says that if you start playing Dark Side Of The Moon at the same time that the MGM lion roars for the third time at the beginning of the 1939 fantasy classic, The Wizard Of Oz, you'll notice that the music seems to commentate on the action in the film.

    For example, The Great Gig In The Sky lifts off just as the twister comes to spirit Dorothy away; Dorothy opens the door to see the Land of Oz for the first time just as Money kicks in; and the final heartbeats of the record play as the Tin Man reveals he doesn't have a heart.

    Asked about this theory in 1997, drummer Nick Mason told MTV: “It’s absolute nonsense. It has nothing to do with The Wizard Of Oz. It was all based on The Sound Of Music.”

  10. Dark Side Of The Moon is the seventh best selling album of all time in the UK

    Pink Floyd's 1973 masterpiece lines up behind Queen's Greatest Hits, ABBA Gold, The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Adele's 21, (What's The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis and Michael Jackson's Thriller in the list of Britain's top sellers, with 4.47 million copies sold.

    Pink Floyd performing live in Columbia, Maryland, October 1973
    Pink Floyd performing live in Columbia, Maryland, October 1973. Picture: The Color Archives / Alamy Stock Photo

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