The Bright Side of the Moon
When my father passed away, he “left more than a snap shot in the family album” and “just a memory.” Being that he was an avid Pink Floyd fan, I inherited from him a love for Nick Masons smooth rhythms, Richard Wrights groovy synth and piano, David Gilmour’s unparalleled Guitar playing, and especially Roger Waters lyrics. I was 15 when he passed and as such I was 15 when I received my first copy of Dark Side of the Moon.
From the moment I out the CD in the stereo system that my father had also left behind for me, a set of monstrous polk speakers that still sound better than any Bose sets I have ever heard, I knew that the album was great. Amazing even. I loved the celestial synths that paralleled the astral theme. I cringed as my skin crawled and perked with goose bumps as the vocal solo on “Great Gig in the Sky” was belted from a set of pipes that I used to think belonged to Aretha or Houston. I reveled in the saxophone solos that could have made Bill Clinton put his instrument down for good. I worshipped the ground that Gilmour walked on as his solos took me away and filled me with more energy than I could possibly handle. All of this is still true today, but it was not until a heavy smoking session with some friends while listening to this master piece that I really focused on what was said and put the dots together into something that effected my life.
Dark Side of the Moon was written almost entirely by Roger Waters, which sort of invalidates my angst with his ego. It has some of the most profound and well put themes of any album i have ever listened to. Well I’ll go ahead and give it the superlative it deserves: Dark side of the Moon is the most well written album of all time.
The opening track, Speak to Me/Breath opens with a short segment referencing mental illness, an obvious shout out to Sid Barrett who was forced to leave the band for that reason. I often wonder if “there is someone in my head, but not me”. Evidently Roger Waters thought that Sid Barrett did too, or perhaps all of us. This is also the theme of Brain Damage (something I narrowly avoided having massive amounts of, by means of botched shallow dives.) I can’t speak for it any better than Water’s words: “If your head explodes with dark foreboding too, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” Absolutely brilliant. I Haven’t quite come up with a satisfactory explanation for what he is using the dark side of the moon, mental insanity being the most obvious. Perhaps to him it also represents the unknown, the other side of life that we aren’t accustomed to.
Roger Waters spoke of the perpetual work cycle of modern society on several albums throughout his career-- Speak to Me/Breath, Welcome to the Machine-- and chose to end the first track of Dark Side of the Moon with a metaphor of rabbits digging wholes. “When at last [their] work is done,” they “don’t sit down, it’s time to dig another one.” Perhaps music was his way of sidestepping the socio-economic process, or avoiding becoming “Another brink in the wall.” Either way he transcended both.
“Time,” is a particularly poignant song for me. I have “Frittered and wasted” so many hours “in off-hand ways” that it nearly makes me sick to my stomach to think about. The songs greater motif is about making the best use of every second of time that we are allotted on this earth. He speaks to some of us particularly with the line: “You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” I will shamefully admit to have missed the starting gun. Through out the 4 years that I have been in college, I have tried my damnedest to avoid being a student, for various reasons supported by weak loops of logic, but all that wasted time has become one of my biggest regrets in my 22 years of life. I suppose I can take solice in the fact that it was only 4 years and not ten. I wont go through every line of the song, but each passing stanza represents a different period of life, from young adulthood until death. It’s genius and my favorite conceit of all time.
Sir Water’s angst with the socio-economic machine appears again on the track “Money,” where he displays where he sees money fitting into society. It isn’t terribly flattering to the greenback, or pound, or peso, or that number in your bank account. The track opens with the sound of jingling coins and opening cash registers, and a phat bass line. That bass line is probably one of the most recognizable of all time. The opening lyrics of this song are spoken from the point of view of someone who is uber-rich and can apparently afford football teams and leer jets, but not rich enough to share a “slice of his pie.” Waters speaks a blatant truth that we all enjoy and need money, but it tends to only bring happiness to those with wheelbarrows full. Perhaps this song is more culturally relevant now than ever, with our economic downturn and growing wealth disparity, movements like Occupy Wall Street might as well make this their theme song.
War is a common theme throughout Waters Career, specifically his dislike for it. The Wall is rife with references of his fathers death at war, His last album is almost entirely about war (I can’t tell if its a glorification or not) and “Us and Them” speaks directly about the real way wars work. Generals cry “Forward!” from the rear, while soldiers die at the front as pieces on a map. He also touches on war as a part of civilian life. In this setting “It’s a battle of words,” evidently referencing how moral effects the countries ability to work as a war machine. I think the best line of the entire song attempts to encapsulate what war is all about in two words: with or without. No one “can deny its what the fightings all about.” An argument could be made that every war in history has been fought for the acquisition of more resources, so that no one on your side has to go without.
The last song on the album is probably my favorite to analyze. The song is very vague and open ended, so it allows me to have some fun. Here it goes. Waters enumerates many opposing pairs, evidently attempting to list the many facets of life. “All that you save and all that you give” are pretty straight forward, as with most of the pairs in the song. However, the central theme is hidden, because he chooses not to make it as concrete as in “Time” and “Money.” The penultimate and ultimate lines are where everything comes together for me. “And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.” The first line is the end of the list and seeks to generalize to say that everything in the world is ok, and everything in the universe is in order. The last line destroys the hope built by the former. It says that not everything is always under the sun, meaning that not everything under the sun is good and right at all times. I’m cool with that, but the explanation isn’t enough for me.
To me the image of an eclipse is the most important part of the entire song. I guess that is obvious since “Eclipse” is the song. During an eclipse, it is the only time that the bright side of the sun can appear Dark, garnering the quote that follows: “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of Fact it’s all dark.” This line might have been intended to be a koan, something to ponder over eternally with no hope of making heads or tails. Our explanations of the song spinning round and round. I have listened to enough Roger Waters to know that every line of every song is profound and intended to push forward a deeper meaning.
I think he intends to say that both sides of every dichotomy are one in the same. All of the opposing forces and actions listed throughout exist as respective wholes-- depending on which side you looking from. Everything in the universe has unity and seeks equilibrium, if you like chemistry metaphors. What a powerful way to end the album: It’s all about perspective.
The timeless themes of this album kept it a chart topper for 15 years, a record that has not even come close to being beaten by any band before or since. Every time I listen to this album I learn something know about life, and hear a line in a new way that seems somewhat revolutionary to me. I might be too young to be thinking about this, but this is the first album that I know with 100% percent certainty that I will pass on to my children, preferably before a massive myocardial infarction. It is timeless and I know that I am not the only one intending to pass this on to a third generation of listeners. Well I’m out of gas and have listened to this album 5 times today to write this, so I guess I’ll see you on the bright side of the moon.