What’s Poppin?: An exploration of 50 years into the Dark Side

Michael Angee, Life Editor

A grieving, despair-ridden, disdainful, beautiful, colorful, defiant, resilient, psychedelic, hippie-pushed anti-war movement. March 1, 2023, marks the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s transcendental eighth studio album: the Dark Side of the Moon. 

In 1973, the Vietnam War raged as the general approval of the movement expanded into the direction of disdain and criticism of the United States government for involving the military in a war that was not “our” (the American people’s) fight. War, insanity, morality, empathy and the passage of time, all central motifs in Dark Side of the Moon. DSOTM allowed Pink Floyd to continue their progressive and psychedelic rock sound, meshed with influences of blues and jazz to add their critiques and observations of the human experience. 

War exposes the bare senses, reflections and reactions of people. It reveals greed, complexity, motives and most notably what a country, people and individual stand for. Pink Floyd encapsulates the deceitful and degenerative nature of war through Dark Side of The Moon. Additionally, the band touched on topics such as morality and empathy in the 10-track classic. 

The album chronicles life beginning at the first breath. “Speak to Me” and “Breathe (In the Air),” and sets a calming ambiance with their instrumentation but begins themes of capitalism and the brutal reality of the passage of time. “Breathe” and its message is soon followed by “On the Run” and “Time,” two anxiety-inducing tracks reminding listeners of the fleeting nature of days, months, years and ultimately, life. 

Impermanence within the feeling of a chase is present in the following tracks. “Time,” the fourth track, begins with the introduction of intrusive clock chimes, all of which were recorded separately at antique stores. Drummer Nick Mason’s two minute passage follows, continuing the unresolved tale. 

The atmosphere of 1973 served as the perfect backdrop for a chronicle such as this. The social and technological changes of the era brought forward the everlasting existential state in which the world operates. The theme of morality permeating through the album is one of the main topics on which bassist Roger Waters wished to touch when writing the album. 

“The Great Gig in the Sky” serves as the climax of the album. Splitting the album in half, the track was originally referred to as “The Religious Section” or “Morality Sequence,” as the lush piano performed by pianist Rick Wright would play at their concerts accompanied by snippets of the Bible among other religious spoken word.

The second half of the album begins with Money, a critique on the habits of humans in the growing capitalist centered world. The song exposes the influence which money has on men, even those with good intentions. 

Us and Them highlights the common mentality which people find themselves in when disagreeing with another “side” or opinion. Sonically the song leads the listener down a passage of wonder, it sounds almost dreamy, but soon nightmarish. The lyrics, written by Roger Waters and sung by Guitarist, David Gilmour, are a haunting approach to the idea that destruction towards our fellow man is not only harmful to them, but us too. 

When Waters was asked about the title to the eighth track, Any Colour You Like, he stated that in some circumstances we ask our opinion when in reality there is no choice, relating to the themes of insanity and morality. 

The final tracks, Brain Damage and Eclipse cannot be understated in their importance to the narrative of the album. Brain Damage relates to the fall of Pink Floyd’s ex-guitarist, Syd Barrett and his usage of hallucinogens in the late 1960s and the effects in which they caused him, leading him to leave the band. The lyrics “You raise the blade, you make the change,” references to the usage of frontal lobotomies, which Barrett thankfully did not use and began to fall out of favor in the late 1950s and 1960s. Eclipse reprises lyrics from “Breathe,” a full circle sensation to round out the album. The album concludes with the lyrics, “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”  

Running from the end, running from insanity, running from ourselves, Dark Side of the Moon is an “existentialist masterpiece” as Trevor J. Levin stated in the Harvard Crimson. The anxiety-inducing, eye-opening album feels like an infinite fall into the reflections of the effects of war, capitalism and an ever-changing society that can easily feel as though we have fallen behind those ahead. The 1973 album acts as a pure meditation on common themes in the human experience and has taught listeners to be wary about what they value and the actions reflecting these values.