Thursday, March 11, 2010

"I've been mad for f**king years..."

Dark Side of the Moon is one of the greatest artistic and commercial successes in rock music history. Although it reached the number one position on the Billboard charts for only one week way back in 1973, Pink Floyd's Dark Side surpasses every other musical record in history for its longevity. It spent a total of 741 consecutive weeks (over 14 years) on the Billboard Top 200 before fading.

But even that was temporary. For reasons unknown to me, 12 weeks ago Dark Side returned to the Billboard 200 and ranks #172 as of this post. Needless to say this is a rather astonishing occurrence.

Wired Magazine proclaimed yesterday that Dark Side is the greatest concept album of all time. It is also currently ranked a very strong #21 on Billboard's "Catalog Albums" Chart, where it has now been listed for 949 weeks - or more than 18 years. So, if you add the two charts together, the album has measured in Billboard's rankings one way or another for over 1,700 weeks...most of my lifetime.

One is left to obviously ponder why Dark Side resonates within the musical world when virtually everything else from its time has been largely forgotten.

According to Roger Waters, who wrote all the lyrics for the record, "Dark Side of the Moon was an expression of political, philosophical, humanitarian empathy that was desperate to get out." Well that certainly sounds poetic, if a tad self-serving, but it probably is close to the mark. The album's examination of the pace of modern life, sanity, and mortality is certainly as relevant today as ever. We see what Dark Side is about all around us still.

But, of course, few people really buy it for its deeper meanings. That is not what popularity is usually all about. The music itself, which was written by all four band members at the time to go with Roger's lyrics, is outstanding. Dark Side is a collective musical space that sounds as fresh today as anything out there. The album rocks you with tunes like the hit Money. But, it also allows you to relax and your mind to wander through brilliant musical compositions like Us and Them and The Great Gig in the Sky, the latter composed by the late-Floydian keyboardist Richard Wright.

More than that, however, Pink Floyd nailed it as far as making all the music fit together seamlessly. The album has no pauses between tunes. It uses recorded voices and a wide variety of advanced (for its time) studio effects to stitch the songs together. But, the songs all sound like they are meant for each other as well. It is a collection of musical pieces where one flows into the other and, before you realize it, the entire album has passed while you've been listening.

Perhaps what I find most amazing about the album is that it effects me a variety of ways and always seems to fit whatever mood I am in. If I am reflective, then Dark Side gives me plenty of philosophical tidbits to chew on. If I am brain-dead, the album allows me to relax and simply drift along. If I am sad the album shows me reason for hope and optimism without any sentimentality.

I think there is something to all this. Something unique to this particular album. Its quality of presentation, its innovation, its sense of lyricism and melody, its depth of meaning are all juxtaposed in such a way as to speak to all kinds of rock fans in all kinds of ways for more than 35 years.

Can't say that about many artistic endeavors. Can you?

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