High Fidelity, First Class: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon Turns 40 Page 2


Surround sound audio guru and mastermind of The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)

When I was a kid first discovering the magic of music, what made the biggest impression on me about Pink Floyd was the idea that an album could be a musical continuum or journey. It wasn’t just about writing 10 songs and throwing them together on two sides of vinyl; it was as much about the architecture and flow of the material. They may not have been the only ones doing this, but they did it better than anyone else, perhaps because it was done without losing quality control in the songwriting department. You could take individual sections or songs out of the context of the album and they still sounded fantastic. The lyrics and concepts were always thoughtful and deep without being pretentious, and universal enough to resonate with almost anyone, right down to an 8-year-old kid overhearing his Dad playing The Dark Side of the Moon album.

Even at that age I could understand and relate to the sentiment of songs like “Money” and “Time.” Ultimately the material was very simple and melodic, and the grand design or musicianship was never allowed to get in the way of a great tune, such that the best Floyd records strike a seemingly impossible balance between being epic/ambitious and uncontrived/effortless. Going hand in hand with all of this you had the perfect visual equivalent of the music in the record sleeves, which de-emphasized the cult of personality in favor of a kind intellectual cool. From Floyd more than anyone I learned the importance of the relationship between the music and the presentation and that the creative process does not end with the music but carries through to the record sleeve, the live show, and the whole visual identity of the artist.


The main man of Styx — who had the sleeve art for their 1978 masterpiece Pieces of Eight designed by the late Storm Thorgerson — with the all-knowing crystal ball

I first heard The Dark Side of the Moon in my living room back in Niles, Michigan in the 1970s, and I often replayed it at mind-numbing dB levels on my super-sized stereo system. I don’t know if I spent much time analyzing why I loved it, as much as I just gave in to the way it transported me to a wonderful dreamplace. I used to think my senses were heightened, but as I’m listening to it now, I feel as though they’ve re-recorded it and added more layers to it. It seems so much more nuanced. Older and wiser, perhaps? Who’s to say? But it holds up. Big time.

What still slays me is the restraint. The courage and willingness of the band to use space as part of the musical landscape. Sing one word — for instance, “money,” or “us” — and just wait a while to sing the next word or line. And not just lyrically, but musically all throughout the arranging of their compositions you must give into the fact that this is a meal to be eaten slowly, savoring each bite. Lyrically, there’s much more of a tension and sense of resignation than I recall. “Quiet desperation is the English way,” the near-last line at the end of “Time” before the song shifts to “Breathe (Reprise),” is still one of my favorite passages. I think that’s part of the magic. The voices of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright are so soothing, yet there’s danger lurking beneath that I may not have perceived when I was absorbing it back in the 20th century. And Alan Parsons’s engineering and Chris Thomas’s mixing certainly helped take these magnificent tracks to yet another level.

I’m going to have to stop here, because I need to listen to it again — and this time, the 180-gram vinyl version of it, through a pair of JBL LS40 bookshelf speakers — and be transported to that place it took me way back when. Someone help me! I’m under Pink Floyd’s spell again.


Cousin of the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and bandleader of Stardeath and White Dwarfs who helped give birth to the combo Lips/Stardeath song-by-song re-imagining of Dark Side in 2009

The hardest part about doing that record was that we’ve spent most of our adult lives trying to, let’s be honest, emulate Pink Floyd in some way. The thing we wanted to do was to not sound like Pink Floyd, which goes against everything we’ve ever done! We were trying to think of new, creative ways to take these songs on. Because when you first hear a song like “On the Run,” the first thing you think is, “Why would we even want to change this?” To go against our instincts and try to find another way to approach those songs was the most difficult challenge the whole record had. We struggled quite a bit with our demos at first. But in the end, I’m glad we did it. We went into the studio for a week, we did it, and it was done. And I really enjoy listening to it now. It was a fun experience.

As for the surround-sound mixes — they’re what you can’t wait to get into a room with some friends and check it all out. That already sounds like a good night, doesn’t it? It’s the Holy Grail all the way.

Another thing I like about remasters is the booklets. You get new pictures and things you haven’t seen before. Sometimes the packaging is the most important thing, so I look forward to the whole package.

The way I got into Pink Floyd probably wasn’t any different than they way you got into Pink Floyd, really. I was probably 12 years old. Wayne and my dad, Wayne’s brother, they were big music guys. My dad had two giant speakers in the house: bar-size Peavey PA speakers, with two 15s in them and a big ol’ horn. We’d turn them sideways and sit in between them like they were headphones and we’d turn them up as loud as we could. I’m just a Pink Floyd junkie, I really am. Every day I talk about Pink Floyd. It’s a wasted day without them.


The Flaming Lips frontman, known to have been comfortably numb every now and again

They’re very punk rock in a lot of ways — how they first came together and couldn’t play their instruments very well and just made the music that they could make and believed in.

Even the way they changed, from the ’60s Syd Barrett era to 1973 — they became a completely different-sounding group in not that many years. To think they were constantly looking to do and try new things was always inspiring, especially the visual aspect that we embraced as a group early in our career, such as the visuals and the strobe lights.

One thing that’s always impressed me about their music is how overjoyed people are when they hear it. It’s different from just “listening” to music; it’s loving the music. You’re feeling the actual effects. My cousin Dennis, and my brother, his dad, are good examples of that. You couldn’t be more changed by the music than they were. I see it all the time from people who come up to me after our shows and say how much we affect them. There are thousands of groups who would consider themselves little brothers of Pink Floyd, and we’re glad to be one of them. People tend to forget that before them, no one did music like that. Pink Floyd are amazingly original. The music they made with Syd was totally original, and the music they made after Syd was insanely original. They didn’t just think of music as music — they thought of it as sound.