Recorded at Abbey Road studios by Alan Parsons, who had previously worked on The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let It Be, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon broke almost as much sonic ground as those albums. “The band chose the world-renowned studio, as it was home to, at the time, some of the most advanced recording technology ever produced – including the EMI TG12345 mixing console," writes Anthony Sfirse at Enmore Audio.
Parsons made tasteful yet totally spaced-out use, as the Polyphonic video above shows, of synthesizers, stereo multitrack recording, and tape loops. Then there’s David Gilmour’s legendary guitar tone—so essential to a certain kind of music (and to Pink Floyd cover bands) that guitar pedal designer Robert Keeley has built an entire “workstation” around the guitar sounds on the album, even though most players, including Gilmour, will tell you that tone lives in the fingers.
The album is a perfect synthesis of the band’s strengths: epic songwriting meets epic experimentation meets epic musicianship—three musical directions that don’t always play well together. The late sixties and seventies brought increasing complexity and theatricality to rock and roll, but Pink Floyd did something extraordinary with Dark Side. They wrote accessible, riff-heavy, blues-based tunes that also set the bar for philosophically existential, wistful, melancholy, sardonic, funky, soulful, psychedelia, without sacrificing one for the other.
How the band went from cultivating a cult underground to spending 741 weeks—or 14 years—at the top of Billboard’s albums chart after the release of their “high concept lyrical masterpiece” in 1973 is the subject of a series of eight videos produced by Polyphonic. See the first, which covers “Speak to Me/Breath,” at the top. Other videos will be released on the Polyphonic YouTube channel soon.
The approach is an admirable one. Too often the greatness of classic albums like Dark Side of the Moon is taken for granted and glossed too quickly. The album’s massive commercial and critical success seems proof enough. We may not know much about Pink Floyd ourselves, but we acknowledge they’ve been thoroughly vetted by the experts.
But if we want to know ourselves why critics, musicians, and fans alike have heaped so much praise on the 1973 album—and shelled out hard-earned cash by the millions for records, concerts, and merchandise—we might learn quite a lot from this series.