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From REG Issue #21

hanks to REG members Mathieu Collete and Martha Copeland, REG was able to reprint this wonderful article originally published in Mojo magazine, about the 25th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon. Part 1 was reprinted in REG issue number 20. Here from REG issue number 21 then, is the final part 2 of First Men on the Moon.

Intelligent Vs pig-headed

The tension of opposites would pull Pink Floyd apart. But 25 years ago it struck sparks. Laying bare the creative process, for the first time ever Roger Waters tells Peter Henderson the track-by-track story of DSOTM.

"I was getting strong urges," says Roger Waters, excitedly. But, of course, this is perhaps the most decorous Englishman ever to become a rock star. Clintonian inferences are not to be drawn. Nor is he a great one for the fnaar-fnaar of the double entendre. No, his urges were intellectual. They expressed themselves in concepts and - since he is a musician avidly recalling the early '70s and one of his lifetime's creative apogees - in concept albums. But, for all its fevered implications, "urges" is obviously the right word.

Nothing cold or passionless about the Waters intellect. Nothing cold or passionless about all the thinking, probably agonizing, he put into creating the backbone of ideas which gave Dark Side Of The Moon its durability. Musically, to Pink Floyd he was both architect and brickie. He built to last. At least, he had always intended to. And by 1971, within the context of the band's leaps-and-bounds development via Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother to Meddle, his ability matched his ambition.

He says:

"I was getting strong urges to make extended pieces with segus between tracks and also to develop pieces where the songs have relationships. Echoes, which was one side of Meddle, was very much the father and mother of DSOTM in that it had a lot of similar techniques.

"It's difficult to remember the exact chronology, but I think we had already started improvising around some pieces at Broadhurst Gardens, and after I had written a couple of the lyrics for the songs I suddenly thought, I know what would be good: to make a whole record about the different pressures that apply in modern life."

The suggestion proved a powerful catalyst to the others. Together they drew up a list of themes: travel (On The Run), the encroachment of old age (Time), death and religion (The Great Gig In The Sky), money (Money), violence (Us & Them) and madness (Brain Damage). Insofar as these subjects were to be drawn together by words, Waters took sole responsibility, though with little competition at the time particularly because the writing phase in December 1971 caught Gilmour creatively off-color.

After his acrimonious departure from the band over a decade later, Waters was given to scornful dismissals of his colleagues' lack of lyrical input on Pink Floyd's most successful album. For instance, in a 1993 interview with the Washington Post's Richard Harrington he scoffed:

"Nobody else in the band could write lyrics, there were no other lyricists after Syd left. David's written a couple of songs, but they were nothing special. I don't think Nick ever tried to write a lyric, and Rick probably did in the early days but they were awful."

But on this occasion, for once, he seems inclined to give good work and good times their due. "When we were making DSOTM I was definitely less dominant than I later became. We were pulling together pretty cohesively," he allows. As he works towards the minutiae of track-by-track reminiscence, this unusually positive reflection is only in keeping with the philosophy he chewed ragged then stitched back into shape over the course of 14 months writing, touring and recording the album. As he explains, the ideas racing as urgently as ever, it goes:

"We all fight small battles between the positive and the negative in our everyday lives, and I'm obsessed with truth and how the futile scramble for material things obscures our path to a more fulfilling existence. That's what DSOTM is about. And despite the rather depressing ending with Brain Damage and Eclipse, there is an allowance that all things are possible, that the potential is in our hands."

Big stuff. As so often, such weighty ruminations probably proved communicable, digestible and even meaningful for an audience from all nations and backgrounds only because they were conveyed amid the emotional messages of music. But perhaps the masterstroke that broke down the barriers between Waters' intensely personal world view - largely preoccupied, judging by the creative evidence, with his father's death in the Second World War and with Syd Barrett's decline into mental illness - and an infinitely diverse everyperson was that, right at the end of the recording, he hit on the notion of adding the fragments of dialogue which became such a feature on the record.

Far from the randomly 'found sounds' which they would also use on occasions, these were carefully elicited, then edited by Waters.

"I still glow with pleasure at how well that worked," he enthuses. "I devised a series of about 20 questions on pieces of card. They were in order and ranged from obscure questions like, What does the phrase 'the dark side of the moon' mean to you ?, to a series of questions like that related to each other like, When was the last time you were violent ? and then, Do you think you were in the right ? We asked people to just go into an empty studio, look at the top card, respond to it, move on to the next card and respond to that, and so on until they'd done all the cards. We showed them to everyone from Paul McCartney to Jerry Driscoll, the Abbey Road doorman."

In fact, Driscoll hit the spot with his man-in-the-street yet unique responses such as his answer to the question, Are you frightened of dying ?, "I'm not frightened of dying. Any time will do, I don't mind." A couple of years later the band actually agreed to pay him a session fee.

Still glowing, Waters launched into his detailed breakdown of the album - abetted here as relevant by separate interviews with other participants including engineer Alan Parsons, mixer Chris Thomas and The Great Gig In The Sky singer Claire Torry.

Speak To Me

"I thought the album needed some kind of overture and I fiddled around with the heartbeat, the sound effects and Claire Torry screaming until it sounded right."

Waters has often said he gave the credit as a gift to Nick Mason - an account supported by Gilmour - though, after his relations with the band curdled, he came to express bitter regret for his generosity.

The album's opening sound is a heartbeat fading up, an idea dating back to Pink Floyd's work on Zabriskie Point soundtrack in 1970. Live, it would start while the auditorium lights were still on and build up over several minutes. Artistically, it seems to have done the job as a shrewdly, perhaps crudely, direct route to the pulse of any listener. But, technically, Alan Parsons, who had previously worked with Pink Floyd in more lowly roles on Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma, recalls it with little joy because the bass drum tape loop which creates the heartbeat illusion became "rather crappy" as it passed through "a lot of tape generations" and acquired "this nasty modulation of noise".

However, Parsons did have the satisfaction of christening the piece when, testing voice levels for the questionnaire recordings, he would habitually bark down the talkback mic, "Speak To Me".

The piece is a collage, developed late in the sessions. The heartbeat is eventually joined by a fast-ticking clock, a slower clock and a half-speed clock from Time, and the intro loop from Money. The first voice heard - saying, "I've been mad for fucking years" - is Floyd's then road manager Chris Adamson. Then it's Jerry Driscoll announcing, "I've always been mad. I know I've been mad like the most of us have."

The crazed laughter is from Peter 'Puddy' Watts, Floyd's late executive road manager, who was recorded on a previous session.
A VCS3 synthesizer supplies the helicopter noise, while towards the end there is a skin-prickling build-up of two backwards chords and screams taken from Torry on The Great Gig In The Sky which accelerate and crash into Breathe's downbeat.

Composer: Mason
Track sheet: Chris Adamson's madness, Jerry's madness, money, Claire scream, VCS3 buzz, faster clock, - speed clock, heartbeat, backward chord, backward chord with echo, Peter's loony laugh, click.


(A.K.A. Breathe in the air)

"This is one of the pieces that developed out of the writing sessions at Broadhurst Gardens. The rundown in the chorus sounds very Rick-like and I wrote the lyrics and the top line. It's so simple, only two chords. The lyrics, starting with 'Breathe, breathe in the air, Don't be afraid to care' are an exhortation directed mainly at myself, but also at anybody else who cares to listen. It's about trying to be true to one's path."
The lengthy introduction features Gilmour on what sounds like a lap-steel, and according to the guitarist's recollection that's exactly what it was - he reckons he bought one just before recording DSOTM. However, Waters remembers that he improvised the lap-steel effect by playing an open-tuned Stratocaster across his knees. Whatever, the sound floats, with occasional use of volume-pedal, over the bass, drums, electric piano and rhythm guitar backing track. The arrangement ensures a real feeling of space, even after organ, Leslie'd guitars swells have been added. Gilmour's lead vocals are double-tracked and he sings all the harmonies as well, the two-part chorus vocals echoing Echoes.

"Dave sang Breathe much better than I could have. His voice suited the song. I don't remember any ego problems about who sang what at that point. There was a balance. You'd just say, How does that sound in your range ?"


"The vocals would never take very long. Dave's a great singer, it would never be more than a couple of hours, except that sometimes he might give it up and come back another day."

Composers: Waters, Gilmour, Wright.
Track sheet: Bass, drums, rhythm guitar, vocals Dave, harmony vocals Dave, Leslie guitar, slide guitar, swells, intro organ.

On the Run


"This came together in the studio. What's interesting and gratifying from my point of view in trying to claim ownership of this stuff is that some of Adrian Maben's film Pink Floyd In Pompeii was shot while we were making Dark Side of the Moon, and there's quite a long shot of me in the studio recording On The Run with the VCS3 (a 'briefcase' model with a sequencer in the lid).

"Trying to find out how the sequencer works, I played something into it and speeded it up and out came the part. I thought, That's quite good. It added a certain tension."

Gilmour has a co-writing credit, and his recollection (confirmed by Parsons) is that he first extracted an eight-note sequence from the VCS3 and Waters then got interested and replaced it with one of his own, creating one of the first sequences on a record - The Who's Barbara O'Reilly, from 1971, being generally accepted as the first notable example.


"The whole thing is live, one synthesizer played live. The click in the sound is just a recycling of the sequence that wasn't meant to be there, but it works well."


"Zinovieff VCS synthesizers all had a filter driven from a VCO (oscillator) that would sweep in a very narrow band and the 'shhhhhhhhhheeeee' noise is one of those filters sweeping over the basic signal."

Until this version emerged, the On The Run slot was filled by various concert jams under the catch-all title of The Travel Section and, to express this area of modern day stress and strain, appropriate sound effects were laid over the VCS3 sequence. Airport noises and a final explosion came from an Abbey Road library sound effects record. The 'train' is simulated by guitar feedback. The spoken line, "Live for today, gone tomorrow", and the subsequent maniac laugh came from road manager Roger The Hat after he turned over a Waters inquiring, Do you fear death ?, while Parsons came up with the footsteps.


"Often I'd carry on experimenting after they had gone. The footsteps were done by Peter James, the assistant engineer, running around Studio 2, breathing heavily and panting. They loved it when they heard it the next day."

Composers: Waters, Gilmour.

Track sheet: Roger the roadie, rhythm VCS3, heartbeat, swish, explosion, footsteps, VCS3 L/R main, guitar explosion, start VCS3, boom VCS3.



"The year that we made that record was the year that I had a sudden revelation personally - which was that this was it. I had the strangest feeling growing up - and I know a lot of people share this - that childhood and adolescence and one's early adult life are preparing for something that's going to happen later.

"I suddenly thought at 29, Hang on, it's happening, it has been right from the beginning, and there isn't suddenly a line when the training stops and life starts. 'No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.' This idea in Time is a similar exhortation to Breathe. To be here now, this is it. Make the most of it.

"The song was the closest to what you could call a group collaboration. Nick had some roto-toms set up in Broadhurst Gardens. We had a VCS3 doing those bass notes, and all that clicking comes off a Fender Precision bass I played, that click clock click clock."

The roto-toms - shallow tom toms which are tuned to a distinct note - were difficult to record because they had to be returned for each chord change. The clocks were added later when Parsons discovered the song's intended title. Parsons: "I had recorded them previously in a watchmaker's shop for a quadraphonic sound demonstration record. I went in with a mobile and recorded each one separately, ticking then chiming.

"The solos were all improvised. Dave used to play at deafening volumes and he had a guitar processor, a Hi-Fly, made by Zinovieff like the VCS3, which was used a lot for guitar sounds throughout the album. It introduced some of the distortion effects and had good phasing and ADT. (Gilmour, incidentally, is convinced he didn't use the Hi-Fly on Time.) He used Hi-Watt amps usually and occasionally Twin Reverbs, but I don't think he ever brought more than one cabinet into the studio, and then the famous Benson Echorec and a Fuzzface fuzzbox.

"He wasn't particularly interested in mic placement or EQ on guitar. I would use just one microphone, about a foot away."

Gilmour sang lead, with Doris Troy, Lesley Duncan, Liza Strike and Barry St John on backing vocals, which were processed through an early pitch-changing device called a Frequency Translator, built originally as a feedback avoidance unit, which was invented by Abbey Road technician Keith Atkins.


"These inventions were never used in the way they were intended. We made this discovery that if you fed it back into itself it made this wonderful swishing noise.

"Towards the end of the recording, almost as an afterthought, the heartbeat was added to the song. This was added by Nick Mason playing along with his bass drum."

Waters made a late lyric change when he introduced the phrase "Tired of lying in the sunshine" at the start of the second verse, replacing the earlier live version's "Lying supine in the sun".

In the '70s and '80s it was impossible to go into a hi-fi shop to try out speakers without being played the beginning of Time - the leisurely pace of which once drew Waters to observe,

"I get the feeling there was a serious lack of panic about losing the listeners' interest there."
Its open sound and detailed low end perfectly demonstrated the potential of the vinyl LP, making whatever system it was played on sound more impressive.

Composers: Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour.

Track sheet: Intro: bass, Farsifa organ, roto-toms, guitar, electric piano, heartbeat, VCS3, clocks 4 tracks. Main track: bass, Farsifa organ, drums, guitar, electric piano, harmonies, vocals, girls d/t, VCS3, solo guitar, stereo solo, heartbeat, translated girls.
Recording began: June 8, 1972

Breathe reprise


"The decision to place Breathe Reprise after Time arose during the process of working the piece up live before we started recording."
Referred to as "Home again" during the recordings, it was simply the third verse of Breathe, detached for structural/emotional reasons.

The Great Gig In The Sky


"Are you afraid of dying ? The fear of death is a major part of many lives, and as the record was at least partially about that, that question was asked, but not specifically to fit into this song. I don't remember whose idea it was to get Claire in, but once she sang it was great. One of those happy accidents. The slide guitar was just something that Dave was into at the time. A brilliant sound."

Early tags for the piece while the concept was being developed were "The Mortality Sequence" and "Religious Theme". Early live versions incorporated taped Bible readings and a Malcom Muggeridge speech.

Based around a Rick Wright chord progression, it remained an instrumental (with some spoken inserts) until a couple of weeks before the album was finished.

"The song sounded very good even before vocals were added to it. It was recorded with Rick in Studio 1 while the rest of the band were in Studio 2. We put a little practical joke over on Rick, making him think the band were playing live when he was actually listening off tape, and when he looked up at the end of the song all of us were standing watching him from the door. They were great ones for carefully planned practical jokes."

But eventually (Gilmour's recollection) Waters suggested trying a vocal "to make it more interesting" and Parsons suggested bringing in Claire Torry to sing over it. The resulting improvised vocals surpassed everybody's wildest expectations to provide one of the emotional high points of the record.

"I had worked on a session before with Claire and suggested that we tried her out on this track. I think one has to give Claire credit; she was just told to go in and 'do your thing', so effectively she wrote what she did. She wailed over a nice chord sequence. There was no melodic guidance at all apart from 'a bit more waily here' or 'more somber there'. The vocal was done in one session - three hours - no time at all, then a couple of tracks were compiled for the final version."

Torry was an EMI staff songwriter, straight out of school, who had just started doing a few vocal sessions:

"I received a phone call to come in and do a session for Pink Floyd. It didn't mean much to me at the time, but I accepted and was booked: 7-10pm, Sunday, January 21, Studio 3.

"When I arrived they explained the concept of the album to me and played me Rick Wright's chord sequence. They said, 'We want some singing on it.' But didn't know what they wanted, so I suggested going out into the studio and trying a few things. I started off using words but they said, 'Oh no, we don't want any words.' So the only thing I could think of was to make myself sound like an instrument, a guitar of whatever, and not to think like a vocalist. I did that and they loved it.

"I did three or four takes very quickly, it was left totally up to me, and they said, 'Thank you very much.' In fact, other than Dave Gilmour, I had the impression that they were infinitely bored with the whole thing, and when I left I remember thinking to myself, That will never see the light of day. "If I'd known then what I know now I would have done something about organizing copyright or publishing. I would be a wealthy woman now. The session fee in 1973 was 15, but as it was Sunday I charged a double fee of 30which I invested wisely, of course."

After Jerry Driscoll's stoic rebuttal, re: fear of dying, comes Puddy Watts's defiantly insecure, "I never said I was frightened of dying."

Composer: Wright.

Track sheet: Bass, Jerry, kit, piano, ambience, organ 2 tracks, steel 2 tracks, Claire 2 tracks.
Recording began: June 25, 1972.



"I was just fiddling around on the bass at Broadhurst Gardens and I came up with that riff, seven beats long. The rest of the song developed after I thought Let's make a record about the pressures that impinge upon young people in pop groups, one of which is money.

"It doesn't sound to me like a song that just started to pour out of me, it doesn't feel close enough to the nature of my being, so I'm sure it was written to become specifically part of Dark Side Of The Moon. "I then thought it would be good as an introduction to create a rhythmic device using the sound of money.
I had a two-track studio at home with a Revox recorder.

My first wife (Judy Trim) was a potter and she had a big industrial food mixer for mixing up clay. I threw handfuls of coins and wads of torn-up paper into it. We took a couple of things off sound effects records too.
"The backing track was everyone playing together, a Wurlitzer piano through a wah wah, bass, drums and that tremolo guitar. One of the ways you can tell that it was done live as a band is that the tempo changes so much from the beginning to the end. It speeds up fantastically." Parsons:
"The core of the song is a bass riff with a guitar an octave apart in 7/4. It's quite magical in that you don't really notice it. The vocal is Dave; it was a quick vocal, he sung it no more than twice.

"The effects loops at the start of the song were re-recorded in the studio and this took a long time. Each sound had its own loop which we had to measure, using a ruler, to keep it in time.
"There was a tearing paper sound, a telephone Uni selector from a sound effects tape. And there were bags of cash literally being dropped on the studio floor and a cash register ringing.
The loop itself became the click."
"Once we'd got the loop they went out and played to it and I faded it out in their ears.
It comes back once but that's just a happy coincidence, it's actually not quite in time."

"The track has a really good feel. They laid most of it down together, but Nick overdubbed the tom toms in the middle section. The arrangements were all worked out before, except the dynamics of the long solo when it breaks down to nothing. The solo came together in the studio but once he had it, he always replicated it note for note in concert."

The first two guitar solos were played on a Stratocaster going through a Hi-Watt amp, the first being ADTed (automatically doubled) on the mix. For the third solo Gilmour switched to a Lewis guitar with a two-octave neck, making it easier to play higher notes. For the solo section Gilmour suggested changing the time signature from 7/4 into 4/4, before returning to 7/4 for the rest of the song.

The sax was added late in October by Gilmour's friend from Cambridge pub jazz days, Dick Parry. Gilmour says he gave Parry the daunting instruction to play like the sax man in the cartoon band who did the theme music for Pearl & Dean's ad sequence at the cinema in those days. Like the backing vocals on Time, Parry's solo was fed through a Frequency Translator.

Composer: Waters.

Track sheet: Bass, drums, Wurlitzer, vocal, sax, guitar doubling bass, tremolo Kepexed guitar, guitar solo, solo ADT, money FX.
Recording began: June 7, 1972

Us and Them


"Rick wrote the chord sequence for this and I used it as a vehicle. I can't remember when I wrote the top line and the lyric, but it was certainly during the making of DSOTM because it seems that the whole idea, the political idea of humanism and whether it could or should have any effect on any of us, that's what the record is about really - conflict, our failure to connect with each one another.

"The first verse is about going to war, how the front line we don't get much chance to communicate with one another, because someone else has decided that we shouldn't. "

"I was always taken with those stories of 'the First Christmas' in 1914, when they all wandered out into no man's land, had a cigarette, shook hands and then carried on the next day. The second verse is about civil liberties, racism and color prejudice. The last verse is about passing a tramp in the street and not helping."

Wright's instrumental track, working titled The Violence Sequence, had been recorded and submitted for Antonioni's 1970 movie Zabriskie Point as a backdrop to slow-motion riot scenes at Berkeley. The band thought it worked well, but Antonioni left it on the cutting room floor.


"The speaking voices are Jerry and Pete Watts. I remember Pete Watts's wife did the, 'That geezer was cruising for a bruising,' in response to the question, When did you last thump someone?"

"When Henry McCullough, Wings' guitarist, was asked the same thing, he said, 'New Year's Eve.' The next question was, Were you in the right?, and he said, 'I don't know, I was drunk at the time.' His wife was also asked, When did you last thump someone? She said 'New Year's Eve' too."

Gilmour again sings the lead vocals with delayed echoes generated by using both sides of a two-track recorder running at seven and a half inches per second vari-speed right down to give a lag of around a second and a half. On the triple-tracked backing vocals by Troy, Duncan, Strike and St John, what sounds like an effect is actually their own vibrato. The 'short sharp shock' remark is Roger the Hat.

This time, when Dick Parry was approaching his solo (a fixture on lists of all-time sax-in-rock greats ever since), Gilmour urged him to think of Gerry Mulligan's contributions to Gandharva (1971) by American electro-adventurers Beaver and Krause - 'Very breathy,' he says.


"The sax on this and Money is just Dick improvising with a little guidance from us - 'Breathier Dick, less breathy; more notes, less notes' - normally less notes is the deal with saxophone players."

Composers: Waters, Wright.

Track sheet: Bass, drums, fuzz bass, piano, organ, extra piano middle 8, original guitar, sax, vocal, girls.
Recording began: June 1, 1972.

Any Color You Like


"A little instrumental fill. Apart from the songs that are credited to one person, it's all a bit of gray area. Money, Eclipse and Brain Damage which are credited to me were mine. Us & Them was clearly Rick's tune and I wrote the lyrics. Great Gig In The Sky was Rick's. Breathe and Any Color You Like are Grey areas and so is Time, because it was close to a real collaboration of all four members. "The distributions got divided up in strange ways afterwards because we were being very egalitarian and group-like in those days. I regret it furiously now, of course. I gave away a lot of publishing and I wish I hadn't, but these things happen and that's how it is and that's how it will always be." Linking Us & Them and Brain Damage, this was known as "Scat" during recording. The lead instrument is a VCS3 synthesizer with a very long tape echo, backed by a tremolo guitar, bass, drums, Uni-Vibed guitar, organ and scat guitar. The final title came from Chris Adamson's catch-phrase, "You can have it any color you like."

Composers: Mason, Gilmour, Wright.

Track sheet: Bass, Drums, Uni-Vibe guitar rhythm, organ, scat guitar, VCS3 lead, VCS3 repeat, VCS3.

Brain Damage

"That was my song; I wrote that at home. The grass (as in 'The lunatic is on the grass') was always the square in between the River Cam and Kings College chapel. I don't know why, but the song still makes me think of that piece of grass. The lunatic was Syd, really. He was obviously in my mind. It was very Cambridge-based that whole song."
Brain Damage was known as "The Lunatic Song" during recording, though some sources suggest that an earlier version was written during the Meddle sessions in 1971 and that the song was originally called The Dark Side Of The Moon (its final line being, of course, "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon").
"The question, Do you think you're going mad ?, was asked and it was used in other parts of the album because Jerry's response was so magnificent: 'I've always been mad like the rest of us have, sometimes I don't know if I'm mad even if I'm not mad.' Something like that."
Composer: Waters.

Track sheet: Bass, drums, heartbeat, Pete Watts laugh, guitar, organ, vocal high, vocal low, girls, silly synth, Leslie guitar, lead guitar and VCS3.


"This was interesting because it was something that I added after we'd gone on the road. It felt as if the piece needed an ending. It's just a run-down with a little bit of philosophizing, though there's something about its nave quality that I still find appealing.
In a strange way it re-attaches me to my adolescence, the dreams of youth. The lyric points back to what I was attempting to say at the beginning. It's a recitatif of the ideas that preceded it saying, There you are, that's all there is to it."

" What you experience is what it is. The rather depressing ending, 'And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon', is the idea that we all have the potential to be in harmony with whatever it is, to lead happy, meaningful and right lives."

The whole song has an uplifting feel, with Gilmour's arpeggiated Leslie guitars and Wright's organ building to a sustained crescendo before giving way to Jerry Driscoll's wisdom and a last fade to heartbeat. Waters sings lead, with Gilmour harmonizing thirds and fifths and Doris Troy wailing.


"I remember when Doris Troy had done her bit she said, I'm only going to charge you a hundred pounds for my thing on the end."

The final words are Jerry Driscoll's. His original words were, "There is no dark side of the moon really. As a matter of fact it's all dark and the thing that makes it look alight is the sun." His closing phrase, astronomically accurate yet artistically anticlimactic, was edited out.

Composer: Waters.

Track sheet: Bass, drums, guitar, organ, 1st harm, 2nd harm, Roger vocal, girls, bass run, double-tracked Leslie guitar, lead guitar, Jerry at end, heartbeat.

Equilaterally Yours

A schoolboy could do it: the world's second most famous record sleeve.

While the new music of the early '70s inspired most sleeve artists to increasingly surreal extremes, Hipgnosis, Floyd's design team, kept their feet firmly on the ground.

For Dark Sid's two predexessors, Hipgnosis had presented a cow (Atom Heart Mother) and an oversized human ear (Meddle) (It is not a human ear but a pigs ear!! What a stupid duffus!! ed.) The new work's cover would be similarly prosaic: a diagram of light passing through a prism that could have been borrowed from any physics textbook. But the technically simple cover cleverly offered clues and signs to the spirit of the music within. Cast on a jet black background, the design was also a triumph of understatement: enigmatic, minimalist and as coolly hip as the band themselves.

Technically, the cover is a 'mechanical tint lay'. There was no original painting; just a black-and-white diagram with instructions to the printer about colors. The packaging celebrates the band's cult of anonymity. You only reach the name Pink Floyd when you open the gatefold, where the band have a credit as producers. The title of the album appears only on the label. Small wonder that EMI slapped a sticker on the front to flag up to the unwary that this was the Floyd's latest.

Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis recalls:
"I'd had various conversations with the band about what they wanted on the sleeve. Roger explained the intellectual thrust of the music, the theme of madness - the madness of rock'n'roll and madness in general."
But the main impetus for the eventual design was some blunt advice from Rick Wright. "He basically said, 'Let's have no fucking pictures this time, I'm bored with pictures.' I was quite taken aback because he was so definite about it. But he said, 'We want something smarter, neater, more classy.'"

Thorgerson duly reworked a prism and light design that had been offered to Charisma for a new label, Clearlight, but never used. This was submitted to the band by him and his partner Aubrey 'Po' Powell with five other ideas. Today Thorgerson cannot recollect these save for one featuring a giant wave and a figure based on the Silver surfer comic book super hero. But the decision-making process in a side room at Abbey Road was swift and unanimous.

"They took all of about three minutes. They flicked through them, then when it came to the prism they just looked at each other, said, 'That's the one. Right we're going back to work now.' Then they went back to the studio.
I was trying to say, Hang on a bit. I thought they were being hasty, because I was keen for them to appreciate all the hard work that we, as freelancers, had done. I was wanging on but Po, who always had more business sense, realized they were delighted, that we had the gig and that was all that mattered."

Thorgerson's prism proved a resonant symbol. "It represented both the diversity and cleanliness of the sound of the music," he says. "In a more conscious way, it worked for a band with a reputation for their light show. The triangle is a symbol for ambition, one of the themes Roger was concerned with. So you had several ideas coming together. It was Roger's idea to turn the light into a heartbeat inside the sleeve, the sound that starts the music."

Thorgerson designed the front and back sleeves so that the entry and exit beams could be joined up to form a huge shop window display: "It wasn't really a promotional decision, just my egocentric idea - not that anybody ever did it.' The design work was straightforward, so Thorgerson delegated it to George Hardie, the new boy in the studio (now Britain's first professor of graphics). Hardie also created the two postcard stickers included with the album, plus the pink-hued poster of the band. (great on the wall if you could get your mum to iron out the creases). A second poster of the Great Pyramid, shot by Thorgerson on infra-red film, was also included.

Today he regrets that a black-and-white time exposure taken at night was not used. Thorgerson, girlfriend and baby son and Po flew to Egypt for the shoot. But all save Thorgerson got food-poisoning, so he worked solo.

Thorgerson and Powell were paid 600 each for their efforts. But for all Hipgnosis' conceptual care, some printers were lackadaisical. In the Soviet Union the album came out with the sleeve printed upside down and back to front. Thorgerson remains proud of his most famous creation.

"It may not have been interesting or challenging as a piece of work, but it is interesting as an appropriate piece of artwork for the record. It's either a brilliant piece of art direction or perhaps just a jammy idea - that's for others to judge - but it worked really well in its context."

Back To Earth

The band had done their bit. Now it was time for ground control to take over. And soon for posterity to judge...

Although Gilmour presents a picture of helter-skelter activity in the Floyd camp during the early '70s what with all their tours, films, ballets and other commitments, Alan Parsons has a different perception. He says Dark Side of the Moon took nine months to record - unprecedented for Pink Floyd at the time - in part because of the laid back pace of work.

"It was very relaxed, even lazy really," he says." They were already becoming family men. And then at the studio they'd be watching football or Monty Python. Everything stopped for Monty Python. There was never any exuberance from them. They would never be very enthusiastic about anything. It came from Nick when Jerry the janitor did his dialogue and he said, 'That's absolutely right for the record.'

"But the atmosphere throughout was good, it was a very pleasant experience for me. There was no friction on a creative level, and the only times things got heavy was when they would argue about business and money. Then they were very heated. Of course, nobody knew the album was going to turn out so well or become such a sensation."

At the last, Chris Thomas - favored for his work on The Beatles' Abbey Road - was brought in as a fresh pair of ears".

"I was brought in at the end of the record, but as a producer," Thomas insists, although his sleeve credit reads "mixing supervised by".

"It wasn't just mixing, it was mixing and recording. For instance, during that time Claire Torry came in to do her thing on Great Gig In the Sky and the dialogue was recorded. Also, on Money, I thought it was such a great riff that I got them to track the guitars to build it up. In all, I worked on it for about three weeks (January 18 - February 19) with the mixes completed at a rate of about one a day."

It had been reported that Thomas was brought in as a third party to sidestep the arguing between Waters and Gilmour. Waters reportedly wanted the album very dry, like John Lennon/Plastic Ono band, while Gilmour favored more echo. This is how Gilmour portrayed the situation to MOJO. He says they were asked to keep away from the studio to let Thomas finish the mixing without further fuss - but that they both slipped back to "hover at Thomas' shoulder" and continue their heated debate.

However, Thomas denies this.

"That's not true," he says. "I know that's what Dave has said more recently, but there was no difference of opinion between them. At that stage I was putting a lot of echo on all my recordings, and I remember Dave saying at the time of The Wall, You should sue us, because Dark Side of the Moon would never have sounded like that if you hadn't worked on it. But since then he's always said that he wanted a lot of echo on it and if Roger had his way it would have been drier. I don't remember Roger once saying that he wanted less echo. In fact, there were never any hints that they were later going to fall out. It was a very creative atmosphere. A lot of fun."

Ever since, Waters has subscribed to the idea of handing over the responsibility of the mixing to somebody else. But in the early '70s the specialist remix engineer, with his established role in the recording process, did not exist. "It seems the most extraordinary thing to have done now," he says. "I guess it was as if to say, There you are, we've made this very complicated piece and we need someone to come in with a more objective view of all this information. Because it seemed frightfully complicated at the time." "Actually, it wasn't very complicated at all by comparison with things we did later on. We did go back in to tweak a bit when the mix was up, but by and large we did very little. What you hear on the record are Chris Thomas and Alan Parsons mixes."
Although Dark Side of the Moon developed a reputation as the state of the art in sonic quality and later spawned numerous audiophile vinyl Lps and gold CDs, it was mixed from a second-generation 16-track tape. In some cases the bass and drums were bounced down to stereo on two tracks.

Waters has been slightly dismissive of the sonic quality in the past, but after re-listening to the album recently he says, "I was staggered by a number of things about it. How loud the sound effects and extraneous voices were, which I think is great. The length of some of the introductions, particularly on Time, which goes on forever."

But as soon as the finishing touch was applied on February 1, 1973 - eight weeks before the album's release - Waters suffered no doubts about the quality of Pink Floyd's achievement.

"I can remember finishing it and thinking it was fabulous," he says now. "Then when it was released I was very pleased and a bit smug to have that reinforced by the fact that a lot of people went out and bought it. Nobody really bought our records before Dark Side of the Moon."

"Now, I think its enduring appeal comes from a combination of different factors. It is very listenable. I think that it has a certain philosophical and political integrity that comes through, nave as it may be. I think that is important to people. You know that we meant it.

"Then there are a lot of things on it that you recognize - you only have to hear them once. The second you hear it again you cannot mistake it for anything else. That's very comforting for us, the audience. Although it wasn't the first of its kind in terms of the concept record idea, maybe it was the first on that had a heart.

"My motivation has always been to tell my truth in my own way as powerfully as I can, and in a way that's where I have parted company from my ex-colleagues. They are not interested in that - even at that point they never were. I remember reading interviews at the time with Rick saying, 'We don't really care about the lyrics.' And they didn't. And I rather did, and all my records since then have been quite passionate. Good, bad or indifferent, they've always been true, always been what I felt.

"Still, they were very happy times. We discovered what we did, each of us, what our contributions were. We had gelled as a group, we were working very well together and we were working very hard, doing lots of gigs. We were in the springtime of Pink Floyd when it was all good fun and we had a common purpose - we wanted to be popular, we all wanted to be rich and famous and we weren't yet.

"And I could express myself within that context, and Dave could play his guitar, Rick could play the keyboards and write and Nick could do what he did, and we were all content to be together and it was very jolly. A wonderful time. And it was inevitable that it would all fall apart. Those things tend not to last - and why should they?"


(Part 1 published in REG #20)

Reprinted from MOJO magazine, March 1998, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of Dark Side of the Moon.

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