Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Pink Floyd
Dark Side of the Moon (30th Anniversary Edition)

Released 2003 on EMI
Reviewed by Billy Milk, 02/04/2003ce

Do you ever wake up in the morning with the sure and certain feeling that everything in your life has been stolen and replaced with an exact replica? When something you have lived with for most of your life suddenly becomes strangely unfamiliar, different yet you don't know why. It's like having deja vu and amnesia at the same time.
I got this feeling on Saturday morning when Martin the postman dropped off an envelope containing the 30th anniversary edition of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
I make no bones or excuses about my love of Pink Floyd. Last year was the one in which I rediscovered the band, prompting a feverish trainspotter's quest to buy everything they had their name on. This meant replacing my old records with CDs of their best-loved work and splashing out on the few albums I didn't previously own.
The best bit of this was discovering the soundtrack to the film More, a batch of songs which represent the best of the band's work after the departure of fractured genius Syd Barrett and the world domination of Dark Side of the Moon.
Having got all the official albums, Syd's solo stuff and most of the post-Floyd efforts of Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour, I then turned to the internet and e-bay to begin building up a collection of good Floyd bootlegs. After all, here's a band who spent most of the year touring. With the exception of the Ummagumma live disk, other Floyd concert releases have been disappointing sterile affairs.
I got hooked up with a true Floyd-head who compiled me a collection of CDs featuring the best available live versions of some truly historic shows and that kind of wrapped up my Floyd obsession.
Rumours of the 30th Anniversary Dark Side had been bubbling for a while. Rather than just digitally remaster the album, which had been done for the 20th Anniversary anyway, the Floyd mega-corp chose to seize the opportunities offered by new technology to release a Dark Side that would become the definitive edition until some sort of evolutionary leap occurred in our listening tackle.
This new CD appears on a hybrid CD with a layer being taken up by a Super Audio CD (SACD) mix in 5.1 surround sound.
In a nutshell, and if you have the necessary equipment, you can now hear the album in absolutely pristine condition with the familiar elements now whizzing about from speaker to speaker.
Considering that DSOTM's success was in a great part due to its adoption by audiophiles as a natty way to show off their hi fis, this is a logical step. The new technology really makes a huge difference to the Dark Side experience, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the album, the extra clarity afforded by the much higher than CD remastering reveals whole new textures to the original tapes and renders the familiar strangely alien.
With so much having been written about the album, it's hard to think of anything new to add. Thirty years since it was released, it still stands as a towering achievement. It's fashionable to knock the album in Floyd circles, many believing that the massive success has overshadowed a song sequence lacking in substance. That's utter elitist tosh. DSOTM is as great an achievement as the Beatles' Sgt Pepper, another album which attracts its fair share of nay-sayers.
Let's put it in historical context. Released barely four years since the classic debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Dark Side is the culmination of an amazing quest by four musicians struggling to find an identity after the trauma of losing their muse. In the time that Massive Attack take to make an album, the Floyd had released six, played umpteen gigs and made a film. None of these earlier albums was much of a commercial success. Each did incrementally better than the one before, but if they'd been around today they would have been dropped by their label after the failure of the second, A Saucerful of Secrets, to top the charts and yield hit singles.
Taking the long view, the albums that preceded DSOTM all sound like dry runs or sketchy blueprints for their first serious masterpiece. Quickly ditching the whimsy of the Barrett years, the Floyd, under the leadership of Roger Waters, were to immerse themselves in ambitious song construction, serious lyrical craft and state of the art recording systems. The success of Dark Side of the Moon (apparently there's a pressing plant in Germany which is there solely to provide the supply to satisfy demand for the album) gave the group the freedom to take these methods further, but it represents a peak from which all roads lead down.
Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall were to follow, each with its own champions proclaiming it the band's best, but in truth nothing comes close to Dark Side of the Moon.
I own four copies of the CD - the regular, classic album, the 20th Anniversary remaster which comes in a lovely box, the new SACD cut and a bootleg of a live show recorded on March 13 1972, a year before the album's release.
It's this one I'm listening to as I type this and I wish you could hear it too. It's a really embryonic version of the finished song cycle with most of the familiar elements in place. Yet it's still very much a work in progress and vast chunks of it are spirited jams, extemporisations around themes that hadn't quite gelled yet.
Proper songs like Money, Breathe and Time are just about finished, but the instrumental work, set in marble on the finished record are mercurial traces of the collective group mind. Solos appear in unexpected places and go on for longer than they ought to, lyrics are different. It's a recording that should be heard by those who dismiss the album as the product of pompous muso millionaires.
Whatever way you look at it. Dark Side of the Moon is a heartfelt masterpiece made by questing wizards of rock.

Reviews Index