The 20th birthday re-release of Nirvana’s Nevermind wasn’t the only major reissue this week. An album that originally appeared in 1973 and has become one of rock music’s most famous works has also been repackaged in a variety of specially priced editions to commemorate it’s, er, 38th anniversary. Hey, the music industry is feeling the pinch more than most and it could be a lot worse by 2013. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon arrived towards the latter half of rock’s second decade but, more significantly, during the first decade of the rock album. From the outset, rock music was all about the 7″. Albums were merely a collection of half a dozen singles padded out with inferior material. It wasn’t until the mid-sixties that the rock album became a consistent collection of original songs that could be listened to from beginning to end. Artists like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and even The Beach Boys released records that put popular music on a par with such supposedly more worthy styles as classical and jazz. In addition, the likes of Pet Sounds and, particularly, Sgt Pepper contained songs that were held together by a common theme in a similar fashion to such works as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the thematic LPs that Frank Sinatra released on Capitol during the 1950s
Pink Floyd took this idea of the concept album to a new level with The Dark Side of the Moon. Its lyrics deal with ageing, conflict and mental illness, with the songs on each half of the record segueing into each other. The band’s playing is of a high standard and most of the songs feature sounds from everyday life. Recordings of interviews with studio staff made by Roger Waters are also interspersed throughout the album. The record has inspired many musical tributes and it was while listening to some of these that I noticed the number of instrumental tracks on it. The album contains such popular Floyd songs as Time and Money, but it also includes a few that don’t work as well when removed from the collection as a whole. Speak to Me, On the Run and Any Colour You Like don’t feature any vocals, while the brilliant Great Gig in the Sky showcases session singer Clare Torry’s use of her voice as an instrument. Individual tracks from the album have been covered over the years (including a disco version of Money), but it has also been interpreted in its entirety in such disparate genres as reggae and bluegrass
Earlier this year, Mojo magazine put out a 15-track tribute to Dark Side of the Moon and its 1975 successor Wish You Were Here. I’ve chosen the version of Speak to Me by a band called Gallops as the opener. I have heard of The Shins from Australia and their take on Breathe is taken from a 2007 BBC sessions compilation. Alex Ford‘s facsimile of On the Run is one of three songs I found on Soundcloud. Easy Star All-Stars have released full versions of OK Computer and Sgt Pepper in a reggae style and they kicked it all off with Dub Side of the Moon in 2003. Kymberley Kennedy is an English singer who does a fine version of The Great Gig in the Sky that’s available as part of Kymmie Freebies on Soundcloud. Money is one of two songs by the Floyd that Leslie King contributes to Echoes of Pink. It’s a 2000 acoustic tribute to the band’s songs by nearly a dozen female singers. In 2000, a Seattle band called The Squirrels released their nutty take on the album. Their version of Us & Them is taken from The Not So Bright Side of the Moon. Marco Marcucci is from Perugia in Italy and I also found Any Colour You Like on Soundcloud. There’s been a countrified version of Dark Side of the Moon by Poor Man’s Whiskey (entitled Dark Side of the Moonshine) and also a compilation called Pickin’ on Pink Floyd. In the live version below, The Austin Lounge Lizards are introduced as “less reverend than Spike Jones, but more punctual than George” on their wonderful bluegrass run-through on Brain Damage. Two years ago, The Flaming Lips recorded their version of the album (with a little help from their friends) and their Eclipse brings the lights down on this post. See you all in two years for the 40th anniversary!