This week marks the anniversary of Pink Floyd’s mind-blowingly brilliant 1972 concept album Dark Side of the Moon hitting number 1 on the US Billboard charts and staying there for 741 weeks. To celebrate we’re letting you in on seven little known secrets from the album. (Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you which movies supposedly sync up to the album. We’re all sick to death of that!)
1. The album nearly had a different name
Before its release, Pink Floyd nearly changed the album’s name to Eclipse (A Piece for Assorted Lunatics) – a name influenced by the departure of Syd Barrett from the band due to mental illness.
They briefly thought about changing to this because little-known band Medicine Head had released an album also called Dark Side of the Moon the year before. Ultimately the Floyd decided not to abandon the name once they realised that Medicine Head’s incarnation wasn’t commercially successful enough to pose a threat.
2. Paul McCartney’s voice didn’t make the final cut
The iconic voices appearing throughout the album were collected from a series of interviews with workers and musicians hanging around Abbey Road studios whilst the band were recording there. One familiar face in the halls was none other than Paul McCartney who was recording with Wings at the time.
When David Gilmour was asked about this interviewing experience he said, “It’s the people who are not used to being interviewed that come up with the stuff.” Obviously McCartney had some whiff of success in another band that gave him plenty of opportunity to practice his question dodging skills. Perhaps this is why he ended up on the cutting rom floor.
3. The ‘Great Gig In The Sky’ vocal performance was perceived as a flop
EMI staff songwriter Claire Torry performed the famous screaming vocals on ‘Great Gig in the Sky’. Torry was a friend of Dark Side of the Moon producer Allan Parsons who asked her to come in and add vocals to the previously instrumental track. The Floyd prompted her to think about death and horror and then go into the studio to improvise something over the music.
Five short minutes later Torry emerged from the studio apologising with embarrassment about the performance she had given. This was the take that was used on the album; undeniably brilliant and moving.
Unfortunately the sour footnote to this story is that Torry later sued Pink Floyd in 2004 for co-authorship rights to ‘Great Gig In The Sky.’ You can’t really blame her – she definitely deserved more than the abysmal flat fee of £30 she was paid.
4. Saxophonist Dick Parry was chosen for the album because they didn’t know who else to ask
And thank god for that! Dick Parry was a friend of David Gilmour having played in the band Joker’s Wild together as teenagers. When it came time to add the searing saxophone solo to ‘Money,’ Gilmour asked Dick because he was the only sax player he knew and was too nervous to ask around for anyone else.
As well as recording and touring further with Pink Floyd, Parry also went on to work with The Who and Violent Femmes.
5. Miles Davis gets a writing credit on the album. Well… nearly…
The late, great fingers on the keys of Pink Floyd, Richard Wright, was a big fan of the Prince of Darkness. So much so that when writing the chords for ‘Breathe’, he lifted a chord from the song ‘All Blues’ from the 1959 Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. The beautiful passing chord that carries the lyric “race towards an early grave” pays homage to the jazz legend.
For all the music theory nerds out there, it’s the D7+9 chord.
6. Original writing sessions took place in a warehouse owned by The Rolling Stones
When the now seminal concept album was just a twinkling in the collective psychedelic quartet’s eyes, they crafted the early fragments of music in a Warehouse owned by The Rolling Stones. Creating genius is easy when you have friends in high places, right?
Roger Waters’ is on record as saying, “I’m not sure how much ‘writing’ happened there. You know, let’s play E minor and A for an hour or two. Then, ‘that sounds alright, that’ll take up 5 minutes’.”
7. The album helped fund Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Pink Floyd were massive fans of Monty Python and would even take recording breaks to watch the zany comedy brotherhood. With a small portion of the massive amount of money made from Dark Side of the Moon, the Floyd helped to fund the comedy cult classic. I think we all owe them a big ‘thank you’ for their contribution to great works from the 70s.