Pink Floyd’s enduring blockbuster merged grandeur and malaise. Very much a product of its era, it became one of the best-selling albums of all time.

A black-and-white photo from the early 1970s of four longhaired men standing in a row and looking at the camera with a mixture of seriousness and amusement.
From left: Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Richard Wright of Pink Floyd. The group’s 1973 album, “The Dark Side of the Moon,” has had a long life on radio playlists and the Billboard chart.Credit…Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

By Jon Pareles

Feb. 28, 2023

Glum, ponderous songs about madness, mortality and greed, punctuated with tense instrumentals. Was that a blueprint for a blockbuster? It hardly sounds like the makings of one of the best-selling albums of all time.

But there’s no denying the popularity and tenacity of “The Dark Side of the Moon,” the indelible album that Pink Floyd released 50 years ago, on March 1, 1973. Looming like an inscrutable monolith, “Dark Side” spent nearly all of the next 14 years — through punk, disco, early hip-hop and the pop heyday of MTV — lodged in Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. It arrived during the analog, material days of record stores and vinyl LPs, when an album purchase was a commitment. And no matter how familiar “Dark Side” went on to become as an FM radio staple, people still wanted their own copy, or perhaps a new copy to replace a scratched-up one. In the digital era, “The Dark Side of the Moon” album returned to the charts on CD, selling and then streaming more millions.

The success of “Dark Side” stoked the ambitions of Pink Floyd and its leader, Roger Waters, who has toured arenas and stadiums ever since; Waters, 79, is playing his “first ever farewell” dates this year. He conceived the “The Wall,” a narrative rock opera released in 1979, that would foreground his anti-authority reflexes, from schoolmasters to heads of state; he has performed it against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall. Decades later, Waters would go on to spout cranky, conspiracy-theory-minded, pro-Russia political statements that many former fans abhorred. When “Dark Side” appeared, all that was far in the future.

~~~ LISTEN ~~~

There will, of course, be another deluxe edition for the latest “Dark Side” anniversary. Arriving March 24, the new boxed set has high-resolution and surround-sound remixes and other extras, though it’s largely redundant after the exhaustive “Immersion Edition” reissue in 2011. Both “Immersion” and the new set include a worthy 1974 concert performance of “Dark Side,” with brawny live sound and extended onstage jams.

Waters has also announced his own full-length remake of “Dark Side,” that will have his own lead vocals — not the husky, doleful voice of Pink Floyd’s guitarist, David Gilmour — with Waters’s spoken words over the album’s instrumentals, along with “no rock ’n’ roll guitar solos.”



  1. Reminds me of hiking through Bolivia’s Valle de la Lune in early ‘70’s con San Pedro and meeting viajero who was caught on a tape loop with himself and his replaying tape recorder with the great sound of the sax on “Money” from Darkside of the Moon

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