With the upcoming release of Pink Floyd's The Endless River, I've been thinking a lot lately about The Dark Side Of The Moon and what the album means to me. Yes, it's an album--a cohesive collection that should be listened to as such and not necessarily downloaded in pieces on iTunes or wherever it is you youngsters (hey, get off my lawn!) get your music these days.
I won't go into the accolades and the number of consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album chart (741). And I won't go into how if you begin the album at the whatever minute mark of The Wizard of Oz that it syncs up. I'm discussing how this album played an interesting part in my life.
Dark Side was introduced to me by my high school girlfriend probably in early 1985 (before this I listened to all sorts of things, but for some reason not Pink Floyd). Her parents had a copy on vinyl (of course--and it's wonderful on vinyl) and we listened to side 2 over and over, even though side 1 was just as awesome as side 2. We'd sit on the sofa at her parents' house and talk and kiss and talk and listen to Dark Side and I didn't ever want it to end. Such wonderful memories of the mid-1980s. (We did listen to other albums--Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti for instance.)
Also in the mid-1980s--my history teacher one year in high school put on a trip to Greece. Before I went I picked up a copy of the album on cassette and about wore out the tape on that trip. Even the cruddy headphones and cruddy little walkman type player couldn't ruin how great the album was--it made the non-stop from JFK to Athens bearable.
The soulful saxophone and soaring guitar solos of Money--the production values and inventiveness of the entire group of songs was mesmerizing. For a high schooler, who was (and I suppose still is at times) also a musician, this album was pretty amazing stuff.
Of course, I didn't pay much attention to the lyrics at that point--the music really did it for me at that point, the lyrics would get me later--
Fast forward to the mid-1990s, I'm firmly in my mid-twenties and I'm not in a good place and I feel like my life is over before it has even really started. I was in the Navy, working my ass off to finish my degree before I got out of the Navy, and I was in a marriage that could not last (certainly not one person's fault more than the other's--we were young and simply unable to function as a married couple--we were too different). I had a fifty mile commute each way in an un-airconditioned car (this was in the Mojave Desert of all places) to go to my classes a few nights a week (these classes were in addition to my full time job in the Navy and all the responsibility that came with that--having to miss class because of helicopter maintenance issues or having to be a crew chief on search & rescue missions).
Well, I played The Dark Side Of The Moon--and I'm not sure I regretted it as much as I wallowed in it. Time is a wonderful song, but not so wonderful for someone who feels like their life is predetermined to suck at this point and that they're trapped. When you're in high school listening to Time, the song doesn't really mean much--ten years earlier and you're a little kid, what in the hell has gotten behind you? All you want is to move forward and can't wait until you're out of high school. But when you're 27 or 28 and you hear the line about how "ten years have got behind you" --that's you're entire adult life up to that point and I felt like I didn't have anything to show for those ten years but a doomed marriage and uncertainty about what I'd do after my enlistment was up. I just couldn't deal with the failure of my marriage.
My antidote at the time was listening to a lot of Metallica to wipe my brain free of Time.
Since around the year 2000 I've listened to Pink Floyd in spurts, and now I wish I had seen them in concert back in the 1980s and 1990s. I'm happy that I can listen to Dark Side now without any negative side effects, but I do steer clear when I'm feeling a little down. You know, I had to go through those moments in my life, and at least I have great memories of the album to balance the bad memories. And I suppose I knew what I was doing when I tossed the CD in my car player during the bad times. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment.
So I'm not sure how The Endless River will turn out, but it's great that we'll have more Pink Floyd to listen to. Somehow I doubt it'll have the same impact Dark Side had on me, but I'm really hoping it'll be a great listen.
Only one other album imprinted on my mind like Dark Side, but in a much different way--Rush's Moving Pictures. Wow. That album for me is 100% positive, not a bad memory attached to it--all good. Rush may be my favorite group of all time, but no album had an impact on me throughout my life like Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon.
An interesting side note: I'm very good friends with the high school girlfriend and ex-wife I mentioned above, so some good came from it all in the end.