Uncut Magazine June 2003
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
LOST IN SPACE
Thirty years after Dark Side Of The Moon became the stoner soundtrack for a generation, PINK FLOYD, the most famously feuding band in history, reveal all about the making of the space-rock classic that blew the worlds mind. And they’re still arguing about who did what…
“We Always Had Our Differences”
BASS, VOCALS, VCS3, TAPE EFFECT, LYRICS
Uncut meets Roger Waters at the five-star Berkeley Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge. We are taken to his suite by his manager, Mark Fenwick, aloof and businesslike in a suit as he supervises his client’s appointments. Mr Fenwick reappears in the room 15 minutes before the interview is due to end, discreetly standing by the door so you know that the clock is ticking just as loudly as any of those on Dark Side Of The Moon.
A silver-haired Waters looks distinguished, and relaxed in jeans. There’s a headmasterly air about him, an unquestionable authority, a sense of purpose and an inclination to get the job done rather than indulge in any introductory small-talk, which he tolerates, just.
Like his former bandmates in Pink Floyd, Waters recalls little of the dry dates and details, the sessions and the sequence of events that produced their classic album. Ask about Abbey Road, where it was recorded, and he will remember more about the studio’s cricket teams than which recording facility they used and when.
He thinks and talks visually, personally, sometimes tangentially, and with a serious and single-minded commitment to the ideas at the heart of this most celebrated concept album. Waters is prepared to enter immediately into weighty territory and he smiles rarely, but unexpectedly bursts into laughter at the memory of Wings guitarist Henry McCullough’s immortal line on the record: “I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time.”
Uncut: What as your original vision for the album?
Waters: I’m not sure when it came to me that one could make an entire album about things that coulkd impinge upon one’s life in an emotional or physical way. We had a meeting in Nick Mason’s flat somewhere in Camden Town [St Augustine’s Road]. I remember sitting in his kitchen, looking out at the garden and saying, “Hey boys, I think I’ve got the answer,” and describing what it could be about.
Uncut: How did you describe it?
Waters: That it was all about the pressures and difficulties and questions that crop up in one’s life and create anxiety, and the potential you have to solve them or to choose the path that you’re going to walk.
Uncut: What was their reaction?
Waters: There was a feeling of, “Well, yeah, all right.”
Uncut: It’s been suggested that while you were eager to write meaningfully, other members of Pink Floyd were less interested in the lyrical content of the album.
Waters: Rick, I remember, did interviews at that time saying, “We don’t care about the lyrics.” And I was thinking, “You speak for yourself, I care about them.” Always have.
Uncut: How much did you resent this attitude?
Waters: We always had our differences – witness what happened later on, the ways we parted in 1979, 1980 or whenever it was [1979, when Rick Wright left the band for some years over his hostilities with Waters]. He and Dave, I think, always resented the idea that I put a lot of emphasis upon emotion, politics, philosophy and all those things that they felt shouldn’t really be a component. They’ve always been central to all my work.
Uncut: It was called a concept album, although there’s more than one theme running through it – madness, sadness, time, life, death. It is possible to summarise everything that you wanted to express on Dark Side Of The Moon?
Waters: If there’s any central message, it’s this: this is not a rehearsal. As far as we know – and I know there are some Hindus that would disagree with this – you only get one shot, and you’ve got to make choices based on whatever moral, philosophical or political position you may adopt.
As I say in the first lyric, “Breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care.” You make the choices during your life, and those choices are influenced by political considerations and by money and by the dark side of all our natures. You get the chance to make the world a lighter or a darker place in some small way. E all get the opportunity to transcend our tendencies to be self-involved and mean and greedy. We all make a small mark on the great painting of life.
If Dark Side Of The Moon is anything, it’s an exhortation to join the flow of the river of natural history in a way that’s positive, and to embrace the positive and reject the negative, given that one might be able to identify with the things which seem to be a matter of great confusion to a lot of people.
[Quoting from “Breathe Reprise”] “Far away, across the field, the tolling of the iron bell, calls the faithful to their knees, to hear the softly spoken magic spells.” People are confused as much by religion as politics. We have to be aware of this now, with the coming of the next crusade. In 2003, you know, 600 years later we’re looking at a new crusade.
Uncut: presumably you’re talking about Iraq.
Waters: Iraq or Bradford. Take your pick.
Uncut: Your lines about cannon fodder in “Us And Them” have taken on a renewed, albeit slightly different, resonance today: “Forward he cried from the rear and the front rank died.”
Waters: Absolutely. Usually for short-term political ends.
Uncut: The lyrics alternate between big, universal topics and local ones – in “Us And Them” there’s an old guy on the street who doesn’t have the price of a cup of tea, or the general, sitting and moving the lines on the map. Did you use these specific portrayals to bring the wider issues closer to home?
Waters: Yeah, I guess so. All those political questions can always be reduced to some kind of microcosm. It’s all very well to be involved in grand political thoughts or acts, but it all comes back to one’s own life and how you lead it and how you treat people on a personal level. I like to give people money on the streets, but that’s because it’s really easy. I stay in this hotel sometimes when I come to London and my doctor’s just round the corner, so occasionally I go and see him. There’s usually a couple of people sleeping in doorways. I always give them some money. They’re not coping. They’re not professional beggars who sit underneath cash machines. If you’re sleeping in doorways, you just haven’t got it together. Most of them are alcoholics, but I like to think if I was sleeping in a doorway and someone gave me £20, it would lighten the load slightly, for a few minutes even. At a certain point, you find yourself irritated by people. I get as irritated as anybody else when someone cleans the windscreen.
Uncut: In “Time”, you warn young people about squandering precious years – “You fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way” – and you encourage initiative. Do you see any irony in the fact that an entire generation of hippies and students spent weeks and months lying on floors, stoned or tripping, listening to Dark Side Of The Moon?
Waters: I don’t see anything wrong, when you’re in your adolescence, with getting stoned, if you’re aware of the fact that you’re getting stoned because you want to, and because you can have that luxury. You have no responsibilities at that age, particularly. It may well be that it’s important to lie around stoned, listening to music, for a year or two.
But that’s not really the point of the song. It’s actually about understanding your own autonomy. I wouldn’t want to preach to anybody.
I used to go an stand on the “South Bank” at Arsenal every week. It was great; I loved it. Some people would say, “What a waste of time.” So it’s not about that. I suddenly realised at 29 that I had been fulfilling someone else’s prophecy. I was programmed by my childhood and education in to believing that I was preparing for a life that as going to start later. It was never explained to me as a child that I was actually, moment by moment, in it.
Uncut: Also in “Time”, you say, “Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time…” That’s a very depressing discovery for a person only in their twenties.
Waters: I still have those feelings. I realise now they’re something of an illusion. A lot of writers say, “I’ve gotta get up at six in the morning, I’ve gotta start at eight and work until lunchtime, I’ve gotta do 400 words a day.” I’ve never been able to work like that.
Sometimes it’s a concern. It may be that I could have produced another twenty albums. I like to think that maybe some of the connections I make are because I want to go fishing, and I’m more positive about my work like that. I allow the pressure to build up and when I feel pregnant pressure, I actually sit down at the piano and work at something.
Uncut: It’s ok to go fishing, because “Breathe” seems to say, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
Waters: Actually… It does mean that. It’s very easy to wake up in the morning and get on with whatever you have to do. I used to go on the underground from Goldhawk Road on the Hammersmith and City line towards Paddington, and some artist had written on the concrete beside that line, “Same thing day after day, get up, get on the Tube, come home, watch TV, go to bed.” It repeated all along the side of the tube line until you were going so fast you couldn’t read it any more and then you went into the tunnel. It was a great piece of art.
So I think it’s important to encourage people to be aware of what’s going on… I feel we’re increasingly in danger of finding ourselves in Huxley’s Brave New World. We’re controlled with diet and television and it would be very easy for this to be the millennium of the living dead.
You see McDonald’s on the Champs Elysee. What the fuck’s going on with the French? The last bastion of culinary standards, and they trudge into McDonald’s to buy this shit. Why? I don’t understand it. People need to be encouraged not to be pawns in the game.
Uncut: “Time” ends with the lines: “The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.” So you’re saying that before death – “The Great Gig In The Sky” – most people run out of time to fulfil their hopes and dreams. That’s a chilling thought.
Waters: Maybe it is. Maybe we all suffer from the feeling of lost opportunities, or you could have done better, or done more. Maybe it’s comforting to hear that feeling expressed in a piece of work that’s been as successful as this one.
People often think, “If only… I could write the hit song, or have the success, everything would be OK.” It’s very nice, but it doesn’t solve any of the problems you might feel about yourself. The feelings that you have fundamentally spring from the nature of the relationship you had with loved ones when you were babies and children, and you transcend that through an inward journey and not through connections to the world of commerce or entertainment.
Uncut: The phrase “dark side of the moon” arises in “Brain Damage”. Does it refer to the dark side of the mind that has the potential for insanity, or is it a catch-all phrase to describe any number of bad things that can befall the personality?
Waters: It’s more a general catch-all. It’s also to suggest that there’s a camaraderie involved in the idea of people who are prepared to walk the dark places alone. You’re not alone! A number of us are prepared to open ourselves up to all those possibilities. So when I say, “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon”, what I mean, I suppose, is, “If you feel that you’re the only one… that you seem crazy cos you think everything is crazy – you’re not alone.”
It’s all Star Wars – the light side and the dark side in us all. That’s the good thing about Lucas’ work, that these ideas get to be expressed – which was a big part of science-fiction writing in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Uncut: Your most famous reference to Syd Barrett is “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, but the “lunatic” theme of “Brain Damage” was clearly a reference to him. You were obviously severely affected by what happened to Syd.
Waters: Absolutely! It was a huge shock to me to see the ravages of schizophrenia at those close quarters.
Uncut: Is the general thread of insanity running through the album also linked to your experience of Syd’s illness?
Waters: Yeah, maybe. I think that’s certainly one of the elements. There’s no way to deal with it. Certainly there wasn’t with Syd.
Uncut: Are you still in touch with him?
Waters: No, I’m not. He doesn’t like to be reminded of his times with the band.
Uncut: Dark Side Of The Moon originally went under the title of Eclipse (A Piece For Assorted Lunatics) – before the losing track, “Eclipse”, actually existed. How did it come about as the finale?
Waters: We’d started playing everything on the road before we recorded the album. I suggested it all needed an ending. I wrote “Eclipse” and brought it into a gig, at the Colston Hall in Bristol, on a piece of lined paper with the lyrics written out. We learnt it.
Uncut: Would you agree that the album ends pessimistically, but with a small ray of hope?
Waters: It isn’t very positive, but it’s very true. “And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon” – saying that there’s the potential to express the positive side of everything, but that all the stuff that we have talked about on the rest of the record has the potential to get in the way, and it’s up to us to make a change. We all get to choose to some extent… We get the chance to think through questions of how useful it is to invade Iraq or not. We all get that opportunity – invade Iraq or protest in some way. We all get to choose our lives so long as we’re not being bombed…
Uncut: Do you remember a time when you realised this album could be made as a complete piece of music rather than a collection of separate songs?
Waters: I think immediately after “Echoes”, which was one long piece of music. Within that were a number of different musical movements. It was the whole of that side of the record. Lyrically, it expressed some of the same preoccupations of alienation and isolation that crop up in Dark Side Of The Moon – and Wish You Were Here and The Wall. You know, that stuff about two strangers passing in the street, that we’re connected, but we have problems allowing that connection to materialise.
Uncut: Why has Dark Side Of The Moon remained relevant to successive generations of record-buyers? Is it because the lyrical ideas are eternal?
Waters: It’s interesting… I have increasingly come to believe that the sonic and musical qualities of the record in some way express the underlying emotional and political concerns. There’s a symbiosis about it.
Uncut: How does that happen, or do you not know?
Waters: You get up in the morning and you go into the studio and there’s a blank canvas. You get the palette out, mix the paints, and start painting, and at a certain point, you say, “It’s finished now.” How all the elements come together in that process of record-making… It’s the same as any other creative process, whether painting or a classical composer writing a symphony… There’s a bit of the brain that makes connections that seem obvious once they’ve been made, but didn’t seem obvious before. That’s what writing is. That’s why it’s important, why you like to read good novels.
There’s a poem that I wrote a number of years ago that’s about writing. It’s about the moment when you’re reading a good book, getting close to the end, and you start putting it down cos you don’t want to finish it.
In that poem, I wrote, “There’s a magic in some books… A man will eke the reading out, guard it like a canteen in the desert heat, but sometimes needs must drink and then the final drop falls sweet, the last page turns, the end.” That’s how I feel about writing. It’s that important.
Uncut: Was Dark Side Of The Moon your baby?
Waters: It was. This album is my baby. In terms of what the records were about – they were my ideas and I wrote them. Dave particularly, but Rick as well, had major, important contributions.
Uncut: By all accounts, you feel that you were too generous with the songwriting credits on the album.
Waters: I’ve regretted it rather a lot since, but I’m over that now. I went through many years when I really regretted having given away half the writing credits, particularly [Nick Mason’s solo credit for] “Speak To me”. I gave it to him. Nobody else had anything to do with it at all.
Uncut: Dave Gilmour has previously said he didn’t contribute as fully as he could have to the songwriting process; he was a bit lazy.
Waters: Dave likes to think that his lack of contribution has to do with laziness.
Uncut: What’s your reading of it?
Waters: He doesn’t have very many ideas. He’s a great guitar player, but he’s not really a writer. However conscientious or hard-working Dave was, he would never actually write anything.
Uncut: Was there any point in the recording sessions at which you realised that this album was turning into something special?
Waters: Certain tracks started to turn out really well, like when [vocalist] Clare Torry came in and we worked on “The Great Gig In The Sky”. Alan Parsons had invited her in for the session. We were amazed at what she did. I didn’t know her then. But we became friends afterwards when I moved to East Sheen in 1980 and we lived a few doors away from each other. I used to see her walking her bull terrier on Sheen Common. I’d have the cocker spaniel with me.
When we finished the record, I had a very strong feeling (a) that the work was really good and (b) that it was going to be successful. It as exiting to work on.
Uncut: Did you realise that you were making a perfect soundtrack to people’s rug experiences?
Waters: We weren’t aware of that at the time.
Uncut: Is it true that you took no drugs during the recordings?
Waters: Probably I was taking something… no, maybe mot. Maybe I’d stopped smoking op at that time. I’d stopped taking acid. I only did that a couple of times, and that was in the ‘60s. I tried to give up cigarettes, which I’d smoked since I was 14. I tried cigars for a time. I went through a couple of years pretending not to smoke cigarettes. One of the ways I did this was to smoke hash joints. I was addicted to tobacco – the hash was irrelevant. So I was stoned for a couple of years, and then realised that, so I stopped smoking dope because I got bored with being stoned all the time. For the last few years of smoking cigarettes I wasn’t smoking dope any more.
In 1975, I went to stay in my little house in Greece and I bought 200 Marlboro Reds on the plane going over. I said, “When I finish these 200 fags, that’s it.” I finished them a few days later. I came downstairs the next morning and found the longest dog-end in the ashtray, straightened it out, lit it and thought “What are you doing?” I crushed it out and went cold turkey. That was 28 years ago. I have promised myself when I’m 75 or something, I’ll start smoking cigarettes again.
Uncut: The album was recorded at Abbey Road. How important was that?
Waters: We were contracted to EMI and we recorded in Abbey Road willy-nilly. There was always a great atmosphere there, a very great feeling of family. We used to have a cricket match every year against Abbey Road. We had some extraordinary teams – Chris Spedding in his green alligator, high-heeled boots, Roy Harper inevitably out in the first couple of balls who would go and sit somewhere on a hillside and sulk…
I developed a powerful attachment to Abbey Road. Studio 2 has been kept as a shrine to The Beatles. It’s still exactly the same, although the control room has changed completely. I went back there a few weeks ago. Hopefully they’ll keep it like that. It’s a great room.
Uncut: If today’s technology had been at your disposal then, how would this have affected the album?
Waters: Hardly at all.
Uncut: Surely it would at least have made life easier, particularly with all the sound effects?
Waters: Well, yeah. We did all that work on old machines. Some of the things I did on Dark Side Of The Moon… the loop with all the cash registers I did at home on a Revox A77 with bits of quarter-inch tape. I had a loop about four feet long, and I took it into EMI – “Stick that on the two-track and run it onto a track on the multi-track.” Things like that you can do really, really quickly and simply now. In those days, there were no long, digital delays. You had to work with tape delays.
Uncut: The sound of jangling coins on “Money” was a home-made effort too, wasn’t it?
Waters: I threw money into a mixing bowl made by my wife at the time, who was a potter. I recreated the sound effects for that. The cash registers came off a sound-effects album. The footsteps [on “On The Run] were recorded in the underground tunnel from the Natural History Museum that runs through to South Kensington tube station.
Uncut: Were the sound effects something that cropped up as the recordings progressed, or were they always going to be part of the album?
Waters: I suspect I always had that in mind, but the recording of the voices… I absolutely remember the way I got the voices was to write a bunch of questions on a series of cards.
Uncut: Famously, you showed the cards to everyone you bumped into at the Abbey Road studios – doormen and superstars alike.
Waters: They just had the cards to respond to – “How do you feel about dying?”, When were you last violent?”, “Were you in the right?” Henry McCullough, when asked “When were you last violent?” said, “Last night.” “Were you in the right?” “I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time.” (Laughs uproariously).
Wings were in Studio Two at the time, and that’s why Henry was there. The interesting thing is that when [director] Adrian Maben made the Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii film, there are some shots of me working on the VCS3, a synthesizer, making “On The Run”, and there are shots of Dave overdubbing something – and we’re in Number Two. Maybe we mixed the album in Studio Three…
Uncut: How do you feel now towards your former bandmates?
Waters: Nick and I have rekindled our friendship and we have dinner together and that’s been a recent thing, within the last couple of years, and I’m pleased about that. He was the only close friend I had in the band. Dave and I don’t really speak. We were always so at odds philosophically and politically, and it spread into all kinds of bickering.
Uncut: During the recordings?
Waters: I don’t think so. Maybe a little bit. It really developed after Dark Side Of The Moon.
Uncut: Did that happen as a result of the album’s success?
Waters: I think it did, partly. We had fulfilled the basic need we had to work together as a group. We’d cracked if after Dark Side Of The Moon and we clung together. I’m quite glad we did. We did some very good work after that. But we’d fulfilled the dream, and to us, in some fundamental sense, it was over, so it was all downhill from then on.
Uncut: What was the source of the problem between you and Dave?
Waters: I think Dave’s mum always thought he should be a leader, but he was not a writer, so he never could be. Dave believed then, and when we finally split he still believed, that it was wrong to make political statements.
Uncut: And at the same time, the frustrations over publishing were beginning to surface.
Waters: I talk about it on [the 1992 solo album] Amused To Death, in “What God Wants, Pt II” – “Got wants friendship, God wants fame, God wants credit, God wants blame, God wants poverty, God wants wealth, God wants insurance, God wants to cover himself.” Friendship and fame, the credit and blame – that’s the icky stuff you get in rock’n’roll bands. They’re all very needy emotionally, so the way that we law each other’s eyes out over the credit and wealth is quite ugly.
Uncut: Are you as guilty as anybody else?
Waters: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Roger Waters is currently working on a new album: “I’ve written a bunch of songs, and I find myself torn between allowing it to be about problems with relationships and being dragged into the whole polemic about Bush and Iraq and Blair. I think it may end up being about all those things.”
“We Weren’t The Best Of Friends”
KEYBOARDS, VOCALS, VCS3
Richard Wright opens the front door in person. There are no managers, no minions leaping into view as he ushers Uncut into his house in a leafy and exclusive area of London’s Notting Hill and immediately rushes off to make coffee. The large, comfortable sitting room seems to suit his personality: it’s not at all ostentatious. The laminated wooden floor is made cosy with rugs, a couple of paintings are stacked against the wall, and a modest collection of CDs is tucked into a shelving unit.
This is clearly a family home: lived-in, like his jeans. In the hall, the chandelier, gleaming above a shoe cupboard stuffed with pairs of trainers and a display of children’s artwork on the mantelpiece, offers and incongruous flash of glamour. A cat pads into the sitting room to pour itself round the ankles of the unfamiliar company before Wright returns with cafetiere, cups, and saucers on a tray, and sits on the sofa.
Friendly cat you have here, offers Uncut.
“They’re not that friendly. Which one was it?” he retorts, going on to explain that the cat is overweight. Richard – not Rick – is a stickler for detail: it is of course, “a prism” rather than “a triangle” on the famous artwork. He is also patient, and given to comprehensive explanation in the interests of getting things right. Not wishing to offend anyone, he is equally determined to defend his own position in the history of Dark Side Of The Moon. He is likably anxious, almost jittery, confessing that he hasn’t done an interview in years.
Uncut: Roger believes that the music captures all of the emotional content of his lyrics. Where did all this emotion ad magic come from?
Wright: I would say they happened spontaneously. When we did Dark Side, we were at the height of our creativity. It has the best songs the Floyd have ever written. Even though I wasn’t great friends with Roger, there was a great working relationship. We had respect for each other.
With Dark Side, Roger had a clear idea of what he wanted to say. He wanted to keep it in very simple language and make a ‘concept’ album [winces], and it was the first one we’d really done.
It expressed emotions that I think we all felt at the time. He was affected by us being on the road all of the time, losing touch with families, and having memories of childhood. I think the music and lyrics just came together.
Uncut: Roger’s favourite track on the album is one he wrote with you – “Us and Them”.
Wright: Funnily enough, it’s one of my favourite tracks. It’s a great example of the music and the lyrics combining to create emotion. It’s probably the best song Roger and I have written together.
Uncut: It wasn’t originally written for Dark Side, was it?
Wright: The arrangement for the verses came from a piece I’d done for Zabriskie Point [director Michelangelo Antonioni’s cult movie of 1970]. It was called “The Violence Sequence”, and it was written for the scene where the students were being beaten up by the police on campus. I started off trying all this violent music. Then, one evening, I started playing this melancholy chord sequence. It was interesting to put something really quite sweet behind the violence. It makes it more real. Antonioni loved it, then he didn’t like it and it wasn’t used. So when we came to write “Us And Them”, I still had this piece in my head. Then we needed a middle-eight. I came up with the chords for that. It’s very flowing and sweet if you look at the verse, then there’s the contrast, this big, harder chorus. With the lyrics about the war and the general sitting back – it worked so well.
Uncut: “The Great Gig In The Sky” was your composition. Did you know that you were writing the soundtrack to Death?
Wright: Not at the time. My memory as, “We want an instrumental”. I went away and came up with this piece, and everyone liked the chord sequence. It was a question of “What do we do with it?” and we decided to get someone to sing. Clare Torry came in and she thought we were going to give her the top line and lyrics. We said, “Just busk it.” She was terrified – “I don’t know what to do.” “Just go in and improvise.” Which she did, and out came this wonderful vocal.
I didn’t, when I wrote it, think, “This is all about death,” cos I don’t think I would have written that chord structure. I get so excited when I hear Clare singing. For me, it’s not necessarily death. I hear terror and fear and huge emotion, in the middle bit especially, and the way the voice blends with the band. The way it was mixed helps.
Uncut: Was there also a musical vision for the album, existing alongside the concept, before the writing began?
Wright: I would say there wasn’t. We started off like we always started off – in the studio or the rehearsal room, with everyone just playing things. Once you’ve got a starting point, and the band gets excited and flowing, it grows by itself. It grows, it grows, it grows. I suspect that’s how Dark Side started. I don’t remember a great deal about the writing or the rehearsals or the whole process of ho it as put together. We were performing most of it live before we started recording it.
It was a very exciting and creative time in Abbey Road, a very happy time, very harmonious. We weren’t the best of friends, but we were very together. We were all into this project, and we worked extremely hard and quite fast. It was, quite honestly, the last time, the end of that era of the band working very closely and creatively together. Wish You Were Here as great, but the tensions were beginning to come between us. But, I remember, not on Dark Side.
Uncut: Were there no disagreements during the recording?
Wright: I think we had a few disagreements on the publishing when we were close to finishing it – “Well, who gets what?” Nick gets credited on “Any Colour You Like” and “Speak To Me”, when, in fact, that was just us giving him some publishing because Dark Side is essentially Roger on lyrics and Dave and me on the music.
It was a great working partnership. To this day, I think it’s sad we lost it, but it does happen.
Uncut: Roger isn’t sure if he was smoking dope or not during this period. Do you remember?
Wright: I have no recollection of him or me smoking joints as we recorded Dark Side. We were both smoking cigarettes. I did, of course, smoke dope, but it doesn’t agree with me. I’ve had terrible times on it. I had a nightmare once where I did something in Paris. I knew I had to go on stage in a couple of hours time and I got too stoned. I had a total freak-out.
If I had nothing to do, literally nothing, then I could have a joint and relax. If I had to do anything – play music, go anywhere, drive a car – I would just get paranoid. Dark Side certainly wasn’t recorded or written under a haze of drugs. I couldn’t have made that record if I was stoned out on dope.
Uncut: Yet it became the essential stoner album of the ‘70s.
Wright: It wasn’t intended. People, I suppose, could say, “I’m going to listen to Dark Side, I’ll roll up a joint and experience it.” They would have Dark Side parties in America. Timothy Leary, bless him, as saying, “You’ve got to tune in, drop out,” etc etc. I don’t believe that anyway. But it’s people’s choice to do whatever they like. We’re not responsible for it. In Australia, it was voted Favourite Album To Make Love To. It wasn’t always about dope and drugs.
Uncut: How did you achieve the integration of the keyboards and synths into the overall texture and drama of the album?
Wright: Just playing so well together. I did quite a lot of writing on Dark Side, therefore it was written on keyboards. Dave had to make his part to follow my keyboard structures. Later on, it would tend to be the other way round. Keyboards play a large part in the emotion of Dark Side. I’m very proud of their performance on it. There’s a great empathy and interplay between the guitar and piano, and that quality brings a lovely warmth to the album. Although the lyrics are quite bleak and sad in places, I still find huge warmth in it.
Uncut: Roger resented the fact that while the concept was of central importance to him, it wasn’t to the rest of the band.
Wright: I don’t remember a huge dispute. As a musician and a listener to music, I never laid that much importance on lyrics. To this day I will not often listen to the words, whoever the artist may be. The musicality of the sound of the words and tone of the voice I might like, but if they jump out at me or if they’re badly written, I find it disturbing, musically.
Uncut: According to Roger, you told an interviewer you weren’t bothered about the lyrics.
Wright: I may well have said that, but I might have meant that, for me, they weren’t as important as the music. I don’t think I had a problem with the quality of the lyrics at any time. Possibly Roger’s feelings and what he was trying to say weren’t necessarily things I felt. That was certainly true of The Wall. He was our lyricist on this album and I was happy to go along with that. There may have been evenings when I’d disagree with what he was saying politically, and still do. At the time, I don’t think I really agreed with the sentiments of “Money”.
Uncut: Does anything in particular still rankle?
Wright: Nothing really rankles with me now, because I’m older. Roger as probably wiser than his 30 years. We were in a rock’n’roll band, we were swept away with the whole lifestyle, so to have someone seriously thinking about life – I admire him coming up with these thoughts at that time. I can sympathise more now with what he was feeling and trying to say.
Uncut: Some of his preoccupations were pretty depressing for someone so young.
Wright: Certainly, he opened up all his traumas, which carried on through Wish You Were Here and into The Wall… I could empathise with those lyrics, but I didn’t find life so bleak as he was perhaps suggesting.
Uncut: Still, the lyrics hold out a degree of choice and hope.
Wright: There’s a ray of hope – “Be careful, these things could happen” – and people did feel uplifted, which I think is because of the music.
Uncut: How was it received live, before you recorded it?
Wright: It was received extremely well, with reverence. People were used to hearing five-minute songs or loud guitar solos, but to sit down and listen to one whole piece as in those days rare. It was a great piece to play live. I think it came into the public consciousness very quickly, Dark Side.
Uncut: How vital was the VCS3 synthesizer to the album?
Wright: It was one of the first synthesizers. I think we had the mini-Moog as well. The VCS3 as the first one that we found. It was connected to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. They showed it to us, and we took it back to the studio. It was sitting there in the control room and Roger, Dave and I would play around with it. After that, the mini-Moog was my job. The VCS3 was a new toy. For then, it got amazing sounds. We spent hours putting plugs in it to get the tones. They were the first synths that gave you these big, meaty tones.
Dark Side had a four-piece set-up – guitar, keyboards, bass and drums – recording into a 16-track, plus the VCS3, and we used reverb units and echo machines. Definitely, the fact that we were so limited and we didn’t have much technology was what made the music sound so great. I would love to go back to having that simple set-up.
Uncut: The punks wanted to annihilate bands like the Floyd. More than two decades later, Dark Side Of The Moon was held up as a great, ambient inspiration. Did this surprise you?
Wright: No, not really. There’s a huge influence. I wouldn’t say it’s just Dark Side. Clearly, the whole Syd Barrett thing – the sound of the guitar and keyboards – as influential, too. People tend now to look back. But we were looking forward. R&B had an influence in the first place, but we were trying to break free from all that and do something new.
Richard Wright is currently working on his own material, with Pink Floyd out of action. Feeling “fine” towards Gilmour and Mason, he says: “It’s getting on for ten years, and nothing’s been doing. That’s down to Dave, who probably doesn’t want to do it at the moment, and laziness on all our parts. I personally find it more of a struggle to create no than I did when I was 30.”
“I Don’t Remember Storming Out”
PERCUSSION, TAPE EFFECTS
It’s in an unprepossessing backstreet not far from Caledonian Road in north London, through a blue door. You cross the courtyard, climb the metal staircase and enter a room that’s not far off the size of a warehouse, and with something of the atmosphere of one, informally split into separate divisions.
The visitor is immediately confronted by a shiny, red, historic Formula 1 car, which e later discover is fitted with a computer simulator. Beyond it and to the left is a table, where Nick Mason is finishing lunch with his colleagues. This is the head office of his own enterprise, Ten Tenths, which supplies vehicles – everything from supercars to airplanes – to movie-makers, TV companies, advertisers and anyone else who can afford to hire them.
He dabs his mouth with a serviette, stands up to shake hands, and in ten minutes we are retiring to the sofa zone at the far end of the room. The back-wall shelves are stacked with filed material, books and videos relating to Pink Floyd, and to other things too. His desk and computer are just a few strides across the room.
Mason has no affectations. Balding, tubby and wearing conservative brown trousers, precisely creased, he couldn’t look less like the wealthy rock star or the high-flying company boss and racing driver that he is. And despite a refined eloquence, he seems to be as earthbound as his appearance would suggest, offering a humorous overview of events surrounding Dark Side Of The Moon and a propensity for self-depreciating one-liners.
Uncut: It appears that this was, largely, a drug-free album for the band. What are your memories of the time?
Mason: A bit of rum and blackcurrant, occasionally.
Uncut: You didn’t take any drugs?
Mason: For me, absolutely nothing. We were very straight, and I think the record reflects that. It’s a carefully constructed piece. It’s extraordinary – we were seen as “the psychedelic band”. But the Psychedelic Kid [Barrett] left after about nine months. We only started in March 1967 as a professional band. He was really on the way out at the end of ’67, early ’68.
Uncut: Did you have any inkling that the album would become such an integral part of the drug culture?
Mason: It certainly wasn’t designed in that way. In the early ‘70s, a lot of people listened to all music in a chemically-altered state.
Uncut: How do you think the album holds up after 30 years?
Mason: There are two elements to it. One is to listen and think you’ do that differently or better, and the other is to hear it as a product of its time. It’s held up incredibly well. The way things cross-fade and the layering, which is part of the special quality of it, still sounds really good. Because of all the layering, it’s almost as if it’s been compressed – it’s squished up, and that’s part of its attraction, I think.
Uncut: the album came to life at your home in Camden, when Roger presented his concept to the band. How did you feel about it?
Mason: Really weird and peculiar [making hands tremble]…
Uncut: Roger has complained that the rest of the band didn’t share his commitment to the lyrics. Where did you stand on this?
Mason: Firmly in the middle. I’ve always been well-known for my fence-sitting and I’m certainly not going to change now. I think the key element of Dark Side Of The Moon is that the sum was greater than the parts. The lyrics are very important, but the music is important as well, and so are the sound effects, the voices, the concept, the fact that these ideas are rolled into one. We started playing the VCS3. There’s a bit of avant-garde, a bit of rock’n’roll. It’s like an air-crash – you need a whole bunch of things to go wrong before you actually get the accident. You’ve probably got five different things that work for it.
Uncut: The album was made very quickly by today’s standards.
Mason: It was. I would say it was about three months of work, in total. The recording took place over quite a long period of time, and it was broken up by other things. We spent about three months touring, and five or six weeks on the ballet [rehearsing and playing a live accompaniment for Les Ballets de Marseilles]. Live At Pompeii was two weeks’ work. We filmed there for a week and finished off with some time in the studio. The other film was about a month [the soundtrack to Barbet Schroeder’s La Vallee, released in 1972 as Obscured By Clouds].
Uncut: Was there a moment of realisation for you, personally, that you were making a phenomenal album?
Mason: I don’t think it happened. First of all, you’re fairly close to it. You don’t perceive it as being as special. You do once it’s sold so many millions and you look at it in hindsight. With all the other stuff going on, the most sense of it coming together would have been at the final part – although towards the end of it there were arguments about the mixing, until we brought in Chris [Thomas, mixing supervisor] into it.
Uncut: What arguments were those?
Mason: Particularly Roger and Dave disagreed fairly specifically. Dave preferred a slightly more orchestral feel, and Roger liked to bring things to the front. That’s a real generalisation. It wouldn’t be about changing anything. It would be about where things should be in the mix. Rick was probably a Dave supporter and I was probably a Roger supporter, to put it into simple terms.
We’re not very big on discussions – we tend to move straight into the argument. At some point, there as the idea of bringing Chris in. I suspect he sort of compromised.
Uncut: Did the arguments ever get to the point of anyone storming out?
Mason: I think we moved on to that later [laughing]. That tended to mean you’d lost anyway. I don’t remember storming out.
Uncut: At the same time, Roger and Rick say this was a harmonious period for the group.
Mason: I think that’s true. It’s partly due to the way the band operated and what happened post-Dark Side, and also due to the technical requirements of the time. With more and more multi-tracking, it started making sense to record everything independently, rather than together.
Uncut: Apparently, there were disputes over publishing and credits.
Mason: What does one say, really? No one’s ever going to get enough credit for what they did on something that’s that successful. And it also depends upon how the listener feels. If they think the lyrics are the absolute crux of the whole record, then Roger was under-credited, and so on.
Uncut: Do you feel that you received the correct acknowledgement for your contributions?
Mason: I was probably over-credited.
Uncut: Alan Parsons – who won a Grammy for engineering the album – has said that your contributions were crucial.
Mason: [Feigns pride, but can’t keep it up] I’m really happy to have been part of it and I enjoyed making the record and I still like the sound of it.
Uncut: Roger and Rick, however, have said that the writing credits were given out almost like gifts. They have contested the credit, for example, on “Speak To Me”.
Mason: It was an assembly that I did with existing music. You could say there’s no original material there, or you could say it’s an entirely original assembly.
Uncut: Roger says it was his track, but he gave the credit to you.
Mason: That’s his view. Roger was never well-known for his reasonableness. I think, 30 years on, to be crabbing about who did what when everyone knows that Roger wrote the lyrics for the thing… I’d have to say he’s one of the world’s most unreasonable and difficult men, but I’m very fond of him.
Uncut: You have dinner together, I believe.
Mason: Yes, and I’m really happy about that. I’m happy with the credit I received. Because I suppose the answer is, there’s a sort of unfairness about it I benefit from. The individuals are to some extent hidden in [the band’s identity] and I think that’s probably why he gets warmed up about it.
Uncut: How do you get on with Rick and Dave?
Mason: Rick, fine. Dave, when I see him, fine. I was more interested in the areas that Roger was interested in. The contributions I made tended to be along the lines of the special effects and voices and cutting and editing of sound. They were of less interest to Dave and Rick.
Uncut: Did you spend a lot of time at the production end of things?
Mason: We all did. We had home studios, and bits and pieces would get done at home, like the loops. We were all at the studio throughout the making of the record, whereas in later years…
Uncut: What special effects were you responsible for? The heartbeat as famously done on the bass drum…
Mason: It was probably someone else banging the drum. We set it up in the studio, and we took turns. We probably ended up with 30 different heartbeats, but who, exactly, did it? It could’ve been me, or it might just as easily have been Dave picking up the beat, or Roger. I can remember constructing the loop for “Money” at Roger’s. We might have done that together or done various versions.
Uncut: Do you agree the music and the lyrics are inseparable?
Mason: I think there’s some synergy between them. It’s like a film, say Fantasia and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. If a film and its music work together, you can never, ever separate them. You can do untold damage. One it has worked, it locks in so that you can never imagine it in any other way. It seems almost perfect.
Uncut: To what extent did Alan Parsons and Chris Thomas influence the finished product?
Mason: Chris came in quite late on. I don’t think he influenced it very much, but he did a very, very good job on the final mix.
Alan, without doubt, would have done more than simply engineer the record. He would have made suggestions about the music and who it should be constructed, and so we were extremely lucky to have him. Alan was definitely an engineer/producer.
Uncut: What was your most important contribution to the album?
Mason: My ‘unique style of drumming’ and an interest in the loops, the sound effects and the voices.
Uncut: The voices came from the responses to Roger’s card-questions. Why did you reject the answers given by Paul and Linda McCartney?
Mason: We were enormously respectful of Paul McCartney and it’s extraordinary that we managed to avoid putting him on the record. And I suppose it’s a credit to us that we thought about what would fit best. The voices we used were the people who really expressed themselves, whereas Paul and Linda were much more reserved, inevitably.
Uncut: What songs id you most enjoy playing live?
Mason: “Time”, with the rototoms, was great fun to play, whereas I found “Us And Them” incredibly tedious. Certainly, in some of the live shows, you can almost hear the drummer going to sleep before he’s woken up for the next part. The memory for me is the film that we showed when we played it live – people walking over Waterloo Bridge. It’s extraordinary watching a slow-motion footstep.
Uncut: Why are people still listening to Dark Side Of The Moon?
Mason: I think it’s the rototoms.
Uncut: Is it surprising that the album continues to influence young musicians?
Mason: It’s slightly surprising. Despite my modest demeanour, there’s always a bit of the old, “We were bloody good, really.” [Sways shoulders, jokingly.] It’s always interesting to hear an idea revisited, apart from the tribute bands – an alien life-form.
Uncut: But you have to have a tribute band.
Mason: I feel almost sad about them. One you’re a tribute band, you’ve given up your own thing. A number of them are bloody good. They can copy things we did. They can also play them better.
But leaving the tribute bands aside, there are influences where people have taken a sample, or perhaps the idea that you don’t have to have the rhythm section banging through the entirety of the record. You can have layers and cross-fades and mood swings – do this business of drifting. That’s one thing that has lasted very well, the way that things come from one idea to another imperceptibly. Funnily enough, it’s something that was better done manually than by a computer. A computer rarely does it quite as sensitively; it tries to be accurate. Dark Side had a certain hand-made quality.
Nick Mason is typically blunt when asked what he’s doing these days. Referring to the release of the 5.1 remix, he replies: “As my manager succinctly puts it, I’m in the recycling business.”
“We Had Some Pretty Good Arguments”
VOCALS, GUITARS, VCS3
David Gilmour has invited us to his riverside studio – the splendid houseboat Astoria, moored on the Thames at Hampton. It’s surrounded by spectacular private gardens which come complete with their own 18th-century tunnel, leading the visitor safely underneath the busy road outside. In the grounds is a large conservatory with a TV lounge, kitchen, dining area and all-day catering.
Gilmour enters in the manner of a country squire, and, despite a reputation for being difficult, he’s immediately friendly, welcoming. He’s put on a few pounds over the years, he’s greyer, his hair is short, and he’s braced against the fresh winds in a shirt and jumper – but he is instantly identifiable as David Gilmour.
We cross to the boat, a 90-foot raft built in 1911 for music-hall impresario Fred Karno, hose guests included Charlie Chaplin. The interior houses a sitting room, kitchen and bathroom as well as a control room and studio, where we sit on a long window seat beside a drumkit that was recently used by Ringo Starr. The water is at window level, and swans float serenely past as Gilmour talks expansively – graciously waiving the agreed time limit. He has to guitars beside him; he plucks at one, idly. The other, a Lewis, is the very instrument that produced the third solo on “Money”. Later, Gilmour demonstrates the speeded-up, eight-note sequence from “On The Run” on his “briefcase” VCS3 Synthi. He also treats Uncut to a tape of Floyd playing “On The Run” live in Brighton in 1972, when it existed purely as a jam.
Uncut: Is Dark Side the performance of a lifetime?
Gilmour: It’s one of them. I like the following album [Wish You Were Here] just as much, and there are moments before and after, even in much more recent times, that I think are sublime. But its consistency, its subject matter, its lyrics, the music and everything all tied together make one very original whole that you could say is once in a lifetime, although I don’t, myself.
Uncut: Almost half a million people a year still buy the album in the US alone. Why?
Gilmour: I’m very thankful; it’s very strange. The subjects that it addresses are pretty much eternal, and the music is always fairly direct, certainly compared to some of the things that we’ve done. And although it has its own Pink Floyd sound, there are no very unusual devices applied to it that can date it.
Uncut: Is it true you bet your manager, Steve O’Rourke, that it wouldn’t go into the American Top 10?
Gilmour: Yes, it’s true. The thing about the bet was, I couldn’t lose. If it hadn’t gone into the Top 10, then winning the bet would have been handy. And if I lost the bet, then I won anyway. I was very conscious of that.
Uncut: Did you pay up?
Gilmour: Yes, of course.
Uncut: You’ve been quoted as saying that you were a little lazy during the writing of the album. Is that right?
Gilmour: I would think I was a bit lazy during the songwriting. I didn’t actually bring anything of mine into those rehearsal sessions – “Listen to this, it’s great, why don’t you write some words for it, Roger?” But it’s not something I’m wracked with guilt about. It worked out perfectly. I was part of writing “Breathe” and “Time” and stuff, and the basic synthesizer part for the “On The Run” sequence as mine.
Uncut: Why did you take a back seat in the writing process? Was it because Roger and Rick had so many ideas?
Gilmour: I don’t think so. I was just a bit flat – people go through these periods – and I think in the studio, while making the album, my contribution was fine. It was every bit as good as it should have been.
Uncut: What was that contribution?
Gilmour: It’s very hard to tie down. I was very active in all the production side. Most of the melodies that I sang I made up in the studio at the time of doing them, or in the rehearsal room. That’s the way we tended to work.
The guitar is the instrument that I chose or that chose me, and the one I obviously have the greatest facility with. I always wanted it to be a whole ensemble – an orchestra, if you like. I don’t really see it as guitar playing as much as creating a whole sound and a background. You just hear sounds in your head and you try different sounds and different guitars and different amplifier settings until it all starts sounding the way you imagine it. I took a great deal of care and pride in putting together different guitar parts that were sympathetic and complementary, and doing solos as more just the fun, a release.
Uncut: Which was the most satisfying track to play live?
Gilmour: I’m tempted to say it as doing the whole thing that was good. It had a cohesion and a meaning, and we had quadraphonic tapes and we had the keyboards running on a quadraphonic system that Rick could manipulate himself. We’d have a tingle of anticipation hen we knew we were going to do it. Obviously it’s nice when you cut to a guitar solo and you get a chance to turn it up and jam for a minute or two.
Uncut: One feature was a plane crashing into the stage. How easy was it to keep on playing with all that going on?
Gilmour: It was quite a large model airplane coming down at the end of “On The Run” passage and disappearing into the dark, crashing onto a great big wodge of foam rubber, and there was a real explosion accompanied by a tape explosion happening at the same time. We’ve had all sorts of things over the years, so I don’t think it put any of us off. It was jolly entertaining.
Uncut: Nick believes you’re the only natural musician in the group and that the others are “a very gifted amateur band” who have a talent for playing in a style that suits Pink Floyd.
Gilmour: I’m fairly musical. Rick’s very musical, too. Rick is less pushy than I am. I’m very happy, I suppose, to be thought of as the musical one. I think I did most of the arranging and cajoling.
Uncut: Nick also says the female backing vocalists on the LP “were always going to shine”. Did you arrange and direct them?
Gilmour: Yes. All our vocals are perfectly balanced – for instance, on “Us And Them”. I did I don’t know how many harmony vocals, then the girls on top. It’s really great, really uplifting. You can move one element a fraction and the whole thing falls to pieces.
Uncut: It was you who brought in saxophone player Dick Parry. Didn’t you know him way back in Cambridge?
Gilmour: I played with him. He was a jazz player. You’d be in two or three different groups at a time sometimes. My group in Cambridge very rarely had a gig on a Sunday night, and Dick had a regular spot in a ballroom on a Sunday night. We got this jazz trio thing going on. Pink Floyd were so insular in some ways. I can’t believe it, thinking about it. We didn’t know anyone. We really didn’t know how to get hold of a sax player or anything. We wanted to try a sax on “Money” and “Us And Them”, so we got Dick in. He went on to play on the Wish You Were Here album and he toured with us in ’94. He did some dates with me. He’s still playing.
Uncut: Roger claims the rest of the band were not supportive of the philosophical and political ideas he wanted to express. You have publicly upheld the album concept, but Rick remembers feeling that the music was more important, and Nick says he sat on the fence.
Gilmour: Nick’s got a very sore bum, I imagine. He spent so many years sitting on that fence. Rick was curmudgeonly about things and wanted us to move in a more pure, maybe jazzy direction. He was always moaning and groaning, but he didn’t really mean it half the time. We all have very different personalities is the truth of the matter. We were all very, very happy to have a driving force like Roger who wanted to push for these concepts. I don’t remember it being a big issue at the time. Jointly and severally, we wanted each piece of music to have its own magic.
As an instrumental piece, we wanted it to have those little hints of magic about it before we tied it even into a lyric. Then, that lyric either has the same mood and strengthens the mood of the music, or the music then strengthens the lyric, or sometimes it’s because the music and the words conflict that it creates it. It’s not always the same way. If anything, at the end of Dark Side, I thought there were one or two moments where the lyric was stronger than the music that was carrying it.
Uncut: Can you say what those moments were?
Gilmour: It was just a general feeling and I can remember stating it at the time, and trying to encourage all of us to make the vehicles every bit as good as the lyrics on the next one. Maybe it was just my own guilty conscience about not feeling I’d contributed enough to the writing of it anyway. It’s a very tiny thing. Obviously, it’s not a matter of big importance.
Uncut: So, despite what Roger has said, you personally had no objection to his political and philosophical themes?
Gilmour: Absolutely not. That would have been a very strange attitude to have after the ’60s and moving into the early ’70s, and my absolute heroes were Bob Dylan and other people who expressed their philosophical and political ideas. If the political ideas being expressed by one are not the political ideas of another, you get into a slightly different minefield.
Uncut: Were you thinking about Roger’s words on the tracks where you sang them?
Gilmour: Of course. I think back and I’m slightly amazed we didn’t push him harder for explanations sometimes.
Uncut: What did you understand by the “dark side of the moon”?
Gilmour: The moon and the lunacy are obviously hard to get away from. It was referring to the dark side of the pressures of life that can drive a poor boy to madness.
Uncut: The lunacy, at least in parts, is related to Syd Barrett. Did you know this at the time?
Gilmour: There are specific references to “Syd moments” in some of the lyrics of Dark Side. Syd was a constant presence in our minds and consciences, I imagine.
Uncut: Were you his closest friend in the band?
Gilmour: I would like to think so. We were quite good friends from when I was about 14.
Uncut: How distressing was it to witness his decline?
Gilmour: You know, one just accepts things as they happen. I have no idea how much it affected me at the time. I did spend quite a lot of time – more with friends of Syd’s than with the guys in the band – really trying to think of ways of helping him, but the ideas in psychiatry and psychological counselling were rather different to what they are now. We tended to cling to rather trippy-hippie ideas of what was best for him, which I don’t think many people would agree with these days. Who knew?
Uncut: Have you stayed in touch with him?
Gilmour: I’ve been in touch with people in his family.
Uncut: Roger, Rick and Nick have no recollection of any great degree of drug consumption around the making of Dark Side Of The Moon. Is this your recollection too?
Gilmour: To be really honest with you, I can’t remember. All of us, for pretty well most of our career, have been very, very professional in the studio and I don’t think that any drugs have played a significant role in any of it. It’s true that Roger and Nick were the drinkers, and Rick and I would have a puff on a reefer one in a while.
It’s nice to listen to the album that way [stoned]. It’s an accidental by-product, really. There’s a lot going on, lots of stuff semi-hidden, all sorts of layers… it’s not that simple to get it. The more you concentrate, the better you listen and the more you’ll get out of it. The classic stoner thing of a reefer and a pair of headphones does, I’m sure, get you an awful lot out of it.
Uncut: The other guys don’t recall a lot about rehearsals for the album, when the songs started coming together. Do you?
Gilmour: I can remember the rooms that we were in quite vividly. We went to a warehouse in Bermondsey, which belonged to the Rolling Stones, and we were there for a little while, writing pieces of music and jamming. It was a very dark room. We booked a different place in Broadhurst Gardens, near St. John’s Wood, which was a light area, on the ground floor. It as a knocked-through, normal house. But I can’t remember the details of what happened when.
You jam, you knock stuff about, you plunder your old rubbish library. The process went on, the rehearsing the writing, the performing live, the recording sessions, the final mixing moments and the cover. All these things came together and it became clearer and clearer, probably gradually, that we had definitely made progress and that this was going to be a bigger, better thing than we had previously done.
Uncut: No one seems quite sure which Abbey Road studio it was recorded and mixed in.
Gilmour: It was mostly recorded in Studio Three. Probably some of it in Two. We did an awful lot of work in both over the years. It wasn’t that essential thing, “We’ve got to be in Two,” or, “We’ve got to be in Three.” They were quite similar.
Uncut: What were your musical priorities in the production stages?
Gilmour: It was, I felt, my role to do whatever I could to emotionally enhance whatever was going on and make the music sound nice. There are moments when real, ear-splitting, abrasive sound is right and moments when it just isn’t. You try to make each piece of music fulfil its potential.
Uncut: Is it true that feelings started running high during the mixing process?
Gilmour: The stereo mix was Roger and myself and Chris Thomas and Alan Parsons engineering, mostly, with other people dropping in and putting their oar in at various times. We struggled and sweated and argued and fought over every bar, all the way through the whole album. We really, really worked to get that as near perfect as we could get it.
We were fantastically busy in the run-up to the release of the album, going on tours, and when the quadraphonic mix became a possibility, we just didn’t have the time or the energy or really the belief that the system was going to take off and be in general use by people –as turned out to be the case. And so we let Alan Parsons do the quadraphonic mix of the whole album.
Uncut: How valuable was Alan’s role, and also Chris Thomas’?
Gilmour: Alan was the EMI staff engineer assigned to our project. He was a very good engineer, and he had one or two production ideas that were very good. In a clock shop in Hampstead, he had recorded the ticking clocks and made these tapes up to offer us an idea, which was great. But I think we all really knew what we were doing and where we were going. We would have got there with any good engineer operating the knobs and buttons.
Chris was, I think, managed by Steve [O’Rourke] even then. Roger and I were, as usual, arguing and bickering about how things should be in the overall mix. I favoured a wetter, more echoey sound, and I favoured things like the [speaking] voices appearing more subtly within the mush of the mix. Roger wanted things to be drier and cleaner and clearer. It’s the same argument we’ve been having again over the 5.1 remix.
I think Steve suggested that we bring Chris in cos he was an expert and he’d worked with The Beatles. He’d done a lot of The White Album. He was more or less George Martin’s apprentice. H was basically brought in to help mediate between myself and Roger. We always argued. Arguments came out of passion. They came out of one’s absolute belief that one way is the right way and the other person has an absolute belief that it should be different, and out of that compromise, wonderful things can happen.
Uncut: Were you and Roger both prepared to compromise with each other?
Gilmour: I don’t myself look on compromise as a dirty word. In our lives together in Pink Floyd, we argued and fought and compromised on things. Whether things would have been better done one way or the other way, we can only speculate. During the making of The Wall, we had some pretty heavy arguments, which sometimes would culminate in bad feeling that would last for a day or two.
Uncut: Did your professional relationship with Roger work because of or in spite of the differences?
Gilmour: Probably because of. It was an extraordinarily successful partnership. We had a good, valid working relationship right through until the period that’s well documented after The Wall album.
Uncut: Were the recording sessions for Dark Side Of The Moon as happy as the other members remember?
Gilmour: You see… We had some pretty good arguments, Roger and myself, on that album, as we had on “Echoes” and all sorts of things before. They came from a passion for getting it right. Obviously, one’s passion is sometimes obscured by one’s macho tendencies, as happens to everyone.
I can remember there being fantastic moments of harmony after that – some of the moments during the making of Wish You Were Here… One inspired moment by one person would be so obvious that it would be picked up by another person, and there would be genuine harmony, and I can say that those moments still even, for me, existed during the making of The Wall. Obviously, there was a deterioration in some elements of our relationship.
Uncut: Roger feels that there was a power struggle between you.
Gilmour: It’s a funny old thing, the idea of a power struggle.
Uncut: He sees it as a leadership issue.
Gilmour: I didn’t want to be the leader, but Roger desperately did want to be the leader, and I didn’t think that if someone wants to be the leader that that then means he has the final say on everything that goes on.
Uncut: Roger claims he had to lead because he was the one with the ideas. How do you react to that?
Gilmour: In terms of drive and lyrical concept matters, he was the de facto leader. But I certainly had a resistance to stating, “Roger is our leader,” as it creates a feeling that you have to defer to him on other matters – on musical matters, and I didn’t feel I should. I didn’t think it was good for us for me to not argue and try to push my case as I saw it. Those moments were the exception rather than the rule.
Uncut: There were also disagreements over songwriting credits.
Gilmour: We tended to think that if we threw ideas into the pot while we were all working together in the rehearsal studio, unless they were specific things, you didn’t hang on too tightly – if songs came up, then you would split the credit equally. In later years, the lyric came to count for half, so the lyricist ould get 50 per cent. So if we wrote a piece of music, all four of us jointly, Roger would get 62.5 per cent of it, cos he’d written the words and a quarter of the music, and the rest of us would get 12.5 per cent. That wasn’t the case at the time of Dark Side Of The Moon.
I’m very impressed by, say, U2, where they just say, “We’re all in it together,” and split it equally. Very brave. We never quite managed that. Our fights at the end of making a record to decide who had what percentage of each song were always the worst arguments we ever had.
Uncut: So isn’t “Money” a bit rich coming from Pink Floyd?
Gilmour: So it became, subsequently. We were by no means rich at that time. “Money” as the single that helped to really break us in America. It was the track that made us guilty of what it propounds, funnily enough.
Uncut: There is some feeling that credits were given, particularly to Nick, where they weren’t deserved.
Gilmour: I suppose it would be fair to say that in terms of actual writing, Nick has got some credits one in a while where he… he certainly didn’t put in a chord change. It seems daft to worry about it. There are swings and roundabouts. There are times when someone has done a certain amount of one song, but it’s been substantially written by another person. One accepts not getting credited on that one, but gets maybe a slightly bigger credit on another.
Uncut: Roger says that, although he was annoyed for a long time about giving the credits away, he’s got over it now.
Gilmour: He’s lying. I’m averse to getting into an argument about it all, but his interpretation of equality tended to go up and down a little bit. Roger did go through periods where he wanted to be very socialist and share everything equally. There was a period long after Dark Side Of The Moon when he was advocating for a little while that we split the profits of tours and records equally between us, and all of our staff and everyone. It never quite came to fruition. And then something changed and he went so far the other way. I still don’t know exactly how one works out the credits and percentages. It’s always been a cause of much argument and bad feeling.
Uncut: Was it more about the actual credit or recognition, as Nick suggests, rather than cash?
Gilmour: It was about credit, I think, to all of us.
Uncut: How do you feel now about the other three members?
Gilmour: About the same as I’ve always felt. I’ve got a lot of time for Rick. He’s got soul and musical talent. He’s got some really irritating features as well. Nick and I are very different people and we just don’t really see much of each other when we’re not working. Nick is definitely the best drummer for Pink Floyd, as Rick is the best keyboard player.
Uncut: How about Roger?
Gilmour: I won’t go into what I feel about Roger. I haven’t seen him for so long that I don’t know what he’s like these days. I don’t really have any feelings about him.
David Gilmour is currently writing for an unspecified project and taking saxophone lessons with his teenage son, Charlie. While he acknowledges that Pink Floyd still exist – “whatever ‘exist’ means” – and could regroup one day, it won’t be tomorrow: “We’ve all got other things to do, lives to get on with.”
The Dark Side Of The Moon 30th Anniversary Edition SACD is out now on EMI.
THE PSYCHEDELIC KID
Where was Syd Barrett while Pink Floyd were recording their landmark?
“I think he was living in London in Earls Court Square”, ventures David Gilmour. “But my chronology of him isn’t terribly safe…”
None of the other members have any idea what the wayward genius Syd Barrett was doing in 1973 while they were releasing the album that would go on to make history.
Gilmour, along with Waters and Wright, had some chaotic dealings with Barrett, helping out with his 1970 albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. Syd also, that year, made a live appearance with Gilmour and drummer Jerry Shirley before starting work on unreleased solo tracks and appearing on John Peel’s Top Gear. In early 1972, he appeared in a band called Stars with Pink Fairies drummer Twink and Delivery’s Jack Monck. There was also, seemingly, a liaison with Twink and Steve Peregrine Took on the latter’s album, The Missing Link To Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Thereafter, the legendary guitarist, who had steered Pink Floyd away from blues-rock into whimsical, psychedelic pop before his descent into (arguably drug-related) mental illness, disappeared.
Some said he’d given up music. Others claimed he was trying to record a new album.
He did, however, make a rare appearance in 1973, playing acoustic guitar with Jack Bruce at a poetry reading in Cambridge.
The next year, he was reportedly back in the studio, still trying in vain to record an album.
Later, he turned up at the Floyd’s recording sessions for 1975’s Wish You Were Here, the album which immortalised him with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. He didn’t contribute.
“THE ROTOTOMS ARE GREAT”
Pink Floyd on Dark Side Of The Moon track by track
SPEAK TO ME
Waters: It’s kind of a classical overture, a standard device used for hundreds of years – put some elements of the work together at the beginning, as a taster.
Mason: The extra voices, the chink of money, the heartbeat, the ticking clocks, the big, backward chord that introduces “Breathe”…
Wright: The snippet of Clare [Torry] singing is, to me, the best part.
Gilmour: We talked about what should be in it, and I think then Roger put most of it together with Nik and gave him the credit. I’m sure Nick played his part.
(Waters, Gilmour, Wright)
Waters: I remember doing that in Pittsburgh in a stadium with a mechanical, opening roof. As we started “Breathe”, the roof opened. It was a starlit night, a stunning moment.
Mason: The stadium owner said at first that it was too expensive. We established it would cost $750 and decided it was worth it.
Gilmour: It was the summer and it was very hot and smoky in the hall. When the roof opened, a real breeze went through the whole place. I stepped up to the mic and went, “Breathe, breathe in the air.”
Wright: There’s a slightly complicated sequence of chords which were influenced by Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue, which I loved.
Mason: It’s rather a Floyd thing, that slow, languorous flow.
ON THE RUN
Waters: It’s about fear of flying, which we all developed at some time.
Wright: I was exhausted by the treadmill, the grind of travelling. For me, it expressed that rather than the fear of crashing in an aircraft.
Mason: We had one particularly scary flight back from Japan in a thunderstorm. After that, we were just dreadful. Someone said, “You need to learn to fly.” So I did. So did Steve O’Rourke and Dave. It cured me. I absolutely love it now. I still fly. Musically, the main element is Rick on the Farfisa, the rhythm thing is the VCS3, and there are backwards cymbals.
Gilmour: I put an eight-note sequence into the Synthi and sped it up. Roger thought it wasn’t quite right. He put in another, quite like mine. I hate to say, it was marginally better. We added the footsteps, the slide guitar zooming around wildly, and the voices.
(Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour)
Wright: Those big, grand keyboard chords are mine. Dave used to complain I’d write in these hard keys and weird major and minor sevenths, which is difficult to play on a guitar. The rototoms are great.
Mason: I think they just happened to be around the studio. I went out and bought my own afterwards – the budget ran to it.
(Waters, Gilmour, Wright)
Waters: It’s about our attachment to the idea of being productive. Also about how organised religion an divert us from our potential to have empathy with other people.
Wright: It was a good idea to split the song up.
Mason: It was a bit avant-garde. And it was a bloody good device not to have to write anything else.
THE GREAT GIG IN THE SKY
Mason: It was called “The Mortality Piece” originally. We wanted that keening wailing.
Gilmour: We recorded four or five tracks of Clare. One belted and another was soft. We mixed bits from each to make the final version.
Wright: Clare did this incredible screaming and was then very apologetic. We said, “It’s wonderful!” It was a magical improvisation; you could never repeat it. She did try once at Knebworth, but she couldn’t do it. To my regret, I did allow it one to be used in an advert for headache pills, which upset the others, understandably. At the time I thought, “Why not?” I got paid a lot of money for it.
Waters: It’s light-hearted and quite clever. I like the seven/eight feel.
Wright: It sounds like a straight four/four beat. When we came to play it, we couldn’t work out why the drum beat was in the wrong place. Possibly at the time I felt it didn’t fit with the rest of the album. It does stand out.
Mason: It was incredibly difficult to play along with.
Gilmour: Roger presented it as a complete demo. I added a guitar to the riff to make it more punchy. Then I had fun adding all sorts of other parts.
US AND THEM
Waters: I like the lyrics, the chord sequence is beautiful and the sax solo’s great.
Wright: It’s a very melancholic, emotional piece. It has quite a simple chord sequence, except for the rather strange third chord, influenced by jazz. It was an augmented chord, hardly ever used in pop music then.
Gilmour: I asked Dick Parry to play beautiful, quiet, breathy sax. It’s lovely. I worked really hard on all the vocal harmonies and backing vocals.
ANY COLOUR YOU LIKE
(Gilmour, Mason, Wright)
Wright: “We’ve got nothing in this space… what can we do? We’ll have a jam.” And that’s what it was – it’s just two chords. It starts off with the synth, which sets the mood. And you have this extraordinary guitar solo from Dave.
Gilmour: It’s not a vital part of the narrative, but there are moments when it’s nice to get off the leash and just play. Having two of those moments was too much for the album, so we changed “On The Run”.
Wright: Lyrically, it was the one I could least relate to. Possibly, for me then, it was the weakest link. Now I feel differently. I think it’s great. It’s very simple, and also it has the mini-Moog. It’s got a hotel orchestra kind of sound. I love the chorus, and the girls blended in so beautifully.
Mason: I thought the lyrics were fantastic.
Wright: It’s a great ending. The music grows, it gets bigger, it goes up in decibels. We would lift it up and up. If I ignore the depression of the words, which I tend to do, as I’ve said, I think there’s hope in it, because of the music.
Mason: I remember Roger coming in with it. The initial version was less desperate. We wanted something climatic, the real ending.
“IT JUST HOVERS”
Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips on why he loves Dark Side
“I love Syd Barrett-era Floyd and post-Barrett Floyd. I like the way Syd’s stuff ends at a definite point and then the band moved on – ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ and ‘Us And Them’ are completely different trips. They had a different second act. They became an existential psychoanalytical band instead of a psychedelic band.
“But I love both. There are times I listen to Syd and I’m reminded of the possibilities of writing songs – the sound and lack of structure are so refreshing. But Dark Side is so simple and well-produced, the power lies in the structure. Syd doesn’t know the DNA of how to put together a song, and Dark Side knows it so well.
“My brothers took a lot of drugs and were into drug-damaged stuff, so Pink Floyd were always around – it was early stoner music. There was a brief time when we rejected the more musical Floyd, i.e. Dark Side, and embraced the Syd era.
“But whenever I went back and listened to Dark Side, I loved it, although I never enjoyed getting stoned; it always made me paranoid and afraid of death. In my head, the slightest buffer from my actual senses and I’m suddenly death orientated. Because the album was about struggling with your inner self and life and death, you didn’t really need drugs.
“I could relate to Dark Side concepts like isolation and insanity. It wasn’t till later that I confronted being trapped inside my own mind – but then I realised everyone is trapped inside their own mind.
“Some pieces of music are so awesome, so musical and human and full of emotion – Dark Side is like that. I stopped listening to it for a couple of years, and then recently I put it on in the car and bam! It’s so simply produced, but it’s got a mood that just… hovers. That’s hard to achieve, let alone sustain over a whole album. It’s the type of mood we were hoping to get on The Soft Bulletin: a mood that says, ‘This record is about death and isolation.’
“Was it a concept album? Or a bunch of songs on the same subject? I don’t know. When I think of concept albums I think of Jesus Christ Superstar or Tommy. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots was more like Yellow Submarine: it’s got a connected little story. Dark Side was maybe just a great record.
“Great records are by accident. And they say something about the human condition. For sure, popularity has a power of its own. But even if Dark Side wasn’t popular and you discovered it, you’d play it to everyone you knew and say, ‘Isn’t it great?!’
“Was it a profound statement on the human condition or jus adolescent navel-gazing? If you’re a young adult wrestling with your inner identity, the album can work. If not, it’s fun music to get stoned to! Either way, there are moments on Dark Side that you can’t deny even if you hate Pink Floyd.”
TRIVIA FROM THE DARK SIDE
1. On March 31, 1973, Dark Side Of The Moon entered the UK album charts at no. 2. What kept this meisterwerk of progressive rock off the top? 20 Flashback Greats Of The Sixties.
2. Folk due Medicine Head released an album called Dark Side Of The Moon in 1972.
3. It’s a popular myth that the Floyd, recording the album, would drop everything for Monty Python and football on TV. “Not true,” says Gilmour. “We would sometimes watch them, but when we were on a roll, we would get on.”
4. Mason, the band’s archivist, checked information for this feature, while insisting: “I’m certainly not Bill Wyman.”
5. Clare Torry received a reputed £30 fee for the Sunday session which produced the vocal for “The Great Gig In The Sky”. She has recently withdrawn from talking about the album under “lawyer’s advice”.
6. The line in “Time” – “Tired of lying in the sunshine” – was originally “lying supine in the sunshine”.
7. Only Wright attended the launch at the London Planetarium, reportedly alongside cardboard cut-outs of his bandmates – but he can’t confirm it. “Did I go or didn’t I?” he muses. “I’m not sure. I guess I did.”
8. Pink Floyd intended to follow Dark Side with an album played on household objects. Gilmour recalls: “It very quickly became obvious it was going to take too long and what was the point? If you can spend hours making a rubber band sound like a bass guitar, why not use a bass guitar?”
9. When first released on CD, a manufacturing plant in Germany for weeks produced nothing but copies of Dark Side Of The Moon.
10. One in every four British households has a copy.
“IT’S NOT PARTICULARLY ARTISTIC”
Storm Thorgerson on designing the second most famous sleeve in rock.
“Dark Side Of The Moon was our seventh collaboration (Thorgerson had been a school friend of Waters and Barrett). The cover image was one of seven or eight ideas, some of which were more photographic and pictorial. My favourite was ‘The Silver Surfer’, after a comic character, which I wanted to do for real with big waves. They turned it down and I tried to persuade them to have one of the others, but they wanted the prism. They were probably relieved to be able to make a decision together.
“It’s very simple. It didn’t take too long. It’s a cool graphic rather than a hot photo – maybe a bit too cool and dry. It’s not particularly artistic or challenging. I don’t dislike it. I may be one of the most identifiable sleeves ever, but the cover for Wish You Were Here is a lot more interesting. It’s about ambition – the triangle is the symbol for ambition. It’s also about being more ordered in their work. Since pyramids are a similar shape, we had them on the inner sleeve to go with the lyrics about madness and greed. What’s more greedy than a king that thinks he can take it with him?
“The iconography, the cleanliness of line and simplicity is hard to change. For the 20th birthday reissue, I photographed a real prism. For the new remix, I’ve made a stained glass window, which is ideal because it’s all about light coming in.”
STATS ALL FOLKS
So is Dark Side Of The Moon really the biggest-selling UK album of all time?
Dark Side Of The Moon as No 1 in America for one week only and, in the UK, not at all. It reached No 2 in 1973, and its 20th anniversary re-release peaked at No 4. And yet the record’s failure to reach pole position hasn’t stopped it being a prog rock behemoth, sending cash registers the world over going into (interstellar) overdrive.
It just bosses the all-time best-sellers and LP statistics lists. Dark Side Of The Moon has sold upwards of 34 million copies worldwide and, on average, more than 8,000 copies of the album are scanned each week in the US alone.
Among all artists, Pink Floyd rank seventh in total number of albums sold in the United States (68.5 million), behind The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley, The Eagles and Billy Joel – and of these, only the Floyd, The Beatles and The Eagles have two albums among the Top 20 of the biggest-selling albums ever in America (The Wall being the Floyd’s other top 20 entry).
Dark Side Of The Moon is in the Guinness Book Of World Records for being in the charts longer than any other album. With the October 13, 2001 edition of Billboard, it celebrated its 1,278th week in the LP charts – the longest residency in history. It was initially in the Top 200 for 741 near-consecutive weeks – more than 14 years (591 consecutive weeks from 1976 to 1987, beating the UK record holder, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, which managed 477 weeks on the British charts), breaking the six year-plus record set by Carole King’s Tapestry.
Dark Side Of The Moon is the fourth biggest-selling album in Capitol Records’ history, behind only The Beatles, The Beatles 1967-1970 and Garth Brooks’ No Fences. It is one of the Top 10 best-selling CDs of all time.
According to most sources, the Top 10 best-selling albums ever, on any format, are:
1. Michael Jackson’s Thiller
2. The Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits 1971-75
3. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon
4. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours
5. Shania Twain’s Come On Over
6. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill
7. The Bodyguard (Soundtrack)
8. The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
9. Led Zeppelin IV
10. Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell
It’s official then: Dark Side Of The Moon is the biggest-selling British album of all time.