DSOTM mid life crisis

[Italian version here]

Author: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Published: March 2023

“Not more 50th anniversary guff about Dark Side of The Moon?” demand despairing Plebs Chorus, stage left

Pink Floyd's audiophile cliché

Do we indulge, here at tnt-audio.com, in the plethora of lengthy hagiographies populating the popular press as well as the music media, marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon?

Such articles rival the worst of prog rock self-indulgent meanderings, hurling every search engine factoid or fiction at the screen in the hope that content density might be mistaken for depth and insight.

Should instead we indulge in emulation of the Kramer vs Kramer style divorce acrimony of Waters vs Gilmour law court & Twitter spats over custody of the offspring writing credits?

Phew! Writing like a 70s music paper is exhausting. Let's get back to tnt-audio.com style and invite readers to add their Dark Side of the Moon memories to our Facebook thread below. For a long time (groan) Dark Side of the Moon was globally the biggest selling album and DSOTM spent more time in the album charts than any other album and even now is the fifth best selling album of all time. Time that's ticking away...

“can we dispense with Time refs or puns every time the word is possible - we all know <>i>Time is one of the cornerstone tracks of DSOTM” plead Plebs Chorus, stage left

Readers can indulge in the contradictory accounts of Floyd's journey from the Sid Barrett era Piper at the Gates of Dawn to the seminal prog masterpiece DSOTM in numerous other publications. Readers can witness the bad blood between Waters & Gilmour on Twitter or in one sided accounts from either perspective in various partisan media. Readers can make their own minds up about Waters&apis; recent release of a complete reworking & rerecording of DSOTM without any of his former bandmates.

Here we examine why DSOTM became an audiophile staple. How come DSOTM is a go to album, in whatever format, for system evaluation? Why are there so many arguments about which vinyl pressing or which CD release sounds better or even best? Readers are invited to share their DSOTM audiophool anecdotes on our Facebook feed.

“I loathe that album with a depth it is difficult to describe. My older brother played it relentlessly at ear splitting volume throughout my childhood,“ stated Your Old Scribe's Sister when she was asked to contribute to Lucian Randall's Vinyl Frontier: The Making of Pink Floyd's “Dark Side of the Moon” Do you have a similar anti DSOTM story?

DSOTM Enduring Audiophile Appeal

Massive global sales mean familiarity to a very broad audience. If writers want readers to make sense of an argument, it helps to use a familiar point of reference. Hence DSOTM is as useful in this respect as Abba's Arrival and Bing Crosby's White Christmas.

Spectacular sonics also help admit an album to the audiophile Treasury of Nursery Favourites. Wide bandwidth & apparently wide dynamics put DSOTM alongside the 1812 Overture and anything by Emerson Lake & Palmer. This must contribute to the endless debates about which pressing, which reissue or which format sounds best.

Timing matters too. Not the musical tempo bit but the date of release. 1st March 1973 matters a great deal as a release date. Prog Rock and its associated intellectual snobbery was in the ascendancy. The Who were leaving their maximum R&B roots for the sunny uplands of Purcell inspired Rock Opera and supergroups were assembling to push the boundaries of the 45 minute slab of vinyl.

Concert performances had been embracing the drama of 60's Happenings to become events as much as performances. DSOTM toured with quadrophonic splendour combined with the latest lighting gimmicks and spectacular stage equipment. Just to make sure buyers knew this, the album included a poster for adolescent bedroom walls that included concert images. Likewise a second poster of blue period pyramids advertised ownership of the album along with enigmatic stickers for the buyer's pencil case.

For a fraternal response Your Old Scribe's sororal birthday DJ set began with The Reggae Easy Star All Star's extended mix of Time

DSOTM Marketing Circularity

Circular pride of ownership was behaviourally reinforced by the numerous added extra inclusions. Posters & stickers provide free advertising for the pluggers while simultaneously offer added value for the punters. The spectacular sonics ensured that every new purchaser showed off their new vinyl acquisition to every visitor to their new flat or bedroom in the parental home.

In the 70s the audio system was often the first masculine purchase, before being old enough to drive or ride a motorcycle. Showing off the audio system was the nerdy equivalent of one-arm pressups or keepie uppie performances. An album like DSOTMthat seemed to include shocking transients like the clock chimes in Time, bass clarity (e.g. Money) and bass depth in On The Run was inevitably going to end up as a demo to friends of the latest cartridge or loudspeaker purchase.

When a friend bought a Michell version of the David Gammon designed Transcriptor Hydraulic Reference turntable with SME3009 II arm and Shure V15 iii cartridge, it was the state of the art in vinyl spinning. Coincidentally this turntable became badged Michell in the UK the same year as DSOTM release. We were all invited round to hear this marvel of aesthetic and mechanical engineering. The first record to nestle on the six rubber nipples of the vestigial platter was Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

It was listening to On The Run that your Old Scribe and audiophool pals discovered nodes & antinodes and clambered around the room adopting various contortions to identify them.

Visit any audio show, and the number of these are growing slightly post-pandemic but only to a small fraction of the show calendar of the 1980s, and you will notice two things. The age & gender attendance bell-curve profile of the visitors is centred on chaps around European retirement ages with most attendees in a decade centred at 60 years old. The music played tends to be either the music of their youth or the more easily reproduced jazz staples...

“But rarely The Staples Singers quotsh Plebs Chorus, stage left

Hence the popular music of their youth might be East Coast or West Coast rock, psychedelia, Nashville, Motown, Philly, Northern Soul, disco, blues based rock, punk or Psychobilly but the same old same old diet dominates hifi shows and store demonstrations. HiFi enthusiasts tend to be ageing autodidacts, so like to think of themselves as reasonably intellectual. Thus prog Rock features heavily in their diet (alongside real ale) after youthful exposure to writing in the style above.

Chief among these is Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. To find out why, just go and put your copy on the turntable and play it from from the familiar heartbeat start to the equally familiar heartbeat finish. Notice the pitch bend at the end of side 1 which immediately invites anticipation of the opening cash register cacophony of Money.

Go on, stop looking at your screen, fire up the real stereo and play the whole of Dark Side of the Moon from start to finish. That's why a couple of generations of people have a large collection of quaint electrical equipment in our homes.

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Copyright © 2023 Mark Wheeler - mark@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com