The Meaning of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd and Dark Side of the Moon Background
In early 1973 British experimental rock band Pink Floyd released their 8th album, Dark Side of the Moon, arguably the greatest rock album ever created. Since its release, it has become a cornerstone to 20th century culture and provided great inspiration to artists within and outside of music. Its success encouraged other musicians to explore more progressive styles of music, and it raised the bar for recorded sound for future albums.
The hard work that Pink Floyd put into this album paid off financially as Dark Side of the Moon became one of the best selling albums of all time. After its release it went to number one on the Billboard chart for one week, but it ended up staying on the Billboard charts for a consecutive 741 weeks (or just over 14 years). This feat would make the album one of the Top 25 best selling albums ever.
Dark Side of the Moon has endured through the years because it is such a well written and thought out concept album. A concept album is an album where all (or most) of the songs on that album revolve around a story or a theme. This is a contrast to most studio albums which just lay out a series of songs that are often unconnected or unrelated with the exception of the fact that they are on the same album.
Knowing that Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album has given rise to a number of theories about what the album's concept is, and or, what the meaning of the album is. The band has given partial explanations to some of the songs and the album as a whole, but for the most part they have left it up to listeners to decide for themselves.
Disclaimer: This is a personal interpretation of the message (or the concept) I believe Pink Floyd was trying to convey when they wrote Dark Side of the Moon.
What Is Dark Side of the Moon About?
So what is the meaning of Dark Side of the Moon?
Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album that discusses the philosophical and physical ideas that can lead to a person's insanity, and ultimately an unfulfilled life.
The album is a cautionary tale in two parts, the first half describes living a life that goes unfulfilled. This part of the album consists of the following tracks:
- Speak To Me/Breathe
- On The Run
- Time/Breathe Reprise
- Great Gig In The Sky
The second half of the album consists of individual songs about different ideas and concepts that are detrimental to society and can lead to madness. These songs are:
- Us and Them
- A color You Like
- Brain Damage
The philosophical ideas in the second half of the album are a sort of madness in their own right. They are also the root causes to the problem mentioned in the first half of the album that focuses on living an unfulfilled life.
The Real Dark Side of the Moon
Dark Side of the Moon
As one of the voices at the end of the album states:
"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark."
What is the title to the album referring to? What is the dark side of the moon a metaphor for?
It's a metaphor for darkness, the darkness (or different ideas) that can destroy all of the positive emotions and ideas that are a part of humanity. In effect the darkness represents insanity. But like in reality the light portrayed by the moon is really an illusion. So it would appear that the album, which seems to take the dark side of the moon concept to heart is suggesting, is that everyone on some level is insane or will have to deal with madness.
Dark Side of the Moon seems to specifically suggest that there are two types of insanity. The first type of insanity mentioned on the album suggests people go insane by riding the tide. Or specifically speaking, people are insane for doing what they're told all of the time and just accepting life for what it is.
The second type of insanity mentioned on the album suggests that the people that don't ride the tide realize that the people riding the tide are insane. In turn their efforts to try to convince people not to ride the tide, or their resistance to the tide itself causes them to go insane.
Below is an in depth look at the nine tracks that make up Dark Side of the Moon.
Speak to Me/Breathe Lyrics
Speak to Me
I've been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands...
I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the
most of us...very hard to explain why you're mad, even if you're not mad...
Breathe, breathe in the air.
Don't be afraid to care.
Leave but don't leave me.
Look around and choose your own ground.
Long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.
Run, rabbit run.
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don't sit down it's time to dig another one.
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race towards an early grave.
Speak to Me/Breathe
Speak to Me - kicks off the album. The voices that are speaking are clearly discussing the issue of insanity. More interesting than the voices though are the sounds in the background. The bass drum is beating a pulse that resembles the beating of a human heart. Slowly the cash registers from Money and the clocks from Time enter the song along with other ambient effects that are used in other songs on the album.
The heart beat will return prominently at the end of the album. The heart beat is a metaphor for life and all the songs that occur in between the heart beats are acting as the substance, or what's inside, of life.
Breathe - The lyrics in Breathe seem to imply two different lifestyles which are the follower (or the rabbit) and the chooser.
The chooser will be able to live a long life, but because they aren't riding the tide they will only see what they choose to see. In this context, the song is implying that choosing can be limiting. They are also limited by their physical experiences as the lyrics suggest touching and seeing is all life is to them. To many humans this may be true, but for many there is more to life than what can be touched or seen.
If you ride the tide you will see new things because you are just going with the flow. The rabbits in the song suggests that if a person's life philosophy is to ride the tide then you will live a short life. However, a draw back to this ride the tide mentality can be you expend their life being a laborer (or digging holes) or getting stuck doing mundane tasks over and over again.
On the Run Lyrics
On the Run
Voice at the beginning: Is a recording of a voice at an airport listing various travel related information.
Two thirds of the way through the song another voice says: Live for today, gone tomorrow, that's me, Hahaha!
On the Run
On the Run is mostly instrumental, with the exception of a few voices and a recording that is listing flights from an airport scattered throughout the song. Either way the passage of time is a key element to this track.
The other key element is the anxiety driven pulse and the stressful ambient sounds that come in and out of the song. As the follow up to Breathe, On the Run's anxiety seems to be a metaphor for the anxiety and stress that can be congruent with a person's life.
Time/Breathe Reprise Lyrics
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.
Home, home again.
I like to be here when I can.
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire.
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.
Time - This is a song about wasting your life doing nothing, or about wasting your life doing boring and little things. A lot of people miss the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest. The idea of regret for not taking advantage of living your life is one of the tragedies of human nature that is explored thoroughly in this song.
The first verse talks about wasting your youth, which leads into the first chorus that discusses not having anyone to show you the way. This first section ends with the person in the song realizing he has been missing out on life, that he was supposed to find his own way, not be shown a way. This is a real life revelation for a lot of people in the world.
The second verse discusses this person who has woken up, and is now looking to catch up with his/her lost time. However, the physical aspects of getting older are catching up. In the final chorus the person realizes he wasted too much of his life and is disappointed with his/her life. The person the song is speaking about presumably dies having said little, when the potential to say more was always there.
Anxiety and stress, like the previous song are underlying themes in this song, too, as the clocks in the beginning have a jarring effect on the listener. The jarring clocks could mean the song is meant to metaphorically wake people up that are not living their lives, or it can be continuing the anxiety and stress driven themes from On the Run.
Breathe Reprise - Time transitions nicely into a reprise of the first song Breathe. This rendition of Breathe talks about relief and finding a way to deal with all of the stress put forth in the previous songs, On the Run and Time.
The two methods of relief that are specifically discussed are home, mentioned in the lines, "home... home again, I like to be here when I can," and religion with the lines, "The tolling of the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees to hear the softly spoken magic spells."
Great Gig in the Sky Lyrics
Great Gig in the Sky
And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I
don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying?
There's no reason for it, you've gotta go sometime.
If you can hear this whispering you are dying.
I never said I was frightened of dying.
Ahhhh Ahhhh Ahhhhh..... for a long time.
Great Gig in the Sky
Another mostly instrumental song, Great Gig in the Sky, has some recorded voices and a lady singer that wails on the song's two chord refrain. The voices in Great Gig in the Sky talk about death and not being afraid of dieing, which is ultimately what this song is about, death.
People are either afraid of dieing or they're not, and that would appear to be the message trying to be conveyed in this song. The first person to speak on this song says he is not afraid of dieing, and it sounds convincing. In the second half of the song, a lady says, "I was never frightened of dieing." This is said very quietly and with less confidence the person who said it at the beginning of the song.
The two interviews show the contrasting views on death between people. The dialogue is transitions to the wailing, which at times sounds powerful and beautiful (not afraid of dieing) and other times it sounds fearful and anxiety driven (afraid of dieing). Or simply put: you are, or you are not afraid of dieing. Both ideas seem to be conveyed by the dialogue and the wailing vocals.
The end of this song ends the physical life/living section of the album. The next half of the album focuses on ideas or the madness that can drive a person to living an unfulfilled life. Living an unfulfilled life is a type of insanity and the thorough exploration of what an unfulfilled life is on the first half of the album ties itself nicely with the second half of the album that is exploring insanity in a more philosophical way.
Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you're okay.
Money, it's a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I'll buy me a football team.
Money, get back.
I'm all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack.
Money, it's a hit.
Don't give me that do goody good bullshit.
I'm in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet.
Money, it's a crime.
Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie.
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today.
But if you ask for a raise it's no surprise that they're
giving none away. Away. Away. Away....
Voices at the End:
Huh I was in the right!
Yes, absolutely in the right!
I certainly was in the right!
You was definitely in the right. That geezer was cruising for a bruising.
Why does anyone do anything?
I don't know, I was really drunk at the time!
I was just telling him, he couldn't get into number two. He was asking
why he wasn't coming up on freely, after I was yelling and
screaming and telling him why he wasn't coming up on freely.
It came as a heavy blow, but we sorted the matter out
The second half of the album begins with Money. At this point in listening to all of the songs on the album there are no clear breaks, each song fades into one another except in between Great Gig in the Sky and Money. The break here happens out of necessity due to records in 1973 needing to be flipped over, and if you were listening to this on vinyl this is where you would flip the record.
Pink Floyd takes advantage of the limits of technology during this time period (or the necessary pause in the album) to change how they are going to continue discussing the topic of insanity and living an unfulfilled life. The first half of the album takes a more hands on and personal experience with the subject matter, while the second half of the album explores the subject matter in more philosophical type of setting.
Continuing on with individual songs, Money is about greed and the illusion of a life well lived that comes with having an excess of wealth.
The first verse of the song focuses on the excesses of money, consumerism, and peoples desire to grab and horde as much cash or wealth as possible.
The second verse continues with the subject of the desire to grab more money, while also introducing the lengths people will go to in order to protect the money and possessions they have acquired.
The third and final verse focuses on the negative philosophical issues that money brings to a society, which include the ideas that ordinary people will never be able to increase their stash of money to match the wealthy, and the idea that money is the root of all evil.
The cash registers and money sounds that are used to underscore the whole song sound mechanical and lifeless. The mechanical money sounds are like a metaphor for the way people mechanically work the same job day in and day out for 40 plus years. People of course work harder, motivated by earning more money, but a lot of people ultimately waste their lives with this mentality. So the idea with the song Money is that the concept of wealth is one of the illusions or ideas that can be the cause of a person wasting their life, or it can be used to ruin the lives of others.
As Money fades out a spoken voice dialogue describing a fight begins. This is a segue into Us and Them which deals with conflict. It's inclusion on Money instead of Us and Them suggests that money is also a cause of conflict.
Us and Them Lyrics
Us and Them
Us, and them
And after all we're only ordinary men.
Me, and you.
God only knows it's not what we would choose to do.
Forward he cried from the rear
and the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end it's only round and round.
Haven't you heard it's a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There's room for you inside.
I mean, they're not gonna kill ya, so if you give 'em a quick short,
sharp, shock, they won't do it again. Dig it? I mean he get off
lightly, 'cos I would've given him a thrashing - I only hit him once!
It was only a difference of opinion, but really...I mean good manners
don't cost nothing do they, eh?
Down and out
It can't be helped but there's a lot of it about.
And who'll deny it's what the fighting's all about?
Out of the way, it's a busy day
I've got things on my mind.
For the want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died.
Us and Them
Us and Them is a song about conflict and fighting. Underlying the idea of a fight/conflict is the idea that fighting is usually between two choices or two sides, or philosophically speaking, what can be called a black and white type of mentality. The song seems to mock the black or white mentality that exists in society and states that there can be more than two choices.
The first verse and chorus talk about conflict from the viewpoint of a war. So this part of the song is exploring the physical side of conflict. The first verse also notes how the idea of conflict goes against the ideas of God and religion. Again, like in Money, it's the people in power (the General) who are safe, while the ordinary working class people get killed serving that higher power.
The second verse and chorus talk about conflict from a philosophical point of view, or a verbal point of view. This verse more than any other verse mocks the idea of a black and white mentality with the lines, "Black and blue...And who knows which is which and who is who." This line is effectively saying that it's pointless to remove the degrees of separation between different people and different ideas. Life is too complicated to be dumbed down to black and blue. The ending idea of this section is that there can be a way to work things out and include everybody, which is described with the line, "There's room for you inside."
A spoken word segment makes up the next part of the song. The people talking here are discussing a fight one of the people speaking got into, which ties nicely into the conflict theme.
The final verse talks about what conflict in society is (generally speaking) about. According to Us and Them conflict is about being with or without. This can include being with or without possessions, resources, etc. From this broader point of view it lumps a song like Money into a subcategory of conflict.
The final chorus talks about how most people seem to avoid or ignore anything that is related to conflict, whether it be the physical acts of conflict or the philosophical ideas or arguments that lead to conflict. The price for ignoring conflicts appears to be heavy as another image of a common person dies in the song with line, "For the want of the price of tea and a slice...The old man died." Conflict can cut lives short, denying people the opportunity to live a fulfilling life.
Any Color You Like Lyrics
Any Color You Like
Any Color You Like
Any Color You Like is the final instrumental track on Dark Side of the Moon. This is the only purely instrumental song on the album as there is no singing and no voices. The title and its position within the order of the album give the strongest clues as to what this song is about.
Fading in after the conclusion of Us and Them, and with a title like Any Color You Like the song would appear to be a sarcastic remark suggesting the lack of choices that are available to a person during the course of their life. The underscoring idea of Us and Them is related to the dangers of a black and white mentality and Any Color You Like seems to carry that idea over into this song.
Brain Damage Lyrics
The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.
The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more.
And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me 'til I'm sane.
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me.
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
I can't think of anything to say except...
I think it's marvelous! Hahaha!
Brain Damage is about losing your mind and going insane.
The first verse talks about insanity that is caused by happening what's outside your head, with the line,"The lunatic is in the grass." This would be the type of insanity that people see in the physical world, it's a type of tangible insanity.
The second verse continues in this vain, but brings the insanity into a more personal area with the lines, "The lunatic is in my hall." The lyrics have moved insanity from the outer and wider world in the first verse to the private home of the person in the second verse. This type of insanity is a bit more personal and it sounds a lot more disconcerting.
The first chorus talks about finally having a mental breakdown, potentially much earlier than a person should have a breakdown. After the mental breakdown, the final line of the chorus says, "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." The dark side of the moon mentioned in this song is a place for insanity and ideas that are destructive. Of course since the moon is always dark, its also suggesting everyone to a certain point is mad.
The final verse now moves insanity to its most personal location, inside your head with the line, "The lunatic is in my head." The verse suggests that the person who is losing his mind will pay any price in order to make him/her sane again, and subsequently they will isolate themselves in order to stop any further destruction of themselves or others.
The final chorus again elaborates on having a mental breakdown. With the line, "And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes... I'll see you on the dark side of the moon," it would appear that the madness was caused by not being able to align your views with the views of everyone else, or most likely society in general. Ultimately that line in the song seems to suggest that people go crazy by resisting what they are told to do all of the time.
However, on the previous songs in the album, Money, Us and Them, and Any Color You Like discuss the ideas that everyone in society go along with that are insane. From a larger perspective it seems you are insane by following the ideas discussed in Money, Us and Them, and Any Color You Like, or you go insane by resisting them like in Brain Damage.
All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.
There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark.
If there is one word to describe the song Eclipse it would have to be the word all. It's used twenty times in the song, and the word you would be a close second as it's used eighteen times.
With Eclipse being the final song on the album it uses many universal messages to describe the human experience The words all and you serve to underscore the point that this song, this album, is about every human living on Earth. Musically, it's an epic song with lots of background harmonies and a massive soundscape to give listeners not only a musical climax to the album, but a universal sound that ties the previous thematic ideas under one idea.
The key to Eclipse is the final few lines, "All that's to come and everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon." This line begins by suggesting this song could go on forever (All that's to come), and metaphorically speaking all of these basic human experiences are represented by the sun. They are mostly positive human experiences, and they are frequently associated with living a life that is, for the most part, enjoyable. But... the album ends with the sun being eclipsed by the moon.
The darkness caused by the moon, or the moon itself is basically a symbolic representation of all the dangerous ideas that are destructive to humanity. These dangerous ideas can block out the sun, or halt the living of a fulfilling life. The previous songs on the album build to this point. There is hope in the sun, but there will always be a dark side of the moon, which is a symbolic representation of the banes of humanity.
A Cautionary Tale
Dark Side of the Moon is ultimately a united group of thematic ideas that act as a cautionary tale. There is a lot of bleak lyrics and the concept itself is fairly bleak. The bleak concepts on the album are referred to as the dark side of the moon. The hopeful ideas and concepts related to humanity are represented by the sun which only appears at the end of the album.
In effect the album is a cautionary tale because all of the songs describe or bring awareness to the dark side of the moon, or the various ideas that lead to an unfulfilled life and ultimately insanity. The ending of the album though reminds listeners of the sun for the first time, or gives listeners a glimpse of hope with all of the positive ideas associated with being human.
With the moon eclipsing the sun at the end of the album, the album seems to suggest that the madness will pass like the eclipse that is blocking the sun will eventually come to pass.