Source: Ultimateclassicrock

The numbers attached to The Dark Side of the Moon are pretty impressive. More than 50 million copies sold worldwide, 15 straight years on Billboard’s album chart, consistently ranked in the Top 10 of many best-albums-ever-made polls. But Pink Floyd’s achievements with their eighth LP go deeper than that. In a way, their 1973 epic changed the way people made and listened to albums. There’s still no better head trip — legally at least — available.

Following original leader Syd Barrett’s breakdown and departure from the band in the late ‘60s, Pink Floyd took off in a different direction. The psychedelic tones Barrett brought to the music were still there, but the albums became headier — sturdier in ways that the always-delicate Barrett couldn’t conceive or articulate. Through a series of musically complex and exploratory records, the four remaining members of Pink Floyd connected personal themes to space age freakout music.

Everything leading up to The Dark Side of the Moon, which was released in March 1973, was mere prep work. With their 43-minute opus, Pink Floyd delivered a masterpiece on death, madness and the post-war problems of kids who came of age in the ‘50s. In a way it’s a tribute to Barrett, whose mental breakdowns were well-known and well-documented at that point. But it’s also a tribute to a generation of young twenty-somethings searching for reason and purpose. The Dark Side of the Moon doesn’t necessarily have the answers; the best it can muster is a we’re-all-crazy-here shrug. And maybe that’s enough.

But the album’s 10 songs land with a massive force. From the opening heartbeat instrumental “Speak to Me” to the soul- and mind-cleansing closer “Eclipse,” The Dark Side of the Moon made deep, heavy records — ones without obvious radio singles, even though “Money” almost hit the Top 10 — a commercial mainstay for the rest of the decade. Its influence still resonates indirectly (think Radiohead’s string of artsy, musically complex records) and directly (the Flaming Lips covered the entire album in 2009) with artists. It set up Pink Floyd for the rest of their career. It made headphone listening a required luxury. It’s the aural equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it’s still blowing minds.

Shine on …

Pink Floyd Albums Ranked 

15. ‘Ummagumma’ (1969)

Pink Floyd wasn’t quick to discover a post-Syd Barrett direction, trying and discarding a number of concepts after their original frontman disappeared. Here, they settled on the idea of presenting solo material – and that only served to illustrate the concept of a sum being greater than its parts. Richard Wright offered a four-part avant-garde keyboard suite, Roger Waters endlessly dabbled with sound effects, and Nick Mason unleashed nearly nine minutes of percussive noodling. David Gilmour later admitted he “just bull–ed” through his piece. Really, they all did.

14. ‘More’ (1969)

‘More’ represented a turning point more than a success story for the group, as Pink Floyd took its very first steps without both Barrett and producer Norman Smith. We hear Waters begin to move to the fore as a songwriter, even as Gilmour handles all of the vocals for what would be the first of just two Pink Floyd albums (the other is our next entry, 1987’s transitional ‘Momentary Lapse of Reason’). The results, unfortunately, are more experimental than they are focused. ‘More’ simultaneously makes a rare foray into folk, even while (on the thundering ‘Ibiza Bar’) unleashing some of the band’s heaviest sounds ever.

13. ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ (1987)

The now-departed Waters tried to sue to stop this guest-star-laden comeback album from happening, saying Pink Floyd was a “spent force creatively.” ‘Momentary Lapse of Reason,’ with its too-poppy hit single ‘Learning to Fly,’ too-draggy ‘Sorrow’ and too-familiar ‘Dogs of War,’ nearly proved it, too. But the dream-like ‘Yet Another Movie/Round and Round’ represented the best of what the remaining Floyds still had to offer, even as it provided a glimpse into the smaller successes that the reconstituted trio of Gilmour, Wright and Mason would muster for ‘The Division Bell.’

12. ‘Obscured By Clouds’ (1972)

This was originally conceived as a soundtrack to the French film ‘La Vallée,’ and – with its series of short, incidental pieces of music – too often plays like that, rather than as a full-fledged album effort. Still, there were important pointers to what lay ahead: ‘Free Four’ was one of the first songs in which Roger Waters dealt with the death of his father, while ‘Childhood’s End’ found David Gilmour trying his hand at lyric writing for the first time. ‘Wot’s … Uh, the Deal?’ later became part of Gilmour’s solo setlists, too.

11. ‘The Endless River’ (2014)

Determinedly uncommercial, ‘The Endless River’ was aimed directly at those still riveted by Pink Floyd’s often-forgotten period between the Syd Barrett years and the career-defining supernova that was ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ This era, from 1969’s ‘More’ to 1972’s ‘Obscured by Clouds,’ saw David Gilmour’s arrival spark a wave of rangy, largely instrumental experimentation. Same with ‘The Endless River.’ Constructed from the late Richard Wright’s final recordings with the group, it revived that sense of dizzying interplay and adventure.

10. ‘The Final Cut’ (1983)

Originally envisioned as a soundtrack to ‘The Wall’ film, this didactic “band” project became a stand-alone effort when Waters became outraged over England’s involvement in the early-’80s Falkland Islands conflict. By this point, Wright was already out the door, and Gilmour clearly didn’t feel like fighting anymore. He had only one vocal, and a few bursts of guitar brilliance. The rest was Waters, who unleashes a series of searing diatribes on the kind of conflicts that tore his family apart – but without the magisterial musical accompaniment that used to give them flight.

9. ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ (1968)

David Gilmour’s first Pink Floyd album was also Syd Barrett’s last, though the five-man edition of the group only appears on Roger Waters’ darkly mysterious “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Elsewhere, Barrett’s eerie ‘Jugband Blues’ appears, but only to close things out. By then, Pink Floyd had begun to frame the sound and scope of their own myth – in particular on the expansive four-part title track. Unfortunately, that greatness is more often hinted at than achieved.

8. ‘The Division Bell’ (1994)

This one plays like a long, slow exhale after the novelization of Pink Floyd on ‘The Wall’ and ‘The Final Cut.’ Sure, the songs, written without the Waters, often weren’t as narratively strong. (And some, quite frankly, went absolutely nowhere.) But with Gilmour, Wright and Mason each making important contributions, ‘Division Bell’ nonetheless emerged as Pink Floyd’s clearest group effort since perhaps ‘Wish You Were Here.’ And it sounded like it too, as they crafted something that recalls that album’s sweeping, at times almost free-jazzy, triumphs.

7. ‘Atom Heart Mother’ (1970)

Mason and Waters played the entire 23-minute, side-one-encompassing, fascinatingly episodic title track in a thrilling, one-take burst of rhythm brilliance. Compositionally, ‘Atom Heart Mother’ was even more important – illustrating where the band could take earlier more compact instrumental successes. It’s becoming clear that ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ were nearly within Pink Floyd’s grasp. Too often-overlooked gems ‘If’ and ‘Fat Old Sun,’ both from Side 2, were also subsequently resurrected on solo tours by Waters and Gilmour, respectively.

6. ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ (1967)

The title – taken from a chapter in Syd Barrett’s favorite children’s book, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ – illustrates the kind of whimsical, very British humor that Floyd’s doomed and soon-departed frontman once possessed. (See the positively poppy ‘Astronomy Domine,’ a song which the reconstituted band opened each show with during a 1994 tour.) But, make no mistake, this isn’t cutesy. Instead, ‘Piper’ is balanced by this friction between Syd and the band, as his hallucinogenic lyricism is met by the spacey gloom of the instrumentation, in particular in the keyboard work of Richard Wright.

5. ‘Meddle’ (1971)

‘Meddle’ didn’t have a very auspicious start, having evolved out of a series of experiments in music making with everyday objects titled ‘Nothings,’ ‘Son of Nothings’ and then ‘Return of the Son of Nothings.’ Yet, in exploring so far outside of the realm of the every day, they were clearly onto something. ‘One of These Days’ and ‘Echoes’ (both featuring weirdly involving instrumental elements) became signature favorites, while an unused song evolved into ‘Brain Damage’ for ‘The Dark Side of the Moon.’ They were mere steps away from greatness.

4. ‘Animals’ (1977)

A bracing reinvention of the Orwell theme from ‘Animal Farm,’ ‘Animals’ found Pink Floyd pushing back – and hard – against the looming, punk-driven idea that they had grown soft into middle age. At the time, this searing commentary on societal decay in the late-’70s couldn’t have seemed more different from its predecessors. Today, it’s clear that ‘Animals’ represents the first stirrings of Waters’ more political bent (one that would dominate his recordings past his association with the group he co-founded), even as it finds Richard Wright making his last important contributions of the Waters era.

3. ‘The Wall’ (1979)

A torrent of emotion over issues of abandonment, sudden fame and isolation, ‘The Wall’ is Roger Waters’ most personal album, his greatest individual triumph, and the stone that dragged Pink Floyd down. The early free-form psychedelic influences had sadly disappeared by ’79. Floyd albums, once a series of trippy vignettes and (later on) trippy long-form themes, would transform into word-bound explorations of Waters’ obsessions through his exit. That said, no rock opera has even been more celebrated – and rightly so. ‘The Wall’ remains a towering achievement.

2. ‘Wish You Were Here’ (1975)

It debuted at No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been tabbed by both Gilmour and Wright as their favorite Pink Floyd album. Still, ‘Wish You Were Here’ was no ‘Dark Side of the Moon’; it never could be. And that – as much as anything – seems to have relegated this 1975 follow-up to a life of perpetual underrated status. It’s a pity. There isn’t a more conceptually concise Pink Floyd album, nor one as musically inviting. Even as Gilmour and, in particular, Wright pushed the work into deeper, more progressive musical themes, they helped fashion the last truly collaborative studio project between Waters and his increasingly disgruntled bandmates.

1. ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ (1973)

A choice as inevitable as it is necessary, ‘Dark Side’ holds a talismanic importance to this band, their era and all of rock. Its endless invention – musically, conceptually, technically – has been dissected with the attention previous generations gave to great novels and paintings, resulting in a rainbow of conclusions echoing its bold, contemporary cover image. And for good reason. Countless listens continue to reveal new layers, as every element of the Floyd legend is crystallized in one place – the outsized explorations of ‘Meddle,’ the razored commentary of ‘Animals,’ the fizzy instrumental flourishes of ‘Wish You Were Here.’ Ultimately, whether it’s Pink Floyd’s best or not isn’t the point. ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ remains definitive.

Initial speculation surrounding Pink Floyd‘s ‘The Endless River‘ suggested that it was based on a mix of early-’90s ambient tracks called ‘The Big Spliff,’ constructed by the band’s longtime engineer Andy Jackson. Instead, as as Nick Mason tells Rock Cellar, Pink Floyd’s final album went through a number of additional updates on its way to your ears.

He said that Jackson’s work had been considered at one point as a possible second disc to be paired with 1994’s ‘The Division Bell,’ which grew out of the same sessions. A looming world tour, however, kept Pink Floyd from following through. So, the leftover music sat in a vault until very recently, when David Gilmour returned to the tapes.

Eventually, Jackson was joined by co-producers Phil Manzanera and Youth as ‘The Endless River’ began to pick up steam. Along the way, Mason said additional music was added, along with lyrics on the closing track ‘Louder Than Words,’ and by the end, ‘The Big Spliff’ was rendered all but unrecognizable.

“I think that at this point, there’s not a big connection anymore,” Mason said in the interview. “[The producers] took a huge bunch of stuff and meted out what should be kept. To me, ‘The Big Spliff’ was an early pass at this recording. Whatever is there now, the initial distillation was done from all those takes that were lurking around.”

Ultimately, Mason and Gilmour agree that this is the last new music that will emerge from Pink Floyd, since it represents their final interactions with Richard Wright.

“I think we’d be scraping the barrel, and we don’t want to do that,” Mason explained. “I think that we’ve done the best with what we have and we should be happy about that. I think that to try to make something out of nothing would be a very dangerous procedure. Unless something else turns up that’s unexpected, this is probably a graceful way of bowing out of new material of any sort.”