I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually really looking forward to Roger Waters’ re-imagining of Dark Side Of The Moon. We’ve had an opportunity to hear the three tracks Waters has released — Money, Time and Speak To Me / Breathe — ahead of the Oct. 6 album release, and I for one am duly impressed and more than a little relieved.
The original album by Pink Floyd, largely written by Waters, came out 50 years ago in 1973. There’s already been a deluxe commemorative box set this year. But if anyone has a right to do something with the songs, it’s Waters. This was his breakthrough as a songwriter — his transition from largely hit-and-miss tracks to a slew of consistently inspired, bonafide classics which were sometimes introspective, sometimes furious, sometimes sentimental, often political and always human.
The problem with Dark Side Of The Moon is fans consider it sacred. They don’t want anyone to screw with it. Not even Pink Floyd. Goodness knows the band, in both its Waters and post-Waters eras, have performed the album in its entirety many times. As far as I’m aware, this is always done true to the recording. Listen to the version included on the Pulse live album — it’s almost exactly the same, even down to the song lengths. The Dark Side ones are first, Pulse second:
Speak To Me (1:54 / 1:53)
Breathe (3:22 / 2:33)
On The Run (3:47 / 3:48)
Time (7:19 / 6:47)
The Great Gig In The Sky (5:47 / 5:52)
Money (7:33 / 8:54
Us And Them (7:36 / 6:58)
Any Colour You Like (3:18 / 3:21)
Brain Damage (4:55 / 3:46)
Eclipse (2:20 / 2:38)
That’s a lot of sameness. So, why not have a go at a redux? Not only did Waters write these songs, but he also has had a special relationship with them. They made him rich. They changed his life. They’ve stood the test of time and continue to inspire. He’s been a good caretaker of the songs on Dark Side Of The Moon as well — not selling them off for commercial use. You can’t accuse him of trying to cash in — if he wanted to do that, he could have been doing it a lot more for the last five decades.
As Waters said in his video message concerning the album, “it seemed like a really good way to celebrate the 50 years that the original recorded version of this has survived — by making a different version of it. Not to supersede it or to replace it, but to remember it and as an adjunct to it and to progress the work of the original concept.”
But, at the end of the day, what concerns me most is what he’s come up with as a re-imagining. I, for one, think it’s quite good. Sure, Waters doesn’t sing like he did in 1973, but it really changes the tone of the songs and makes you listen even more carefully. The production of the new material is gorgeous, warm and — like the original — unlikely to ever sound dated. “It’s still Dark Side Of The Moon — you all know all the bloody songs, for God’s sake.”
Waters loves the original. It’s not that he thought he could do it better. He’s on the record as loving the performances, contributions and ideas of bandmates Rick Wright, Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason. “The new recording is more reflective,” Waters says. “More indicative of what the concept of the record was.” He’d know.
This takes guts, I think. The new version of Money — the first track released — is very cool. Waters’ vocal suits the new feel of it and makes it more obvious the lyrics come from the point of view of a powerful rich man, not simply David Gilmour. The strings in it are menacing. Actually, the whole thing is hypnotically menacing. Instead of the iconic guitar solo during the 4/4 middle section, Waters has crafted a new spoken-word verse.
Time was released at the end of August, and also has a spoken-word bit, right at the start. This one features Waters doing more singing than in Money. He didn’t perform lead vocals on either of the original versions — Money featured Gilmour while Time (and its Breathe Reprise) featured Gilmour and Wright. Roger does a fine job in this very chill version. He has performed this track himself 388 times as a solo artist.
They are just songs, after all. And while nobody has more right than Roger to do with them as he sees fit, it has hardly stopped musicians from re-interpreting the album over the years:
• A band called Doom Side Of The Moon put out an album of the same title in 2017 featuring covers of the entire Dark Side album, in order, in a metal/stoner style.
• Dream Theatre put out a version in 2006.
• There’s a Dubstep Of The Moon compilation from 2013.
• I have a copy of the crazy version done by The Flaming Lips, Stardeath And White Dwarfs and Henry Rollins in 2009.
• There’s Darker Than The Moon by Pink Fraud from 2002 — it’s a rock album.
• There’s also a 2009 bluegrass version called Dark Side Of The Moonshine by Poor Man’s Whiskey.
• In 2008 Brad Smith made an 8-bit electronic version called Moon8.
• Novelty pop/rock band The Squirrels did a parody version in 2000 called The Not-So-Bright-Side-Of-The-Moon.
• Vocomotion did an a cappella version with voices imitating the instruments.
And then there are the compilation tributes, orchestral versions, jazz versions (like The Sursiks’ Suave Side Of The Moon), bootlegs of full-length performances by bands like Phish, and several pressings by professional tribute acts like The Australian Pink Floyd Show.
Pink Floyd themselves have re-issued the album umpteen times — there are anniversary remasters, a mid-’70s quadraphonic mix, a modern surround-sound version, the Wembley ’74 live version which came out this year, 8-tracks, quad 8-tracks, cassettes, DVDs, SACDs, CDs, BluRays, and more than 1,000 different vinyl pressings of the standard album. This redux is just the latest one, really — by the one person to whom nobody can deny the right.
There will be CD and cassette versions of Dark Side Of The Moon Redux, two different 140-gram vinyl versions (one on coloured vinyl), digital downloads and bundle offers which come with an art print. Pre-order it HERE.
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.