Despite becoming one of the biggest bands of all time, Pink Floyd will be forever intertwined with the psychedelic subculture. Formed in London in 1965, they became one of the defining sounds of 60s and 70s psychedelia. They are cited by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as  “…the architects of two major music movements – psychedelic space-rock and blues-based progressive rock” Not bad, not bad indeed…

Pink Floyd 1971 (via Wikipedia)

Pink Floyd: Psychedelic Pioneers

Their original line-up consisted of vocalist and guitarist Roger “Syd” Barrett, bassist and vocalist Roger Waters, keyboardist Rick Wright, and drummer Nick Mason. Guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour joined shortly before Barrett left in 1968. They were already pioneers of a groundbreaking new psychedelic sound influenced by Barrett. However, the addition of Gilmour steered them towards the era-defining behemoth they would become. 

50 Years Since The Release of The Dark Side of the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon (via Wikipedia)

March 2023 marks 50 years since the band’s iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon was released. It is a record that even today is still the go-to for psychedelic trippers, stoners, and chillers of all ages. And no wonder — nothing like it has ever come before or since. 

Did you know that after its release it proceeded to spend the majority of the next 14 years jammed in the Billboard’s Top 200 album chart? Even through the waves of punk, disco and the birth of hip-hop it could not be dislodged. It was birthed at a time when music was tangible, a dog-eared record cover with that iconic rainbow-reflecting prism. Today its continued popularity is evidenced in millions of daily streams. 

The Album Mirrors the Psychedelic Experience

The album exists as a journey, building and falling, becoming grandiose and epic towards the ends of each side. Many people find its peaks and troughs interact with, and enhance. the experience of a psychedelic trip.

There is much mythology that surrounds the album, from rumors of hidden messages and meanings, to rituals performed by its fans. One of these — and you may have heard of it — is dubbed The Dark Side of the Rainbow. 

If you haven’t heard of it — don’t worry! It’s nothing sinister. In fact, it’s the silver screen/psychedelia crossover that dreams are made of. 

Cult Phenomena: The Dark Side of the Rainbow

The Dark Side of the Rainbow is the cult fan theory that if you synchronize the beginning of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon with the iconic roar of Leo the MGM lion at the start of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz the music and movie will match up perfectly. A trippy-dippy combo of audio and visual, there are few true Floyd fans out there who haven’t tried it. 

The Wizard of Oz 1939 (via Wikipedia)

Just like many other cultural mythologies, we may never know who was the first to pair these two seemingly chalk-and-cheese-like elements. Long haired rockers noodling out while young Judy Garland is swept up in a monchromatic tornado? It must have taken a very special, or very specially influenced, sort of mind to put these two together. Despite the shroud of mystery, we do know that it was originally brought to the attention of the public by Charles Savage in an article for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette published in 1995. 

In the article Savage wrote:

“The result is astonishing. It’s as if the movie were one long art-film music video for the album. Song lyrics and titles match the action and plot. The music swells and falls with character’s movements … Expect to see enough firm coincidences to make you wonder whether the whole thing was planned.”

Psychedelic Synchronicity

And, Savage did not exaggerate. There are moments in the marriage of the two that seem almost too perfect to be arbitrary. An oft-cited example is when Dorothy begins to run just as the lyrics “No one told you when to run” are sung during the song Time. Another is when Gilmour sings “Home, home again” in the reprise of Breathe. This happens just as the fortune teller warns Dorothy to return home as the storm is coming. Later on the song Brain Damage begins just as the Scarecrow breaks in to If I Only Had A Brain. The Great Gig in the Sky synchronizes eerily with the tornado. And, as Dorothy puts her head to the Tin Woodsman’s chest — wouldn’t you know it? — the record closes with a heartbeat. 

via Wikipedia Commons

Despite this, the actual members of Pink Floyd have always been firm in their insistence that there is nothing there at all. Dave Gilmour said it must have originated from “some guy with too much time on his hands”. In 1997, drummer Nick Mason joked; “It’s absolute nonsense. It has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz. It was all based on The Sound of Music.”  Additionally, sound engineer Alan Parsons assured everyone that the band would have been unable to watch VHS tapes in the recording studio. Mainly because they weren’t yet invented.

A Psychedelic Right-of-Passage

Regardless, those who love Pink Floyd tend to love The Dark Side of the Rainbow as regular viewing parties, and its continued prevalence suggest. There aren’t many people who haven’t had a friend sidle up to them and say;

“…hey did you know if you press play on Dark Side of the Moon just as the lion is roaring…” 

In many ways, whatever you may think of it, The Dark Side of the Rainbow is an intriguingly appropriate encapsulation of a deep, insightful, psychedelic trip. Full of wonder, color, innocence and magic, crossed with darkness, interrogation of the mind and mortality — it runs the full gamut of a heroic dose. 

So, on the 50th anniversary of this iconic album, why not traverse this well-worn psychedelic right of passage? Enhance the experience with a dose of magic mushrooms or truffles and let The Dark Side of the Rainbow whisk you away.