Tuesday, May 5, 2015

DARKNESS (= NOT LIGHT!!!): The Dark Side of the Moon

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Eeek, what have I done? What was I thinking? Without even the excuse of living in the arctic, where light and dark have a different modus operandi, I seem to have sneaked some light into the expected stygian gloom required this fortnight. I just got muddled up, sorry, forgive me. By way of penance I will post some of the blackest, darkest anti-light and anti-white I can find.......... Is the dark side of the moon dark enough for you?

DSOtM has sold a trillion zillion copies since it's first release back in 1973, making it far and away the biggest seller by UK warhorses, Pink Floyd, the template of expectation for all they produced after its wake, with possibly all the albatross that might suggest. I certainly bought it back then, but became swiftly frustrated by its ubiquity. It was everywhere and everyone had it. I sold it. OK, with hindsight I can respect its value. The use of synthesizers and loops, the use of spoken word snippets, the acceptance of non-band contributions, all of these elements were unusual for their day, as was, give or take Tommy, there being but one broad theme over the course of the album. (Quite what that theme actually was might be another story, though it was generally accepted it might come under the broad brush of what makes you mad, rather than madness per se. That was certainly the aim of the prime architect, Roger Waters, still then the unacknowledged leader of the band.)

My favourite track was always this one. The melancholy of the openining piano motif, enshrouded by the archetypal waves of Gilmour slide, a "tu-tup" from Mason and the vocal kicks in, a shock to anyone expecting the usual plaintive close harmonics of the bands main voices. Weaving wordlessly up and down, in and around the arrangement, blowing hot, then cold, then cooler still, Claire Torry shakes the tune from pillar to post, before a final period of exhausted reflection. To me it has always given the image of a strait-jacket being violently disturbed to the extent of escape therefrom, which might fit very well within the metaphor desired. I fact, as I muse, I wonder why I got rid at all, feeling a warm glow of reminiscent nostalgia.

But it is not all there is to this song, as other voices/players have found:

I love this version! Easy Club All-Stars have a bit of a track record in covering entire albums, but this was their first, later covering Radiohead, the Beatles and Michael Jackson. More a collective than a band, Kirsty Rock covers the vocal over a somewhat livelier cadence than the Pinks.

Less well known than the above, as played by Poor Man's Whiskey, it was always going to be a challenge to find any bluegrass in this quintesentially english music. Perhaps wisely eschewing the vocal for keening fiddle, this almost works, until, thinking better of that, some lack-lustre crooning does appear, almost momentarily.

Just in case you wanted to know how it might sound in the hands of a conventionally trained violinist. In fact, a full blown classical troupe, Vitamin String Quartet, give it the whole works, and a very convincing job of it too. No vocals at all. Whereas........

All voices? Maybe not. Apologies to Voices on the Dark Side, but that's where you should have remained.

Finally, the Flaming Lips, arguably true to form, initially draw you in with an idyllically sweet intro, ahead of Peaches kicking the bejasus out of any joy the tune might hold, the two aspects then taking turns to attract and dispel any appreciation remaining. One for thieir fans only, methinks.

(One I am not going to put up is an almighty clunker, produced by a whole bevy of prog rock musos who should have known better. There seems an alarming trend for this sort of thing, virtually always including Dweezil Zappa, who should stick, I feel, to the legacy of his father, than spoiling that of others......)

Purchase the Floyd, Easy Club All-Stars, Poor Man's Whiskey, Vitamin String Quartet, Voices on the Dark Side and/or Flaming Lips

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