This month marks the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the biggest albums of all time: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. The album was originally released in the U.S. on March 10, 1973, where it was Floyd’s first number-one charting album, and in the U.K. on March 23, where it charted at number two.
DSOTM was the eighth studio album by the band. The material originated in live performances and was debuted live for the press in February 1972 at the Rainbow Theatre. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London with Alan Parsons engineering. (Parsons was awarded a Grammy for Best Engineered Recording for the album and went on to a successful career of his own with the Alan Parsons Project.) Because of the band’s touring schedule, it was recorded in two separate sessions in 1972 and 1973.
The album was conceived as a single suite of music documenting the passage of a human life, with the five tracks on each LP side running as a continuous piece. For DSOTM, Pink Floyd pressed hard against the technical limitations of the time, working on 16-track analog tape, using synthesizers, tape loops, and “found” sounds, and frequently bouncing tracks together to make room for additional overdubs. Later in the recording process, producer Chris Thomas was recruited to offer a fresh perspective.
Although DSOTM only remained at number one for a single week, it was firmly ensconced in the Billboard chart for an astounding 741 weeks, and in fact, has returned to the charts later with various re-releases. It was certified 11-times platinum in 1990, 15-times platinum in 1998, and continues to sell thousands of copies annually. (Trivia: The Wall has been certified 23-times platinum, but because it is a double album, this only counts as 11.5 million sales — for this reason DSOTM remains the biggest-selling album of Floyd’s career.) Estimates put the worldwide sales of the album at 50 million copies plus millions of singles sales. Singles from the album remain popular radio staples and are as recent as 2005. “Time” and “Money” each had nearly 800,000 plays.
In other DSOTM news, according to Pinkfloyd.com, the album will be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of the National Recording Registry archive. The Registry’s goal is to preserve songs and sounds that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, or inform or reflect life in the United States.” The Dark Side of the Moon received the highest number of public nominations for inclusion in the Registry.