wed 24/04/2024

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Dark Side of the Rainbow | reviews, news & interviews

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Dark Side of the Rainbow

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Dark Side of the Rainbow

An addled backwards glance at the meeting of Floyd and Oz

Judy Garland remembering the games and daisy chains and laughs

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour once commented that whoever had the idea of synchronizing the 1939 Hollywood classic The Wizard of Oz (with the sound turned down) to his own band’s The Dark Side of the Moon was “some guy with too much time on his hands”. The hippy culture of the Seventies contained many who fitted that description, as well as multiple baggies of what they then called “pot” to help.

As the video age dawned, poring over Dorothy and Toto’s adventures soundtracked by Floyd’s prog-angst classic became almost a rite of passage for advanced stoners.

By the mid-Eighties I was in my late teens and, contrary to popular myth, punk hadn’t wiped out such hippies (the TV series The Young Ones, featuring archetypal hippy Neil, only ceased in 1984). I was no hippy but it was a great decade to be a lazy-arsed student so, in the most invigorating and enjoyable way, I was very much “some guy with too much time on his hands”.

Floyd were out of fashion (although post-punkers might acknowledge their, at that time, rather obscure founder, Syd Barrett). Lo-fi indie was the order of the day, from the noisy Jesus & Mary Chain to the cranky funk of Age of Chance. However, I befriended an eye-opening and very different sort of fellow who became my mentor of mischief. I shall call him Tom Minton. He was slightly older than me but worlds more experienced. He introduced me to reams of underground music, from the TV Personalities to The Only Ones to Sky Saxon & the Seeds. He also enthused about the effects of LSD and marijuana – which was still called “pot” in some quarters but which we eventually termed “Mary Jane” and, oddly, in retrospect, “blow”.

The true enthusiast will play the album twice, starting it again as the Cowardly Lion appears

The pair of us attacked alternative culture and drugs voraciously - rolling around the floor, speeding and snorting amyl nitrate while blasting The Ramones at full volume; obsessively watching The Twilight Zone after tens of hot knives (smoke from blims of hash burnt on two red-hot knives and sucked through a broken bottle); and so on. One night, as we returned from whatever Canterbury pub we were boring with booze-fuelled, youth-enthused yelled conversations about Stanislav Lem and the Marx Brothers, Tom told me about The Dark Side of the Rainbow, the given name for the Dark Side/Oz experience.

I am not sure how we came by The Wizard of Oz that night – films could not be simply procured from the ether like now. Perhaps we had a VHS tape or perhaps it was a BBC Two or Channel 4 late night showing, but Tom had a cassette of The Dark Side of the Moon, an album I was too sneerily punk to embrace until the ravey Nineties (though, perversely, I always had a soft spot for Wish You Were Here). We sucked up a dozen hot knives at the gas-fired kitchen stove and filled our stolen pint glasses with snakebite, the lager-cider combo that looks like precipitated urine. Settled in musty old armchairs in that chilly rented Victorian house, The Dark Side of the Rainbow worked on us like a magic show on infants, the cosmic synchronicity beloved of those old hippies lighting up our cannabis-stewed minds.

The true enthusiast will play the album twice, starting it again as the Cowardly Lion appears. Tom and I instead played it as backing to a TV documentary about the Vietnam War. It worked brilliantly with that as well. Maybe it works brilliantly with anything after 12 hot knives and as many snakebites (plus a few spliffs for good measure). What didn’t work so brilliantly was Tom’s livid and hairy neighbour appearing in a vest brandishing a tyre jack, telling us if we didn’t turn down the Floyd he would cave our heads in. This was a cue to chill out (although the term didn’t yet colloquially exist). So we quietened ourselves, giggling to the sounds of the Deep Freeze Mice or some such wilful stoner obscuritanism.

The whole affair, lathered in my own nostalgia, speaks of our enthusiasm to embrace an anachronous Sixties freak ethos, to locate our inner Aldous Huxley-meets-Abbie Hoffman and find exciting revelations through drugs and art. It’s a mode of operation I approve of to this day - in fact, especially in these tediously puritanical times of passionless media sardonicism, absolution-through-rehab and men’s body health magazines, all of which emit the psychic nourishment of lapping dried wheat husks from David Cameron’s talcum-powdered pubes.

For the 40th anniversary of the Floyd album I rewatched The Dark Side of the Rainbow, 28 years on from my last viewing. This time I could just haul it up on YouTube, as you too can via the click-through at the end of this piece, playing the album on iTunes at the same time. When I committed to the idea, I reckoned the whole notion might have vanished into history but, no, I mentioned it to a younger Australian friend and he immediately advised, “Make sure you start the album directly after the third roar of the MGM lion at the beginning – a classic!” His was not the only advice out there. The Easy Star All Stars 2003 dub version of the album arrived with instructions relating to Oz. And if you Google Dark Side of the Rainbow (or Dark Side of Oz), there are whole sites devoted to related arcaneness, including extensive interpretations of meaning. There are suggestions that “Money” starting to play just as Dorothy and friends enter the Wizard’s chambers was a parable of the Nixon administration. Or that certain phrases in “The Great Gig in the Sky”, concurrent with the tornado sequence, draw parallels with the theory that Paul McCartney died during his tenure with The Beatles. Such ideas can safely be filed alongside the old chestnut that you can get high by smoking dried banana skins.

No, watching it again, I found I could remember no specific sections from last time round but I enjoyed the parts that did synchronize such as, notably, the Scarecrow singing “If I Only Had A Brain” to Floyd’s “Brain Damage”, cavorting about like a man after 20 pints, then crashing to the ground as Roger Waters sings, “The lunatic is on the grass”. However, I watched it alone and sober in the afternoon and it should be watched late at night, with the right friends, the ones who aren’t keen to pick every experience into its component parts, the ones who understand something can be juvenile but still roll with it for kicks. Also, you ought to be banjaxed out of your gourd.

Dark Side of the Rainbow is a silly waste of time, especially if your teens ended decades ago, but who needs that sensible, mow-the-lawn-every-Sunday, crap perspective. That's how we all die a little. I’m unexpectedly pleased to find Floyd's unsanctioned, unlikely and very silly Wizard of Oz hook-up is still so well known, that the lunatics on the grass are still out there.

Watch Dark Side of the Rainbow (Part 1)

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