Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon album is 50 years old this year and remains a topic of conversation among fans and music enthusiasts. To commemorate the album's 50th anniversary, former bandleader Roger Waters re-recorded music from the album — a project that doesn't involve his former bandmates. Set to release in May, Waters' new version of Dark Side aims to re-address the album's political and emotional message.
The original album from 1973 was certified 14 times platinum in the UK — the fourth biggest-selling album in history behind Michael Jackson's Thriller, AC/DC's Back in Black, and the soundtrack to The Bodyguard. Today, the album has inspired countless YouTube covers from musicians old and new as a tribute and homage to the band, from indie bands to X-Factor contestants. In today's post, we'll look at some of the gear used in the making of The Dark Side of the Moon and how they contributed to the album's iconic sound.
Recorded by band members David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright in the Abbey Road studios, the band used the renowned EMI TG12345 modular console installed in the late 1960s — famously used by The Beatles during the Sgt. Peppers' sessions — to accommodate the many inputs and recording channels that would blend together in the album's sound. At the helm, young sound engineer Alan Parsons worked the TG12345 combined with a 16-track Studer A80 2-inch tape machine, Fairchild 660 limiters, and an EMT 140 plate to help produce the sounds in the album.
Pink Floyd's guitarist David Gilmour has a large collection of guitars, but some of his gear stands out over the rest. Among them, an iconic Fender Stratocaster nicknamed "The Black Strat" is used in Dark Side tracks like 'Money' and much of Pink Floyd tracks from 1970 to the middle 80s. In fact, a Stratocaster is used throughout the album's various tracks, although in different configurations and through various effects pedals depending on the track's sound. In 2019, "The Black Strat" became the most expensive guitar of all time, selling for £3.13 million before Kurt Cobain's Martin D-18E sold for over five million a year later.
It's important to note that Gilmour often modified his Stratocaster to meet his needs on different setups between the studio and on stage. These temporary mods ranged from an XLR connector to a Gibson PAF Humbucker installed between the bridge and middle positions. Aside from his Strat, Gilmour also used a Fender twin neck pedal steel for slide solos on tracks like 'Breathe' and 'Great Gig in the Sky'. The pedal steel guitar was also interchangeably used with a Jedson lap steel in 1974-75 performances of 'Great Gig in the Sky'.
David Gilmour uses several effects units throughout Pink Floyd's discography, including EMS synthesizers for tracks like 'On the Run'. One of his favoured pedals was the Dunlop Fuzz Face distortion, which was used for the solos on 'Time' and 'Money' and several rhythm parts. The brand Dunlop is a well-known name in guitar effects pedal history, with units such as the aforementioned Fuzz Face, Cry Baby wah-wah, and Uni-Vibe phase shifters being an integral part of many classic rock icons and titles in music history. In particular, the Fuzz Face model was prominently used in the studio and live renderings of tracks 'Time' and 'Money' alongside modifications to Gilmour's Stratocaster. Another effects pedal Gilmour used for Dark Side was the Binson Echorec magnetic disk delay pedal, recently re-released by Danish pedal builder T-Rex used in tracks like 'Brain Damage', 'Any Colour You Like', and 'Great Gig in the Sky' — often together with Gilmour's pedal steel guitar.
Rick Wright used the Hammond M102 as a primary organ during the Dark Side sessions, prominently heading in the transition between 'Brain Damage' and 'Eclipse', paired with a Leslie 145 cabinet. Aside from his own gear, Wright also made use of Abbey Road's in-house acoustic pianos for parts of Dark Side, such as the second half of 'Us and Them'. Like Gilmour, Wright also used wah-wah effects and spatial assistance from the Binson Echorec on tracks like 'Money', where he played his Wurlitzer EP-200 electric piano.
Some tracks of Dark Side, like 'Us and Them', had Rick Wright recording earlier instrumental versions. Ultimately, Wright's presence — and that of his organ skills — is felt most in Dark Side's closer 'Eclipse', during which his huge, swirling organ chords blend together with Gilmour's double-tracked guitar. Overall, the eighth psychedelic album from Pink Floyd was a collaborative effort between instruments and effects, and the work of engineer Alan Parsons gave Pink Floyd more flexibility for tracks — a 16-track mix compared to the eight- and four-mixes the band had been accustomed to. Parsons also worked to harmonise Rick Wright's and David Gilmour's vocals in tracks like 'Us and Them' and 'Time' using techniques such as double tracking, flanging, reverb, and phase-shifting that helped vocals on the tracks swirl around listeners, creating a psychedelic and immersive listening experience.
By Lyla Terrell