'Everything about it is perfect' … Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
I was 11 years old, had spent two years in bed with encephalitis, and had just started listening to music again. My parents bought me a music centre– massive speakers, radio, tape recorder, record player, stereo, the works. The ultimate in hi-tech. And I was buying like crazy – Mum and Dad were so pleased I had made it, they didn't notice, or care, that I was constantly blagging money off them for more records. Then I bought Dark Side of the Moon, and didn't get another record for months. I didn't need one.
Dark Side of the Moon
Everything about the album was perfect – the black cover, the prism image, the poster of those unearthly pyramids, the great curly sounds that came out of Rick Wright's synthesisers, Roger Waters's puckered lips, Dave Gilmour's hippy hair, the anti-capitalist onslaught (or so I thought), the ghostly despair of the music and, of course, the lyrics.
I knew nothing about Syd Barrett at the time, but I knew everything about me. And this was my album. I had had inflammation of the brain, almost died, had gone the full circle of lunacy, and withdrawn from the world. Now I was getting better, and Dark Side of the Moon helped me make a mad sense of everything that had happened.
It also brought me and Dad back together. Our relationship had virtually broken down when I first became ill. His best friend Bert was my doctor, and Bert had thought I was making it all up. Dad was caught between loyalties – me or Bert. And for a long time it looked as if he had chosen Bert. Eventually, he came back to me, but we needed to do a lot of bridge building. And this was where the Floyd came in.
It was summer 1974, and he would take afternoons off work (a massive sacrifice for him because he was a workaholic) and come into my bedroom and listen to the Floyd with me. There were two beds in my room. I lay on mine, he lay on the other, and we shut our eyes and concentrated. I didn't know what was going through his head, but I knew what was going through mine – how could any prog-rock group understand me so well? Every bit of my fucked-up personality was reflected in that record – Money was about all the greedy bastards out there, Us and Them was about me against the world, Time was about dying ("Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way" is one of thegreat lyrics), as was The Great Gig in the Sky.
Meanwhile, Brain Damage might as well have been called Simon Hattenstone: My Story: "You lock the door/ And throw away the key/ There's someone in my head but it's not me."
Exactly. My head had exploded with dark forebodings, my dam had broken open many years too soon. The band that I was in had not only started playing different tunes – they'd stopped inviting me to the gigs. The lunatics were in my hall, in my head, every bleedin' where. When I sang along to Brain Damage I felt as if I was singing my life. Back then, I didn't understand that all those years Dad was crippled by depression, so perhaps Dark Side of the Moon meant just as much to him in the same way. Every day that summer he'd come into my room, and we'd lie on our respective beds, and listen to it all the way through in silence with eyes shut. And at the end, without fail, he'd say: "Best bleddy record in the world that, Si."
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