Fifty years since its release on March 1, 1973, Dark Side (the album) poses conflicting, perhaps irresolvable questions. Can you overlook the clichés of modern-day mass-market entertainment about the meaning of life? Or do snobbery and dismissiveness unnecessarily prevent skeptics from being able to take Dark Side at face value? Can’t you just turn your brain off and rock out to Dark Side sometimes?
Few, if any, teenage totems have come close to Dark Side’s longevity and reach. Its claimed sales are 45 million copies, making it the fourth-best-selling album of all time. It has spent a ridiculous 971 weeks on the Billboard 200, 741 of them consecutively from 1973 to 1988; both of those stretches are distant records. Pink Floyd didn’t succeed; it annihilated. By the end of 1973, they were multimillionaires.
“Something certainly did the trick, and [Dark Side] moved us into a super league, which brought with it some great joy, some pride, and some problems,” Gilmour said in Classic Albums. “You don’t know what you’re in it for anymore. You’re in it to achieve massive success and get rich and famous and all these other things that go along with it, and when they’re all suddenly done, you go, ‘Hm, why? What next?’”