Bob Schwartz

Tag: Dark Side of the Moon

Darkside: When Philosophy Drama Pink Floyd and Madness Collide

Last week, the most unusual pop album ever was released. That’s an incredible overstatement, literally unbelievable, because who has listened to all those truly out-there albums and how could you possibly contrast and compare them anyway?

Okay, last week, the most philosophical unusual pop album ever was released.

Tom Stoppard, maybe the greatest of all living English-language playwrights, is a longtime Pink Floyd fan, with a special place in his heart for Syd Barrett, the disturbed creator who sparked the group, even after his untimely but unavoidable departure. You may know Stoppard most popularly for his Oscar-winning work as co-writer of Shakespeare in Love. Before and after that, his total embrace of language, philosophy, literature and the overall beautiful strangeness of people led to masterful theatre and, often, radio plays.

When the BBC wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon, they asked Stoppard to create one of his radio concoctions. The result is Darkside, which integrates dramatic scenes into the music of the album.

Description is futile. Stoppard has always believed that philosophy is a form of play, that you can play philosophy the way you do language and music and entertain with it. Listeners and viewers might also learn something. Here we have clever demonstrations of moral philosophy and discussion of the nature of thought itself; that is, as he keeps pointing out, what he is doing is a thought experiment—as is all creativity. He then asks us and them about the juggler on the radio: there is a juggler on the radio, but not hearing him, how do we know? Do we believe in the juggler?

What is most clear listening to Darkside is not just that Stoppard knows how to play with words and mind, but that Pink Floyd was just as agile doing the same, with the addition of some of the most memorable and popular music of all time. Dark Side of the Moon was on the Billboard 200 chart for 14 years after it was released in 1973, and still hovers near there, 40 million copies later. Thousands still buy it every week and somewhere right now someone is listening and discovering something. Stoppard has devised a valuable appreciation of the weird wonder that is Dark Side, making it just a bit more wonderful. The lunatic is still on the grass and in your head.

All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust
All you save
And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy
Beg, borrow or steal
And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say
And all that you eat
And everyone you meet
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon
Eclipse, Dark Side of the Moon

Us And Them: Presidential Pink Floyd

In response to ABC’s Robin Roberts’ questions about Mitt Romney’s tax returns, Ann Romney stood firm:

“We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life.”

The benefit of the doubt might indicate that “you people” meant “the media” rather than the huddled masses yearning for information and transparency. But it does seem to fit the storyline that the Romneys believe, appropriately, that the rich are different.

In either case, Pink Floyd’s Us and Them from Dark Side of the Moon came to mind. Us and Them is hauntingly beautiful and multivalently obscure. Hundreds of interpretations have been generated (war? money? Kent State? Syd Barrett?). Who knows? This is art and Pink Floyd, for God’s sake, and like the rest of Dark Side it both washes over you and seeps into you.

Us and them
And after all we’re only ordinary men.
Me and you.
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do.

Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end it’s only round and round.

Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside.

Down and out
It can’t be helped but there’s a lot of it about.
With, without.
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?

Us and Them is clearly the theme of this Presidential campaign. So much so that we should adapt the Dark Side of the Rainbow approach, in which Dark Side of the Moon is mind-blowingly synchronized as the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz. In this case, Dark Side can be synchronized to your choice of campaign videos. This is not as crazy as it sounds, especially given that both Obama and Romney have exhibited their musical chops. It is doubtful that either one has ever tried singing anything from Pink Floyd, or in Romney’s case even heard the band, but it would be fun and enlightening. The bright promise of politics in Eclipse, maybe?:

All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that’s to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.