Urban legends are a funny thing. You hear a story so many times, told by enough people, that you actually believe it. Then comes the true test, and more often than not, it’s a letdown.
Case in point: urban legend has it that Pink Floyd recorded their classic album “Dark Side of the Moon” to coincide with the 1939 MGM epic “The Wizard of Oz”, based on the L. Frank Baum novel (those outside of Central Illinois will find it interesting to note that Dorothy Gage, the niece of Frank Baum, after whom he named the main character in his book, is buried in Bloomington, Illinois’ Evergreen Cemetary. Hey, you take credit where you can get it). Members of the band always dismissed it as nonsense, with drummer Nick Mason adding “besides, it was really based on ‘The Sound of Music'”.
According to Internet Movie Database, there are “a striking number of coincidences” between events in the movie and musical cues on the “Dark Side” album, and they go on to list a few of them: the song “On the Run” starts as Dorothy falls off the fence. – “The Great Gig in the Sky” begins when the tornado first appears. – the song “Us and Them” is played when Dorothy meets the Wicked Witch of the West. – the line “black and blue” is repeated when they are talking to one another (Dorothy in her blue outfit, the Wicked Witch in black). – the line “the lunatic is on the grass…” coincides with Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow. – then we first see Miss Gulch on her bicycle, the song “Time” starts with its bells and alarms. – Dorothy asks Professor Marvel what else he sees in his crystal ball as the line “thought I’d something more to say” comes along in the song “Time”. – as the Scarecrow sings “If I Only Had a Brain”, Pink Floyd sing “Brain Damage”. – side 1 of the original vinyl album (up to the end of “The Great Gig in the Sky”) is exactly as long as the black and white portion of the film. – as Dorothy listens to the Tin Man’s chest, the album ends with the famous heartbeat sound effect.
The latest issue of Goldmine Magazine did a short feature on this urban legend, and gave the step by step instructions on how to view the movie and listen to the album as a soundtrack, along with what to look for, most of which is mentioned in the previous paragraph.
It was a Wednesday night…I had a little time to kill…so I brought up the movie on Netflix, cued up the CD, and was ready to roll. Here are the step by step instructions as they appeared in Goldmine:
-Insert “Dark Side of the Moon” into your CD player; press play. Once the album starts to play, press pause, then press the track rewind to take you back to the very beginning of the first track.
-Set your CD player for album repeat. (it should track through completely twice)
-Start “The Wizard of Oz” movie.
-Wait for the black and white MG lion to appear. Once he roars for the third time, hit play on the CD player. Press mute on your TV and crank up the stereo.
-To confirm the movie and album are in sync, when you see the credit “Produced by Mervyn LeRoy”, the credit should be fading amid the transition from “Speak to Me” to “Breathe”.
Maybe I needed to be doing some bongs, but it just didn’t happen for me. The only part that worked for me was when Dorothy was inside the house as the tornado was outside, just as Clare Torry was wailing through “The Great Gig in the Sky”.
The BEST thing about the whole experience is that, over the years, I had kind of forgotten what a fantastic album “Dark Side of the Moon” really is. It’s so rare these days for me to sit down, without headphones, and listen to an entire album all the way through. But this little exercise enabled me to do just that.
So if you’re in an experimental mood, pop in the movie and CD and see for yourself. Better yet, skip the flick and just listen to “Dark Side” all the way through. I never really liked “The Wizard of Oz” anyway…scared the crap out of me as a kid, and now I think it’s just plain weird.