Wednesday, June 01, 2016


Was up late last night with work, and as I’ll sometimes do when that happens I got into one of those YouTube loops of somewhat aimless clicking around.

Was in the mood for music and so had happened on a few live clips of various bands, then somehow from that path strayed onto the one containing clips documenting the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” -- you know, that phenomenon that didn’t really get much traction until the 1990s (if I remember correctly) having to do with the way Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon uncannily syncs up with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

I suppose that whole thing had to have started with LPs and VHS tapes, though now it’s easy enough for anyone to reedit the soundtrack of a film and upload the sucker.

Like practically everyone of my generation and before, I saw The Wizard of Oz many, many times growing up. It was one of those annual things, shown on the teevee frequently and thus committed to my memory just like it was to many others’. Doubt that’s the case so much anymore, perhaps making it a much less conspicuous “text” than it had been before.

(In fact, in Same Difference I incorporated some running references to Oz, something that likely would have little significance to those unfamiliar with the film or its characters.)

As a preteen one of the very first LPs I ever got was The Wall, then Dark Side followed shortly thereafter, meaning that, too, is a cultural product I’ve experienced numerous times -- hundreds, I guess.

But I’d never actually bothered to check out the whole “Dark Side of the Rainbow” thing, knowing it was essentially just happenstance and not intended by the band in any way. The human mind seizes on repetitions and parallels, sometimes imposing patterns when they aren’t really there, if only because of the pleasure and/or comfort they bring. Poker players are perhaps more aware of the existence of this psychological quirk than most.

Nick Mason, the drummer, had a great quote about it back when it became talked about enough for folks to start asking the band members about it. “It’s absolute nonsense,” said Mason, echoing what others in Pink Floyd said when asked about there being any intention for the Dark Side of the Moon to be listened to as accompaniment for the film.

“It has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz,” he added. “It was all based on The Sound of Music.”

Anyhow, I didn’t have patience to sit through an entire showing of the film with the LP playing (two-and-a-half times over, necessarily, given the differences in lengths). But I did enjoy a few of the more curious moments that come up, including the way Side 2 begins just as the film switches from black and white to color, the Tin Man’s heartbeat, “home, home again” coming back around when Dorothy wakes up at the end, among other fun moments.

Easily the most affecting stretch, though, is the whole of “The Great Gig in the Sky” which nearly matches the entire tornado sequence during which Dorothy (and Toto) hits her head and blacks out, then the farm house gets picked up and dizzyingly spins through the air in a surreal and scary way before landing just as the song concludes.

It’s an incredibly inspired piece of filmmaking. The song, too, is a marvel I somehow still find moving after all these years. Clare Torry’s wordless vocal perfectly articulates the thematic mediation on mortality, or the cycle of life, or whatever else her singing and the tumbling chords underneath makes you think about.

Meanwhile its aptness to the frightening, chaotic storm in Oz is so obvious, that, too, sends the mind wandering into some interesting places. Watch and see for yourself:

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