Originally written for Hippocampus Magazine’s Rock & Roll Issue and posted 7.1.12
I can see myself standing on the beach in front of my childhood home by the ocean… The tide rolls in, swaying back and forth. Like a mood ring, the water changes, from mossy green to aquamarine to the bluest saddest blue, under the moon that hangs heavy at dusk…
I’m a California girl, born and raised, and came of age on an island where we had a summer house four doors up from the waterfront. It was the 70s, baby, and I grew up with a sense that life was easy…. too young and naïve to worry about little things like the gas crisis or the Iranian hostage situation. Me, I would be out in the sun, wearing a bikini, riding my skateboard on the boardwalk and talking to boys, giggling and flipping my feathered Farrah hair. 13 years old. And I ruled the skee ball lanes.
Eventually dusk would come, as would a certain melancholy… I would look out at the murky harbor at night, listen to the water and the masts clanking around. The bay smelled like seaweed. And back at the musty beach house, I would play my favorite album over and over, and my adolescence became saturated with the ethereal, slippery sound of Pink Floyd.
Dark Side of the Moon. I would sit on the floor, fixated on the iconic graphic on the cover: A prism with a spectrum of colors emerging. It was described as “The white light into the pyramid.” It has to be the most recognizable album cover of all time, and it doesn’t have one word on it.
Dark Side is mad genius, a masterpiece. A concept album originally titled Eclipse: A Piece For Assorted Lunatics, it contains lyrical themes that tell a story about mental illness, aging, greed, living truthfully and death. It’s Art Rock, inspired by insanity itself.
Along came my own witless period of instability. I got older and had no interest in behaving myself—that was boring and I was restless. I would stay out past my stupid curfew, coming home smelling like Marlboros and booze, ignoring the rules my parents tried to lay down. They were killing my spirit. There was solace in the ocean. I would sit on the moonlit seawall at night, and think about life and writing and music, waiting for someone or something to show me the way.
I fell in love. Dave was my first true love, actually, and I fell hard, the only way you can fall when you’re 17, barefoot and free-spirited. I had an abandon I wish I could bottle. It was all so new, that burning, all-consuming passion for another human being. We didn’t last. I was devastated.
And so it began… When I was sad about something, or times were bleak or complicated, I would take a drive up the Malibu coast in my gold Datsun 280 ZX and listen to Dark Side of the Moon. I’d find myself on the hour-long drive south to the island, just to hear it all over again, and sit on my seawall and think about life. (Until the day the tape player ate it and all its ribbon guts came out.) T-tops off, stereo super loud. Dark Side was a refuge for me.
I hadn’t yet heard of Syd Barrett, or his drug-fueled descent into madness. I didn’t know he was part of the original Pink Floyd, or that he was a musical genius, or that anyone missed him after he faded into insanity, and eventually, obscurity. Those who knew him said he was like a candle that was about to be snuffed out at any moment, but they agree that without the magic of Syd, there would be no Pink Floyd. (They also said he put acid in his coffee every morning. I’m pretty sure there’s a link there.) I’m not an artist or a music maker, and chances are slim anyone will ever do a best-selling tribute album for me. But I admit, in times of quiet desperation I’ve had fears of ending up like Syd, withdrawn from life, living in a strange self-imposed exile. There was a time he shone like the sun…
Even so, Dark Side is just a guts-on-the-floor, beautiful, haunting piece of art.
Science tells us there is no such thing as the “dark side” of the moon. It’s all one giant glowing orb in the sky, all part of the same. It’s a fact that arrests and psychiatric admissions are higher during a full moon, and I’m not surprised. Who wants that much light shed on their life and their shortcomings? It’s scary. No wonder there are so many lunatics running around. There are hideous, unflattering parts in all of us that we don’t want anyone to see, but like water finds its own level, the light finds its way in.
I was six years old in 1973 when Dark Side of the Moon was released, almost 40 years ago. Five years ago I was in the first row for Roger Waters at The Hollywood Bowl, and he played Dark Side in its entirety. It was exquisite. And there I was, in that watery place in time, young again and fearless, and I found myself thinking about my life with salty tears in my eyes, smiling, happy, and breathing in the air.
…And like a sphere, with no beginning or ending, light was all around, and inside, like prisms and music, and time and love, and water and memories, and life and death, and you and me and us and them.