Fifty years ago this week, Toronto radio listeners unwittingly enjoyed the world premiere of the classic Pink Floyd album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
Call it a glad accident, because things weren’t alleged to quite work out that way. Back in 1973, Bob Roper was working because the Capitol Records promotion representative for Ontario. His job was to pitch Toronto radio stations his label’s latest music, with the hope that DJs and music directors would add it to their playlists.
Days before the official March 1, 1973 release of the most recent opus by the British progressive rock outfit consisting of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, Roper was handed an advance copy of the album by his bosses.
“I got it at the tip of the day and was told, ‘Take this home because, come Monday, this record is being released and, because this can be a priority for Capitol worldwide, you must have a superb hearken to it so we are able to advertise properly,” Roper recalled in an interview.
He listened to it twice, thought it was good and decided to acquire a second opinion from someone he respected: CHUM-FM host David Marsden.
For Marsden, who had been following the band since their 1969 experimental psychedelic album “Ummagumma,” it was an alluring opportunity.
“I used to be a Pink Floyd freak, admittedly,” said Marsden.
Just a few months before, he had began a petition to steer Toronto’s Concert Productions International and promoter Michael Cohl to bring the band to Maple Leaf Gardens for the primary time.
“I came upon that CPI weren’t going to book Pink Floyd because they didn’t think anybody desired to see them,” Marsden said. “I began a petition to get people to say they’d buy tickets, and children in high schools in every single place were organising desks within the hallways to get people to sign it.”
The resulting show sold out in 45 minutes, with Pink Floyd’s debut Toronto performance on March 11, 1973: 11 days after “Dark Side’s” release.
So when Roper handed Marsden the vinyl platter 4 days before it was alleged to hit shelves and Marsden played it during his 6 to 10 p.m. slot — twice, from start to complete — Roper thought he had scored a coup.
“Until I went into the office the subsequent morning and caught proper hell.”
It seems that Pink Floyd’s management and Capitol Records worldwide had big plans for the premiere that Roper had by accident ruined.
“We preceded the world premiere by 4 days and, after all, CHUM-FM was only available within the Toronto area,” Marsden said. “Nevertheless it was a world premiere so far as I used to be concerned.”
Toronto got a head start on an album that became certainly one of the world’s bestselling and most influential platters, trailing only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California” in sales.
Exactly what number of albums “Dark Side of the Moon” has sold is somewhat contentious: the last official figures offered were 45 million units in 2013, but an estimate of 60 million on the 50-year milestone probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
In Canada, “Dark Side” was certified double diamond in 2003 by Music Canada for 2 million units sold.
There was a reason for the record’s universal appeal: “Dark Side” was an idea album based on the burdens the band faced as a functioning unit, making business art because it explored themes of time, death, mental illness, greed, conflict and the human condition, with its 10 songs seamlessly woven into one lengthy work replete with sound effects, multi-track recording, the VSC-3 synthesizer and tape loops — all fairly novel studio techniques on the time.
Engineered at Abbey Road by Alan Parsons, “Dark Side” embodies a lot gravitas that songs like “Time,” “Money,” “The Great Gig within the Sky,” “Any Color You Like” and “Us And Them” proceed to resonate a superb half-century after its creation.
For the Sheepdogs’ Shamus Currie, the album directly influenced his latest solo effort, “The Shepherd and the Wolf.”
“My most up-to-date is a fantasy rock record and concept album,” Currie said. “‘Dark Side’ was a giant one for laying the template for that sort of sound.
“I like the concept that they’re telling a story through an entire album’s price of stories not only contained to three-minute songs.“
Currie admires the cerebral approach in lyrical content of “Dark Side.”
“The notion that you just don’t should sacrifice mental ideas to make a preferred record, that’s pretty cool.”
Toronto singer and songwriter Scott Helman said “Dark Side” opened him as much as a world of possibility when he was finally sufficiently old to understand it.
“That was the moment I spotted the scope of what you may do in music,” Helman said. “Up until that time, I just thought songs were songs …
“The darkness and the cynicism, and the irony and the sarcasm really connected with me as a young person and as someone who was raised by British people.”
Jace Lasek, singer and multi-instrumentalist of the Besnard Lakes, said “Dark Side” influenced the band’s 2001 album “The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings.”
“A number of what we do relies on ambient beginnings that construct up into songs which have guitar solos inside them and what was amazing with ‘Dark Side’ for me is that it was an idea album where the songs bleed into one another, so in a single sense it’s like one long song is going on,” Lasek said.
“After we began the band, we desired to make an album that folks can sit all the way down to and hearken to throughout, a continuous composed piece quite than individual songs.”
There are countless other bands that count “Dark Side of the Moon” as an influence — Radiohead and Coldplay amongst them — and there are plans in motion to mark the album’s fiftieth birthday, starting from Pink Floyd chief songwriter Roger Waters re-recording the album on his own, to an elaborate latest deluxe box set from Sony out March 24.
A book, an animation contest and planetarium events featuring the album are also planned for 2023, celebrating a record that Bob Roper said appealed to him when he first heard it with its “overall sensibility.”
“It was unique. It didn’t sound like the rest, and it had melodies that you may sing to and remember, which so many bands don’t have,” Roper said. “I feel that the incontrovertible fact that it’s 700-plus weeks on Billboard tells you it spoke to so many individuals.”