Is Dark Side of the Moon Psychedelic Rock?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In this blog post, we’ll take a look at whether or not Pink Floyd’s classic album Dark Side of the Moon can be classified as psychedelic rock. We’ll examine the album’s musical style, lyrics, and themes to see if it fits the bill.

Defining Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the experience of psychedelic drugs, often using sonic techniques that aim to produce the same effects.

The sound of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic Rock is a type of music that was popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The sound of Psychedelic Rock is characterized by electric guitars, bass guitars, drums, and sometimes keyboards. The lyrics often deal with topics such as love, peace, and mind-altering drugs.

The look of Psychedelic Rock

The look of Psychedelic Rock was characterized by the use of bright and kaleidoscopic colors on album covers, posters, and in concerts. The music was intended to be experienced with visual accompaniment, so the artists put a great deal of thought into the look of their work. Many psychedelic bands placed emphasis on creating a total work of art that incorporated not only music, but also fashion, artwork, and stage design.

Psychedelic Rockabilly was a subgenre that blended Psychedelia with Rockabilly. This can be seen in the work of The Cramps, who created a unique sound and look that was heavily influenced by Psychedelia.

The culture of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock is a genre of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. Psychedelic rock is characterised by distorted guitars, percussion, and keywords, as well as extended solos, and is often associated with the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD. The style often incorporates elements of Indian and Eastern music.

Psychedelic rock reached its peak of popularity in the late 1960s, but continued to be influential in the 1970s and beyond. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a revival of interest in the genre, led by bands such as The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Warlocks.

The term “psychedelic” was first coined in 1956 by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who was working with Aldous Huxley on research into visions induced by LSD. Osmond used the term to describe the experience of “expanding one’s consciousness”.

Dark Side of the Moon

As one of the most popular and influential albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon has been the subject of much scrutiny and debate. One of the most common questions about the album is whether or not it is psychedelic rock. Let’s take a look at the evidence.

The sound of Dark Side of the Moon

While there are many elements that make up the whole of Dark Side of the Moon, the sonic environment is one of the most integral. As Pink Floyd producer Alan Parsons said, “what you hear on The Dark Side of the Moon is what you get out of it.” Creating an ethereal and psychedelic soundscape was a huge part of what made Dark Side of the Moon so successful.

To achieve this goal, Pink Floyd experimented with a number of different studio techniques. One was to use multiple layers of sound – for example, recording an initial drum track, then playing it back through a Leslie speaker while recording its output onto another tape. This would create a Doppler effect – when combined with reverb, it would create a sense of space and movement.

Another key element was the use of spatial effects – such as panning or flanging – to create a sense of disorientation or unease. This was used to great effect on tracks like “On the Run”, where sounds seem to move from left to right in an unsettling way.

All these techniques came together to create an album that was both experimental and accessible, and which has gone on to become one of the most iconic records of all time.

The look of Dark Side of the Moon

Let’s start with the album cover, shall we? Painted by Hipgnosis and designed by George Hardie, the iconic image depicts a prism spectrum on a refracted black background. This was inspired by a photograph that Hipgnosis co-founder Storm Thorgerson took of a prism being used to project light onto a gallery wall. This image is quite representative of the album as a whole; an ethereal, otherworldly experience that is both beautiful and frightening.

The album’s title comes from Pink Floyd’s manager, Steve O’Rourke. He suggested that the band make an album about the “dark side of the moon”, which drummer Nick Mason thought was a great idea. The rest of the band were not so sure, but after some deliberation, they decided to go ahead with it.

It is worth noting that Dark Side of the Moon is not a concept album in the traditional sense; there is no linear story or character development. Instead, it is a collection of songs that explore different aspects of human existence, such as aging, greed, violence and mental illness. However, despite its lack of narrative cohesion, the album does explore some common themes throughout its 43-minute runtime.

The culture of Dark Side of the Moon

Since its release, “Dark Side of the Moon” has been one of the most influential and popular albums in history. Though it is not a concept album, it is often seen as one of the defining works of psychedelic rock. The album’s themes deal with mental illness, greed, the passage of time, and death.

The album’s artwork was designed by Hipgnosis, and it features a refracting prism on the cover. This symbol became synonymous with the album, and it has been used on subsequent releases, such as “Pulse” and “The Division Bell”.

The music on “Dark Side of the Moon” is noted for its use of innovative recording techniques and effects. These include extensive use of multitrack recording, tape loops, and reverse tapes. The opening track, “Speak to Me”, features heartbeat sounds which were recorded using a stethoscope.

“Dark Side of the Moon” was an immediate commercial and critical success upon its release in 1973. It spent 741 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, making it the second-longest charting album in history. In 1988, it was certified 15× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), indicating sales of over 15 million copies in the United States. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it numberQQQQQQQ1 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.


It’s safe to say that Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is not a psychedelic rock album. The band was not trying to make a psychedelic record, and in fact, they were moving away from the psychedelic sound of their earlier work. That said, the album does have some elements of psychedelia, and it has been influential on subsequent psychedelic rock bands.

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