Monday, February 26, 2024

Pink Floyd, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and Me


Final October, when Roger Waters introduced his “This Is Not a Drill” tour by means of Austin, Texas, he additionally took the time to file a practically three-hour look on “The Joe Rogan Expertise” podcast. These are sometimes rambling affairs, guided by the host’s idiosyncratic curiosities, and about midway by means of, following a riff by Waters about nuclear weapons, overseas languages and Noam Chomsky, Rogan modified the topic. He mentioned he needed to ask Waters — the previous lead lyricist, bassist and co-lead vocalist for Pink Floyd — concerning the synchronicity that arises from watching “The Wizard of Oz” whereas listening to “The Darkish Aspect of the Moon.”

This phenomenon is typically referred to as “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow”: If you happen to begin the album at simply the proper time, the music and lyrics uncannily align with the film’s visuals. Some coincidences are lyrical, as when Dorothy runs away from residence on the line “Nobody advised you when to run.” Some are tonal, as when the twister sequence appears virtually choreographed to Clare Torry’s wordless vocals in “The Nice Gig within the Sky” — rising to a frenzy because the tornado rolls in after which shifting to dreaminess simply as Dorothy is knocked unconscious.

Click on play to hearken to the synced audio.

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In a spectacular conclusion, the album’s closing heartbeats play as Dorothy listens to the Tin Woodman’s chest. These and plenty of different conjunctions, from the vivid to the delicate, produce mesmerizing and surreal results which have dazzled generations of pot people who smoke, Rogan apparently included.

“I don’t imagine it for a minute,” Waters mentioned, “however I just like the story.”

“Yeah, I don’t even need to examine that — I need it to be true,” Rogan replied. (Journalistic precept compelled me to e mail Nelson’s publicist, who wrote again 4 minutes later to say, “It doesn’t sound true.”)

Rogan went on: “I’ve watched ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ listening to ‘The Darkish Aspect of the Moon,’ whereas excessive on marijuana. And if it’s not on objective, it’s a cosmic coincidence as a result of it’s form of superb. It’s form of superb the way it simply flows.”

I occurred to stumble throughout a reference to this trade on-line, however there was little probability it could escape my consideration for lengthy. That’s as a result of I’ve an odd connection to the phenomenon: Almost three many years in the past, I wrote the primary article about it once I was a summer season intern at The Journal Gazette in my hometown, Fort Wayne, Ind. In latest months, as varied music magazines and web sites have been placing collectively packages about “The Darkish Aspect of the Moon” in honor of its fiftieth anniversary, I’ve acquired a surge in interview requests about this text I wrote once I was 19, which has grow to be an absurd footnote to my profession as a national-security and authorized journalist.

The hyperlink has been a recurring intrusion into my ideas for years. Alerts I set as much as ship e mail to my inbox when somebody writes about certainly one of my New York Instances articles additionally deliver phrase of recent references to that previous Journal Gazette piece. And if these fail, family and friends textual content or e mail me every time they see it talked about within the wild. Yearly or so, one other co-worker stopping by my desk or a authorities supply I’m assembly for a drink brings it up with a chuckle. In some unspecified time in the future, someone caught the very fact into a quick Wikipedia entry about me, and since then every time I give a discuss one thing like surveillance or drone strikes or presidential energy, individuals introducing me have usually talked about it — a lot to the viewers’s amusement.

I didn’t provide you with the concept of pairing these two works. I’m not the inventor of “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow.” However in an odd kind of accident, I performed a key early function in its turning into a cultural phenomenon. Earlier than my article, “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” was only a word-of-mouth factor on an early web message board. Hardly anybody knew about it, and those that did had no concept who got here up with the concept or the place it began.

As a result of the provenance of “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” is murky, my article has come to face in for its unknown origin story. However I merely helped popularize an concept that was already beginning to flow into, one which probably would have discovered its option to wider recognition with or with out my involvement. If I hadn’t written that article, another person would have. And but, it was me who did. For higher or worse, I used to be in the proper place on the proper time — and capable of bear witness to one of many first intrusions of web tradition into mainstream American life.

Once I arrived at school as a freshman within the fall of 1994, I found that my dorm room was wired for an Ethernet connection. On the time, most individuals, if they’d web entry in any respect, had dial-up modems. And the web you linked to remained in its infancy: There wasn’t a lot to see but on what we nonetheless referred to as the World Huge Internet. I used to be extra intrigued by the opposite types of communication my connection gave me entry to: e mail and Usenet, a message-board system created in 1979 and made up of “newsgroups” for numerous subjects. Among the many Usenet teams I began following was one referred to as alt.music.pink-floyd.

I had been into Pink Floyd since center faculty, when my older brother gave me a T-shirt from their “A Momentary Lapse of Motive” tour and used a twin cassette deck to dub me copies of their albums. In June 1994, simply earlier than graduating from highschool, I drove with some mates to Indianapolis and, from the rafters of the Hoosier Dome, watched the band stay for the primary time. I principally listened to different rock in these days, however Pink Floyd’s Usenet group had a maintain on me. The band had a lot historical past, and such a deep discography, that its discussion board was extra energetic and interesting than another boards I learn.

The Usenet group’s archives from that period seem to have been misplaced. However in my recollection, “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” reached the discussion board as second- or thirdhand data already: Somebody posted that he had heard from some individuals in Los Angeles that “Darkish Aspect” matched up with the primary half of “Oz” in a bizarre and fascinating means. In April 1995, I made a decision to attempt it out. I rented a VHS tape of the film from a video retailer close to campus, positioned in a former parking storage that had been transformed right into a ramped mini-mall. Some mates and I crammed onto a nasty yellow couch, below posters of Kurt Cobain and “Reservoir Canines.” We pushed the tape into the VCR, muted the TV and hit play on the stereo. (Everybody agrees that you simply’re alleged to time the beginning of the music to the roars of the MGM lion, however there may be some disagreement about how: We began with the primary roar, however a consensus has since developed favoring the third.)

For the following 43 minutes, gasps of recognition ensued as the 2 works appeared to merge and play off one another. The synchronicities began mildly, like “All you contact and all you see” coming when Dorothy grabs a farmhand’s arm, and bought higher, just like the alarms from “Time” blaring because the movie cuts to the evil Miss Gulch coming to get Toto, and Professor Marvel urging Dorothy to go residence at “Dwelling, residence once more.” After the twister scene we have been totally into it, grooving as Dorothy opened the door into Technicolor Oz simply because the cash-register noises kicked off “Cash.”

Within the subsequent monitor, the black-dressed Depraved Witch appeared and confronted the blue-dressed Dorothy to the lyrics “Black … and blue.”

Throughout “Mind Injury,” the Scarecrow — in want of a mind — flops round as Waters sings about lunatics. The 2 works built-in in so many ways in which it was jarring when the album ended however the film continued.

That summer season, I landed a features-writing internship at The Journal Gazette, briefly becoming a member of a small workers that produced a web page within the leisure part geared toward Gen X readers. A giant a part of the job was pitching offbeat tales, and the editor appreciated my concept of writing concerning the mash-up. So as soon as once more I rented the film and reproduced the expertise, this time taking notes. I requested on Usenet if anybody knew its origin however bought no helpful reply. The band’s publicist at Columbia Information ignored a number of voice mail messages and a word I despatched by fax machine asking for remark.

I used to be skeptical that there could possibly be any rational clarification for why the 2 works synchronized. “In any case, it’s arduous to think about Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour & Co. painstakingly writing their music to the film’s timing,” I wrote. “It’s even more durable to think about {that a} band so gimmickry-minded (it caught a blinking LED gentle on the CD packaging of its newest launch, ‘Pulse,’ for instance) would preserve quiet for 22 years if it had executed it purposefully.”

Folks advised me that the morning the article ran, they heard D.J.s on a classic-rock station in Fort Wayne speaking about it on the air. However newspapers weren’t but placing their content material on-line, so there was little means for it to search out an viewers outdoors of northeastern Indiana. That modified once I went again to campus for my sophomore yr, discovered some HTML and made a house web page for myself. I added a separate web page the place I pasted a replica of my article. I shared that web page on the Usenet group and added it to a Pink Floyd “Internet ring” — a system wherein individuals with associated pages linked to 1 one other. I put a kind of little counters on the backside of the web page. I didn’t count on a lot to return of it, as a result of nobody actually visited the house web page of a random faculty sophomore.

However inside months, the counter started ticking up. The article web page was logging a whole lot, then hundreds, and ultimately tens of hundreds of holiday makers. I started to note that over on the Usenet group, customers have been often directing newcomers to my article. Quickly, a number of different followers made their very own net pages about it. Regularly, after which all of sudden, “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” unfold. The next yr, within the spring of 1997, a number of D.J.s at rock stations in main markets — first in Boston after which New York — talked about it on air, citing dialogue on the web. That prompted an MTV Information phase about what Kurt Loder referred to as a “mysterioso linkage” that “for the previous couple of years the web has been buzzing with.” This was adopted by a wave of articles in greater papers like The New York Day by day Information, The Washington Submit and The Baltimore Solar.

The phenomenon had lastly gone viral — it solely took two years.

A factor to know concerning the mash-up is that it wasn’t only a massive album and a fashionable film. As a result of “The Wizard of Oz” aired on tv so many instances within the second half of the twentieth century, the Library of Congress estimated in 2000 that it had been seen by extra viewers than another movie in historical past. “The Darkish Aspect of the Moon” was one of many best-selling albums of not simply the Seventies however of all time, exhibiting unmatched endurance: It holds the file for the album with the most weeks on the Billboard 200 chart — making a 981st look simply final month.

A part of the enigma of “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” is that even right now no one is aware of its origin. Again in 1995, my effort to determine who first did it went nowhere, and nobody has made a reputable declare to being its originator within the many years since then. We’re left to take a position why anybody would have thought to attempt placing the 2 works collectively — or if it was as an alternative born of a coincidence itself. Maybe the album was taking part in within the background when somebody channel surfed to the film on tv and seen what was occurring — as arduous as that is to think about, it’s not less than statistically extra prone to occur with two of the preferred mass entertainments of the final century.

Different technological forces have been at work within the early ’90s, making the pairing extra prone to be found. As a sensible matter, the expertise couldn’t be replicated till the arrival of the VCR. And since being off a number of seconds in both route would destroy the impact, it additionally helped to have the album out there on compact discs, which performed straight by means of while not having to be flipped over like information or cassettes. After which, after all, there was the web, the place an odd rumor sourced to some individuals in Los Angeles may wend its means to a school freshman in Boston.

Till not too long ago, it had been a few years since I rewatched “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow.” However impressed by the spate of interview requests, I made a decision to attempt it once more from the vantage level of a middle-aged dad dwelling within the suburbs. This time, I didn’t need to lease the film, discover my copy of “Darkish Aspect” or cue it to the lion’s roars. I went into my residence workplace, sat earlier than my laptop and clicked a hyperlink on YouTube — that was it.

Because it unfolded earlier than me, a nagging previous thought recurred: How a lot occurring right here is objectively particular, and the way a lot is in our heads? Again within the mid-’90s, when curiosity within the phenomenon began to unfold, some followers started searching round for different fascinating pairings. A standout web site was referred to as the Synchronicity Arkive, whose maker reported having fun with varied mash-ups he had tried, together with the 23-minute monitor “Echoes” and the trippy ultimate act of “2001: A House Odyssey”; “Want You Had been Right here” and “Blade Runner”; “Want You Had been Right here” and “Akira” — he apparently trusted solely Pink Floyd to provide him what he needed. However none of these different purported discoveries took off. Maybe when any two works are paired, the thoughts will all the time discover that some musical and visible shifts occur to coincide. However no different mash-up that I’m conscious of produces the common lyrical overlaps that make “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” so particular.

Even so, affirmation bias clearly performs a job. As a result of we’re looking for connections, we overlook the moments when there are none. For instance, we filter out that there isn’t a apparent resonance between Dorothy speaking to a farmhand and the concurrent lyric “Lengthy you reside and excessive you fly/However provided that you experience the tide.” As a substitute, we give attention to a synchronicity with the following couplet, “And balanced on the most important wave/You race in direction of an early grave,” which aligns with Dorothy tiptoeing throughout a fence after which falling right into a hog pen. Nonetheless, should you have been to attract up a listing of the asynchronous moments, it could dwarf the alignments that made “Rainbow” so well-known.

As I thought of its limitations, I began to ponder a counterfactual: Had “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” been found right now, wouldn’t it have been as massive a deal? We stay in a interval wherein our telephones inundate us with relentlessly churning social media feeds, on-line video games, information and sports activities updates and an infinite variety of humorous video shorts. To borrow the title of a Waters solo album, we’re amused to demise. However again within the ’90s, the web was nonetheless in a kind of “Goldilocks zone” — with sufficient connectivity to be stimulating however not but a lot as to be oppressive. Boredom was then nonetheless extra attainable, and unfilled, mind-wandering time made concepts for attempting out bizarre issues extra engaging — and maybe the usual for what manages to be charming a little bit decrease.

For that matter, the truth that right now there isn’t a must put any effort into creating “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” expertise comes at a worth. Once I was invited to speak about all this on a morning radio program not too long ago, we mentioned how once we every first heard about it and tried it out within the ’90s, it took preparation — going out to lease a tape, inviting mates over to take part and worrying about when was simply the proper second to begin taking part in the album. “That was an occasion,” one of many hosts noticed.

Now, with precooked variations out there to stream on-line, the expertise is diminished twice. Not solely does it take far much less planning and fuss to duplicate the phenomenon, additionally it is now inconceivable to mess it up. Whereas watching on my laptop, I discovered myself clicking again once I needed to expertise a very hanging alignment once more, which perversely appeared to empty a number of the mystique these coincidences had radiated once they vanished simply as one acknowledged what had occurred. Referred to as to cope with a household situation, I hit pause, bought up and walked out of the room. Once I later returned to the display screen, I discovered the video nonetheless paused on the identical body, its synchronicities ready to seamlessly resume once I clicked the mouse. “The Darkish Aspect of the Rainbow” had been made straightforward, because of numerous technological miracles — but additionally, by some means, much less magical.

Charlie Savage is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a Washington correspondent for The New York Instances. He’s the creator of “Energy Wars,” an investigative historical past of national-security authorized policymaking within the Obama administration.

Matt Curtis is an artwork director and designer dwelling in London. He’s a design director at Unusual Artistic Studio.

Supply video: “The Wizard of Oz” (MGM). Supply audio: Pink Floyd, “The Darkish Aspect of The Moon” (Capitol Information)

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