michael jackson - thriller (album cover)Dark Side of the Moon is such a popular album, drawing fans from so many different backgrounds, that it’s almost a cliché to put it so high on my list. But these are my favorites, at the end of the day, and Dark Side of the Moon was a key album for me when I discovered it in high school, you can be damn sure of that. It almost seems like it’s part of the human experience these days to be heavily influenced by The Dark Side of the Moon. So far is its reach and so widespread is its influence that you could argue that Dark Side of the Moon is, in many ways, the definitive classic rock album. It’s second only to Thriller in terms of sales, having sold an estimated fifty million copies worldwide, which is staggering for an album with no true singles on it.

No, Dark Side of the Moon has sold on the strength of its case as art, which is uncommonly rare. Sure, it’s populist art, but there’s something to be said for the fact that when people line up to buy this album year after year, it’s because they want to own a work of art. Dark Side of the Moon is probably the greatest concept album ever conceived, and after all these years of listening to it, it’s kind of easy to lose sight of that. For one thing, when I first got into this album I remember loving how there are only two stoppages in the entire album, and in both cases the silence is ended by non-instruments, first by the clatter of clocks in “Time” and then by the ringing of a cash register in “Money.” One time when I was driving down from Maryland to Miami to start my senior year of college, I put on Dark Side of the Moon because my dad was driving and it’s one of his favorite albums, too.

Well, after listening through it once, I fell asleep, only to be awakened by those damn clocks at the beginning of “Time” a few minutes later. My dad got a real kick out of that, but I was not pleased, to say the least. Thanks, Pink FloydDark Side of the Moon is actually a terrible album to listen to in the car, now that I think about it. It’s one of the best-produced albums ever, and it deserves better treatment than a car stereo and all that highway noise. One of the more underrated qualities of Dark Side of the Moon is the wordless female howling of Clare Tory on “The Great Gig in the Sky.” It’s so haunting and beautiful. It’s astonishing, really. It stops me in my tracks every single time I listen to it. And then there is the steady ascension of “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Any Colour You Like,” “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” the latter of which brims with so much operatic tension it feels like a movie.

When David Gilmour sings, “All that you touch / All that you see / All that you taste” and so forth during “Eclipse,” for me that rivals the “And as we wind on down the road / Our shadows taller than our souls” climax of “Stairway to Heaven” as one of the most magical sequences in all of rock & roll. I think Pink Floyd loses some street cred with some people because they’re so popular, but that’s just unfair, since the music should really just speak for itself. Is it insane that one in every 140 people on the planet owns this album? Well, yeah, but that’s the way it is. Pink Floyd popularized a form of progressive rock that not only was bold and brainy, but also was very accessible. And that’s hard to do.