Published on November 22nd, 2020 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
The Old Legend of a Stoner’s Folktale
An explanation of the incredible marvel that happens when Pink Floyd plays over top The Wizard of Oz.
I first heard the notion of synchronizing The Wizard of Oz (1939) with Pink Floyd’s pinnacle achievement, Dark Side of the Moon (1973), somewhere in the early to mid-nineties. The internet was still a baby then, so it stands to reason in my memory that I heard about this peculiar but compelling oddity by word of mouth. It was a rumour before it was a webpage and, as with all whispered secrets that sweep a sub-culture, it was a murmur of excitement beyond what it could actually deliver. Or was it?
The revelation is simple, and sounds something like this: ‘Dude. Have you ever watched The Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side? It’ll blow your mind, man!’ At best, this sounds like something best filed under ‘who cares’. At worst, it sounds like a ruse. Some frat-brained prank designed to waste an idiots time, fumbling about with a CD player and a VCR, two remotes and only a foggy notion of what the hell is supposed to happen. Also, didn’t that guy insist I have ‘serious bong rips’ before I watched this? And how does he
know when his joke as actually come to fruition, when I’ll be standing like a big dumb idiot in my living room, two remotes, a smouldering bong and staring at a mountainous waste of my time? How the hell is he supposed to know when, exactly, to laugh?
Well, number one, it isn’t a ruse. There is an undeniable correlation between the images and themes of The Wizard of Oz when paired with the lyrics and soundscapes in Dark Side of the Moon. It’s only figuratively mind-blowing, but it’s literally fascinating. It’s a trip, as the kids would say. Even without any encouragement from marijuana, it’s still just plain eerie. Yes, there are instructions to cuing this up correctly and I will be detailed about that. Yes, there is also a reasonable explanation for what you’re seeing and hearing, the connections you’ll make and the ones you’ll ignore. However, I will continue to be fairly vague about that. The intention of this article is to re-affirm the bizarre legend of this preposterous, improbable mash-up. This isn’t pineapple on pizza. There is no argument to deny that that Dark Side and Oz dance together like Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace. It’s a mesmerizing kind of cool.
The internet likes to call it Dark Side of the Rainbow, a mildly clever pun but a terrible title. It implies an ominous and dystopian bleak turn of melancholy. It isn’t! Think of it more like The Wizard of Floyd, a much more playful, pipe-stuffing sorcery akin to a puzzling slight-of-hand card trick. Here are the set up instructions: start the Wizard of Oz, wait until you hear the lion growl his third roar, just before he turns his head, and press play on Dark Side of the Moon. You can use your turntable and VCR, a CD player and DVD, or Netflix and Spotify. You could also just use this link , because it’s not 1998 anymore.
Did you watch it? What – you don’t have a bong? It doesn’t really matter. Here’s what you’re in for: Dark Side starts will a slow, gradual build of sound. It’s going to feel like nothing is happening for nearly a minute. Then a dreamy sway of strums and guitar notes takes us past the opening credits to that bleak farm in Kansas. To really follow along with the impending onslaught of words, images and themes colliding relentlessly between the screen and the speakers, turn on the movie subtitles and grab a lyric sheet.
It’s coincidence after coincidence to the point where you have to wonder if Pink Floyd did some bong rips of their own, followed by sound editing marathons in front of a screen that played The Wizard of Oz on repeat. Spoiler alert, they super didn’t (more on that later). The first of the most startling syncopations is the arrival of Miss Gulch on her bicycle at the very moment we hear the ringing clocks of Time. Soon, the album will build to Great Gig in the Sky, as the tornado swells and Dorothy, Toto, and the farmhouse are swept away in a howling fury of dust and dream-fever madness. And if your pounding heart and prolonged awe have made it this far, the ultimate reward is soon to follow
The theatrical release of The Wizard of Oz in 1939 was the first time a movie audience saw a film with colour. When Dorothy opens the door to Oz, it would feel to her like such a contrast to her bleak life. With the ability to light the theatre in a rainbow of exotic landscape, the audience feels the same wonderment in Dorothy as they both experience something reverent for the very first time. Dorothy had hit the jackpot, and the sound to announce this is Money, a bouncy 6/8 jaunt that begins with the sound of a cash register popping open, the ample coin trays splashing and cheering as the cash-out tape prints its approval. Jackpot.
Soon, the scarecrow is dancing on the yellow-brick road as Waters sings ‘the lunatic is on the grass…got to keep the loonies on the path’ in Brain Damage. The scarecrow, after all, needed a brain. If that pencil doesn’t have too fine a point on it for you, the tin man will explain that he doesn’t have a heart, and Dorothy will put her ear to his chest to hear the vacant emptiness within, as the sound of a heartbeat fades out the first full rotation of the album.
So, what exactly have we just watched? I’ve described it as ‘coincidence after coincidence’ but that seems dismissive and perfunctory. It’s human nature to look for deeper meaning or intent when patterns appear, and intersecting words/themes continually play out. If you must scratch an itch for scientific explanation, just look up apophenia or confirmation bias and go from there. If I do that for you here, I’m just going to ruin a perfectly good card trick by telling you how the ace of spades was palmed all along. It’s all just coincidence, yeah (no shit), but I still want to enjoy Shin Lim at the Las Vegas show lounge, thank you very much.
There is an annoyance to revisiting what has been written about so many times, yet it seems like a disservice to not write about a topic that everyone should have the option to explore. Once viewed, The Wizard of Floyd begs many questions. Did the band do this on purpose? Recording Dark Side from May 1972 through January 1973, it is conceivable that Pink Floyd acquired a film reel of The Wizard of Oz and used it as a supplemental source to guide editing. Surely the band would have the resources for such a simple request! But then again – why? What a strange and useless undertaking that would be. The band members and production staff have repeatedly dismissed such claims, and the more skeptical critics suggest there must be dozens of examples that work together just as well. But if this were true, if there were really so many movies and albums ready to be paired together, the articles would be an argument (or at least a battle ground of discourse) measured on a fun-scale of Top 10 Movie/Album Mash-ups. And yet, nothing looms large in its legend quite like The Wizard of Floyd.
Other suggestions have followed over the years. Examples like Another Brick in the WALL-E, The Wall (1979) paired with Wall-E (2008); Meddle (1971) paired with 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) paired with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010); Hackers (1995) paired with OK Computer (1997); Memento (2000) paired with Nevermind (1991); or The Matrix (1999) paired with Metallica’s Black Album (1991). Some of these sound interesting, but have you ever heard of these mash-ups? Me either. And, really? Two more Pink Floyd examples? None of these have the persistent, insistent history of folklore that The Wizard of Floyd has. And, all of them materialized after wide-spread access to the internet – not prior to it. It seems at least some of these have to be a stretch of imagination.
It’s amazing that the legend of The Wizard of Floyd continues to this day, still a notable suggestion of how to spend your idle time in a digital sea of on-line videos that show monkeys throwing poop and kittehs falling off sofas. The links and descriptive examples are all here to get you going. So, what are you waiting for? There’s a lighter on the table by your car keys. Go on. Tell me I’m just imagining the amazing syncopation of a film and an album so rare it astonishes, like everything Dorothy experienced behind that magical door to Oz.