When one is trying to decode the unimaginable genius of Pink Floyd, it’s a usual occurrence that unusual incidences pop up. One such strange connection to pop culture arise when deciphering the band’s most famous album ever, The Dark Side of the Moon. The LP is often considered the band’s best and wholly recognised as a vital piece of 20th-century rock history. Famously featuring an all-black background with a light prism on the front of the cover, the record was supposed to feature another imposing figure of the time: a Marvel superhero.
The album isn’t only a conceptual masterpiece but also sees the band provide some of their best singular songs too. As well as ‘Money’, ‘Time’ and ‘Breathe’, the album holds perhaps one of their most beloved tracks of all time in ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’. They are individually brilliant, but when the songs are sewn together, the tapestry created is that of legend. But the brilliance of the album isn’t restricted to the songs laid down on tape, but the entire essence of the LP.
There’s a lot of iconography attached to The Dark Side of the Moon and it would seem all of the band members also agree on its validity as their greatest album. “I think that when it was finished, everyone thought it was the best thing we’d ever done to date, and everyone was very pleased with it,” remembered Nick Mason.
Wright said of the album, “It felt like the whole band were working together. It was a creative time. We were all very open.” It is this openness and reflective sound that turned Pink Floyd from prog-rock pioneers into bonafide rock icons—untouchable. It is also what allowed the band to play into different ideas and styles when deciding on the artwork for the record, which, at the time, was as vital a component to the album’s ultimate success as the music contained within it’s gatefold.
Once again resting on the talent of the design studio Hipgnosis, the band approached Aubrey Powell with the idea of including the Marvel superhero Silver Surfer on the front of the LP. With most of the studio in agreement with the idea, having enjoyed the comics as children, Powell and the rest of the team went about trying to capture the mystery and magnetism behind the iconic character. Ideas floated around the office including using a Marvel comic book as an overlay or shooting a model dressed as the Silver surfer, however, things were soon shot down.
Accessing the licensing rights for the artwork was far more difficult than most had expected and Marvel quickly put the kibosh on proceedings. Hipgnosis determined that accessing the image of the Silver surfer was not achievable, despite many people later pointing to Joe Satriani using the character’s image some years later for his own album Surfing With the Alien.
In the end, everybody was happy with the final design of the album, with David Gilmour commenting: “It’s a brilliant cover. One can look at it after that first moment of brilliance and think, ‘Well, it’s a very commercial idea: It’s very stark and simple; it’ll look good great in shop windows.’” It quickly became one of the most iconic album covers of all time, even without the Silver Surfer.