On this day, August 15th, 1939, one of the most iconic films of all time was premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood – The Wizard of Oz. Adapted for the screen from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel of the same name, the fantasy-musical pioneered so many critical elements of modern cinema. The most iconic part of the film, apart from Judy Garland’s performance as Dorothy, is its use of Technicolour, marking in out from the day’s largely monochrome cinematic landscape.
Featuring the unforgettable Garland performance of the ballad ‘Over the Rainbow’, the Wizard of Oz is as important to musicals as it is to the overall development of the medium of film. An almost psychedelic affair, it comes as no surprise that many from different walks of life have been inspired by the colourful, fantastical land of Oz. In fact, one would wager that the on-screen land of Oz went some way in informing Tim Burton’s own imaginary universe that flourished some 50 years later.
The film is nothing short of a cultural crown jewel. The legendary TV show, the Muppets, referenced the film’s plot in 2005, and rock band Toto, the group behind ’80s classic ‘Africa’, took their name from Dorothy’s dog. Endless references to the film have been made throughout history—these range from the likes of the Coen brothers to South Park. The latter featured it in an episode concerned with the fall of Saddam Hussein. That said, arguably the most famous example in popular culture is Elton John’s 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
However, in the sphere of music, there exists the ultimate crossover, one that could only be described as a match made in Oz. Entitled: The Dark Side of the Rainbow, this prog-rock experience is one that exemplifies the inherent symbiosis between the audio and the visual. This ingenious pairing is Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of The Moon set to The Wizard of Oz. An entirely mystical being in their own right, there is little surprise that Pink Floyd’s 1973 magnum opus perfectly soundtracks the 1939 hit.
The cult fan theory claims that if you synchronise the start of Dark Side of the Moon with the iconic roar of the MGM lion at the film’s beginning, you will get a perfectly interwoven experience wherein the film and music perfectly complement each other. Just like the story of Blair Witch, the provenance of this trippy partnership is unknown. However, it is Charles Savage who is first credited with bringing the marriage to the public’s attention. In an op-ed for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette back in August 1995, Savage opened our eyes and ears to this sensory delight.
The pairing is covered in moments that work brilliantly together. The standout is protagonist Dorothy breaking into a run after the iconic line in ‘Time’ that reads, “No one told you where to run”. Another memorable part of the journey comes in ‘Breathe’ when frontman David Gilmour sings the refrain “home, home again”, just as the fortune-teller advises Dorothy to return home to rural Kansas. Of course, the journey doesn’t end there.
When ‘Brain Damage’ starts to spin, Dorothy meets her companion, the Scarecrow. When he sings ‘If Only I Had A Brain’ dancing along the Yellow Brick Road, vocalist Roger Waters sings the ultra-fitting “got to keep the loonies on the path”. This pairing makes the Scarecrow seem rather sinister in comparison to the loveable buffoon he was intended to be.
Another high point is when ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ begins to whirl just as the tornado whisks Dorothy away from Kansas into the magical realm of Oz. When she opens the door to the Technicolour delight of Munchkinland, the record’s second side starts with ‘Money’, easing the journey along.
It is unforgettable moments like these that have endeared the experience to Pink Floyd fans worldwide. You’d struggle to find a Floyd disciple who hasn’t at least dipped their toes into this odyssey. Alan Parsons, the iconic engineer behind the album, has repeatedly been asked if the pairing of the album with the film was an intentional act on behalf of the band. In one of his kinder takes on the coupling, he recalled: “There simply wasn’t mechanics to do it, we had no means of playing videotapes in the room at all. I don’t think VHS had come along by ’72, had it?”.
Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason, told MTV in 1997, “It’s absolute nonsense”. He explained. “It has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz. It was all based on The Sound of Music.” Building on this sentiment, David Gilmour was even more dismissive than his bandmate, describing it as “some guy with too much time on his hands”.
Regardless of the band’s thoughts, this hasn’t stopped Dark Side of the Rainbow from entering the mythical realm, existing in the same strata as the alleged satanic messages hidden across Led Zeppelin IV. However, it is an intriguing experience that we suggest you try, even if just for five minutes. Even while its provenance remains a mystery, what a shout it was. So strap in and prepare to be whisked away.
Watch the cult film, below.