1975, Uncle Ted, and the Education of Pink Floyd

Uncle Ted and me, listening to Pink Floyd again, 1980-something
Me and Uncle Ted, 1980-something

It was 1975 and I was eight years old. That summer I spent in Ohio, much of the time with my favorite uncle, Ted. I learned to say “peace baby, man that turns me on,” and, of course, I also learned the two-fingered hand sign that goes with it.

As my ultimate idol, every single thing Uncle Ted did was cool. His bedroom, his car, his friends, and of course his music.

Uncle Ted had the coolest bedroom in the basement of Grandma’s house where we were staying for the summer.

The walls were covered in posters that reacted to his cool black light. Some had strange sayings that were beyond my understanding at the time. As almost any teenager did then, Uncle Ted also had a cool “HI-FI system”.  No, not Wi-Fi − HI-FI, short for high-fidelity, as in stereo. I understood it to mean that it was way cooler than not having a HI-FI.

While Smoke on the Water (by Deep Purple) was often heard, it was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon that I remembered the most from that summer.  “Time” and “Money” were aired on the local Ohio stations frequently and Uncle Ted would always turn the HI-FI up as loud as he could.  The clock and alarm in the beginning of “Time” was deafening – and I loved it. The swear word in “Money” was exhilarating when I was eight and it was 1975. I felt Uncle Ted and I were doing something together that Grandma probably would not approve of.

Flash forward to the fall. Dad, Mom, my sister and I drove cross-country in our very 70’s van from Ohio to Denver, Colorado. As we were settling into our apartment, I learned that my parents also had a HI-FI. Theirs was even better with a record player and an 8-track too. Mom and Dad agreed to let me use their Fisher stereo to play some of their 8-track tapes as long as I was careful and used the headphones that they also had. They probably wanted to speak privately, but that was okay with me.

Lo and behold I found The Dark Side of the Moon in the box of tapes. I put the gigantic headphones on over my ears, popped in the 8-track, settled back on a pillow and… wondered what I did wrong. Until I heard the faint sound of a heartbeat and then perhaps the ticking of a clock and then talking and machines and psychotic laughter… and is that a helicopter? Aaahhhhhhhh, Aaahhhhhhhh,  Aaahhhhhhhh.

Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care. Leave but don’t leave me. Look around. Choose your own ground…

If this was HI-FI – I was in love. The headphones allowed me to go into them, to lose myself. At last, a way to shut – out – every – thing – else. These huge pieces of plastic on my head allowed me to hear separate parts of the music, to identify individual instruments and the incredible samples of sound contained within its world.

It would be extremely difficult to pick a single track out of the album and hold it up as the best. Each song has merits on their own, but listening to the whole LP in order from beginning to end is the only way to truly appreciate it.

Find Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, plug in your headphones and pump up the volume. Be careful though when you do. It is easy to be lost “On The Run” and have “Time” sneak up and scare the heck out of you.

 

Brian Gibbins is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, thinker, and maker of things. He writes about technical things at tech.briangibbins.com and about his childhood in the Colorado Rockies at elevation9640.com.