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Alan Parsons on 'Dark Side': 'Roger Knew Something Great Was in the Making'

Legendary producer says he was shut out of reissue project

September 28, 2011 8:00 AM ET
alan parsons engineer music pink floyd
Alan Parsons participates in "An Evening With Alan Parsons" at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

The principal creators of Pink Floyd's masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon all spoke with Rolling Stone senior writer Brian Hiatt for our latest issue, on stands and in the digital archive on September 30th. In this conversation with Alan Parsons, the audio engineer reveals his disappointment that his contributions to the album have been undervalued by the band.

Have they sent you a copy of the new Dark Side of the Moon reissue?
They’ve seen it fit not to give me one yet. That’s very typical of the situation over the last 40 years or so. On many occasions I’ve asked to be recognized for my contributions to The Dark Side of the Moon, but both the band and the label have declined to give any sort of gesture towards me.

Dark Side was the first album you were the recording engineer on, but you had mixed for them before.
I mixed Atom Heart Mother, yeah. I worked on the whole album of Atom Heart Mother, but I was assistant, assistant to the recording, and I did little bits.

Were they difficult to work with?
It’s assumed that because of the rift over the last decade or more that they would be hard to work with, but they’re not hard at all. I think in the initial stages of working as recording engineer for Dark Side, in the first week or so I was being auditioned, as it were, they were working me hard and expressing a certain dissatisfaction. But once we had gotten over that first hurdle, they were a joy to work with, really.

As they began work, did they brief you on what the concept was, what the goals were. Was there a kind of manifesto?
Not really, no. I mean, I’m sure you’re familiar with the card, the questions on the card. I really didn’t give a lot of thought to what the album was actually about. I mean, it was obvious from the songs that it was all about violence, and was all about money. You knew it was sort of about life in general. But I don’t think I knew at the time that it was specifically about a rock and roll band until those cards came up, where one of the questions was "Why do rock and roll bands split up?"

Did you get a sense of just how ambitious they were with this record?
I think Roger knew that it was something great in the making. But I don’t think anybody else really had any idea. I think that perhaps the other three thought, well, this is the best Pink Floyd album yet, but who was to know that it was going to spend 700 weeks on the Billboard, or whatever it was?

What were you trying to do with the sound of the record?
Oh, I was just glad to be engineering for arguably the most challenging band on Earth to engineer for. There’s no question they placed a great demand on the recording studio, and as a consequence the engineers had to help. So it was a challenge. There was a lot of, uh, technical — I hesitate to use the word wizardry – but we had to often combine the full facilities of one studio with some of the facilities of another studio to achieve what we wanted to.

I wish there were more studio outtakes in the box set. I guess they don't exist.
Yeah, we were sadly sort of... hygienic is the word.  You try to keep the tracks clean and try to avoid having to  pull down faders  every time if there is a noise or a talking voice or something. Whereas Paul McCartney was notorious for never allowing engineers to wipe anything so it always made the mix take twice as long, so you'd have to take out every “Hold it, okay, try that again."

Related
Surviving Members of Pink Floyd Revisit 'Dark Side,' Band Tensions
Roger Waters Bringing the Wall Tour to American Baseball Stadiums
Nick Mason: I Can't Let Go of Pink Floyd
Storm Thorgerson: How I Designed the Cover of 'Dark Side of the Moon'
Erykah Badu, Billy Corgan and More on Legacy of 'Dark Side of the Moon'
• Video: 30 Years of Pink Floyd in 17 Minutes

Behind the Scenes of Pink Floyd's 2011 Reunion
Inside Pink Floyd: Rolling Stone's 1987 Cover Story
The Madcap Who Named Pink Floyd: Rolling Stone's 1971 Interview with Syd Barrett
The Dark Side of Pink Floyd: The Illustrated History of the Band's Last Days and Bittersweet Reunions
Rolling Stone Readers Pick Their 10 Favorite Pink Floyd Songs
Photos: Roger Waters Rehearses For the Wall Tour
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Pink Floyd, 'The Dark Side of the Moon'

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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