Friday is the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, best known as the city of Houston's one shining historical moment as the first word spoken from the surface. Somewhere in London, the landing must have stirred something else in the four members of Pink Floyd -- soon to release Ummagumma -- because less than four years later, they released an album that would arguably eclipse even Apollo 11 in pop culture's lunar pantheon, Dark Side of the Moon.
Based around the idea of lunacy, specifically the sometimes-maddening aspects of everyday life, rather than the actual moon, Dark Side was released in March 1973, not long after the Apollo program ran its course. But the album has a definite otherworldly vibe that few have been able to match, before or since.
Consider that Houston Floyd fans have been lining up at the Houston Museum of Natural Science's Burke Baker Planetarium to watch a visual rendering of Dark Side since the early 1980s. That's when museum VP of astronomy Dr. Carolyn Sumner says the planetarium initiated its famous "laser Floyd" show that sparked so many (perhaps chemically altered) midnight memories.
Around 2000, laser Dark Side switched to a full-dome video projection created by Utah's Starlight Productions that takes six computers to coordinate, Dr. Sumner says. The actual lasers used in the original show turned out to be more bureaucratically troublesome than they were worth.
"It was a pain," Dr. Sumner says. "Lasers are regulated by the hospital board people... it was a much bigger pain than the movie."
Today Dr. Sumner says the HMNS can't afford to keep the museum open late enough to do midnight Floyd shows anymore, so Dark Side happens around closing time. She estimates it still draws a daily crowd of between 70 and 90 people.
And, Dr. Sumner adds, "if we have any late-night events, Pink Floyd is there."
Rocks Off tracked down a few more facts and figures about both Dark Side and the moon landing and asked Houston Press art director Monica Fuentes to work her magic. Breathe, breathe, in the air...
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Dark Side is usually the planetarium's last show of the day, around 5 p.m. See the HMNS Web site for showtimes.