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This essay will outline the relationship between ‘Money’ and its subsequent effects on culture at the time. The relevant themes surrounding this topic will be economic systems, genre, technology and class. The song ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd was released in 1973 with the bands frontman Roger Waters being credited as the sole songwriter despite Floyd’s guitarist David Gilmour being the one performing vocals this time. The song was produced by all 4 members of Pink Floyd, aswell as an added Saxophone solo contributed by Dick Parry.
The song came about during the writing process of the album in which it belongs to (‘The Dark Side of the Moon’) in an attempt to address “the different pressures that apply in modern life’, according to Rogers. With wealth naturally being such a big part of everyone’s lives, particularly at the time, the foundation for ‘Money’ was established and Rogers started to write lyrics for the song.
The lyrics themselves contain certain elements of satire towards the selfish nature that money incites in people alongside flashes of deep rooted truth about the social structure of western society and capitalism as a whole. For example, in the first verse Waters writes “Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”. In this line Roger is embodying the spirit of someone who not only understands the game of capitalism but actually enjoys playing it. This is made particularly relevant by the fact that Pink Floyd started out as a band that believed in socialism and a welfare state yet Waters as an individual ultimately got caught up in the machine and became the very thing that he was fighting against. ““Money” interested me enormously. I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is it and I have to decide whether I’m really a socialist or not.’ I’m still keen on a general welfare society, but I became a capitalist. You have to accept it… I very much wanted all that material stuff.”
During the time period in which ‘Money’ was released (and shortly after) Britain was recovering from something known as the ‘Barber Boom’. Something that was initially set up to offer cheap credit to consumers was followed by “a banking crisis, raging inflation, and stratospheric wage deals.” There were other struggles for money at the time for the general public in the form of national strikes from the mining industry as a result of worker’s wages falling behind others in the manufacturing industry. Money was obviously a prevailing theme of day-to-day life in western society during 1973 which undoubtedly contributed to the success of ‘Money’ which charted at number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 selling over 1 million copies with over 40 million copies being sold worldwide. Waters social commentary clearly resonated with a large audience and as a result Pink Floyd were shot into the mainstream of rock culture. Specifically Floyd was known to be a prog-rock band however with the release of ‘Money’ it became clear that they had more to offer.
‘Money’ is written largely in an unusual time signature, 7/4, giving the track an unresolved and progressive feel. The chord progression is based on the standard 12 bar blues (I, IV, I, V) in the key of B minor with the vocal melodies and guitar solos being based off a typical pentatonic/blues scale. This keeps the song rooted in rock however Waters sampled various clips of coins clattering, paper ripping and a ringing cash register amongst other monetary sounds to follow the 7/4 beat of the song. This was then played on a loop to start the track in a striking manner. Sampling in general had been done before by bands such as The Beatles, “but never like this”.
This was still a new technology at the time and Roger Waters was certainly pushing the boundaries of what had come before, particularly those within the realm of prog-rock, through his use of sampling and universal, honest lyrics that would allow them to become more relevant within pop-culture as opposed to other bands in the genre that would employ perhaps a more experimental approach in the form of a more typical drums, guitar, bass, singer setup inevitably keeping those bands niche and kept within the confines of a smaller sub-culture. Waters was after all interested in reaching a larger market with his music to; ironically, garner the most wealth from it possible.
Although sampling as a technology was not entirely brand new, it’s still clear to see that Roger Waters was very much at the forefront of experimenting with it, and delivering previously unheard sounds to the listener. “They were using a new 16-track recorder, which allowed them to layer sounds much easier, but complex studio techniques like this still took a long time to do in 1973, as there weren’t digital recorders and samplers available like we have today.”
The song ‘Money’ was an opening statement for a culture that would soon question socio-economic systems, war, educational systems and ultimately money itself. Without this song as a stepping stone it’s hard to imagine their resulting works such as The Wall (1979), which contains many of these themes on a much broader scale, would look or sound the same as they do. The song touches on something incredibly relatable to many if not all people, the desire that money invites within us that ultimately Roger himself succumbed to.
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