BOOTLEG FILES 165: “The Wizard of Oz”/”Dark Side of the Moon” (the mix of the 1939 movie classic and the 1973 Pink Floyd album).
LAST SEEN: Playing on YouTube.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR DISAPPEARANCE: It’s not really the way the film was meant to be seen.
CHANCES OF SEEING A DVD RELEASE: Can’t imagine it.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a clip of George Clooney on “The Tonight Show.” When Jay Leno asked Clooney how he spent New Year’s Eve, Clooney responded that he was home watching “The Wizard of Oz” while running Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album as the soundtrack to the film classic.
And then I said to myself: am I the only person who never saw “The Wizard of Oz” played opposite “Dark Side of the Moon”? I’ve heard about it, but just what is this thing all about?
In doing research, I discovered something fascinating. It would appear the insistence of synchronicity between these very different iconic productions was the first time the Internet was used to reshape popular culture. The buzz insisting on the linkage between Dorothy & Co. with Roger Waters & Co. goes back to either 1993 or 1994 on the alt.music.pink-floyd Usenet group (remember Usenet?). The mainstream media (or MSM, in Net talk) first picked up on this in a very unlikely place: the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette, in an article by Charles Savage in Charles Savage published on August 1, 1995. Savage tried to get comment from Pink Floyd via the band’s publicist, but nothing came of it. Savage then tried to follow the Yellow Brick Road itself to explain the phenomenon.
As Savage wrote: “A slightly less inside source, Fred Meyer, the secretary of the International Wizard of Oz Club, said this: ‘What? I don’t know anything about that.’ He added that he had never even heard of Pink Floyd.”
By 1997, more MSM articles on the Dorothy-Pink Floyd connection began to pop up. MTV got in on the act, playing a couple of clips that supposedly showed the synchronicity. It even seeped into academia.
“I did this with my high school classes back in 1998 and had them write about their observations,” recalls teacher and film journalist John A. Nesbit. “The students REALLY enjoyed doing this – most rated it the coolest, most memorable thing they did all year. I do remember the sounds associated with the Wicked Witch (both Kansas and Oz characters) were the ones that the kids found most ironic.”
As the rumor of the unlikely synchronicity spread, sales of “Dark Side of the Moon” began to shoot up. In an interview on this unlikely happening, Bruce Kirkland, the chief of EMI-Capitol, was happily surprised by the turn of events that took place beyond his control. “It’s happening at an organic, grass-roots level,” he said. “But we’re into fueling it. Why not? It’s not harmful, it’s not exploitative, and nobody died. It’s just fun. Yeah, let’s get into it.”
In the years since, there has been a great debate on whether a linkage between the imagery of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Dark Side of the Moon” exists. One camp fervently insists this is the case, with heavily detailed linkage pages pointed to exact moments where Pink Floyd’s music and lyrics perfectly match the film’s sequences. Then there’s the second camp, which insists the first camp is a bunch of ninnies who’ve spent too much time at the bong.
Having no investment in either camp’s logic, I opted to give it a try and see if the Yellow Brick Roadsters share common ground (or common sound) with those wacky Brit rockers. I took advantage of a pre-recorded bootleg, since you need to carefully line up the CD with the film for the effect to be just right – it is supposedly right after the third roar of the MGM lion in the opening titles.
(At this point, I need to remind people this can only work with the CD. The original “Dark Side of the Moon” was, of course, an LP album that required a pause as the listener turned over one side for the other. The insistence that Pink Floyd intentionally tied their music to the 1939 movie is obviously moot, since there was no was in 1973 for the group to present “Dark Side of the Moon” as an unbroken stream of music – there were only LP records, no CDs.)
The most bizarre thing about watching this “Wizard of Oz” – “Dark Side of the Moon” marriage is the strength of the MGM film. Without its soundtrack, it loses none of its power. In fact, I found myself mouthing along the missing dialogue.
But when the Pink Floyd music comes on, there is the beginning of some amusing coincidences. There are more than a few web sites that list every single coincidence (right down the wagging of Toto’s tail in time with the music). For the sake of brevity, I’ll just cite the ones that struck me as amazing.
The opening Kansas scenes with Dorothy, Aunt Em and the farmhands have a peculiar way of matching up with “Breathe” and “On the Run” (the songs switch just at the moment where Dorothy falls off the fence into the pig sty). Aunt Em’s appearance at the sty and her angry dialogue also meshes with the abstract woman’s voice in “On the Run.”
But as John A. Nesbit points out, things get very weird when Miss Gulch arrives. The chimes of “Time” coincide as she comes riding on her bicycle and cease when she dismounts. And the lyrics: “I’ve got a bike. You can ride it if you like. It’s got a basket …” Uh oh!
Things really get funny in the twister sequence. That’s tied to “Great Gig in the Sky” and even the most rabid nonbeliever will have problems questioning the effectiveness of Clare Tonny’s caterwauling against the sight of the Kansas farmland being devastated in the tornado. The number ends as the film switches from black-and-white to color, and the opening of Dorothy’s door onto Munchkinland is perfectly timed to the cash register ca-ching of “Money.”
In Munchkinland, Glinda arrives to the lyrical curse of “”Don’t give me that do-goody-good bullshit.” The next song, “Us and Them,” brings on the Wicked Witch. The lines “Black, black, black…” are particularly startling, as the Witch’s frightening black robes are seen on “black” while the film cuts to Dorothy to show she is wearing “Blue, blue, blue…” That gets followed by the Wicked Witch-Glinda smackdown, which is meshed to the lyric “And who knows which is which?” (Get it – which, witch?).
“Any Colour You Like” lines up with Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road. The last songs, “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” are timed to meet with the introduction of two of Dorothy’s friends. The Scarecrow goes through his dance as the line “The lunatic is on the grass” is sung, while Dorothy feels the Tin Woodsman’s empty chest with the sound of a heartbeat on the album.
At this point, “Dark Side of the Moon” ends and needs to be repeated twice to complete the film’s running time. Beyond this point, the synchronicity is not as coincidental, although there are certain striking parallels (“Money” comes on as the characters enter the Emerald City and “Great Gig in the Sky” is the strangely appropriate musical track that closes the film’s last scene).
So what’s my verdict? The facts are against the conspiratorial insistence of intentional parallels. The Pink Floyd have categorically and vehemently denied they ever sought to connect their music with this movie, and there is no evidence that they had the inspiration (let alone the technical capacity in pre-VCR 1973) to achieve this result.
However, the coincidental ties are impossible to ignore. And strangely enough, the music blends nicely with the film’s visual ebb and flow. Let’s face it – stoned or sober, it is fun to see “The Wizard of Oz” in this very different and very funky manner. A fellow fun-minded critic/pal agrees with me on this.
“It works, it’s reeeeeally trippy!” says a fan of this presentation, Kevin LaForest of the Montreal Film Journal. And what did Kevin like the most about this? “I was kind of in a second state, though, so I can’t really give you specific details. But I remember having a blast!
For a while, this unlikely blend was a popular attraction for midnight movie shows and off-beat retro screenings. Even Turner Classic Movies was hooked, presenting “Dark Side of the Moon” on an second audio channel when it broadcast “The Wizard of Oz” in its first-ever commercial-free TV broadcast on July 3, 2000. (To date, no one has tried this with “The Turkish Wizard of Oz” or any other Oz-related movie.)
However, taking this one step further into an official DVD linking the two productions has yet occur. Bootlegs of “The Wizard of Oz” with a “Dark Side of the Moon” soundtrack are in circulation, and the entire first part of the experience (up to the Tin Woodsman’s heartbeats) can be found on YouTube, albeit in a seven-part presentation.
But no matter how you approach it, by all means don’t follow my example and wait forever – check it out. Now…does anyone have a bong I can borrow?
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.
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