The Australian Rock Collective Explore Their Dark Side

By Beth Heath

What would you do if you could travel back in time?

The million-dollar question. As music fans, which decade would you choose? Which artist would you see?

The Quarrymen in residence at the Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool, London, in 1959? The High Numbers (who had recently changed their name from one which they would ultimately revert to) at the Railway Hotel, Wealdstone, London, in 1964? Or perhaps see a house band play mostly R&B while introducing some psychedelia at the Marquee Club, London, in 1966? 

You would, of course, have been seeing the early iterations of The Beatles, The Who, and, lastly, in an audience of 50 people, Pink Floyd.

In somewhat of a snag to this scenario, time travel remains an impossible dream. Some may have been fortunate enough to see Pink Floyd when it included Australia in its relentless touring schedule in 1972, David Gilmour having replaced Syd Barret some years earlier.

With band members Richard Wright, Nick Mason, and David Gilmour parting ways with Roger Waters in the 1980s, and the untimely loss of Barrett in 2006 and Wright in 2008, it is left to current-day musicians to authentically re-create their music in a live setting.  

The Australian Rock Collective (ARC) does this with incontrovertible ease. Comprising Darren Middleton (Powderfinger), Davey Lane (You Am I), KRAM (Spiderbait), and Mark Wilson (Jet), it has proven its winning methodology, playing to sold out audiences around the country and extending its reputation for having a “not to be missed” live show. 

It pays tribute to music that its members obviously love, and connect with, through carefully curated performances. Its upcoming 50th anniversary presentation of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon follows successful sold-out tours in 2019 (Abbey Road Live) and 2022 (Harvest Live and Let it Be Live). 

Darren Middleton (ARC/Powderfinger) shared his insights with BMA ahead of ARC’s 12-show metropolitan and regional tour in June–July 2023.

“We are all Floyd fans for different reasons, I imagine,” he says. “For me, David Gilmore was one of those guitarists that you looked up to. His style, phrasings, and use of effects are very interesting. He was very tasteful in his approach.”

“As a whole, Dark Side is a beautiful concept album; rich in textures, tones, and ideas…. I love it.”

The Dark Side of the Moon (DSOTM) was released in a golden age for music, with other classics like Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy, Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, and The Who’s Quadrophenia. Released in March 1973, the album was career defining for Pink Floyd, charting within the top three positions in most of the traditional music markets. In Australia, its release was alongside other pre-eminent popular culture events of the period, such as the Sunbury Music Festival

Originally conceived by Waters, and presented to the band as a conceptual collection of songs about the pressures of life as a musician, the album would eventually include songs that dealt philosophically with topics that remain as relevant today as they were in 1973. The songs on a concept album, as the name suggests, have enhanced coherence when considered in entirety rather than individually. The album speaks of themes such as wealth, war, mental illness, existence, and death.

ARC appears to have an awareness of the importance of such themes and indeed champions social consciousness issues. The war against Ukraine saw a united condemnation of Russian aggression throughout NATO and allies. ARC raised public awareness by dedicating a song to the people of Ukraine during its Harvest Live tour. Floyd’s Gilmour and Mason re-formed in the same year to release the song Hey, Hey, Rise Up! in protest of the war.

The Dark Side Transcends Generations

There are a lot of similarities between the period DSOTM was released into and the times in which we now find ourselves. The early 1970s became a period of disillusionment in many countries as Flower Power died and American and allied involvement in the Vietnam War wore down in ugly fashion.

On DSOTM, greed is called out in the song Money, which ironically helped Pink Floyd pocket millions while simultaneously laying the groundwork for its later breakup over finances. I asked Darren whether he saw the song as a reflection of the times it was written in or whether the message was closer to home for Pink Floyd.

“I think that the band wrote a song, with a subject they wanted to talk about,” Darren muses. “Not with the vision of it making a lot of money, or with the future including David and Roger fighting about it. It would have been a reflection on a part of society at the time. 

“This is often the case with ideas,” Darren continues. “Sometimes you become that which you initially loathed.”

Influencing my own generation’s connection to Pink Floyd’s music was the song The Wall, a song that I hope will form part of ARC’s performance on this tour. Being an avid Powderfinger fan, I couldn’t help but draw similarities between its prophetic nature and that of the Powderfinger song The Day You Come. I asked Darren whether it was evident during the writing process that such a song portends societal issues to come.

“I would say, at the time, you write a song with a message,” Darren states. “You never know what is going to happen with the song, or the future. Time can often give a song relevance or even more meaning… seem more poignant than at the time of its conception. 

“That’s one of the beauties of a song and its ability to transcend generations and, at times, social issues.”

Forever Timeless.

One of Canberra’s must-see cultural icons during the 1980s through to 27 September 2010 was the Planetarium and Observatory located in North Canberra. This featured a movie theatre on a domed ceiling depicting space travel, narrated and set to music. 

I can’t quite recall the soundtrack, but I imagine the songs Time and Eclipse would be featured, as I assume they would have been played in planetariums all around the world. I see these as the perfect accompaniment to celestial footage showcasing the beauty of our galaxy. 

Signifying that it is maintaining intergenerational relevance, DSOTM is estimated to be one of only four albums to have sold over 45 million copies world wide. I asked whether Darren thought that DSOTM would remain forever timeless.

“I do,” he states, simply. “Albums like this capture a moment in a generation’s life that requires it to be passed onto future generations. My kids know this album because I play it to them… and they love it as though they were around when it was released. 

“Same for The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and a bunch of others. Society through music, captured in a studio and passed on.”

Catch ARC Presents: The Dark Side Of The Moon at Llewellyn Hall on the 25 June at 8pm. Tix are $96.75 – $101.85 + bf via Ticketek.

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One thought on “The Australian Rock Collective Explore Their Dark Side”

  1. I was at QPAC Brisbane last night to see Dark Side of the Moon totally disappointed with the show couldn’t understand one word of the lyrics and I have seen this live many times. Lighting was dreadful the group are not a patch on Beyond the Darkside cover group of Pink Floyd. And no mention of the name of the girl who sang Great Gijg in the Sky. Who was she please? I understand the music is loud but it was many decibels over the top. We wasted our money . I am a huge Pink Floyd fan at 76 years of age. They need to give it away.

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