The dark side of "The Wizard of Oz'

Published June 13, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

(ran TP edition)

Call it Dark Side of the Rainbow. Classic rockers are buzzing about the amazingly weird connections that leap off the screen when you play Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz.

It sounds wacky, but there really is a bizarre synchronization there. The lyrics and music join in cosmic synch with the action, forming dozens upon dozens of startling coincidences _ the kind that make you say, "Oh wow, man" even if you haven't been near a bong in 20 years.

Consider these examples: Floyd sings "the lunatic is on the grass" just as the Scarecrow begins his floppy jig near a green lawn. The line "got to keep the loonies on the path" comes just before Dorothy and the Scarecrow start traipsing down the Yellow Brick Road.

When disc jockey George Taylor Morris at WZLX-FM in Boston first mentioned the phenomenon on the air a couple of months ago, he touched off a frenzy.

"The phones just blew off the wall. It started on a Friday, and that first weekend you couldn't get a copy of The Wizard of Oz anywhere in Boston," he said. "People were staying home to check it out."

It's fun, he said, because everyone knows the movie, and the album _ which spent a record 591 straight weeks on the Billboard charts _ can be found in practically every record collection.

Dave Herman at WNEW-FM in New York mentioned the buzz a few weeks ago. The response, more than 2,000 letters, was the biggest ever in the DJ's 25-year career.

"It has been just unbelievable," said WNEW program director Mark Chernoff. "I've never seen anything like this."

Rock fans have always loved to speculate about hidden messages in their favorite albums. But seeking connections between the beloved 1939 classic film and the legendary 1973 rock album pushes the envelope of the music conspiracy genre.

Nobody from the publicity-shy band would comment, but Morris asked keyboardist Richard Wright about it on the air last month. He looked flummoxed and said he'd never heard of any intentional connection between the movie and the album.

But fans aren't convinced it's just a cosmic coincidence.

"I'm a musician myself, and I know how hard it is just to write music, let alone music choreographed to action," said drummer Alex Harm of Lowell, Mass., who put up one of two Internet Web pages devoted to the synchronicities. "To make it match up so well, you'd have to plan it."

Morris is convinced that Roger Waters, who split from Pink Floyd nearly 20 years ago, planned the whole thing without letting his fellow band members in on the secret.

"It's too close. It's just too close. Look at the song titles. Look at the cover. There's something going on there," Morris said.

Here's how it works. You start the album at the exact moment when the MGM lion finishes its third and last roar. It might take a few times to get everything lined up just right.

Then, just sit back and watch.

During Breathe, Dorothy teeters along a fence to the lyric "balanced on the biggest wave."

The Wicked Witch, in human form, first appears on her bike at the same moment a burst of alarm bells sounds on the album.

During Time, Dorothy breaks into a trot to the line "no one told you when to run."

When Dorothy leaves the fortuneteller to go back to her farm, the album is playing "home, home again."

Glinda, the cloyingly saccharine Good Witch of the North, appears in her bubble just as the band sings, "Don't give me that do goody goody bull__."

A few minutes later, the Good Witch confronts the Wicked Witch as the band sings, "And who knows which is which" (or is that "witch is witch"?).

The song Brain Damage starts about the same time as the Scarecrow launches into "If I Only Had a Brain."

But it's not just the weird lyrical coincidences. Songs end when scenes switch, and even the Munchkins' dancing is perfectly choreographed to the song Us and Them.

The phenomenon is at its most startling during the tornado scene, when the vocal sounds in The Great Gig in the Sky swell and recede in perfect time with the movie.

When Dorothy opens the door into Oz, the movie switches to rich color, and at that moment the album starts in with the tinkling cash register sound effects from Money.

Anyone who has ever nursed a hangover watching MTV with the sound off and the radio on can tell you how quick the brain is to turn music into a soundtrack for pictures. But this is uncanny.

The real fanatics will point out that Side One of the vinyl album is the exact length of the black-and-white portion of the movie. And then there's that iconic album cover, with its prism and rainbow echoing the movie's famous black-and-white-into-color switch _ not to mention Judy Garland's classic first song.

The real clincher, though, the moment when even the most skeptical of cynics has to utter a small "whoa!" comes at the end of the album, which tails off with the insistent sound of a beating heart.

What's happening on screen? Yep, you guessed it: Dorothy's got her ear to the Tin Man's chest, listening for a heartbeat.

Maybe it's just a string of coincidences. Maybe the mind is just playing some really cool tricks. Maybe some people just have way too much time on their hands.

Or maybe, as Pink Floyd sings to close out the album, everything under the sun really is in tune.