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Is ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Anywhere Near the Land of Oz?

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It began online and spread through radio to become one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries. Exactly what is the strange relationship between “The Wizard of Oz” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”? Urban legend has it that when the 1939 film is played alongside the 1973 rock album, so many uncanny coincidences abound that fans insist it must have been done intentionally, a notion that the British band has repeatedly denied.

On Monday, cable’s Turner Classic Movies will give viewers a chance to investigate for themselves when it airs the film and album in synchronization.

“It’s something that’s been out there for a long time--on classic-rock radio and literally dozens of Web sites,” says Tom Karsch, TCM’s executive vice president and general manager. “Pink Floyd fans think it’s part of a giant conspiracy. There are a lot of people out there who have way too much time on their hands. And thank God for them, because it gives some specialness to our airing.”

The stunt helps kick off a monthlong tribute to Judy Garland and the new home of “The Wizard of Oz,” which aired annually on CBS for 39 years. Last year, the film’s broadcast rights returned to the MGM library, now owned by Turner Entertainment, a division, like TCM, of Turner Broadcasting Systems.

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TCM will show the film at 8 p.m., sandwiched between “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic” at 7 p.m. and “Impressions of Garland” at 10.

But it’s the Pink Floyd connection that’s drawing the most attention. TCM will broadcast “Dark Side of the Moon” over its Second Audio Program (SAP) channel, normally used for descriptive video programming for the visually impaired and available to Direct TV customers and viewers in markets with participating cable operators. Viewers without SAP can simply put the CD on at home, starting it after the third roar of the MGM lion.

If you are trying this at home, you’ve got the timing right if the credit for producer Mervyn LeRoy appears in the transition between the Pink Floyd songs “Speak to Me” and “Breathe.” But just to make sure, TCM host Robert Osborne will give viewers instructions on how to line up their CDs with the movie and point out some of the more interesting connections.

Web sites have noted more than 80 coincidences between the synced album and film. For example, the lyrics “Smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry” are heard as the Cowardly Lion and Tin Man smile and the Scarecrow cries early in the film; a female voice is heard in the background on the album as Auntie Em is yapping; the song “On the Run” ends in a thunder sound that coincides with a camera shot of the sky; “Brain Damage” plays as the Scarecrow sings “If I Only had a Brain”; “Eclipse” ends with a heartbeat as Dorothy tries to hear a heartbeat in the Tin Man. TCM’s Web site, https://www.turnerclassicmovies.com, offers a detailed list and links to other sites devoted to the topic.

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“I thought this had died years ago, but it does resuscitate itself,” says George Taylor Morris. Morris was the midday disc jockey at WZLX-FM in Boston in 1997 when someone brought him a printout of a page from the Pink Floyd Web site listing the coincidences. Morris went home and tried it out for himself.

“The first four or five minutes were kind of interesting, but then, just before Dorothy goes into the house and the tornado comes, it becomes an amazing series of cosmic coincidences,” says Morris, now vice president of programming for DiscJockey.com. “What really got me going, though, was when the tornado spun the house around, an instrumental piece on the album matched perfectly in intensity as the storm built and died down. Things happen musically and lyrically in sync to the film where you have to say that Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s lead singer and lyricist, must have written it purposely for the movie.”

Still, his skeptical side prompted an overseas call to Alan Parsons, the group’s recording engineer. “He just laughed,” says Morris. “He said, ‘In the three months we were in the studio, I never heard the words ‘Wizard of Oz’ spoken at all. Not to mention that there were no VCRs in 1972, the movie wasn’t released in Britain, and Roger Waters didn’t have a movie studio in his house, so he couldn’t have watched the movie and written an album about this.”

Nevertheless, Morris mentioned it on the air and all hell broke loose. The New York Times, the “Today” show, “Good Morning America” and radio stations from around the world called Morris. Pink Floyd fans camped out on his front lawn, ringing his doorbell at all hours of the day and night with variations on the question: “Dude, is it true?”

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“Two weeks into this, you couldn’t buy a ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ CD or rent a ‘Wizard of Oz’ tape anywhere in Boston,” Morris says with a laugh.

Pink Floyd’s record label, Capitol Records, was only too happy to perpetuate the legend. “We started to gently nurture it without being exploitative,” says Tsunami Entertainment CEO Bruce Kirkland, who helmed the marketing division of EMI-Capitol Entertainment at the time. “The point wasn’t whether the band did it on purpose. The reality was, it was selling records. In some markets, sales tripled. We were very happy with what was going on.”

The TCM broadcast also coincides with a Roger Waters solo tour, although Waters and the rest of the band, which have since split up, remain mum on the Oz connection. At the time of the press frenzy, “I brought it up with the keyboardist Rick Wright, and he was totally clueless about the whole thing,” says Morris. “And Waters wants nothing to do with it. He thinks it’s a bunch of bull.”

Not so in the “Oz” camp. “I love this urban legend, and I think dad would have felt the same,” says New York publisher Jane Lahr, the daughter of Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion. “I can see the two being related, because they both explore our dream consciousness. But I’m definitely going to run out now and get that album!”

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* “The Wizard of Oz"-"Dark Side of the Moon” telecast can be seen Monday at 8 p.m. on TCM. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic” precedes the film at 7 p.m., with “Impressions of Garland” following at 10.


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