Somewhere over the Upper West Side, scholar Michael Patrick Hearn has spent the past 30 years compiling The Annotated Wizard of Oz, a densely packed, 400-page edition of the classic L. Frank Baum children's book. Published this month to coincide with the original Wizard's centennial, Hearn's magnum opus cites everyone from Carl Jung to Gore Vidal -- and though it's a little light on Freud (an orphan girl trying to please an older wizard?), there's only one really glaring omission. Hearn doesn't once mention the urban legend that Pink Floyd's 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon is a carefully wrought commentary on and soundtrack to the 1939 movie-musical version of the book. (Okay, so it's not "Paul is dead," but if you went to college in the seventies, it's right up there.)
Now, Hearn considers himself a serious Oz savant. And he went to college in the seventies. So when he's called on the carpet for the oversight, he immediately agrees to a little additional fieldwork. On a recent afternoon, we meet at Cinema Classics, the East Village closet that shows the Floyd-Wizard combo, to try to put the mystery to rest. Things start to get weird early when Floyd's David Gilmour murmurs "Look around" on the soundtrack -- just as Dorothy looks around. I glance at Hearn. He's giggling. It's fair to say that Dark Side, the ultimate head-trip/sound-effect/concept album, could probably mind-meld its way into any vaguely trippy movie, but still . . . Alarm bells sound as Miss Gulch appears; the Scarecrow dances to "The lunatic is on the grass"; a heartbeat thumps as the Tin Man sings "If I Only Had a Heart." And when those first clinks and clanks of "Money" arrive just as Dorothy emerges from a gray Kansas farmhouse into Technicolor Oz -- money, Yellow Brick Road, get it? -- we both have goose bumps. Hearn turns to me, shaken, and demands, "Do you know who first thought of this?"
Only when the lights go up does a healthy scholarly skepticism reassert itself. Asked if there's any chance that the Floyd album will make Hearn's next edition, he answers carefully, "I don't know; it's more of a movie question than a Frank Baum question -- a very curious coincidence."