Pink Floyd: Animals – [Record 76]
Animals is the tenth studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd, released in January 1977. A concept album, it provides a scathing critique of the social-political conditions of late 1970s Britain, and presents a marked change in musical style from their earlier work. Animals was recorded at the band’s studio, Britannia Row, in London, but its production was punctuated by the early signs of discord that several years later would culminate in keyboardist Richard Wright leaving the band. The album’s cover image, a pig floating between two chimneys on Battersea Power Station, was conceived by bassist and writer Roger Waters, and photographed by long-time collaborators Hipgnosis.
The album was released to generally positive reviews in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 2. It was also a success in the United States, reaching number 3 on the Billboard 200, and although it scored on the American charts for only six months, steady sales have resulted in its certification by the RIAA at four times platinum. The size of the venues on the band’s In the Flesh tour, and an incident in which Waters spat at a fan, prompted him to conceive the band’s subsequent album, The Wall.
1, Pigs on the Wing 1.
3, Pigs (Three Different Ones).
5, Pigs on the Wing 2.
Background: In 1975 Pink Floyd bought a three-story block of church halls at 35 Britannia Row in Islington. Their deal with record company EMI, for unlimited studio time in return for a reduced percentage of sales, had expired, and they converted the building into a recording studio and storage facility. Its construction took up most of 1975, and in April 1976 the band started work on their tenth studio album, Animals, at the new facility.
Concept: Animals was the child of another Waters concept; loosely based on George Orwell’s political fable Animal Farm, its lyrics described various classes in society as different kinds of animals; the combative dogs, despotic ruthless pigs, and the “mindless and unquestioning herd” of sheep. Whereas the novella focuses on Stalinism, the album is a critique of capitalism and differs again in that the sheep eventually rise up to overpower the dogs. The album was developed from a collection of unrelated songs into a concept which, in the words of author Glenn Povey, “described the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of mere animals.”
Apart from its critique of society, the album was also in part a response to the punk rock movement, which grew in popularity as a nihilistic statement against the prevailing social and political conditions, and also a reaction to the general complacency and nostalgia that appeared to surround rock music. Pink Floyd was an obvious target for punk musicians, notably Johnny Rotten, who wore a Pink Floyd t-shirt on which the words “I hate” had been written in ink. Drummer Nick Mason later stated that he welcomed the “Punk Rock insurrection” and viewed it as a welcome return to the underground scene from which Pink Floyd had grown. In 1977 he produced The Damned’s second album, Music for Pleasure, at Britannia Row.
In his 2008 book Comfortably Numb, author Mark Blake argues that “Dogs” contains some of David Gilmour’s finest work; although the guitarist sings only one lead vocal, his performance is “explosive”. The song also contains notable contributions from keyboardist Richard Wright, which echo the funereal synthesiser sounds used on the band’s previous album, Wish You Were Here. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is audibly similar to “Have a Cigar”, with bluesy guitar fills and elaborate bass lines. Of the song’s three pigs, the only one directly identified is morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse, who amongst other things is described as a “house-proud town mouse”. “Sheep” contains a modified version of Psalm 23, which continues the traditional “The Lord is my shepherd” with words like “he maketh me to hang on hooks in high places and converteth me to lamb cutlets” (referring to the sheep of the title). Toward the end of the song, the eponymous sheep rise up and kill the dogs, but later retire back to their homes. The album is book-ended by each half of “Pigs on the Wing”, a simple love song in which a glimmer of hope is offered despite the anger expressed in the album’s three other songs. Described by author Andy Mabbett as “[sitting] in stark contrast to the heavyweight material between them”, the two halves of the song were heavily influenced by Waters’ relationship with his then-girlfriend.
Recording: Animals was engineered by a previous Floyd collaborator, Brian Humphries, and recording took place at Britannia Row from April to December 1976, continuing into early 1977. “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy”, two songs previously performed live and considered for Wish You Were Here, reappeared as “Sheep” and “Dogs” respectively. They were reworked to fit the new concept, and separated by a Waters-penned composition, “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”. With the exception of “Dogs” (co-written by Gilmour) the album’s five tracks were written by Waters. “Pigs on the Wing” was split into two, and since royalties were accorded on a per-song basis, Waters received more than Gilmour, despite “Dogs” occupying almost the entire first side of the album. The song contains references to Waters’ private life; his new romantic interest was Carolyne Anne Christie (married to Rock Scully, manager of the Grateful Dead). Gilmour was distracted by the birth of his first child, and contributed little else toward the album. Similarly, neither Mason nor Wright contributed as much toward Animals as they had on previous albums, and Animals was the band’s first album not to give Wright a writing credit.
The band had discussed employing another guitarist for future tours, and Snowy White was therefore invited into the studio. When Waters and Mason inadvertently erased one of Gilmour’s completed guitar solos, White was asked to record a solo on “Pigs on the Wing”. Although his performance was omitted from the vinyl release, it was included on the eight-track cartridge version. White later performed on the Animals tour. Mason recalled that he enjoyed working on Animals more than he had working on Wish You Were Here.
Packaging: Once the album was complete, work began on its cover. Hipgnosis, designer of the band’s previous album covers, offered three ideas, one of which was a small child entering his parents’ bedroom to find them having sex: “copulating, like animals!” The final concept was, unusually, designed by Waters. At the time he lived near Clapham Common, and regularly drove past Battersea Power Station, which was by then approaching the end of its useful life. A view of the building was chosen for the cover image, and the band commissioned German company Ballon Fabrik (who had previously constructed Zeppelin airships) and Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw to build a 30 feet (9.1 m) porcine balloon (known as Algie). The balloon was inflated with helium and manoeuvred into position on 2 December, with a marksman ready to fire if it escaped. Unfortunately inclement weather delayed work, and the band’s manager Steve O’Rourke neglected to book the marksman for a second day; the balloon broke free of its moorings and disappeared from view. It eventually landed in Kent and was recovered by a local farmer, who was apparently furious that it had “scared his cows”. The balloon was recovered and filming continued for a third day, but as the early photographs of the power station were considered better, the image of the pig was later superimposed onto one of those.
During the “Isles of Wonder” short film shot by Danny Boyle and shown as part of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the camera zooms down the length of the River Thames, from a small spring in the countryside all the way to the Olympic venue. During the fly-by, a pig can be seen floating above Battersea Power Station.
The album’s theme continues onto the record’s picture labels. Side one’s label shows a fisheye lens view of a dog and the English countryside, and side two features a pig and sheep, in the same setting. Drummer Nick Mason’s handwriting is used as a typeface throughout the packaging. The gatefold features monochrome photographs of the dereliction around the power station.
Release: Animals was released in the UK on 23 January 1977, and in the US on 12 February. It reached number two in the UK charts, and number three in the US charts. The album’s release followed Capital Radio’s broadcast two days earlier of The Pink Floyd Story, and an evening press conference held at the power station two days before that. The broadcast was originally to have been an exclusive for the London-based station—who since mid-December had been broadcasting The Pink Floyd Story—but a copy was given to John Peel, who played side one of the album in its entirety a day earlier. NME called the album “… one of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music to have been made available this side of the sun …”, and Melody Maker’s Karl Dallas wrote “… [an] uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific …” Rolling Stone’s Frank Rose was despondent, writing “The 1977 Floyd has turned bitter and morose. They complain about the duplicity of human behavior (and then title their songs after animals—get it?). They sound like they’ve just discovered this—their message has become pointless and tedious.”
In his 2004 autobiography Inside Out, Nick Mason suggests that the album’s perceived harshness, when compared to previous Floyd releases, may be a result of a “workman-like mood in the studio”, and a subconscious reaction to the accusations from the afore-mentioned punk genre that bands like Pink Floyd represented “dinosaur rock”. Animals was certified by the RIAA as 4X Platinum on 31 January 1995.
Reissues: Originally released on Harvest Records in the UK and Columbia Records in the US, Animals was re-released on Compact Disc (CD) in 1985, and in the US in 1987. It was reissued as a digitally remastered CD with new artwork in 1994, and as a digitally remastered limited edition vinyl album in 1997. An anniversary edition was released in the US in the same year, followed in 2000 by a reissue from Capitol Records. The album was also included in the Shine On box set.
Tour: The album became the subject material for the band’s In the Flesh tour, which began in Dortmund on the same day the album was released. The tour continued through Europe in February, the UK in March, the US for three weeks in April and May, and another three weeks in the US in June and July. Algie became the inspiration for a number of pig themes used throughout. An inflatable pig was floated over the audience, and during each performance was replaced with a cheaper, but explosive version. On one occasion the mild propane gas was replaced with an oxygen-acetylene mixture, producing a massive (and dangerous) explosion. German promoter Marcel Avram presented the band with a piglet in Munich, only for it to leave a trail of broken mirrors and excrement across its mirrored hotel room, leaving manager O’Rourke to deal with the resulting fallout.
The band were joined by familiar figures such as Dick Parry and Snowy White, but relations within the band became fraught. Waters took to arriving at the venues alone, departing as soon as each performance was over. On one occasion, Wright flew back to England, threatening to leave the band. The size of the venues was also an issue; in Chicago, the promoters claimed to have sold out the 67,000 capacity of the Soldier Field stadium, but Waters and O’Rourke were suspicious. They hired a helicopter, photographer and attorney, and discovered that the actual attendance was 95,000; a shortfall to the band of $640,000. The end of the tour was a low point for Gilmour, who felt that they had by now achieved the success they originally sought, and that there was nothing else they could look forward to. In July 1977—on the final date at the Montreal Olympic Stadium—a small group of noisy and excited fans in the front row of the audience irritated Waters to such an extent that he spat at one of them. He was not the only person who felt depressed about playing to such large audiences, as Gilmour refused to perform the band’s usual twelve-bar blues encore. Waters later spoke with producer Bob Ezrin and told him of his sense of alienation on the tour, and how he sometimes felt like building a wall to separate himself from the audience. The spitting incident would later form the basis of a new concept, which would eventually become one of the band’s most successful album releases, The Wall.