Pink Floyd: Animals

by Justin H.


Pink Floyd is one of the most recognized bands in the world, whether you love them or hate them the name is instantly recognizable. Only bands such as The Beatles have a larger following. Some people don’t get into Pink Floyd the first time they hear them; they find their music weirder than anything they’re used to. Sadly enough these tend to be the same people who think you need to be on drugs to enjoy their music; which is a total lie. So if this is your first time listening to Pink Floyd sorry, this isn’t a good introductory album. The whole band even admits that it isn’t exactly their favorite album. But what it does have is a lot to do with government and politics. Floyd’s 1983 album "The Final Cut" is even more politic-oriented but since I don’t have that album I can’t write about it now can I?

Pink Floyd is most recognized for their biggest commercial successes, 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon and 1979’s The Wall. Though between these, two other albums were released. The first was 1975’s Wish You Were Here, a laid back album dedicated to former bandleader Syd Barrett (who's mental deterioration from by excessive LSD use in the 60’s was responsible for his inability to perform). But lost somewhere in their long list of landmark albums is 1977’s "Animals" which has been called "the forgotten album". Like many Floyd albums, Animals contains a theme that’s clear in concept and vast in execution. It was their response to England’s huge anti-progressive rock punk phenomenon lead by Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols. This was the first album where the power started shifted toward bassist and lyricist Roger Waters which would ultimately lead to Water’s departure in 1983. While making the album Waters even said, "the idea of power I find rather appealing in a strange way."

Waters was partly inspired by George Orwell’s political fable Animal Farm in which people are divided up into groups represented by animals. While Orwell was focusing on Communism, Roger was criticizing his own Capitalist government. In Floyd’s version the people are either Dogs, Pigs, or Sheep. The pigs are tyrannical, self-righteous hypocrites forcing their beliefs on the dogs and sheep; the dogs are greedy money-grubbing cutthroats; and the sheep are the mindless followers who are used and abused by the others. The album’s cover-art depicts a large pig floating over the popular London historical landmark the Battersea Power Station. The station, which is considered a decaying symbol of modern age, was on it’s 50th anniversary when the album was released. Instead of saving money by using trick photography they constructed a giant 40-foot inflatable pig and floated it over the huge power plant.

The album starts and finishes with Pigs on the Wing. Originally played as a 3-½ minute acoustic bit; it was later divided into two parts and placed at the beginning and end which seems to give the album a sense of balance. My interpretation of this song is this is the sheep explaining how they feel about the dogs and pigs and how they think they feel about them. The sheep naively believe that the Dogs and Pigs ready do care about them. "You know that I care what happens to you / And I know that you care for me too." The song Dogs is a seventeen minute fast-to-slow-to-fast-again ballad. It depicts the dogs as ruthless materialistic superachievers trying to climb to the top and who are willing to do anything to get there. Since in the capitalistic government the state has no control over buying and trading, businessmen are willing to get very low down and dirty to destroy the competition. The lyrics, "You gotta be trusted by the people that you lie to / So that when they turn their backs on you / You get the chance to put the knife in" shows just how far they are willing to go. And that they can "work on points for style" by having a "firm handshake / A certain look in the eye / an easy smile." Only later in life they will become pitiful has-beens that find themselves alone and near death. Gilmour wishes them a "good drown as [they] go down alone" being dragged down by "the stone" which is a reoccurring metaphor throughout "Animals" as well as other Floyd albums.

The song Pigs (Three Different Ones) is meant toward certain politicians whom Roger considers political hypocrites. The song deffinately didn’t win any endearment from the British conservatives either; it even contains a verse that’s directed as a parody toward the British Moral Majority-like figure Mary Whitehouse. Mrs. Whitehouse was the self-appointed head of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, which "campaigns for broad national moral standards in radio and TV." She’s been known for openly denouncing the Floyd and promoting censorship since Floyd’s beginning in ’67. Roger adds a panting sound that basically supposed to imply of her own interest in the very filth she rebukes. The words, "ha, ha charade you are" is Roger laughing, "we can see right through you." The lyrics for the verse go as follows:

Mrs. Whitehouse and the Conservatives were not amused either by Roger’s parody of the Twenty-third Psalm in "Sheep." It was placed during the bridge via a Vocoder (voice distortion device). Floyd’s version is:

The climax of the album is when the sheep, as if waken from an eternal sleep, realize that the others have been deceiving them and in a massive revolt of rage they kill the others.

Ironically enough, the concept of the album was about the struggle for power in the government and at the same time Pink Floyd was having a struggle for power too. This was the first album that switched from slow psychedelic melodies and spaced-out jams to basically Roger endlessly complaining about the government and how everyone treats each other bad. He used his growing power in Pink Floyd to switch them from a matured psychedelic band to a group expressing it's pessimistic views of the capitalist government, which has nothing to do with "space rock". Many fans that didn't pay close attention to the point Pink Floyd was trying to make felt lost and didn't know what to do with Animals. So it was forgotten. Today Animals is still a popular album among fanatics and I know a few people who consider it the best work they ever done.

An interesting side note: While in Montreal on the Animals tour, a fan kept screaming and letting off fireworks during the acoustic "Pigs On The Wing Part II." The fan, obviously distracting the band, was making Roger increasingly irritable. When the fan started climbing up the fishnet that separates the band from the crowd Roger spat in his face. Later that night at the hotel he felt bad for what he done. He realized in order to perform he had to isolate himself from the crowd. What he envisioned himself behind was a wall. The rest is history.

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