"Get out of the road if you want to grow old ..."
"Animals" was the first album that Pink Floyd recorded in its own studio: Britannia Row Studios in London. That the facilities were under-equipped compared to previous studios the group had worked with, might account for the 10 months the album took to make during 1976.
While the album runs five tracks long, there were only really two new songs here. In concert, the group had been performing "Raving and Drooling," which would become "Sheep," and "You've Gotta Be Crazy," later retitled "Dogs," as early as 1974. Roger Waters wrote "Pigs (Three Different Ones)," to make an animal trilogy, and also came up with "Pigs on the Wing," a simple, short, acoustic number that begins the album, and an alternate version that closes it.
The eight-track tape version of "Animals" sported additional material not available on any other medium. In 1976, session guitarist Snowy White was put in touch with the band via Kate Bush's manager. The word was that Pink Floyd was looking for an axe man to augment its touring line-up, and had been trying to get ahold of White. Eventually White visited the band in the studio as it was recording "Animals." Waters suggested they might as well put him to work right then and there. The result was "Pigs on the Wing." However, in the end, the song would be split into two parts: Part one began the album, and the second half ended it. Only those lucky (?) enough to purchase the album on eight-track got to hear the song as it was originally recorded, with parts one and two connected by a soaring guitar solo courtesy of White.
The original version went unreleased, except on eight-track, until 1995, when White wisely placed the unedited track on his "Goldtop" album, a compilation of some of his session work. Clocking in at 3:25, the song was mastered and remixed from the original 24-track recording with assistance from Floyd engineer Andy Jackson.
With a somewhat Orwellian theme of people as animals, the "Animals" album didn't endear itself to conservatives such as Mary Whitehouse — a British Moral Majority-like figure who is parodied in "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" — especially when the group used an eerie electronic effect on an altered recitation of the 23rd Psalm during "Sheep."
The album cover, again by Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell and other Hipgnosis alumni, pictures a 40-foot inflatable pig suspended above the Battersea Power Station outside London. The band apparently wasn't content with using a photographic trick to "strip in" the pig, so a team was assembled to actually fly the pig by tethers above the power station in December 1976.
In the end, the photo shoot would take three days, with the pig breaking its tethers on day two, and drifting through London's Heathrow Airport's airspace, before it landed in a farmer's field in Kent. A marksman had been hired for day one, to shoot the pig out of the sky, if it broke loose. Unfortunately, he wasn't called back to duty on day two, to save money. In the end, the photo of the pig on day three was combined with the ominous skies of day one to create the cover, a photographic montage that could have been done in the first place, without the time and expense of actually floating the swine.
Perhaps it would have been a bit easier if the band had agreed to an early cover concept of a young lad innocently stumbling upon a couple during an intimate moment.
On a personal note, one of my more memorable Floyd experiences occurred in February 1991 when I happened upon the Battersea Power Station while riding the train into London. At the time, I was much less educated in the Floyd, and wasn't even certain the facility pictured on Animals actually existed. Imagine my surprise when I happened to look out the window, and saw its four immense smoke stacks looming in the distance.
"Animals" was released on Jan. 23, 1977. It debuted at number 25 in the U.S. on Feb. 14, and climbed to number two. The album went platinum (a million units sold) in America on April 16. The only place it made it to the number one position was in The Netherlands, on March 5. Altogether, "Animals" remained in the top 40 for nine weeks in the U.S., and for 27 weeks in the top 200.
The version we play on "Floydian Slip" is the 1994 remastered CD import from Holland. The liner contains many alternate views of the flying pig photo shoot, as well as complete lyrics.