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‘Animals’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Pink Floyd’s Orwellian Opus
Warner Music
List & Guides

‘Animals’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Pink Floyd’s Orwellian Opus

A track-by-track guide to every song on Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ album – a politically charged howl that captured the unrest of 70s Britain.

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Loosely inspired by the farmyard fable at the heart of George Orwell’s satirical novel, Animal Farm, Pink Floyd’s tenth studio album, Animals, was released on 21 January 1977 and instantly caused a sensation with fans across the globe. Featuring one of the best Pink Floyd album covers of all time – an iconic image of an inflatable pig flying over London’s Battersea Power Station, designed by the era-defining Hipgnosis team – the record was lauded for its rousing and confrontational dystopian concept, chiming with the emerging political consciousness of the UK punk scene.

With its thoughtful critique of capitalism and the venality of the ruling classes, Animals struck a deep nerve, its angry lyrics aimed at cutting the upper-crust down to size. Going on to sell over 6.5 million copies worldwide, the album registered quadruple-platinum sales in the US alone, and has long been heralded as one of the best Pink Floyd records.

As revealed by this track-by-track guide through each of its five songs, Animals was a fierce and provocative prog-rock triumph that saw Pink Floyd wade into the class war with a transgressive sense of irony and intensity.

Listen to ‘Animals’ here.

‘Animals’ Track-By-Track: A Guide To Every Song On The Album

Pigs On The Wing (Part 1)

Easing listeners in like the calm before the storm, Pigs On The Wing (Part 1) is a stripped-back folk ballad that encourages bucolic reverie. Seemingly speaking to a lover, the song’s narrator establishes that love is all we can cling to, keeping us grounded even if the trials we face in the outside world conspire against us (“You know that I care/What happens to you/And I know that you care/For me too”). Harking back to a phrase World War II fighter pilots would use, “pigs on the wing” refers to an enemy hiding out of sight, immediately giving Animals an anxious air, as if warning listeners to keep their wits about them. Like an RAF Spitfire making its slow descent from the clouds, the song is the perfect introduction to the album – almost a hymn of longing for shelter.

Dogs

The first set of undesirables to enter Pink Floyd’s crosshairs are the dogs: specifically, the bulldogs of the business world. A 17-minute prog-rock epic, Dogs begins with an acoustic guitar being frenetically strummed, as a downtempo drum groove takes us from the clouds to the kennels, the song’s lyrics introducing a businessman fresh off the chain and sniffing around for food (“You gotta sleep on your toes, and when you’re on the street/You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed”).

Like a rottweiler bearing its teeth, the song’s lyrics admonish the businessman for lying, so that “when they turn their backs on you, you’ll get the chance to put the knife in”. As the blade cuts deeply, the song’s first guitar solo rips right through us, fed through a Big Muff pedal with shrill, eviscerating notes, before being followed by maniacal laughter. Yet the evils of this particular canine carouser will not go unpunished, with fate dishing out illness and death in return for his sins (“Hide your head in the sand/Just another sad old man, all alone and dying of cancer”).

This haunting twist ushers in a brief, transcendental Minimoog solo that gives way to a Fender Telecaster riff; as we cower at the sound of its eye-watering melody, we briefly hear other dogs approaching, before yet another howling guitar solo culminates in some barking notes (6.19). With Pink Floyd painting a vivid, wince-inducing picture of human suffering, Dogs sweeps the businessman aside like a stray. “When you lose control,” the song’s narrator reminds us, “you’ll reap the harvest you have sown.”

Before we know it, a combination of Minimoog and EMS VCS3 synth effects leads Dogs into vaguely psychedelic terrain. Like a hallucination, a chorus of hounds is morphed by vocoder to sound like demonic murmurs, even responding to a whistle at 10.50 with a ghostly and otherworldly flourish. “Got to admit that I’m a little bit confused,” the narrator confesses, as the song becomes an acoustic fever-dream soundtracking “this creeping malaise”.

As Dogs enters its closing stages, with the acknowledgement that “at heart everyone’s a killer”, we hear a final, gut-punching guitar solo (13.25) over pummelling drums. Circling back to that earlier Fender-played guitar motif, Pink Floyd let loose a mongrel pack – “those fitted with collar and chain”, “born in a house full of pain”, “broken by trained personnel” – and bring the song to a grisly end full of seething anger.

An acid-tongued attack on the ruling class, Pigs (Three Different Ones) opens the second half of Animals with a tirade against those who hide behind their power and wealth while the dogs run rampant on the streets. Beginning with an eerie synthesiser hook and some angular and funky bass-playing, the song locks into a snuffling groove that playfully undulates while listeners are introduced to another despotic businessman, his “head down in the pig bin”, the money-making swill on his chin invoking mocking laughter (“Ha, ha, charade you are”).

Pigs (Three Different Ones) revels in pointing the finger at anyone in the farmhouse deemed worthy of our collective ire, among them a “bus stop rat bag” who radiates “cold shafts of broken glass” – alleged by many fans to be a reference to the UK’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. With some insistent cowbell and piano glissando leading us into a field of snorting pigs, we hear the prolonged anguish of a guitar solo being fed through a Heil Sound Talk Box, before a creepy synth arpeggio reintroduces the main riff. It’s here that the song turns to the conservative activist and censorship campaigner Mary Whitehouse, calling her a “house-proud town mouse” with “tight lips and cold feet”. As an outspoken opponent of what she regarded as the permissive society, unlike the other so-called “pigs” Whitehouse is singled out by name, savaged by the song’s narrator for trying to “stem the evil tide” only to “keep it all on the inside”.

Ratcheting things up, a truly magnificent guitar solo swamps this slew of pigs with a primal flood of noise, the song finally overwhelming the listener with bucketfuls of swirling bass riffs and wild drum fills. As Pigs (Three Different Ones) slowly fades out, this bilious outpouring leaves a lasting impression, the band delivering a masterful group performance on what is easily one of the best Pink Floyd songs.

Sheep

Roaming further into Pink Floyd’s conceptual masterclass, Sheep focuses on the working-class proletariat – the downtrodden victims oppressed by the vicious dogs and greedy pigs. Boasting a decidedly more jazzy feel and with birdsong evoking a pastoral idyll, this ten-minute epic begins with a spectacular Fender Rhodes solo over the baaaing of sheep. All is peaceful, until the drums kick in (1.41), and it’s clear that the sheep are at war. “You better watch out,” the song’s narrator warns them, “there may be dogs about.”

There’s an apocalyptic feel to the swinging groove, scaring the flock and sending them scattering, while an escalating Minimoog solo conjures guttural guitar riffs that bleat and grunt. We hear a parody of Psalm 23 underscoring the sheep’s gullibility (“He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places/He converteth me to lamb cutlets”), and the animals baaa hysterically after being besieged by oinking guitar tones that try to coax them out of hiding. The chaotic strumming that greets these poor little lambs seemingly plants the seed of revolution in their heads…

“Lo, we shall rise up,” it is declared, as the sheep unleash “wave upon wave of demented avengers” to wreak murderous revenge on the dogs (“Have you heard the news?/The dogs are dead”). The chaotic run of strumming that closes the song allows the listener to survey the aftermath of the uprising, wrapping things up by painting a dark and unsettling picture of class warfare. Soberly pondering the violent consequences of social oppression, Sheep is tremendously thought-provoking, with Pink Floyd’s musical proficiency ultimately winning the day.

Pigs On The Wing (Part 2)

Bookending the bleak and vociferous Animals is Pigs On The Wing (Part 2), which sees Pink Floyd revisit the acoustic bliss that began the album’s harrowing journey. Once again, love is seen as a force for temperance – the light it gives us, it seems, is our only glimmer of hope in a world dominated by dogs, pigs and sheep. It’s a satisfying moment of closure, left open to interpretation and allowing the listener to determine which tribe of beasts they truly belong to.

“I don’t feel alone on the weight of the stone,” the song’s narrator concludes, “now that I’ve found somewhere safe to bury my bone.” Choosing to be neither a dog nor a pig, and withdrawing from society to find a home away from the sheep, Pink Floyd’s prog-rock opus is a rich and rewarding listen for class-conscious music fans. By successfully combining the intellectualism of Orwellian analogy with the boundless and freewheeling energy of progressive rock, Animals is a timeless political satire that still retains its visceral power.

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