On January 23rd, 1977, Pink Floyd shocked the world with their politically charged new album, Animals. A musical take on George Orwell‘s novels like 1984 and Animal Farm, the release spoke to the corruption and social injustice that was prevalent in 1970’s Britain, with pigs, dogs, and sheep symbolizing the aristocracy, military and working classes, respectively.
The album begins with the soft guitar work of “Pigs On The Wing (Part One),” a short and somber ballad about two apathetic souls lost in a dreary world of “boredom and pain,” fearful of their ruling class – the pigs on the wing. The next song paints a dramatic picture of the “Dogs,” gliding through some soaring guitar work from David Gilmour between vast, spacious segments composed by the album’s principal songwriter, Roger Waters. The lyrics are incendiary, with Gilmour and Waters both taking turns describing the daily outrages and reaction of the “Dogs.” Phrases like “pick out the easy meat” and “you gotta strike when the moment is right, without thinking” show their immediate call to action. It’s all done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, telling them to “have a good drown.”
As “Dogs” get dragged down by the stone, we’re introduced to the “Pigs” themselves, three different ones to be precise. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” has a similarly dreary tone, though it does touch on a more funky rhythm. The song is just as cheeky in Waters’ true sardonic style, calling the pigs a “charade” and even pointing criticism to British politician Mary Whitehouse by dropping her name directly in a lyric (and, perhaps incidentally, confusing American listeners into believing that the lyric was critiquing the White House itself).
Ultimately, the “Sheep” get their revenge in the album’s final lengthy piece. Unlike its predecessors, “Sheep” comes in with a more optimistic tone, leading to the sheep rebellion over their ruling classes. After invoking the Lord’s name to say things like, “He converteth me to lamb cutlets,” in a otherworldly echoing prayer, the sheep ultimately rise over their oppressors to conclude this classic album. The concept is summarized is the conclusion, “Pigs On The Wing (Part Two),” flipping the narrative voice to one of compassion and protection from the rulers.
As we find ourselves in the midst of political turmoil, with the oppressed literally taking to the streets in opposition to their leader, it’s hard to not find similarities between Pink Floyd’s message and current events. Though Animals certainly depicts a darker reality, the parallels are almost overwhelming. Let’s hope we can ultimately work together to create a stronger future for everyone.