Pink Floyd’s Animals is one of the darkest musical illustrations of a person’s way of viewing the world around them.
After reading George Orwell’s satirical fable Animal Farm from 1945, Roger Waters felt inspired to implement the same concept into his lyrics and depicted the human race as a bunch of animals that were slaves to their feelings and instincts.
The lyrics are mostly filled with anger, violence, and sadness. Waters put very little personal context into the themes on the album, leaving many fans wondering where all this darkness was coming from.
From 1968 to ’73 Pink Floyd went through a long process where they tried to find their own sound without their earlier frontman, Syd Barrett. Syd disliked the sudden fame that the band was getting and coupled with his unhealthy drug habit, he slowly started fading away. As the band continued without him, they released a series of albums that were far less successful compared to their debut.
But thanks to their labels patience, through their hard work and talent, they eventually approached the extraordinary in 1973 and 1975 with The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Albums that sold tens of millions of copies worldwide and carried the band to the peak of fame.
Dark Side was a journey of collective introspection. Whereas Wish You Were Here was a melancholic remembering of their old friend and bandmate Syd Barrett.
What made the following album, Pink Floyd’s Animals, so different was that Waters almost wrote the entire album’s lyrics by himself. It was a record that was very personal to him. Something he had thought about making for a long time. Out of his mind came some very interesting and dark ideas.
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Is Pink Floyd Animals Based on Animal Farm?
In 1945, George Orwell released a novel titled Animal Farm and after feeling inspired, Waters created his own version of the concept Orwell originally made. The novel is a satirical fable that criticized the Soviet Union and Stalinism. The story was written from the perspective of a farm tying the communistic leaders and their followers to the roles of the animals living on the farm.
Just like Orwell, Waters depicted the people in his lyrics as animals too. But instead of criticizing the Marxist socialist society, he was criticizing capitalism and British society. He decided to use three different animals. In particular, dogs, pigs, and sheep.
These are also the names of track number two, three, and four on the album. The lyrics on “Dogs” are probably the most striking ones on the entire Pink Floyd Animals album. The first verse describes what sounds like a predator.
“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.”
Roger Waters is merely using these animal traits to describe the actions of businessmen and corporate figures that prey on the weak for personal profit.
“You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to So that when they turn their backs on you, You’ll get the chance to put the knife in.”
The reason why Waters uses such strong imagery to describe corporate figures might be because he has been tricked by people in the music industry in the past. People that came off as genuine and trustworthy but with hidden intentions.
Later on, Waters writes about how all the bad blood and trickery bites back on the old dog or the now-retired businessman as he realizes that the wealth he has built up never gave him a sense of true happiness and all he’s got left is a lonely death.
“So have a good drown, as you go down all alone Dragged down by the stone.”
It’s clear that Waters had some notable trouble thoughts about the people he had to deal with. But in a way, it’s easy to understand. People from all corners of the industry wanted a piece of the band after they created TheDark Side of the Moon and Waters wanted to understand where this wantedness was coming from.
It’s possible that Waters saw a bit of himself in those corporate dogs. Of course, he wanted to create music to enrich other people’s lives, but he also wanted to be famous. He wanted recognition, because like most other people who grew up in the British capitalistic society he was one of those “Who was told what to do by the man… Who was dragged down by the stone.”
Waters has described the lyrics in Pink Floyd’s Animals as less direct compared to what he made on Wish You Were Here where he more often talked directly in lines of his feelings. The lyrics in Animals are more or less a recital of observations, stories of other people.
But there are two moments on this album where Waters gets very personal and that’s in “Pigs on the Wing,” which is divided into two parts that bookend the album. According to Waters, it’s a love song dedicated to his wife Lady Carollyne Christie who he married a year before the release of this album.
In the first part of the song in the beginning of the album, Waters shares a what-if scenario with his wife and the listener.
“If you didn’t care what happened to me And I didn’t care for you We would zigzag our way through the boredom and pain Occasionally glancing up through the rain Wondering which of the buggers to blame And watching for pigs on the wing.”
Waters is essentially telling his wife what life would be like if they hadn’t found each other. Life would be a whole lot more painful. They would constantly have their guard up for a pig’s, referring to the people with bad intentions.
But during the second part at the end of the album, Waters shines a light on what their situation actually is like in the present moment.
“You know that I care what happens to you And I know that you care for me too So I don’t feel alone or the weight of the stone.”
Waters reveals the love between him and his wife. He also mentions that her love makes him less aware of “the weight of the stone.” The phrase appears again in track number four “Sheep.”
It’s a phrase that’s repeated several times throughout the album. Its repetition may have something to do with the main theme throughout the Pink Floyd Animals album.
The stone may represent social conditioning. The expectations and the labor that society puts on us. All these things that keep us from feeling a true sense of freedom. Things that make us feel very small and inadequate. This feeling of not being enough may be what drove Roger Waters and his bandmates to achieve fame in the first place.
They may have just wanted to prove to the world that they were worth something. On the other side, the carrying of the stone also reflects the burden of knowing that one day will die and there’s no way of escaping it.
In the last part of the verse on “Pigs on the Wing (Part Two),” he also reveals that he sees himself as a dog that needs to escape from the pigs. But that the love from his wife somehow gives him the comfort to not worry about it too much.
“Now that I’ve found somewhere safe to bury my bones And any fool knows a dog needs a home A shelter from pigs on the wing.”
He admits that he was told what to do by the man. That he was fitted with collar and chain and that he tried his best to escape from that reality. He also admits that escaping is impossible and that the best thing that he could do is to find a home.
Eventually, he realized the importance of maintaining his personal relationships with the people he cares about. Although he still might fall victim to the pigs, he can rely on the other people to look after him. Just like this, his gloomy depiction of the world comes to an end after all, and he comes off as a bit more tolerable.
Animals Album Cover
Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover was designed by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell and Storm Thorgerson, who were initially approached in 1967 to design the group’s second album cover, A Saucerful of Secrets. The pair later formed a design studio called Hipgnosis, where they went on to design some of the artwork for the most influential albums of all time, including Pink Floyd’sfollowing albums.
Carinthia West, photographer of the above image recalls photographing the event.
“I shot a whole roll of film of London’s famed Battersea Power Station when the Pink Floyd flew a blow-up pig above it for their Animals cover in 1976. To everyone’s horror, the inflated pig slipped free from its moorings while aloft. The band had originally hired an ex-police marksman to shoot it down if this happened, but he never showed up. Later, we read police reports that said jumbo-jet pilots, flying into London that morning, asked their passengers to position seatbelts for landing and—in the same breath—said, “On the right of the plane, you will see the Houses of Parliament and on the left . . . a flying pig!” The pig eventually landed in a field in Kent. Here it is, just beginning to fly away on its lone journey . . .”
With Roger Waters’s vision, the cover depicts a 30-foot inflated pig floating over Battersea Power Station in London. Even if it was a near-derelict power station, it’s easy to imagine the “Animals” grinding away in the authoritarian looking building, with the pig in the sky dictating their every move. Although for Waters, the flying pig was more a symbol of hope indicated by the song “Pigs on the Wing.”
What Does Pink Floyd Animals Mean?
The conclusion of this album isn’t too optimistic. It serves as a reminder of the dark capitalistic and inhumane world that we live in. At the same time, it sheds a bit of light on the upsides of it.
It’s clear to see that Waters was on his way down the rabbit hole to face his inner demons. Things only got darker from this moment onwards, even during their live shows. When the band was playing their last gig on the Animals tour in Montreal, many of the fans were loud and obnoxious.
A few people, in particular, had lit off firecrackers which were a big distraction for the other audience members and the band. After asking the crowd several times to act respectively in the venue, without compliance, Waters became irritated, and sometime during the gig, he spat on an audience member.
He wasn’t just annoyed by the nature of the audience though, it felt like there was less purpose in playing the shows in general. From that moment onwards, Waters was a man who wanted to spread an important message in his lyrics.
Look at our society, it’s crumbling, we can do better than this. But that message was lost in the grandiose nature of the show, the idol-worshipping, and also the business of running the band.
Hopefully, this message is largely understood after listening to the album. When listening to Pink Floyd’s Animals, think about what Waters wanted to communicate. It may improve the way the world looks, or simply understand it a little bit better.
Listen to Pink Floyd’s Animals Here
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