Pink Floyd’s tenth studio album, 1977’s Animals, is a strange beast. In many ways, it can be regarded as the album that bridged the gap between the almost dream-like brilliance of 1975’s Wish You Were Here and the heavily politicised social commentary of 1979’s The Wall. Animals was the first time that lyricist and conceptual mastermind, Roger Waters, had started to hone in on the socio-political state of Britain at the time, marking the album out from Wish You Were Here and its predecessors. Pink Floyd were here to make a point.
Furthermore, the album’s darker, the post-industrial tone was also informed by the tensions brewing within the band. A shift in style marred by the band’s inter-personal strife, Animals can also be taken as the beginning of the end for the classic lineup of Pink Floyd. Keyboardist Richard Wright would be fired only two years later during the sessions for hit follow-up, The Wall.
The album’s iconic cover art, featuring the inflatable pig floating atop the imposing Battersea Power Station, was the band’s most significant statement of intent. Coupled with their decision to release no singles from the album, instead opting to perform it live on 1977’s ‘In the Flesh’ tour, fans everywhere knew something peculiar was stirring within the band.
The overarching theme that notes the decay of society drenches the record in the dark colour scheme of a fictional totalitarian state. Loosely based on George Orwell‘s political fable Animal Farm, like the book, the record’s lyrics described various classes in society as different types of animals. You have the predatory dogs, the despotic and cunning pigs, and the “mindless and unquestioning herd” of sheep, a clear allegory to the juncture that society found itself in at the time and still does today.
Interestingly though, Waters turned Orwell’s message on its head.
The novella is widely known to be a critique of communism, with it paying particular attention to the communist school of thought, Stalinism. On Animals, however, Waters uses his lyrics as a critique against capitalism, and his narrative diverges from the novel’s in the way that the sheep are the ones that rise up, and instead of it being the pigs they topple, it is the dogs.
The album’s darkness was also a reaction to the punk movement that had risen and destroyed the complacent status quo of the ‘classic rock’ era. The punk movement was partially a reaction to the dire social and political conditions of the time – and this is another reason that Floyd touched on much darker themes than they ever had done before. They were moving with the times.
Musically, it contains some of Floyd’s most interesting and best-loved points. ‘Dogs’ is always the standout, but there are other highlights such as ‘Pigs’ and the bluesy ‘Have A Cigar’. A strange moment within the band’s extensive back catalogue, given its intrinsic darkness, it has garnered cult status for music fans. This is not surprising as, after all, people have an affinity for the more harrowing details of the human condition.
Well, luckily for fans, there exists a collection of alternative takes and demos for the album that, until May this year, had never seen the light of day. The tracks are ‘Pigs On The Wing Parts 1 & 2’, ‘Dogs’, ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’, ‘Sheep’ and ‘Pigs (Single Mix)’. A candid insight into the band at the time, these takes give the album an introspective feel that is not as clear on the full album.
The version of ‘Pigs On The Wing Parts 1 & 2′ is perhaps better than the one that made it onto the album. There is a pain in Waters’ voice that’s hard to pin down, and the haunting acoustic guitar makes it one of the most organic reflections of Pink Floyd in existence.
Furthermore, this version of ‘Dogs’ is an odd one. The vocals are drenched in some form of modulation, and they are hidden beneath the music in the mix, making it a rather muddy version. It’s like listening to the band in their rehearsal space. However, front and centre in the mix is Waters‘ bass, and it serves as a wonderful reminder of what a great bass player he is. Additionally, the jam that breaks out in the middle of this take is like watching Pink Floyd live; it is incredible.
As Animals has been around for so long, this collection of songs presents a fresh take on the album that listeners have long since worn out. Definitely, worth your time; it is a definite representation of where Floyd found themselves at the time.
Listen to the alternative takes and demos of Animals below.