“Animals” by Pink Floyd (1977)
The odd album out in Pink Floyd’s superstardom run of the ’70s usually is “Animals.”
It doesn’t hold the enduring appeal of its two immediate predecessors, “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here,” nor did it offer a multimedia extravaganza along the lines of “The Wall.” But many fans who delve beyond the FM hits cite “Animals” as one of their favorite Floyd recordings.
A major factor hampering the album’s popular appeal is its structure. Two short acoustic pieces, “Pigs on the Wing” parts 1 and 2, sandwich a trio of 10-plus-minute works, a format that never has guaranteed much in the way of airplay.
Two of the longer compositions started life on the road, so to speak. Pink Floyd played a couple of previously unreleased songs, “You Gotta Be Crazy” and “Raving and Drooling,” during the tour supporting “Wish You Were Here,” and when time came to record a new album, the band restructured the compositions a bit and retitled them to fit in with the “Animals” motif.
The former song became “Dogs,” which clocks in at more than 17 minutes and is the only “Animals” tune to be co-written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour; Waters is sole composer on the other tracks.
“Dogs” opens with a leisurely instrumental passage, with Gilmour’s acoustic guitar and Richard Wright’s organ setting an ironic pace for the lyrics to come. The song evolves as Waters’ diatribe against a person obsessed with material gain, to the point where cashes in any semblance of integrity: “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.”
Of course, the table eventually turns, with the song’s subject getting his comeuppance in the dramatic conclusion, with Gilmour’s stinging vocals repeated for effect:
Who was born in a house full of pain?
Who was trained not to spit in the fan?
Who was told what to do by the man?
Who was broken by trained personnel?
Who was fitted with collar and chain?
Who was given a pat on the back?
Who was breaking away from the pack?
Who was only a stranger at home?
Who was ground down in the end?
Who was found dead on the phone?
Who was dragged down by the stone?
“Pigs (Three Different Ones)” follows, Waters’ not-so-subtle attacks on a trio of characters, including the late Mary Whitehouse, who’s referenced by name. Ms. Whitehouse apparently rubbed the Pink Floyd bass player the wrong way with her crusades against her view of immorality in popular music.
“Sheep,” the erstwhile “Raving and Drooling,” begins with Wright’s suitably pastoral keyboard run before the other instruments start setting a more sinister tone. The lyrics come in with a hard-rock instrumental bang, with Waters aiming this time at those who merely follow and fail to question leadership. A spooky middle part features his parody of the Twenty-Third psalm, through the sonic artificiality of a Vocoder.
While such nihilistic themes run rampant through latter-day Pink Floyd albums, what sets “Animals” apart is its instrumental approach. As the late Nicholas Schaffner wrote in the band’s bio “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “Musically, Pink Floyd have never – before or since, in any incarnation – rocked out so uncompromisingly, or with more conviction.”
All that adds up to a generally overlooked gem in the discography of one of rock’s most popular acts.