I’ve had that line running through my head for about two days solid now, after hearing a brief snatch of Pink Floyd from a passing car*. It wasn’t ‘Sheep’ that was playing of course – in which case I would have had no option other than to have saluted the drivers’ good taste by ceremonially dropping my trousers right there and then, but it made me think of my favourite line, over and over again. I love Animals, it isn’t their best LP but it is my favourite. I bought this LP in 1988 but that really doesn’t tell the whole story at all. My parents (yes, them again) used to go and watch The Pink Floyd (as they still call them) at the UFO club in London when Syd Barrett was still in them and Floyd used to get played an awful lot at home. In fact my first Floyd memories are the planes and crying babies in The Wall, but running it a close second was all the animal noises in, umm, Animals.
Pink Floyd get a slightly unfair rep as being sterile purveyors of English middle-class angst and okay there are germs of truth there, but hovering beneath the fringes of the reserve from Animals onwards is a real scabrous disdain and hatred that does it for me every time. It’s not too much of a generalisation to say that 1976-7 was a grim time in the UK (not for me, I was 5 and very happy playing with my Lego) for various economic/social reasons and just as punk struck a match against the times, this was Floyd’s take on the same subjects, concerns and atmosphere – millionaire rockstars, or not, ‘Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air’.
It’s a pretty simple concept, comparing human characteristics to animals, it has been and will be done time after time – Art Spiegelman, W.A.S.P, George Orwell etc, why? because it works perfectly. Roger Waters’ jaded views give us pigs, dogs and sheep, it’s not complicated; but was just complicated enough for me at 16 to make me feel very clever and superior.
My favourites are ‘Pigs on The Wing’ both parts, the simple acoustic love song which bookends the LP and a kissing cousin of ‘Wish you were here’, and ‘Sheep’. The latter is the everyday story of the common herd, passive and ovine being screwed over and then rising up. Okay so you could argue it’s a wee bit socially patronising but I don’t care, the music is spot on, David Gilmour plays some really harsh (for him) licks here and I love Rick Wright’s electric piano (or at least it sounds like one to me). Best of all though are the lyrics and Waters’ vocals, desperately cramming in some incredibly long lines into the song,
Bleating and babbling we fell on his neck with a scream
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream.
Elsewhere we have a rant at the tyranny of big business, petty moralising and Mary Whitehouse **, ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ which earns highly coveted 1537 bonus points for the line ‘you fucked up old hag’ and ‘Dogs’ which builds to a brilliant end vocal – this also gains additional 1537 bonus points for using the phrase ‘creeping malaise’.
So we have anger, spite, a certain disdain and alienation all in the mix here; it just drips off the turntable in fact. If, like me, that’s your bag occasionally then what’s not to love? Animals is a good place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there – you’d probably end up going all fascistic and weird and erecting some kind of big barrier …
* and the mooing referred to in my last post.
** Anglocentric cultural note – Moral campaigner, started her career by picketing a production of ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’ because one of the characters is called ‘Bottom’ – also the subject of Deep Purple’s ‘Mary Long’.