Animals is the tenth studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 23 January 1977.
It is a concept album that provides a scathing critique of the social-political conditions of late-70s Britain, and presents a marked change in musical style from their earlier work.
Loosely based on George Orwell‘s political fable Animal Farm, the album’s lyrics describe various classes in society as different kinds of animals: the combative dogs, despotic ruthless pigs, and the “mindless and unquestioning herd” of sheep. Whereas the novella focuses on Stalinism, the album is a critique of capitalism where the sheep eventually rise up to overpower the dogs.
The album was developed from a collection of unrelated songs into a concept which, in the words of author Glenn Povey, “described the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of mere animals“.
Apart from its critique of society, the album is also a response to the punk rock movement, which grew in popularity as a nihilistic statement against the prevailing social and political conditions, and also a reaction to the general complacency and nostalgia that appeared to surround rock music. Pink Floyd were an obvious target for some punk musicians: one of their goals was to destroy “dinosaur rock” as they knew it – songs with hugely lengthy song structures, overwhelming technique, indulgent solos etc. – and Animals was, arguably, the epitome of that. As an example, Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols, who added the words “I hate” to a Pink Floyd T-shirt, although he often stated was done for a laugh. Commenting about the presumed rivalry with punk rock, Pink Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason later stated that he welcomed the “Punk Rock insurrection” and viewed it as a welcome return to the underground scene from which Pink Floyd had grown.
The album is composed by four songs and five tracks, given the fact that Pigs on the Wing – probably the closest thing to a love song Floyd has ever made – is divided in two parts, at the beginning and end of Animals, nesting three tracks between it.
The music was written in 1974 by David Gilmour and Roger Waters, with lyrics by Waters, and originally titled “You’ve Got to Be Crazy“. Waters modified the lyrics in some parts, transposed the key to suit both Gilmour’s and his vocals, and retitled it “Dogs”. The version on Animals is 17 minutes long.
Fitting into the album’s Orwellian concept of comparing human behavior to various animals, Dogs concentrates on the aggressive, ruthlessly competitive world of business, describing a high-powered businessman. The first two verses detail his predatory nature — outwardly charming and respectable with his “club tie and a firm handshake, a certain look in the eye and an easy smile“, while behind this facade he lies waiting “to pick out the easy meat[…]to strike when the moment is right“, and to stab those who trust him in the back. Subsequent verses portray the emptiness of his existence catching up to him as he grows older, retiring to the south rich but unloved: “just another sad old man, all alone and dying of cancer“, and drowning under the weight of a metaphorical stone.
The final verse explores a number of aspects of business life and how it compares to dogs, for example taking chances and being “trained not to spit in the fan“, losing their individuality (“broken by trained personnel“), obeying their superiors (“fitted with collar and chain“), being rewarded for good behaviour (“given a pat on the back“), working harder than the other workers (“breaking away from the pack“) and getting to know everyone but spending less time with family (“only a stranger at home“). Every line of this verse begins with the words “Who was“, which prompted comparison to Allen Ginsberg‘s infamous poem “Howl“. However, Waters has denied the Ginsberg poem was any influence on his lyrics. Instead, these lines can be seen as subordinate clauses to the lyric line that precedes them (“And you believe at heart everyone’s a killer/Who was born in a house full of pain/Who was [etc.]”)
You gotta be crazy, you gotta have a real need
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
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight,
You gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking
And after a while, you can work on points for style
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake,
A certain look in the eye and an easy smile
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
You gotta keep one eye looking over your shoulder
You know it’s going to get harder, and harder, and harder as you get older
And in the end you’ll pack up and fly down south,
Hide your head in the sand,
Just another sad old man,
All alone and dying of cancer
And when you loose control, you’ll reap the harvest you have sown
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone
And it’s too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around
So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone,
Dragged down by the stone (stone, stone, stone, stone, stone)
I gotta admit that I’m a little bit confused
Sometimes it seems to me as if I’m just being used
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise
If I don’t stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?
Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending
That everyone’s expendable and no-one has a real friend
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner
And everything’s done under the sun,
And you believe at heart, everyone’s a killer
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