Sheep | Animals – Pink Floyd

A song about the mediocre mass who don't want to get their hands dirty, just want to remain in the sidelines, avoiding troubles.

Today is the third and last episode of our Sounds from the Bucket series dedicated to Animals.

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.

The album is composed by four songs and five tracks. Our first two episodes talked about the first two songs of the album: Dogs and Pigs (Three Different Ones).

Today we talk about Sheep, written by Roger Waters and originally titled “Raving and Drooling“.

Sheep is about the mediocre and very religious mass who don’t want to get their hands dirty, just want to remain in the sidelines, avoiding troubles. They are totally alienated from decision-making process and they nearly totally ignore what’s on around them (“Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away; only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air“).

Their lack of interest leads to ignorance and misinformation, often leading them to electing ruthless politician, who then lead them to violence and war (“Meek and obedient you follow the leader down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.“).

Even if  interpretations of this song are very different, it seems to talk about a herd of sheep going with the flow until finally realizing the rut they are in, being led to the slaughter by the false “good shepherds” (the pigs), deciding to do something about it: to learn karate and start a revolt. In the aftermaths, the dogs died and sheep appear to be finally free. But there is no happy ending: ironically and enough sadly, a kind of new tyranny is established, and the sheep are told to be silent again and obey the orders, almost like the situation that they fought so adamantly and sacrificed so much to abolish. (“Have you heard the news?/The dogs are dead/You better stay home/And do as you’re told/Get out of the road if you want to grow old”).

Notably, in the bridge of the song, a parody of the Biblical Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…“) is spoken in the background, by means of a vocoder, with the words changed to suit the subject of the song (“Through quiet reflection and great dedication, Master the art of karate“).

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out,
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real.
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal shock in your eyes.
Now things are really what they seem.
No, this is no bad dream.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green He leadeth me the silent waters by.
With bright knives He releaseth my soul.
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places.
He converteth me to lamb cutlets,
For lo, He hath great power, and great hunger.
When cometh the day we lowly ones,
Through quiet reflection, and great dedication
Master the art of karate,
Lo, we shall rise up,
And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water.

Bleating and babbling I fell on his neck with a scream.
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream.

Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home
And do as you’re told.
Get out of the road if you want to grow old.


Sounds from the Bucket
Marco Principia

Born in Rome, his beloved city. Graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations at Università degli Studi "Roma Tre". Currently employed at CIES - ONLUS as Fundraising Manager. Huge fan of A.S. Roma.
2 Comments on this post.
  • Avatar
    Selby gama
    10 November 2019 at 3:29 am
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    This is most liberating. I did George Orwell’s Animal Farm as part of my high school literature. The characters that animals represent in realpolitik never stops intriguing me. Not forgetting totemism. But the dogs, pigs and sheep narrative by the inimitable Roger Waters, has blown me for days in its awakening effect. Music is truly another fiorm of high. I am flying.

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