Pink Floyd

Animals (1975)

Literary analysis by Steven Van Impe

Pigs On The Wing (Part One)


Continuing the tradition, this is a cyclic album, surrounded by the two shortest Pink Floyd songs ever (1 minute 25 seconds).

If you didn't care what happened to me,
And I didn't care for you
We would zig zag our way
through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
Wondering which of the buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing.

Pigs On The Wings refers to the expression When Pigs Fly and other variants, describing an impossible condition (like When hell freezes over). When you come in a situation where you see pigs fly past your windows, you better have good friends who can help you cope with the problem (whether it is drug-related or otherwise: lunacy theme!).

The zig zag phrase reminds of Wish You Were Here's swimming in a fish bowl.


(Waters, Gilmour)

This is a very cynical song, going further on the theme described in Welcome to the Machine : The pressure of society pushing us into blind, merciless behaviour.

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.

On the street, the laws of the jungle rule. You have to adapt, and learn the right techniques if you want to survive. We are all predators, eating and being eaten.

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.

The image shifts from simple life in the jungle (or the dark back alleys downtown) to the world of business, where everything is much more refined: you can't just pick out someone and attack him on the spot: there's too much social control, and the other is also aware of the danger. Make him feel at ease, and when he least expects it, strike!

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, fly down south
Hide your head in the sand
Just another sad old man
All alone and dying of cancer.

looking over you shoulder: of course, the attacker can be attacked too. Be aware of the dangers, make sure you are safe, trust no-one.

It gets harder and harder to stay awake, to mistrust everybody, but you have to hang on until you have enough money to retire and fly down south. Of course, by that time, your money will be your only friend and you'll die alone.

And when you loose control, you'll reap the harvest that you've sown
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone
And it's too late to loose the weight you used to need to throw around
So have a good drown, as you go down alone
Dragged down by the stone.

And when you are dying, everything will be turned against you. All the situations you created will run out off hand, you'll have to pay for your crimes. Or you will be afraid of those you have cheated. If they find you, who knows what will be their revenge? The people you hired to do the dirty work, and who you betrayed at last, will be you death.

The music changes too: the agressive, fast tune changes to something slower. Perhaps this symbolizes the feeling you get when you realise you are losing control, and You stretch the frozen moments with your fear.

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 of this creeping malaise
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

Even if you follow all these rules, you're still not sure whether you're leading you own life: perhaps the government or another organisation is using you for her purposes? But you can't let this feeling rule you, you have to keep a hand in your own life otherwise you're lost forever

Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending
That everyone's expendable and no-one had a real friend
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner
And you believe at heart, everyone's a killer.

Even though your friends try to convince you that there's more than just business, like friendship or love, or just care, you hold on to your philosophy: the laws of the jungle are the only real ones.

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 seat in the stand
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.

A clear image of Pink comes before my eyes: comfortably numb you live the life someone else has designed for you. And you die like they've planned, killed, directly or not, by society...

Pigs (Three Different Ones)


Hypocrysy rules! Roger mocks all those people, the hard-working business man, the respectable house wife, the social-feeling charity worker, ... They're just a charade, they're not real. Deep inside, they are all dogs but they don't want to admit it to themselves. So they keep up all these laughable 'respectable' habits, instead of using the quicker, easier, more seductive way of crime.

Perhaps Roger was influenced here by the Psycho-Analyst school, founded by Sigmund Freud: deep down, in our unconsciousness, we are all controlled by sexual arguments, even if it doesn't show directly on the outside. Under social pressure, we learn to supress them, but even then they re-emerge in another, sublimated way: sports, commercial ambition, social engagement, ... Perhaps Roger is trying to tell us that it is better not to supress our animal lusts, but let them free.

Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha, charade you are
And when your hand is on your heart
You're nearly a good laugh
Almost a joker
With your head down in the pig bin
Saying keep on digging
Pig stain on your fat chin
What do you hope to find?
When you re down in the pig mine
You're nearly a laugh
You're nearly a laugh
But you're really a cry.

Listen to the wonderful sound of the a's and e's in the first line (ha ha charade you are)!

Hand on your heart: when swearing to tell the truth, you have to hold your hand on your heart (in America it is the Holy Bible). But you can't tell the truth, because you don't know it: you don't want to admit to yourself that you want to make money, even if it implies lying, cheating and even killing. You don't even have a heart!
On the other hand, if you realize that you are a predatorty dog, you won't tell the truth because you don't believe in oaths, and because the truth can get you in trouble.

Bus stop rat bag, ha ha, charade you are
You fucked up old hag, ha ha, charade you are
You radiate cold shafts of broken glass
You're nearly a good laugh
Almost worth a quick grin
You like the feel of steel
You're hot stuff with a hat pin
And good fun with a hand gun
You're nearly a laugh
You're nearly a laugh
But you're really a cry.

I think this stanza refers to average people, with nine to five jobs in an office. They use public transport because they can't afford a car. Overall, these are very nice people (sheep) who wouldn't hurt a fly. They're the easy meat from Dogs. But deep inside, they're also predators. They just don't have the courage or self-confidence to work it out.

The feel of steel: knives. These people attract the knives of robbers, they are terrified of guns. Dogs can have fun with them because they are so scared to death when they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
Other interpretation: subconscious, these people DO like weapons, and if they had the chance they would use them too. They watch violent movies, like Rambo, or (if they sublimate this form of violence) they look at the news, reports from violent robberies, live coverage of police interventions, ...

Hey you Whitehouse, ha ha, charade you are
You house proud town mouse, ha ha, charade you are
You're trying to keep your feelings off the street
You're nearly a real treat
All tight lips and cold feet
And do you feel abused?
You gotta stem the evil tide
And keep it all on the inside
Mary you're nearly a treat
Mary you're nearly a treat
But you're really a cry.

Whitehouse does not refer to the White House, but to Mary Whitehouse. In the late 70's, she was a woman who tried to ban violence and sex from the streets and the tv. She wanted to protect children from seeing too much of it when they're too young. Obviously, she was the perfect target for Roger's song.
Trying to keep our feelings off the street: our feelings (of the dogs) include all the things Mary Whitehouse wanted to ban: sex 'n drugs 'n rock 'n roll!



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.

Sheep are regular good citizens, who don't even notice the violence in the world outside. Roger knows better: things are not what they seem: powerful people are trying to cover up the truth, so the sheep remain easy targets.

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.

Some people know what is going on, but they are bribed to pretend the danger's not real. The sheep are not critical, and follow the leader into a valley of steel: a war, or perhaps an ambush.

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.

This is, of course, a parody of Psalm 23:

A Psalm of David

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Converteth has of course a double meaning: to change into, OR to convert someone to a belief/religion.

The sheep are preparing for a revolution, they're learning karate. Karate (like most Martial Arts) isn't just a sports, it also requires mental training, or quiet reflection.

Blasting and bubbling 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.

The sheep are revolting. This is a reference to Karl Marx and his Communist Manifesto: proletarians of the world, unite is his most famous quote. Marx saw a historical evolution towards a better civilization: capitalism would eventually lead to an enormous gap between very few rich entrepreneurs and a huge mass of factory workers who were being abused. Eventually, the proletarians would see that they could change the situation by a revolution. After the revolution, there would be a period of dictatorship by the people, during which the goods would be redistributed and all factories would become property of the government. After that, the dictatorship would end and no more government would be needed.

Another book that should be mentioned here is George Orwell's Animal Farm, in which the animals chase away the humans and form a pseudo-communist farm. Eventually, the whole project breaks down, because the Pigs become capitalists themselves, selling grain, eggs and even other animals to feast from the profit. The Sheep are doing the same thing: they have tasted blood, so to say, and now they themselves have become dogs. This becomes clear in the last three lines: sheep unleashed!

Pigs On The Wing (Part Two)


You know that I care what happens to you
And I know that you care for me
So I don't feel alone
Of the weight of the stone
Now that I've found somewhere safe
To bury my bone
And any fool knows a dog needs a home

An enormous contrast with the other songs: the atmosphere is very friendly, sympathetic and caring for each other. Together we can make this world a better place. The dogs have become friendly house-dogs instead of fierce hounds. But perhaps everything isn't as happy as it seems at first sight: now it are the dogs that are more or less dominated by mankind.

Recommended reading

All lyrics by Roger Waters. 1977 Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd.
The literary comments and explanations added are 1997 by Steven Van Impe.