Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Artist: PINK FLOYD
[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]
For my 11th birthday a friend gave me Kiss’ Rock And Roll Over LP, the predecessor to last week’s featured album, Love Gun. Kiss was my favorite band so I owned all of their albums, which meant I could exchange it for something else. I had heard about two bands that were supposed to be great, Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd, and decided I would come home with an album by one of them. There were too many Zeppelin albums to choose from & I didn’t know where to start, but for some reason the only Pink Floyd album in stock was their latest release, Animals, so that’s the one I chose. By 1979 these would be my two favorite artists (and remain so today) but for a couple of years this was the only record I owned by either of them. It was drastically different from anything I had heard before. I was used to having five short songs (usually under 5 minutes) on each side of a record, with clearly defined verses, choruses & guitar solos. Instead, here were three long tracks (clocking in between 10 & 17 minutes each) bookended by two brief acoustic songs. Keep in mind that I was completely unaware of the two commercial behemoths that came before, The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here, let alone their earlier, more experimental & psychedelic music, so I could only compare Animals to the small collection of albums I owned at the time.
I didn’t understand the socio-political Orwellian concept of animals representing particular types of people (courtesy of bassist/co-vocalist/main lyricist Roger Waters), so most of the lyrics went over my head, but the cover image of a giant pig floating by England’s Battersea Power Station had me captivated, as did the first swear word I ever heard on a record: “You f**ked up old hag…” from “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” This was the song that immediately captured my attention, for the music as much as the lyrics. The tempo shifts, atmospheric sections, Nick Mason’s hypnotic drumming, various sound effects & David Gilmour’s biting-yet-melodic guitar solos were the ideal gateway for me into the world of Pink Floyd. “Dogs” is the longest song, with several incredible guitar solos punctuating the mostly glacial pace. I love how Waters takes over vocal duties from Gilmour toward the end of the track, the latter’s smoother, more welcoming tones replaced by the former’s more biting, sinister approach. “Sheep” begins with keyboardist Rick Wright’s subtle Fender Rhodes piano before shifting into the most driving rhythm on the album. My favorite feature on this track is the way Waters’ vocal at the end of certain lines morphs into Wright’s synthesizer line. It’s often hard to hear where one ends & the other begins. The aforementioned acoustic tracks were parts one & two of “Pigs On The Wing,” the only lighthearted “love” songs among the darkness & anger. I recently learned that the 8-track tape of Animals included an additional guitar solo, played by Snowy White (who would join them on the subsequent tour). This extended version is highlighted below. It’s a shame that Animals doesn’t have the same profile as many other albums in their discography, but that’s likely due to the lack of a radio hit. Otherwise, it’s every bit as essential as their better-known releases. It will always hold a special place in my heart as my first Pink Floyd album, and it still sounds just as fresh four decades later.
Check out Wardo’s blog for an excellent overview of this album.