The album proved a success in the United Kingdom, where it reached #2 in the era of punk music. It was also a success in the U.S., reaching #3 on the Billboard album charts (#1 and #2 were Hotel California by The Eagles, and the soundtrack to the Barbra Streisand film A Star Is Born). However, it was on the American charts for only six months even though it has continued to sell solidly, to the extent of its having gone quadruple platinum, according to the RIAA.
In the UK, the British Phonographic Industry awarded the album Gold (100,000 units) in 1977. It has yet to achieve Platinum.
Animals is a concept album, based on the flaws of capitalism. Various castes in society are represented as different types of animals (Dogs as the businessmen, sheep as the powerless pawns, and pigs as the ruthless leaders). Although this album mainly attacks capitalism, several components are similar to George Orwell's novel "Animal Farm": In the book various animals (mainly pigs, sheep, dogs, etc.) represent different roles assumed by individuals in a communist society.
While singer and guitarist David Gilmour is only credited for the music of one track, the epic "Dogs" (which had the working title of "You Gotta Be Crazy"), this song and "Raving and Drooling", a Waters song which would later become "Sheep", were created at the same time as "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", and originally intended for Wish You Were Here. Their creation process was similar to the method the band used during the late sixties and early seventies. They would adapt and expand their compositions by performing them live, and later in the studio find a more coherent form and concept for the whole album, with Waters writing the lyrics. Animals was the last Pink Floyd album created in this way, as the subsequent The Wall and The Final Cut, were primarily conceived by Waters and worked out in the studio with some input from Gilmour. Although Rick Wright admittedly did not contribute much compositionally, he had some influence on the arrangement of the songs, including solo playing on "Dogs" and "Sheep". As with "Welcome to the Machine" and "Wish You Were Here" on Wish You Were Here, Waters wrote "Pigs on the Wing" and "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" to tie together the other songs in the album's concept. His dominance in the writing credits and the discrepancy with the actual creation process is directly related to the increasing tensions within the band..
The three core songs are bookended by a pair of love songs written by Waters for his then-wife Caroline: "Pigs on the Wing, Part 1" and "Pigs on the Wing, Part 2". Both are in stark contrast to the misanthropic middle three songs, and suggest that companionship can help us overcome our flaws – though the final lines suggest that the singer is or was once one of the dogs. For the 8-track cartridge release, which looped, Parts 1 and 2 were linked by a guitar bridge performed by Snowy White (subsequently available on White's 1996 album "Goldtop: Groups & Sessions"), and the 17:08 song "Dogs" was cut into two tracks.
The giant, helium-filled pig seen on the cover was actually flown over Battersea Power Station for the photo shoot (under the direction of Storm Thorgerson). On the first day of shooting, a marksman was on hand in case the pig broke free. However, according to Thorgerson, this was considered an "insurance problem", and he was not hired for the second day of shooting. Ironically, on 3 December 1976, during the second day, a gust of wind broke the pig free of its moorings. Because there was no one to shoot the pig down, it sailed away into the morning sky. A passenger plane reported seeing the pig, causing all the flights at London Heathrow Airport to be delayed. A police helicopter was sent up to track the pig, but was forced to return after following the pig to an altitude of 5,000 feet. A warning was sent out to pilots that a giant, flying pink pig was loose in the area. The CAA lost radar contact on the pig near Chatham in Kent, at a height of 18,000 feet and flying East. It finally landed in a farmer's field, without much damage. They then repaired the pig, and flew it up for a third time. The resulting pictures were not deemed suitable on their own (as the clear, blue sky from day three was thought to be much less evocative), and the final image was made as a composite of the power station picture from day one and the pig from day three.
The album had custom picture labels, using drummer Nick Mason's handwriting as a typeface, as did the lyrics on the liner sleeve. Side one's label depicted a fish-eye lens view of a dog and the English countryside. Side two's was similar, but featured a pig and sheep instead of the dog.
Originally released on Columbia Records in the U.S. and Harvest Records in the UK, Animals was then remastered in 1992 for its inclusion on the Shine On box set. The remaster was subsequently released on its own by EMI in 1994. In 1997, Columbia Records issued an updated remaster in the United States, Canada, Australia, South America and Japan. Animals was again re-released in April 2000 by Capitol Records in the US, and on the EMI label in Japan, Canada, South America and Australia again using the 1992 Shine On remaster along with the artwork from the 1994 EMI Europe reissue.
It wasn't a great, one of the most productive periods of our life I don't think. We used those two tracks, which went back to '74 and changed the names and doctored them around and stuff and stuck them on the album. I like them, I love that album. It's exciting and noisy and fun and it's got really good bits of effects and stuff on it but it's not one of our creative high points really.- David Gilmour, May 1992, Pink Floyd: The 25th Anniversary Special, Westwood One.
I didn't really like a lot of the music on the album. I have to say I didn't fight very hard to put my stuff on and I didn't have anything to put on. I played on it. I think I played really well but I didn't contribute to the writing on it and also I think Roger was kind of not letting me do that. I think it was the start of the whole ego thing in the band, Animals.– Rick Wright, November 1994, BBC Omnibus Pink Floyd Special 1994.
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