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Animals - the 1977 album and tour analysed Print E-mail

WELCOME TO THE SHEEP SEATS

A round-up of the year 1977 by Paul Powell Jr.

Pink Floyd, 1977The Animals era began in April of 1976 with the Pink Floyd recording, for the first time, in their own Britannia Row studios. With a studio of their own, and upgraded to state of the art, they exercised their own lack of discipline by conveying a work full of long-winded venom and harsh soundscapes.

Only the punk era seemed more volatile than Floyd at this time. While Johnny Rotten screamed anarchy and rebellion, Roger Waters' lyrics sized up the situation more eloquently, reducing human behaviour and personality to the likes of animals; thus, Animals wasn't a comment on humanity's darker side, it was a vivisection.

On December 3rd, a second attempt to photograph the pig balloon over Battersea Power Station was cut short when the porcine dirigible broke loose and headed for friendlier skies, winding up over Southeast England after being refused permission to land at Heathrow Airport!

Hipgnosis had designed the first cover only to have it rejected by Pink Floyd; after three shooting sessions they had enough material to construct the now famous cover. Pink Floyd have shared a long history with Hipgnosis beginning with A Saucerful Of Secrets. Now, with the Animals cover finished, they went on to design the songbook and tour programme both mirroring the desolation and savage graphics of the LP. A three minute video of the pig sessions exists, but this would not be the last time the balloon would fly.

Variations of the LP cover included a solid pink single cover and sleeve with pink vinyl in France. Another with a normal cover and sleeve adorned with a decal on the wrap that reads "Disque Rose" and "Tirage Liminite" complete with the same pink vinyl. The Netherlands also had pink vinyl. In Japan you got a four page insert with five essays (I assume) on the band by Japanese journalists plus extra pics and lyric translations. The US and UK versions were normal save for the 8-track cartridge having a guitar solo bridging Pigs On The Wing 1 & 2, performed by Snowy White, part of their touring band at the time.

Promotion went from the outrageous to the casual. In France, pink plastic pigs were distributed to shops which doubled as album holders. Sometimes dozens were spotted trotting down streets, and on one occasion formed a question mark in a field - obviously alerting other pigs in the air of their whereabouts.

Pink Floyd, 1977In America, a Pink Floyd parade was held on 6th Avenue, New York City. Fans who witnessed the spectacle saw sheep and pigs parading down the street. Later, to promote the Madison Square Garden gigs, ticket applications were handed out in Central Park's "Sheep Meadow". Fans later rejoiced to the launch of yet another pig balloon; this one, however, remained on earth. A radio ad was produced as were the usual print ads. DJs in the US had a promo-only LP to play. It was unusual in that Dogs was cut into three parts, banded for airplay. The cue sheet shows it divided into five minute segments. Sheep was also cut in half, and of course, Pigs had an obvious word deleted. Some religious groups were up in arms about the 23rd Psalm passage in Sheep, but this was short lived.

In the UK, the LP was premiered to the press on January 19th at Battersea Power Station, and a mispressing of early UK copies created an instant collectors item: side two of Animals instead had side two of Wish You Were Here. A month earlier, on December 17th, saw the beginning of the legendary Pink Floyd Story on London's Capital Radio, of which the sixth and final part was to exclusively premiere the album with Roger explaining it in interview, on January 21st. Unfortunately, BBC DJ John Peel beat them to it, playing it the night before. The six part series was the first complete Pink Floyd radio documentary, and featured the band talking in depth about their history. It is transcribed in full, in the Interviews section of this site.

Pink Floyd, 1977On January 23rd the Floyd donned leather bomber jackets and shirts printed with a pig logo, and set across the world on the IN THE FLESH tour. The shows were sensory banquets packed with a barrage of balloons in the shape of a cigar-holding industry executive, a family of three, a car and a pig. Add two electronic lighting cranes, the mirror ball, pyrotechnics and the filmscreen with new Gerald Scarfe animation. This would be the first time Welcome To The Machine would be played, and now had accompanying animation of a metallic creature, rats, a bloody sea and a decapitation! The band didn't brew tea on stage, but what they did is rock like never before.

The tour set a standard for scale and attendance. The first half was dedicated to Animals, the second to WYWH. Ads appeared in Rolling Stone and most impressive was a full page in the New York Times of the pig nuzzling up beside the smokestack. By April the LP had gone platinum, and to celebrate, CBS ran a two page colour ad in Billboard showing a platinum pig and a real pig nestling in straw. By this time the Euro leg of the tour was over, and they were playing the bowls and stadiums of America. The strain on Roger was eating at him like acid on a raw nerve; the audiences were more and more enthusiastic, but at the same time, they were an insatiable organism devouring every sight and sound.

In Chicago, at Soldier Field on June 19th, the audience seemed much larger than the reported 63,000 - so a helicopter headcount with a photographer and lawyer revealed a crowd nearer to 95,000. In Cleveland at the Municipal Stadium on June 25th they set another attendance record of 81,377. In Canada at the Olympic Stadium on July 6th, over 80,000 turned out for the largest show in Canadian history. The concerts became a survival test; Roger even yelled out the gig number during Pigs. While in New York during the four night stay in July, Roger cursed at union light crews for doing a substandard job, and again at another to curse someone lighting fireworks - this person got a right tongue lashing!

Oakland, May 9th 1977For the duration, Gilmour had another guitar player to fill in on rhythm and share leads, allowing him to play with total conviction and focus; his guitar playing on this tour was exemplary. On several occasions, encores consisted of songs they hadn't performed in over a decade - Careful With That Axe, Eugene delighted old and new fans alike at Oakland Coliseum on May 9th, and Blues at Montreal on July 6th, as David wandered into the crowd back to the soundboard to watch as Snowy White, the lone guitarist, played a morose conclusion to a sometimes turbulent tour.

The altercation between a fan and Waters are legend, the results would send ripples through the Pink Floyd empire, and thus ended an era and began another; it would be another decade before they would surpass the size and scale of the tour.

The Animals material didn't receive a lot of mileage after the tour, although CBS/EMI saw fit to include Sheep on the Collection Of Great Dance Songs album. Although Floyd haven't played any Animals songs since then, Dogs would have been the obvious choice with some of David's most passionate and blistering guitar work. Waters has performed selections from Animals on his solo tours of 1984, 1987 and his most recent shows.

One very interesting bit of data about the tour is that every show was recorded on their Nakamichi cassette deck, mostly for tightening up the show during rehearsals, but its value as archival material is priceless, so EMI and CBS are you listening?
 
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