Often when we look back at music history, we tend to stick to the big dates when an album was released, or when a single hit the No. 1 spot on the charts. Due to this, we tend to miss the smaller, sillier stories that bands fall into. While these don’t necessarily give us the same insight on a band’s music, they do offer a different look at what happened behind the scenes.
On December 2nd of 1976, Pink Floyd was out on the first day for their cover shoot for “Animals”. The album’s five songs were arranged similarly to “Wish You Were Here”, but with two short songs book-ending three longer epics. The photo shoot was meant to capture the title of the book-ended song, “Pigs on the Wing”, parts one and two. But to do this, they needed a pig. A massive, inflatable pig.
Pig on the Wing
Roger Waters and artist Aubrey Powell, co-founder of the art group Hipgnosis, came up with the concept of an inflatable pig floating over Britain’s iconic Battersea Power Station. The pig would be held in place with wires between two of the structure’s four towers. A trained marksman was hired ready to fire if the inflatable escaped, but was not needed on the first day.
The real story comes in on the following day, when the 40-foot pig broke free of its trappings. Unfortunately, the marksman had not been hired back on this day, and so away the giant pig floated, in the direction of landing planes coming down at Heathrow Airport.
All flights were grounded, and the Royal Air Force even arrived to help chase the pig, which eventually came down miles away at a farm in Kent. The farmer who notified them reported that it had apparently, “scared the cows” as it came down.
But still without a cover image, the band and Powell returned once again, this time with the marksman again. He ended up cutting and pasting an image of the pig onto one of his earlier pictures of the power station. “It’s actually a completely faked photograph,” Powell later said.
“Animals” sold over 4 million copies, and ended up on the top 10 in both the U.S. and the UK. The iconic pig that Waters named Algie ended up becoming a frequent feature during Pink Floyd’s live concerts.