If you like animal metaphors, you’re going to love our song of the day today.
This week, we’re combing back through the records of the past fifty years, retrieving gems, and bringing them back. Yesterday, we looked at Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”, and saw how it changed from Bob Dylan’s original version.
I thought for a moment that we could pivot into a week of cover songs that were better than the originals, but thought better of it. Let’s not go down that road. Instead, we’ll stick to more classic rock, for now.
Our song of the day today comes from a band as strange and melancholic as the music they made: Pink Floyd. The song is titled, “Dogs”. The album, “Animals”.
Pink Floyd released their tenth studio album in 1977. “Animals” came two years after the widely acclaimed, “Wish You Were Here”, and two years before the widely acclaimed “The Wall”. While “Animals” was still critically acclaimed, it seems that today, it has slipped into obscurity.
Like “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall”, “Animals” was a concept album, one which was structured very similarly to “Wish You Were Here”. An inverse structure, actually. While “Wish You Were Here” was bookend-ed with sprawling thirteen or fourteen minute songs, “Animals” bookends are short, less than two minutes each. It’s an album structured like a sandwich. Thin slices of bread, all the meat in the middle.
Each of the three ‘meaty’ songs in “Animals” addresses socio-political concerns of Britain in the 1970s, through (you guessed it) animal metaphors. The album was also loosely based on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.
“Dogs” is the first song after the “Pigs On the Wing” prelude, and comes in at a whopping seventeen minutes. But don’t worry, it’s all worth it (mostly).
According to Pink Floyd, the dogs in their concept are businessmen, ruthless, cunning, and high-powered. The lyrics give advice as to what it takes to be a dog. “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”.
There’s this sense that they are outwardly charming, even respectable, but it’s just a facade before the other boot drops. “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 lyrics also pull the curtain down over the ultimate destiny of the dogs. “And in the end you’ll pack up and fly down south / Hide your head in the sand, / Just another sad old man / All alone and dying of cancer”.
The first half of the song finishes with one final jab at the dogs. “And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone /And it’s too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around / So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone / Dragged down by the stone”.
What follows is a long, meandering electronic instrumental section that feels like it’s going nowhere, until it circles back to the verse. If there was a section to cut to make “Dogs” a more accessible song, this would be it.
We’ve only covered the lyrics so far, but I really wanted to make sure I gave a shout out to David Gilmour’s work on “Dogs”. Without his multiple solos and composed melodies, it just wouldn’t be the same song. I love the lyrics, and the chords in “Dogs”, but the reason I listen to it time and time again is for Gilmour’s explosive solos.