Pink Floyd’s 1977 song “Dogs”, is a behemoth of a song. Coming in at just over seventeen minutes long, it is the longest song on the album it appeared on (1977’s “Animals”).
This week, we’ve been covering both contemporary releases, as well as old classics. Monday, we looked at MIKA’s “Tiny Love” from his new album “My Name Is Michael Holbrook”, and yesterday we listened to the new Broken Bells song, “Good Luck”. We also covered Pink Floyd earlier this week by reviewing “Time” from “The Dark Side of the Moon”.
There’s a lot of great stuff to talk about today, but before we start discussing “Dogs” itself, let’s first take a look at the album it appears on.
Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, “Animals” was their tenth studio album, and the band’s follow up record to “Wish You Were Here”. Like its predecessor, “Animals” was a concept album, but if you compare the two albums’ tracks, you’ll notice something interesting. While “Wish You Were Here” features the long epics of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as bookends, “Animals” uses the short vignettes of “Pigs on the Wing”. The structure of “Animals” is essentially the inverse of “Wish You Were Here”.
The album was a commercial success, reaching number two in the U.K. and number three in the U.S. on the charts, even though no singles were released for the record.
“Animals” is also a concept album, focused on social and political conditions of Britain at the time by comparing human behavior to animals, partially inspired by George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. The title tracks tell you the types of people “Animals” criticizes and comments on, from “Dogs”, to “Pigs”, to “Sheep”. These three middle songs are heavier both tonally and lyrically, than the book-ended songs. “Pigs on the Wing” is a simple love song that offers hope in the face of the bleak picture painted throughout the middle of the album.
“Dogs” is a seventeen-minute romp with lyrics focused on the ruthless, competitive world of business. It also includes some of David Gilmour’s best guitar work.
In a way, it’s almost easier to discuss the structure of the song by walking through each successive guitar solo. “Dogs” is essentially split into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end sections.
The first part takes up the first eight minutes of the song. It’s characterized by the acoustic guitar and keyboards that introduce the first verses. Gilmour’s first solo pierces through the sound within the second minute. Then, a keyboard solo transitions into another major melodic theme: Gilmour’s second solo, that’s more of a recurring melody line than anything. Three guitars are layered here. Two playing the same notes, and another playing the harmonies underneath. Gilmour’s second solo before the middle section is rougher by far, with squealing notes that mimic a dog’s bark.
At eight minutes, “Dogs” transitions into one of the classic, Pink Floyd “weird” sections. This one includes lots of synth, echoes, barking dogs, and whistling. It lasts for a total of four somewhat trying minutes, before transitioning back into the verse, and the final section of the song.
The last five minutes of “Dogs” mirror the first section initially. Gilmour gets one more solo here, which might be the most explosive out of them all, finishing on a double or triple-upped descending run before transitioning into the recurring melody line. The final section of the song transitions into an outro for the last minute and a half.
While we can talk about the music all day, we can’t get an accurate picture of “Dogs” without looking at the lyrics, which describe the “dog-eat-dog” world of big business.
The first few verses deal with the qualities that someone must have to be a “dog”. Here’s one that gives you a pretty good idea of where the song’s headed.
“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
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”
“Dogs” is one of my all time favorite Pink Floyd songs, so I apologize if I got a bit carried away back there. In all seriousness, please listen to this song at least once all the way through. If you don’t like it, I’ll take full responsibility.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed listening to it, and maybe learned something along the way. That about wraps up our discussion for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more music to finish up the week.