When Roger Waters, the co-founder of Pink Floyd, recently performed at New York’s Madison Square Garden during his This Is Not a Drill tour, he brought with him two giant inflatables—one shaped like a sheep and the other a pig—that circled inside the famous arena. They were visual references to his former band’s 1977 album Animalswhose dark lyrical themes were inspired by George Orwell’s 1945 allegorical novel Animal Farm. In keeping with its caustic political and social commentary, the album’s striking cover photograph depicts London’s Battersea Power Station building underneath ominous clouds and a large inflatable pig hovering between two tall chimneys.
Since its release from 45 years ago, Animals has been regarded as one of Pink Floyd’s best albums. On Friday, the band released its long-awaited 2018 remix of that record. To mark the occasion, the reissue will also feature a newly-updated cover photo of the now-decommissioned Battersea Power Station that was in the midst of a recent residential and commercial regeneration after decades of neglect.
The original Animals album cover was designed by the British firm Hipgnosis, co-founded by the late Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. The two graphic artists’ friendship with the members of Pink Floyd can be traced to their Cambridge roots during the mid-1960s, as the band–bassist Waters, drummer Nick Mason, keyboardist Richard Wright and guitarist/singer Syd Barrett—were starting out as a psychedelic pop band. Hipgnosis’ first album design for Pink Floyd was 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets album and the relationship continued through such records as Atom Heart Mother, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.
When Powell heard about the new remix for Animals, he immediately wanted to update the original album cover art while still retaining the dark, dystopian themes associated with the record. He especially wanted to take a photo of the Battersea Power Station building before the redevelopment was completed.
“I started looking at it and seeing what was happening,” says Powell, “and I thought, “You know, if I don’t get this picture now, it’s gonna be too late.” If you look at the power station now, it is completely shrouded in modern apartment blocks. In a way, it’s terribly sad to have hidden this remarkable building. It’s all about money and greed. (laughs) The developers have taken over and we’ve sort of lost sight of an extraordinary building built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott between 1929 and 1941. They have kept the most incredible working stations in there which are all Art Deco, they haven’t destroyed any of that, which is a great relief. I’m so pleased I got it before that happened 3-4 years ago.”
The view of Battersea Power Station as depicted in the updated cover for the remix is similar to the original photo taken in 1976—this time with rail lines and construction cranes surrounding the building. However, the grayish tone of the new photo is in accordance with the spirit of the album’s pointed lyrics and music.
“I went to a bridge not far from Battersea Power Station where they’re starting to build all the apartment blocks around it,” says Powell. “In fact, it’s virtually disappeared now, it’s very sad. I shot the picture with my cameraman Rupert Truman. I took it to Roger and I said, ‘What about this? This is the new reflection of Battersea Power Station.’ I put a pig on it, and he said, ‘I absolutely love it. Let’s use that.’ It feels that the cover is a very conscious effort to do something which would reflect the original darkness of the album because it was quite a departure for Pink Floyd, that album.”
Putting together the updated cover for the Animals remix seemed like a breeze compared to the conception and execution of the original cover art for the album 45 years ago. Conceived by Waters, the cover art for Animals was quite different from what Powell and Thorgerson initially had in mind. “We presented this one idea,” Powell recalls, “which is the child standing in the doorway with the parents making love in a bed, he’s holding a teddy bear in his arms, and it’s called Animals. Roger said, ‘No, this is not right.’ And then, of course, he wanted to fly a pig above the power station.
“The reason [Roger] wanted to do that he had a house just near the power station,” Powell continues. “He used to drive past it every day on the way to the recording studio. And he was trying to think of something that represented power, greed, avarice: something that was very Orwellian in a sort of science fiction way. And this building represented that him.”
Shooting for the original Animals cover took three memorable days in December 1976. The shoot involved a helicopter with a film crew on board, and a camera crew on the ground. On the first day, there was a malfunction in inflating the large plastic pig. “I’ve been shooting with a guy, Howard Bartrock, who worked for me on a roof where we had the most perfect view of the power station that you see on the album cover. By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when everyone had gone home, these amazing clouds came in. I saw this coming in and I said to Howard, ‘We need to shoot this now.’ So we shot that front cover without the pig.”
The second day of shooting turned out to be the most eventful and has since gone down in Pink Floyd legend: the crew was able to inflate the pig but it broke free from the chain that was holding it. Says Powell: “The pig flew away into the air lanes. I’ve got this amazing photograph of a huge jet flying in the sky just out of range of the pig, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re gonna have the ultimate plane crash here and how’s everyone gonna feel.’ And at first, it was funny. Everybody was laughing, the Floyd were laughing. Then everyone realized [what happened] and they disappeared. We immediately phoned the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and told them.
“The next minute, the police arrived. They canceled all the planes flying into Heathrow. They set up two fighter jets to find it. The helicopter was trying to keep pace with it, but it was rising at 2,000 feet per minute and couldn’t catch up with it. And the next thing it was gone…all the flights coming in from Europe were cancelled. I was taken by the police. Because it was my company dealing with it, they were gonna charge me with being in charge of an unidentified flying object. Can you believe that? I didn’t know such a charge existed.”
Hipgnosis’ office phone number was featured on radio and television for someone to call if they spotted the inflatable’s whereabouts. It was evening time when the phone rang. “I’m with the police,” says Powell. “Nobody’s leaving. And the next thing I hear is this farmer’s voice with a kind of deep accent coming from Southern England saying, ‘Are you looking for a pink pig?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Well, it’s in the field, and it’s frightening my cows.’ (laughs). Because it was helium in the cold air of December, it had descended. The road crew immediately went down, packed it up, and took it to a van. I was making phone calls through 2 o’clock in the morning, ‘We would need to do this again tomorrow.’ Nobody said no.
Upon returning to Battersea for the third and final day, Powell and the crew successfully photographed the floating pig this time securely harnessed; a marksman was present to shoot the inflatable if it got away again. However, there was another hitch—the sky was too beautiful and perfect. “It just didn’t have the majesty on the first day. So I just said to Roger, ‘I’m gonna strip the pig in. No one will ever know but us.’ And that’s what we did. So we collaged the pig from the last day [of the shoot] with the pic from the first day to make that amazing picture. It’s one of my favorite images, and the story behind it is very dramatic. It could have been an absolute disaster. Of course, everybody said, ‘Well, what a great publicity stunt.’ But it wasn’t. (laughs) It was definitely no publicity stunt. I don’t know if I was gonna go to prison.”
Upon the album’s release in January 1977, Animals went on to become a chart success for Pink Floyd as well as one of the band’s most famous album cover artworks. In retrospect, Powell acknowledges that such an undertaking for that particular shoot could not happen in the present times—it was another example of Hipgnosis going that extra mile to make the shot look as authentic as it is elaborate and surreal.
“With Hipgnosis, we always believed in doing things for real,” Powell says. “And even though this was Roger’s design—which it was, and it’s his idea—I think the way that we dealt with it as a studio created what he wanted to see exactly. And he was over the moon with it, and so were the rest of the band—David Gilmour, Nick [Mason] and Rick [Wright]- all really thrilled about it. And they were doubtful in the beginning. When Roger presented the idea to them in their band meeting at Britannia Row studios, they were very grumpy about it, they were grouchy and not too happy about it, and were pretending to be sort of okay about it. Of course, in retrospect, it turned out to be on the most iconic covers, apart from Dark Side of the Moon.”
There was no need to mount another inflatable pig for this newly updated cover of the Animals remix—all Powell had to do was go back to his archives. “I’ll be honest with you: I took a photograph that I had taken 45 years ago of the pig over the power station with the right angle because I have hundreds of photographs of it. And I stripped it in, exactly the same as I did 45 years ago. I didn’t want to go through that again. Air traffic control would not let me do that now. (laughs) Health and safety definitely interfere. So I said, ‘Okay, well, we’ll strip it in.’ I’m really pleased with it, I have to say.”