Piggies

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"Piggies"
Song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 19 September 1968
Genre Baroque pop
Length 2:04
Label Apple Records
Writer George Harrison
Producer George Martin
The Beatles track listing

"Piggies" is a song by the Beatles, released in 1968 on their eponymous double album (commonly known as The White Album). It was written by George Harrison as social commentary.[1]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

This song was originally written in 1966 and worked up for the White Album after Harrison found a copy of the manuscript at his parents' home in 1968.[2] Harrison's mother provided the line "What they need's a damn good whacking",[3] and Lennon contributed the line "clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon."[4] There was an additional verse written for the song in 1968 but omitted during the actual recording. It involved the "piggies" playing "piggy pranks" in order to achieve its rhyming couplet of "piggy banks." Harrison reinstated this verse in all live performances of the song in the 1990s. A version can be heard on his double album Live in Japan.

Yeah, everywhere there's lots of piggies
Playing piggy pranks
And you can see them on their trotters
Down at the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks
To thee pig brother

The original lyrics read "to cut their pork chops" (as heard on the Anthology 3 album). Lennon created the tape loop for the pig noises that were sampled for this song. Author Walter Everett refers to the lyrics as involving an "Orwellian comparison of pigs to socially horrid though outwardly refined tyrants."[5]

Musical structure[edit]

"Piggies" features a Baroque-style harpsichord and string quartet — which take an unexpected turn at one point playing a blues riff (0:56). Chris Thomas (producing in George Martin's absence on some of the White Album sessions) played the harpsichord part.[6] The song is in the key of A and the verses (such as "Have you seen the little piggies in their starched white shirts?") open with a I-V-I-V (A to E, A to E) chord alternation.[7] The expected cycle of fifth notes in the scale is thwarted by means of a III7 on the way to the IV (subdominant) chord, the III7 (C7), pointedly accentuating, for example, the lyrics on "damn good whacking."[8] The unusual III7 (C7) move also appears just before the characteristically jarring shift down a tone to the minor ii (Bm) on "In their sties".[9] The song is also notable for its subtle closing instance of the parallel minor/major principle as the harpsichord's C note (the major 3rd of the A tonic key chord) shifts (at 1.44 s) to a darker C, creating a more "classical sounding" Am.[10] Harrison's vocals in the song notably range from a low E bass note (at 1.28s) to a descant falsetto B2 (at 1.41 s)[11] Further notable features include the implied but unfulfilled tonicization of VI in the bridge and a change of mode on the tonic in the coda in harpsichord and strings.[12]

Recording[edit]

The mono version (originally released on an LP mono incarnation of The Beatles) has the pig sounds positioned differently from that of the stereo recording. The Beatles in Mono box set contains a version of The Beatles featuring this mono mix. "Piggies" is sandwiched between two other songs with animals in their titles ("Blackbird" and "Rocky Raccoon"). This was a deliberate decision on the part of Lennon and McCartney while preparing the sequencing of the songs for the album.[citation needed] At 1:53, George can heard saying, "One more time" before the orchestra plays the last two chords.

Interpretations[edit]

Charles Manson derived personal meaning from many songs of The White Album (see Helter Skelter (Manson scenario)). "Piggies" was used in particular to justify attacks on the White establishment, with the lyrics "what they need's a damn good whacking" reflecting the attacks on Blacks in what Manson envisioned would be an apocalyptic race war. During the murders of Sharon Tate, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, Gary Hinman and others, the words 'political piggy', 'pig' and 'death to pigs' were written with the victims' blood on the walls. In the case of the LaBianca murders, knives and forks were actually inserted into the victims in reference to the lyric "Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon".[13]

In the book Helter Skelter, author Vincent Bugliosi said he was not given permission by Harrison to quote lyrics from the song, but the 1976 TV-movie adaptation features several Beatles songs performed by a sound-alike group, "Piggies" among them.

Critical reception[edit]

In his book Revolution in the Head, music critic Ian MacDonald describes "Piggies" as a "bludgeoning satire on straight society", dismissing the song as "dreadful" and "an embarrassing blot on (Harrison's) discography."[14] Pedler expresses a more favorable opinion, citing how effectively the use of dissonant chords evokes the spiritual dislocation of the "Piggies"[15] Everett notes that 'Piggies' is "notable for its Baroque textures and harmonies."[16] Pollack agrees with both: "This is quite a surprising blend of pseudo-classical mannerisms in the music with sophomoric cynicism in the lyrics!" [17]

Cover versions[edit]

When Mojo released The White Album Recovered in 2008, part of a continuing series of CDs of Beatles albums covered track-by-track by modern artists, the track was covered by Pumajaw.[18]

Personnel[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Harrison, George (2002). I Me Mine. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 126. ISBN 0-8118-3793-9. 
  2. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  3. ^ Greene 2006.
  4. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  5. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  6. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  7. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  8. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 109, 115. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  9. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 109, 115. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  10. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  11. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  12. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  13. ^ Bugliosi & Gentry 2010.
  14. ^ MacDonald 2003, pp. 317–18.
  15. ^ Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. London: Omnibus Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-7119-8167-6. 
  16. ^ Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians. Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. ISBN 01950955370195129415 p199
  17. ^ Pollack, Alan D., "Notes on 'Piggies'", [1] soundscapes.info, retrieved 2013-01-12
  18. ^ http://www.mojocovercds.com/cd/305

References[edit]

  • Bugliosi, Vincent; Gentry, Curt (2010). Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. 
  • Greene, Joshua M. (2006). Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison. Bantam Books. 
  • MacDonald, Ian (2003). Revolution in the Head:The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. Pimlico. ISBN 1-84413-828-3. 
  • "White Album". The Beatles Interview Database. 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010.