Piggies - The Beatles

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"Piggies" - The Beatles (1968)

"Piggies" was George as social commentator offering his views on class and corporate greed.

The track was sandwiched between two other songs on The White Album 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.

Although he wrote Piggies in 1966, it wasn’t until two years later when George found a copy of what he had written at his parents’ house did he decide to record it. It was his mother who provided the line: “What they need’s a damn good whacking.” Lennon came up with “clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.”

In his book The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles, Dominic Pedler, cites how effectively the use of dissonant chords evokes the spiritual dislocation of the song.

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack opines:

“There is quite a surprising blend of pseudo-classical mannerisms in the music with sophomoric cynicism in the lyrics!”

Vocally, George puts in a better-than-average performance as the track is full of irony and distain in the way he sings it. Music critic Al Barger states that if the tone of both the melody and the words were not so overwhelmingly harsh, this would probably be regarded as a novelty record.

Harrison built the whole thing on a fake (i.e experimental) Elizabethan sound. A harpsichord is the principal instrument, backed by a bassoon providing the setting for a purposely pompous sounding English melody. It sounds like a timepiece from a time that never was.

Commenting on McCartney’s bass playing on the song, Dennis Alstrand, author of - Evolution of Rock Bass Playing; McCartney Style, asserts:

“How is it humanly possible that one could get one’s bass guitar to sound like a pig? His bass sound almost rivals the pig voices.”

The lyrics have a clear literal meaning, but they are ambiguous. They describe nasty farm animals living the good life. The higher up piggies live quite the life at the expense of their cloven hoofed brethren- eating literally high on the hog “clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.” The track’s stiff, unsympathetic tone of the melody reconfirms the judgmental ring of the words.

In his book on The White Album, David Quantick postulates:

“Despite being a moral lesson for the world, on this song, the moral is expressed in the form of metaphor, the human race are compared to pigs. Harrison’s piggies are seemingly divided into two types: the little piggies, who are presumably most of us, in the dirt and with ever-worsening lives, and the big piggies, who wear shirts and take their wives to dinners, and who go around ‘stirring up the dirt’.”

Quantick says that "Piggies" forms part of a venerable British rock tradition of sneering at the middle classes. However it’s nastier than that encompassing the whole of humanity, who, Harrison asserts, need to be punished because they are not interested in what’s going on around them.

Quantick also believed the song showed the dark side of Harrison’s religiosity where the unenlightened are just the ones too stupid to get their names on the guest list.

Where the enlightened sit around cross-legged all day looking down on the rest of us in the direct. Although the Beatles preached peace and love and meant it, songs like this on The White Album are an indication that they could be a bit selective about it.

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