REMINISCENT MONDAY: The High-Flying Adventures of Algie the Pink Floyd Pig
    • MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2017

    • Posted by: Robert Steiner

    Pink Floyd has never been known for doing things half-assed. Think it's hard enough to make a 10-minute song interesting? Pink Floyd released a freaking half-hour epic, and it was still a hit. Thought The Wall was just an artistic metaphor? Pink Floyd didn't, because they made building a goddamn wall a thing at their shows. Roger Waters still does it on his solo tours from time to time. So when Pink Floyd wanted the cover of their album Animals to be a giant pig floating over London's Battersea Power Station, you can bet they were going to make some pigs fly.

    In 1976, the band paired up with design team Hipgnosis, led by Aubrey Powell, to help them make the legendary album art a reality. Powell and Waters already knew they wanted to use Battersea as the backdrop, as Waters was a fan of the architecture, and since the band had already bought a 40-ft inflatable pig, affectionately named "Algie," for their upcoming tour, the pair put two and two together and knew exactly what they were going to do. Obviously, getting the porker in between the chimneys of a then-fully operational power plant was no easy task, so Powell and the band carefully planned just about everything to ensure success. They specifically chose December 2nd as the day of the shoot, as the weather promised only partly cloudy skies and the band didn't want the sky to look "boring," they knew ahead of time what angle and distance they were going to take the picture, and they even hired a marksman in case Algie got loose and had to be knocked out of the sky. But, like all best laid plans of mice and men, things went askew on the day of the shoot. For reasons still unknown, Algie wasn't having it on his big day, and the pig simply wouldn't inflate properly. It was a shame, because the one thing that worked out that day was the not-boring sky. As Powell remembered, "That day there was the most incredible, Turner-esque sky," so, just to capture the moment, he took some pigless pictures of Battersea anyway.

    After several hours of trying to get Algie off the ground, the band and Powell agreed to call it a loss and try again the next day. They reconvened on December 3rd, and again for reasons unknown, the pig inflated just fine. Powell and his team painstakingly set Algie into place, and just when it seemed like their luck was turning around, the tether attached to the pig broke free due to the wind. Algie was now a free-flying pig. Now, where's the marksman they hired for literally this exact scenario, you may be asking yourself? Well, as it turns out, no one apparently updated the sniper about the change of plans the day before, so quite simply, he didn't show up. Algie quickly rose well beyond anyone's reach, reaching higher heights than any of his fat, pink brethren could have ever dreamed of. Just when I assume someone comically exclaimed, "How could this possibly get any worse???" the winds began to carry Algie straight towards London Heathrow Airport. Pink Floyd left the site before Powell even noticed.

    Upon multiple transmissions from confused pilots that there appeared to be a giant hog flying outside their windows, all flights coming in and out of Heathrow were grounded. Police were flooded with calls from across London of people asking about the pig rising to the heavens over the city, and with Pink Floyd having peaced out, Powell was the only one arrested and questioned by police. Police choppers and even the freaking Royal Air Force took to the skies to bring down Algie, but just when you thought it would be easy to track down a massive pink swine in the air, the pig disappeared without a trace. Eager to get their hog back, Pink Floyd convinced radio stations across England to tell listeners to look out for a floating pig balloon, along with a phone number to call if they saw it. Around 9:30pm that night, a farmer in Kent (about 40 miles from London) called the band saying that their pig balloon is probably the one that landed in his farm and scared the shit out of his cows.

    Algie was recovered by Powell and the band, and somehow they received permission to try the photo shoot yet again, under the condition that they actually bring a sharpshooter. They got the picture, but because nothing could have been perfect at this point, Powell wasn't happy with the cloudless sky. So, in order to finally put this pork-infested fiasco to an end, he took the pictures of the not-boring sky from the first day and superimposed the pig from the last day on top of it. Yes, after all the trouble everyone went through in order to meet Roger Waters' strict request to keep the photo as authentic as possible, the album cover we all know and love was created with the 1970s equivalent of the Photoshop treatment. Irony, thy name is Algie.

    Despite all the trouble he caused, Pink Floyd still used Algie on the Animals tour, and inflatable animals in fact became a staple of the band's concerts for the rest of their career. In 2008, history repeated itself for Rodger Waters, whose solo group was the closing act for Coachella that year. As a massive pig balloon loomed over the audience during the song "Run Like Hell," the tethers once again came loose, and the pig fulfilled its destiny and floated into the night. Two families in La Quinta, California found the pig in pieces across their yards, and Coachella organizers rewarded them with lifetime passes to the festival upon its return.

    As for the original piggy pilot, Algie went up for auction in 2015, only to be pulled from sale by its original and rightful owners. It seems that even after the crazy misadventure 40 years ago, Pink Floyd wasn't ready to part with their high-flying mascot just yet.

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