What George Harrison Was Thinking With His ‘White Album’ Track ‘Piggies’

by Jeremy Spirogis
George Harrison in his car, 1969

If you needed political or social commentary, you weren’t going to search out a lot within the music of The Beatles previous to 1968. In all these data, the closest you bought was one rich band member complaining about excessive taxes on Revolver (1966).

But within the White Album period you began listening to one thing resembling a political message within the Beatles’ music. On “Blackbird,” Paul McCartney sang (if obscurely) in assist of Civil Rights-era protesters. And John Lennon not less than broached critical topics on “Revolution 1.”

In his personal manner, George Harrison did the identical on “Piggies,” a tune he started writing across the similar time as “Taxman” (circa 1965-66). After getting little materials on Sgt. Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour, George got here again with 4 songs on the ’68 White Album.

With “Piggies,” George tried to sort out problems with capitalist greed (typically framed as “income inequality” today). And regardless of the title and subsequent interpretation by Charles Manson it had nothing to do with the police or deranged cult considerations.

George Harrison wrote ‘Piggies’ as a touch upon greed

George Harrison in his car, 1969
George Harrison leaves a London recording studio on 16 January 1969. | William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Since “Piggies” solely accommodates three brief verses and a vocal bridge, we don’t have a ton of fabric to sift by way of. But George’s easy, allegorical message is evident. With a nod to George Orwell’s 1984 (printed 1945), Beatle George sings a few world by which some piggies live it up whereas “life is getting worse” for others.

The large piggies have starched white shirts, eat dinner with their wives, and revel in “backing.” In a verse George reduce earlier than recording “Piggies,” he even talked about “piggy banks.” So it’s clear he was calling out the inequality between lessons as he noticed it within the mid-’60s.

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In 1980, George spoke about its composition with out going too in-depth. “‘Piggies’ is a social comment,” he mentioned (through beatlesinterviews.org). He pointed to the phrase “damn good whacking” as referring to a spanking (“a hiding,” in George’s phrases).

About a decade earlier, Manson had interpreted the lyrics because the institution (“piggies”) needing a shock (within the type of an assault, or “whacking”) with very particular weapons (on this case, the “forks and knives” Manson’s followers utilized in a homicide).

George mentioned ‘Piggies’ made no reference to police or different teams

John Lennon, George Harrison. and Paul McCartney standing at a microphoneJohn Lennon, George Harrison. and Paul McCartney standing at a microphone
1968: Three Beatles document voices for ‘Yellow Submarine.’ | Keystone Features/Getty Images

Since The White Album hit document shops in November ’68, you’ll be able to see why individuals might need thought a tune titled “Piggies” can be a reference to the police. Law enforcement had assaulted numerous protesters in the course of the ’68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago that summer time.

When the Walker Report was printed, it described these occasions in Chicago as “a police riot.” And the police heard protesters calling them “pigs” at each flip. So you perceive how some younger individuals would think about the largest band of the ’60s was utilizing the phrase on this manner.

But that wasn’t the case. “It had absolutely nothing to do with American policemen or Californian shagnasties!” George mentioned in 1980. While British bands touring the U.S. had been typically horrified by the degrees of police violence, this White Album monitor wasn’t a response to any of that.

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