January 25, 2019
We love a good entertainment fact but we absolutely adore it when a fascinating fact is also topical! As you might have seen in the news, numerous holiday makers were delayed by drones at Gatwick resulting in a whole host of flights being delayed or cancelled. As you are about to discover, having a flying object delay flights at a London airport isn’t exactly a one off.
Cast your mind back to 1976 and Pink Floyd were one of the biggest bands in the world. Their previous albums were known for having incredible covers; in 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon showed light refracting through a prism, whilst 1975’s Wish You Were Here had two men shaking hands… One of whom was on fire. Their cover for Animals had to at least live up to their two previous albums and so it was that they ended up organising a shoot over the soon to be decommissioned Battersea Power Station.
Considering the album was called Animals, the building itself wasn’t enough. Pink Floyd took it upon themselves to contact Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw and a German firm, Ballon Fabrik, who had previously constructed Zeppelin airships, to create a 12 metre (40 foot) pig balloon that they would float over the main building. On 2nd December 1976, the pig was moved into position and a marksman had been hired by the band’s manager Steve O’Rourke to shoot down the balloon in case anything went wrong. Alas inclement weather delayed work and everything had to be rescheduled for the next day.
O’Rourke forgot to book the marksman for a second day.
So it was that sod’s law came into play and the pig balloon broke free of its moorings, with nobody able to shoot the balloon down. Everybody watched on in amusement as a pig really did fly across London, but it ultimately turned into a bit of a nightmare; the pig flew over Heathrow resulting in panicked pilots and cancelled flights with already airborne flights also noting that they had seen the porcine balloon fly at their height.
Ultimately the pig came down in a farm in Kent, whereupon the farmer claimed to be furious that the balloon had scared his cows. The band reclaimed the balloon and photography continued for a third day. Ultimately though, the decision was made that earlier photographs of Battersea Power Station were better and the pig was superimposed onto a previous shot to make the album cover for Animals.
The story of the pig and Battersea Power Station doesn’t end there either; the album cover was referenced in the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony intro video as a camera rushed along the Thames. As it passes Battersea, the camera slides beneath the Pink Floyd pig!
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By Henry Fosdike