The Meaning Behind “Piggies” by The Beatles and the Social Commentary George Harrison Snuck into the Song

George Harrison brought the sounds of India to The Beatles on songs like “Love You To” and “Within You Without You.” But that wasn’t his only lane. On “Piggies” off the White Album, he used a positively antiquated, very properly British musical backdrop to make a stinging comment on society at the time.

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What is “Piggies” about? How did Harrison get help with the writing from both a fellow Beatle and a beloved relative? And who stepped in to play the harpsichord on the track? Let’s dive deep into this porcine production by the Fab Four.

George Gets Topical

When you look at the songwriting that George Harrison did as a member of The Beatles, an interesting contrast emerges. On the one hand, Harrison could take a cosmic, spiritual overview of the world while urging others to do the same. This was a byproduct of his own study of religion and his inner yearning to make sense of life and death.

But he could also turn on a dime and pick apart the injustices perpetrated by the powers that be. He famously did that on “Taxman,” which was, in its way, The Beatles’ first ever protest song, well before John Lennon started to get political on songs like “Revolution.”

Around the same time that he wrote “Taxman,” Harrison also penned “Piggies,” another piece of social commentary set to music. Stuck for some of the lyrics, Harrison turned to Lennon, who chipped in the line to eat their bacon (it was originally pork chops). Meanwhile, Harrison’s mother Louise, of all people, came up with the phrase damn good whacking to help out the middle eight.

Victorian Rock

Harrison decided against an Indian-style musical backing for “Piggies,” instead going pretty much 180 degrees in the other direction. He outfitted the song with music that sounded like it was sourced from the era of Queen Victoria, maybe even Queen Elizabeth. It’s not what you might expect from The Beatles, at least until you remember that it appeared on The White Album, where outré ideas were welcomed.

To get just the right feel, Harrison and company decided on a harpsichord part to embellish the basic backing and producer George Martin’s string arrangement. Instead of looking for a session player, Harrison instead asked Chris Thomas, then a young assistant at Abbey Road, to do the job. Years down the road, Thomas would become an in-demand producer of some of the finest rock bands in the world.

It seems Harrison was likely inspired in part by British author George Orwell’s famous allegorical novel Animal Farm. In Orwell’s case, there is a pig uprising against the humans. In Harrison’s tableau, the pigs are already in charge, but the idea of the animals taking on some of the more merciless characteristics of humanity is similar.

What is the Meaning Behind “Piggies”?

“Piggies” presents two groups of pigs separated by status, if not by genetics. In the first verse, Harrison shows us the little piggies, who are stand-ins for the working class of this society. Life is getting worse for this group, according to the narrator, as their only consolation in life is that they’re always having dirt to play around in.

The upper-class pigs are in a different echelon, high and mighty with their ever-clean starched-white shirts. They also bear responsibility for the problems suffered by those below them on the rungs of the societal ladder: You will find the bigger piggies stirring up the dirt. The middle eight confirms that the rich tormentors are lashing out as a response to their own inadequacies: In their lives there’s something lacking.

The final verse unites the disparate groups, suggesting they’d all be willing to improve their own station by hurting others, hence the line about eating bacon. With “Piggies,” George Harrison told a story about the animal kingdom to make a sly, biting statement about human ruthlessness.

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