This post is inspired by this editorial cartoon in The Guardian by the great and wonderful Steve Bell on the occasion of the launch of the Conservative Party’s ‘do-it-yourself revolution’.
The cartoon, I presupposed was inspired by the masterful Pink Floyd cover by Hipgnosis with the pink pig floating past Battersea Power Station.
I remembered this in particular because I wrote the story (under my Dick Tracy pen name) on what happened during the photoshoot. The pig got away! It was published in the NME on 11th December 1976 in Thrills under the headline PIG AHOY. It was accompanied by a brilliant cartoon by the late great Edward.
‘It seemed like a good idea. The Pink Floyd, well known avant-garde electronic ensemble, were looking for a suitable cover photo to grace their latest album "Animals" which features just three tracks called "Duck," "Pig" and "Sheep." Some bright photographer suggested building a large inflatable pink pig, which is where our story begins.
Dateline Thursday, December 2. On a crisp, clear morning a party of assorted photographers and film people were clustered around* the base of Battersea Power station waiting for the pig to be launched. Specially constructed by a German firm, Ballon Fabrik, the people responsible for building the Zeppelins, the hushed and expectant crowd got ready to toast the pig with pink champagne.
In the shadows lurked a hired marksman with rifle and dum-dum bullets ready to shoot down the monstrous porker should it get out of control. Alas, the party discovered they did not have enough helium to float their pink prodigy, so everyone drank up and went home.
Dateline Friday, December 3. On a crisp clear morning a party of assorted photographers and film people returned to witness the second launching attempt. Extra helium had been laid on and gradually the 40 foot pig began to rise majestically into the air. Shutters started clicking furiously and then . . . quelle horreur. . . one of the lines securing the beast broke and pink pig floated up into the blue beyond far out of reach of the frantic humans below.
First sightings came from an anxious jet pilot who after touchdown at Heathrow, rushed to the control tower to report he had seen a large pink pig floating through the sky. He had to be breathalysed before anyone took his information seriously. Immediately a police helicopter was dispatched on the pig's trail. It was sighted over London and tracked to 5,000 feet before the helicopter had to give up the chase. Then the Civil Aviation Authority swung into action, warning all pilots that a flying pig was in the vicinity.
The London Evening News began receiving reports from its readers who claimed to have seen a pink UFO and one reader commented: "This large pink thing flew over my garden. It's enough to send you on the wagon." When I spoke to the press man at the CAA he told me “ it was last sighted east of Detling, near Chatham in Kent at 18,000 feet going east before we lost it on our radar." When I asked him what he thought the ultimate fate of this flying phenomenon was likely to be, he said: “it will either disappear into the upper atmosphere and dissolve, or continue across the Channel until it reaches Germany where it was made. You could call it a homing pig." Later reports confirmed the pig had come to ground in Kent. For a while the Pink Floyd's office slapped an embargo on information regarding the pig's activities. When they finally .admitted the mishap they also confessed that they were not even sure whether or not they had enough pictures of the pig for the album. Perhaps they just don't want to know anymore.’
Read the Wikipedia entry on this particular incident and Pink Floyd’s ongoing use of pigs in their stage shows.
This story is also told by Roger Waters in an article in Rolling Stone magazine.