The Time Pink Floyd's Giant Inflatable Pig Floated Away
By Nick Keppler
A huge inflatable pig had been a fixture at Pink Floyd's flashy live concerts since the balloon was featured on the album artwork for 1977's Animals. The giant prop became synonymous with their stage shows, and it even was included in a custody battle after Pink Floyd broke up.
In 1986, after years of animosity, guitarist David Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters battled over the Pink Floyd name and iconography in court. While Gilmour was awarded the rights to the band name, the court granted Waters the rights to the pig. Gilmour, who planned to continue touring with Pink Floyd’s name and music, paid his former bandmate to license the inflatable icon, even though hostility between the two remained intense.
Waters has continued to use giant inflatable pigs at concerts during his solo career. During his 2006 The Dark Side of the Moon Live Tour, a pig was released at one of his concerts with the words "Impeach Bush" graffitied on its side.
NicoQuatrevingtsix via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
During the pig’s long career as a stage prop, it seemed inevitable that someone would lose hold of its ropes and release it (in a repeat of what happened when artists working for the band first tried to get the shot for the Animals cover), and that’s exactly what happened during Waters’s performance at the 2008 Coachella Festival.
The ninth Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival attracted more than 150,000 people to the California desert. Headliners that year included Prince, Jack Johnson, and Roger Waters, who closed the festival on Sunday, April 27.
Waters’s set was accompanied by his usual fog and pyrotechnics, and it also saw the two-story-tall pig ascend over the audience. The balloon’s handlers trudged their way through the crowd, trying their best to control the prop. But, appropriately, during the song “Run like Hell,” the pig became unmoored and slowly floated off into the desert sky.
“That’s my pig,” Waters told the crowd, but—as he said on The Wall — the show must go on. He and his band continued the set.
Coachella organizers offered a $10,000 reward and four lifetime festival passes for the return of the pig. Three days after its escape, the balloon was found in tatters across the properties of two families in the nearby town of La Quinta, California.
“We found your pig, but it looks more like pulled pork,” one of the homeowners told Coachella organizers. The two families split the passes and gave the $10,000 away to local children’s music nonprofits.
As for the pig, Coachella’s organizers kept its tattered carcass as a memento.