When was it recorded? Sept. 19-20 and Oct. 10, 1968
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 22, 1968 on “The Beatles”
Who wrote it? Harrison
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
Quoth Alan Pollack, “This is quite a surprising blend of pseudo-classical mannerisms in the music with sophomoric cynicism in the lyrics!”
George wrote “Piggies” in 1966; lyrically, the song is a social commentary on financial greed and class differences (Beatles Bible). He found his draft of the song while visiting his parents’ home two years later and decided to rework the song.
“‘Piggies’ is a social comment. I was stuck for one line in the middle until my mother came up with the lyric, ‘What they need is a damn good whacking,’ which is a nice simple way of saying they need a good hiding.” — George Harrison
I just love that his mom is responsible for that line. John contributed the line, “Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon” (or “pork chops,” in the original version). George original drafted another verse (with the novelty rhyming couplet of “piggy pranks” / “piggy banks”) that was cut before the song was recorded for the White Album. We’ll come back to that.
As with most White Album songs, “Piggies” was demoed at George’s Kinfauns home. This demo later appeared on “Anthology 3.”
The Beatles recorded 11 rhythm track takes for “Piggies” on Sept. 19, 1968. Around this time, their regular producer, George Martin, went on vacation. His assistant (and aspiring music producer), Chris Thomas, took over Martin’s duties for the time being. As such, Thomas recorded a handful of backing instruments for the White Album, most notably the harpsichord part on “Piggies.”
“All four Beatles were there for the session and we were working in [studio] number two. I wandered into number one and found a harpsichord, not knowing that it had been set up overnight for a classical recording. So we discussed wheeling the thing into number two but Ken Scott said, ‘No, we can’t, it’s there for another session!’ So we moved our session into number one instead. George Harrison agreed that my harpsichord idea was a good one and suggested that I play it.” — Chris Thomas (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
George recorded his lead vocals the next day. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “At the same time, John Lennon assembled a tape loop of pigs snorting, using effects tapes from the Abbey Road collection.” The pig noises are synched differently on the mono and stereo versions of the tune. On Oct. 10, the returned George Martin added an eight-piece string section and stuck a fork in the song, calling it done.
As Wikipedia points out, on the White Album, “‘Piggies’ is sandwiched between two other songs with animals in their titles (‘Blackbird’ and ‘Rocky Raccoon’). This was a deliberate decision on the part of Lennon and McCartney while preparing the sequencing of the songs for the album.” Wikipedia also notes that you can hear George say “One more time,” around 1:53.
While touring solo after the Beatles’ split, George restored the omitted verse of “Piggies” I mentioned way back at the start in his performances. Here’s how the song appeared on “Live in Japan.” I don’t know what’s going on with the actual video… I mean, I understand what the user was getting at, but it seems too slapdash to make an authentic political statement… anyway, enjoy the song.
Edit: After I posted this entry, I turned on the radio and promptly heard “Penny Lane” on my local station. I am going to stab someone.