Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull

THIS DAY IN MUSIC……………………………….on February 13th of 1971 Jethro Tull records “Locomotive Breath” for their upcoming LP “Aqualung”. Written by Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson, the locomotive in this song is running out of control, and is a metaphor for societal problems. Anderson gave a detailed explanation of the song in our 2013 interview, where he said: “When I wrote it, I wasn’t deliberately setting out to write a piece of music on a particular subject. But it evolved during the writing process into being not terribly specific, but about the issues of overcrowding – the rather claustrophobic feel of a lot of people in a limited space. And the idea of the incessant unstoppable locomotive being metaphor for seemingly the unstoppable population expansion on planet Earth.” It took a few attempts to record this song, as Anderson had to impress on the band that musically, it was supposed to feel like a train on the tracks, not one that goes off and explodes. He uses the analogy of a boiler building up pressure to describe the song musically. Restraining the drummer is always a challenge when performing this song. This is a Classic Rock staple, but disc jockeys have to be patient with this one, as it starts with a quiet piano intro that lasts about 1:22, at which point the other instruments kick in, giving the feeling of a calm that is suddenly disturbed. Anderson’s vocals come in around 1:32. “Old Charlie,” who appears in the chorus to this song, represents God. Anderson says that when he “stole the handle,” he left the train running out of control. This symbolized everyone facing injustice in life and feeling powerless to do anything about it – you just have to make the best of it. 

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