Jethro Tull – Locomotive Breath

The song hits you like a sack of bricks when the piano intro concludes. It’s powerful, strong, and perfectly pieced together. It reminds me a little of Band On The Run (or the other way around)… as the song is in sections.

I’ve been posting songs, movies, and pop culture posts since 2017 but somehow I’ve missed posting anything about Jethro Tull. I thought today would be the day to correct that…the voice, guitar, and the flute…yea rock and roll flute. Ian Anderson wrote the song but it took a few tries to record it. Anderson explained to the band to imagine a boiler building up pressure until it explodes or a train going off the tracks after gaining speed. He said he wrote it about the overpopulation on Earth.

The song was released in 1971 on the album Aqualung. The song didn’t chart. It was re-released in 1976 and this time it was a different story. The song peaked at #62 on the Billboard 100 and #85 in Canada and has come a classic radio staple. The album Aqualung was huge… it peaked at #7 on the Billboard Album Charts, #5 in Canada, and #4 in the UK.

The song was recorded in pieces and put together and everything fell into place. I feel very safe in saying that it contains one of the best flute solos in rock…of course, that list is not long.

I will say this about Ian Anderson. Like David Byrne, Van Morrison, Freddie Mercury, Neil Young, and a few more…you know when Anderson opens his mouth to sing that it’s him…and very distinctive voice…and the best rock flute player ever!

Ian Anderson:  “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.

When I look at it today, it does, for me, become very crystallized in being a song about unmanageable population expansion. It’s something that concerns me even more today than it did back when I wrote it, when the population of planet Earth was only about two thirds of what it is today. So in my lifetime alone, we’ve seen an enormous increase in population, and an enormous increase in the degree to which we devour our limited resources. So the idea of population planning and management is something that I think we ought to be thinking about a lot more than we do. Does that mean I think we should sterilize everybody after the age of 30? No, of course not. The size of the family you want to have is going to be your choice. But, you should make that choice knowingly, wisely, and responsibly.”

Locomotive Breath

In the shuffling madness
Of the locomotive breath
Runs the all-time loser
Headlong to his death

Oh, he feels the piston scraping
Steam breaking on his brow
Old Charlie stole the handle
And the train it won’t stop
Oh no way to slow down

He sees his children jumping off
At the stations one by one
His woman and his best friend

In bed and having fun
Oh, he’s crawling down the corridor
On his hands and knees
Old Charlie stole the handle
And the train it won’t stop going
No way to slow down

He hears the silence howling
Catches angels as they fall
And the all-time winner
Has got him by the balls
Oh, he picks up Gideons bible
Open at page one
I thank God he stole the handle
And the train it won’t stop going
No way to slow down

No way to slow down
No way to slow down
No way to slow down
No way to slow down
No way to slow down
No way to slow down
No way to slow down