Locomotive Breath (4:30)

Cover of Aqualung

From Aqualung and 133 other releases

“Locomotive Breath” is a song by the British progressive rock band Jethro Tull from their 1971 album, Aqualung. It is notable for a long bluesy piano introduction (particularly during live performances) and its flute solo by flautist Ian Anderson.

The song’s lyrics use the imagery of an impending and unavoidable train wreck as an allegorical portrayal of a man’s life falling apart. The song receives frequent airplay on classic rock radio stations. It was covered by Rabbitt on their 1975 album Boys Will Be Boys, by Italo-disco outfit Cat Gang in 1983, by W. A.S.P. on the reissue of their 1989 album The Headless Children (as a bonus track), Styx on their 2005 album Big Bang Theory, and Helloween on their 1999 album Metal Jukebox. A Swedish rock band, formed in 1995 by Janne Stark, takes its name from the song.

The term “locomotive breath” refers to the steam exhaust from a steam locomotive.

“Locomotive Breath” was recorded in a rather unusual manner for the time: the entire track was pieced together from overdubs; most of the parts of the song were recorded separately. Ian Anderson did his normal flute and vocal parts in addition to bass drum, hi-hat, acoustic guitar and some electric guitar parts. John Evan’s piano parts were then recorded; Clive Bunker added the rest of the drums and Martin Barre finished the electric guitar parts. All of these recordings were then overdubbed onto each other because Anderson was finding it difficult to communicate his musical ideas about the song to the other band members.

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