Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull – 1971

 Jethro Tull Locomotive Breath 1971One of my favourite albums back in boyhood days was Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick – a concept album that was written and designed to parody the plethora of concept albums that were in vogue at the time.  Not often you hear Thick as a Brick on the radio but I did hear two great Jethro Tull tracks this week – Locomotive Breath and Living in the Past!  The former from 1971’s fabulous Aqualung; the latter from 1969’s, Living in the Past album.  Living in the Past was released and re-released at least four times, 1969, 1975, 1985, and then in 1993 (a rather more up tempo version dubbed, Living in the (Slightly More Recent) Past).

Jethro Tull 1jethro tull fax

  • Active from 1967 through until 2012, Jethro Tull was a rock band formed in Bedfordshire, England.
  • Starting out as a blues band, Jethro Tull’s sound became unique when they began to meld elements of British folk music with hard rock characterised by the flute of lead vocalist Ian Anderson.  Other founding members were, guitarist Mick Abrahams (who, wanting to move in a hard rock direction, was replaced for a few weeks by Tony Iommi who formed Black Sabbath and was subsequently replaced by the fabulous Martin Barre), keyboardist John O’Hara, drummer Clive Bunker, and bassist Glenn Cornick.
  • Within two years of forming, Jethro Tull hit #1 on the UK album chart with Stand Up (1969) – a blues album not reflective of their later style.
  • In terms of success Jethro Tull made it! Over 60 million albums sold, including 11 gold and five platinum albums.
  • The band continued to tour until late 2011 although their last recordings were from 2003.  In 2014,Ian announced that the band was “finished.”

jethro tull trivia

  • Jethro Tull 2Originally playing a mixture of blues and Motown covers, the band initially had trouble getting repeat bookings so they took to changing their name frequently so clubs would book them without realising who they were.  Names used included, Navy Blue, Ian Henderson’s Bag o’ Nails, and Candy Coloured Rain.  Band names were invented by their booking agents’ staff, one of whom, a history enthusiast, eventually christened them Jethro Tull after the 18th century agriculturist. The name stuck because they happened to be using it the first time a club manager liked their show enough to invite them to return!

locomotive breath fax

  • Recorded between December 1970 and February 1971, Locomotive Breath first appeared on Jethro Tull’s 1971 album, Aqualung.
  • Locomotive Breath didn’t enter the charts until 1976 peaking at #62 on the US singles chart – despite that, it remained one of the band’s most popular live tracks.
  • Locomotive Breath has a long, rather wonderful, bluesy piano introduction and an equally wonderful flute solo halfway through.
  • Ian Anderson wrote Locomotive Breath endeavouring to create music that resembles a train chugging along.  The term “locomotive breath” refers to the steam exhaust from a steam locomotive with the song employing the imagery of an impending and unavoidable train wreck as an allegorical portrayal of a man’s life falling apart.
  • Locomotive Breath has been covered a number of times, notably by Styx on their 2005 album Big Bang Theory. 
  • A Swedish rock band, formed in 1995 by Janne Stark, has taken its name from the song.
  • Locomotive Breath lyrics.

locomotive breath – jethro tull – 1971 – video

living in the (slightly more recent) past – jethro tull – 1993

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