Written as a comment on population growth, "Locomotive Breath" was meant to replicate the chugging rhythm of a train. In addition to its release on Aqualung, "Locomotive Breath" saw two different single releases and has been a live favorite. It is one of Jethro Tull's best-known songs.
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.
Locomotive Breath (Maryland, 21.11.1977)
In the shuffling madness Of the locomotive breath, Runs the all, time loser, Headlong to his death
He feels the piston scraping Steam breaking on his brow Old Charlie stole the handle and The train it won't stop going
No way to slow down He sees his children jumping off At stations, one by one His woman and his best friend
In bed and having fun 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 He picks up Gideons Bible Open at page one
I think God He stole the handle and The train 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 No way to slow down
Songwriters: Ian Anderson Locomotive Breath lyrics © BMG Rights Management
Music video by Jethro Tull performing Locomotive Breath (Rockpop In Concert 10.7.1982)