Locomotive Breath

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"Locomotive Breath"
Single by Jethro Tull
from the album Aqualung
A-side "Hymn 43"
Released 1971 (1971)
Recorded December 1970 - February 1971 at Island Studios, London
Genre Hard rock, Progressive rock
Length 4:23
Songwriter(s) Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull singles chronology
"Hymn 43"
"Locomotive Breath"
"Life is a Long Song"
"Hymn 43"
"Locomotive Breath"
"Life is a Long Song"
Aqualung track listing
"Locomotive Breath"
"Wind Up"

"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 receives frequent airplay on classic rock radio stations.


"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.

The composition is designed to resemble a train chugging. Anderson occasionally says a word like "Oh-OH!" in the style of "All aboard?!", as shouted by train conductors.


The term "locomotive breath" refers to the steam exhaust from a steam locomotive. 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 - or even death itself, as Ian Anderson has put it. Despite this, elements of humour are present, as Anderson often includes in his lyrics.[1] The lyrics borrow heavily from Friedrich Dürrenmatt's surrealistic short story The Tunnel.


"Locomotive Breath" was covered by Rabbitt on their 1975 album Boys Will Be Boys, by Indian psychedelic rock band Atomic Forest in 1972, 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.


Album appearances[edit]

It is also on the video Slipstream.


  1. ^ "Jethro Tull Press: Disc & Music Echo, 20 March 1971". www.tullpress.com. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  • George-Warren, Holly (editor) (2001). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (2005 revised and updated ed.). Fireside. ISBN 978-0-7432-9201-6. 
  • Levy, Joe (editor) (2005). Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (First Paperback ed.). Wenner Books. ISBN 978-1-932958-61-4. 
  • Roberts, David (editor) (2005). British Hit Singles & Albums (18 ed.). Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 978-1-904994-00-8. 
  • Jethro Tull. Aqualung. CD-ROM. 1998. Chrysalis Records. Originally released as an LP 1971; Remastered with more material 1998.

External links[edit]