Audio

Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull

jethro-tullJethro Tull are a Grammy Award winning British rock group that formed in 1967-1968. Their music is marked by the distinctive vocal style and lead flute work of front man Ian Anderson. Initially playing blues rock with an experimental flavor, they have, over the years, incorporated elements of classical, folk and ‘ethnic’ musics, jazz and art rock.

During the early 1970s Jethro Tull went from a progressive blues band to one of the largest concert draws in the world. In concert, the band was known for theatricality and long medleys with brief instrumental interludes. While early Jethro Tull shows featured a manic Anderson with bushy hair and beard dressed in tattered overcoats and ragged clothes, as the band became bigger he moved towards varied costumes. This culminated with the War Child tour’s oversized codpiece and colorful costume.

Other band-members joined in the dress-up and developed stage personae. Bassist Glenn Cornick always appeared in vest and headband, while his successor Jeffrey Hammond eventually adopted a black-and-white diagonally-striped suit (and similarly striped bass guitar, electric guitar, and string bass). It was a ‘zebra look’, and at one point a two-manned zebra came out excreting ping pong balls into the audience while both performers moved forcefully around their stage areas. John Evan dressed in an all-white suit with a neck-scarf of scarlet with white polka-dots; described as a “sad clown” type with extremely oversized shoes, he joined in the theatrics by galumphing back and forth between Hammond Organ and grand piano (placed on opposite sides of the stage in the Thick as a Brick tour) or by such sight-gags as pulling out a flask and pretending to drink from it during a rest in the music. Barriemore Barlow’s stage attire was a crimson tank-top and matching runner’s shorts with rugby foot gear, and his solos were marked by smoke-machines and enormous drumsticks. Martin Barre was the island of calm amongst the madmen, with Anderson (and sometimes Evan) crowding him and making faces during his solos.

The band’s stage theatrics peaked during the Thick As A Brick tour, a performance distinguished by stage hands wearing the tan trench-coat/madras cap ensemble from the album art, extras in rabbit suits running across stage and an extended interlude during which Barre and Barlow entered a beach-tent onstage and swapped pants.

A Passion Play was planned to have a full-length film to go with the stage theatrics. However, from this effort, it seems that only a few excerpts have survived to be re-released on recent commemorative videos of the band, including the interlude “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.”

A similar multi-media effort had been planned for Too Old To Rock and Roll… but was not completed. Thereafter, the emphasis on theatrics was reduced but never eliminated. In 1982’s Broadsword and the Beast concerts, the entire stage was transformed into a Viking ship. Anderson often dressed as a country squire on tours in the late 1970s, with the rest of the band adopting the style during their folk phase. The A tour featured the same white jumpsuit uniforms worn by the band on the album cover. Certain routines from the 1970s have recently become ensconced in concerts, such as having a song interrupted by a phone call for an audience member (which Anderson now takes on a cell) and the climactic conclusion of shows including bombastic instrumentals and the giant balloons which Anderson would carry over his head and toss into the crowd.

Locomotive Breath

“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.

“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.

Locomotive Breath – Ian Anderson

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 going —
no way to slow down. “OhooOh”

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. “Heaheya”

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 “THINK” 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”

  • Audio from the 1971 album, Aqualung:

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Play Locomotive Breath - by Jethro Tull

No Excuses ~ Alice in Chains

alice-in-chainsAlice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell and vocalist Layne Staley. Although widely associated with grunge music, the band’s sound incorporates heavy metal and acoustic elements. The band is known for its distinct vocal style which often included the harmonized vocals of Staley and Cantrell.

Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.

Following the demise of his band Sleeze in 1986, vocalist Layne Staley formed Alice N’ Chainz, a band which he said “dressed in drag and played speed metal”. The new band performed around the Seattle area playing Slayer and Armored Saint covers. Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell while working at Music Bank rehearsal studios, where the two struggling musicians became roommates, and lived in a rehearsal space they shared. Alice N’ Chainz soon disbanded and Staley joined a funk band who at the time also required a guitarist. Staley asked Cantrell to join as a sideman. Cantrell agreed on condition that Staley join Cantrell’s band Diamond Lie, which at the time included drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr. Eventually the funk project broke up and in 1987 Staley joined Cantrell on a full-time basis. Diamond Lie played in clubs around the Pacific Northwest, often stretching 15 minutes of material into a 45-minute set. The band eventually took the name of Alice in Chains.

Local promoter Randy Hauser became aware of the band at a concert, and offered to pay for demo recordings. However, one day before the band was due to record at the Music Bank studio in Washington, police shut down the studio during the biggest marijuana raid in the history of the state. The final demo was named The Treehouse Tapes, and found its way to the music managers Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver, who also managed the Seattle-based band Soundgarden. Curtis and Silver passed on the demo to Columbia Records’ A&R representative Nick Terzo, who set up an appointment with label president Don Ienner. Based on The Treehouse Tapes (a 1988 demo tape sold by the band at shows), Ienner signed Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989.

Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with other Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The band was one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over 17 million albums worldwide. The band achieved two number-one Billboard 200 albums (Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains), 13 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and seven Grammy Award nominations.

Although never officially disbanding, Alice in Chains was plagued by extended inactivity due to Layne Staley’s problems with substance abuse, culminating in his death in 2002.

In 2005, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney reunited to perform a benefit concert in Seattle for victims of the tsunami disaster that struck South Asia] On March 6, 2006, the surviving members performed at VH1’s Decades Rock Live concert, honoring fellow Seattle musicians Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. The band followed the concert with a short United States club tour, several festival dates in Europe, and a brief tour in Japan. Comes with the Fall vocalist William DuVall joined Alice in Chains as lead singer during the band’s reunion concerts.

Kinney mentioned in a February 2006 interview that he would be interested in writing new material, but not as Alice in Chains. He explained, “If we found some other dude, I’d love to move on, write some cool tunes and change the name and go on like that. I don’t see continuing as Alice and replacing somebody. … We’re not trying to replace Layne. We want to play these songs one more time, and if it seems like the right thing to do, it’ll happen. I don’t know how long it will go or where it will take us. It’s kind of a tribute to Layne and our fans, the people who love these songs. It’s not some ‘I’m broke and I need the money’ situation. We love playing together.”

In April 2009, the band went into Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 and laid down the tracks to their new album in ten years called, “Black Gives Way To Blue” — a tribute to Layne Staley — which was released in September 2009.

No Excuses

It was written by Jerry Cantrell about his unstable relationship with band vocalist Layne Staley.

Alice in Chains performed an acoustic version of “No Excuses” for its appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1996 and the song was included on the Unplugged live album and home video release.

No Excuses – Jerry Cantrell

It’s alright
There comes a time
Got no patience to search
For peace of mind
Layin’ low
Want to take it slow
No more hiding or
Disguising truths I’ve sold

Everyday it’s something
Hits me all so cold
Find me sittin’ by myself
No excuses, then I know

It’s okay
Had a bad day
Hands are bruised from
Breaking rocks all day
Drained and blue
I bleed for you
You think it’s funny, well
You’re drowning in it too

Everyday it’s something
Hits me all so cold
Find me sittin’ by myself
No excuses, then I know

Yeah, it’s fine
We’ll walk down the line
Leave our rain, a cold
Trade for warm sunshine
You my friend
I will defend
And if we change, well I
Love you anyway

Everyday it’s something
Hits me all so cold
Find me sittin’ by myself
No excuses, then I know

  • Audio from the 1994 album, Jar of Flies:

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Play No Excuses - by Alice in Chains

It’s Been Awhile ~ Staind

downloadStaind formed on November 24, 1995 in Springfield, Massachusetts. After meeting through friends and covering KoRn, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, among others, in smalltime clubs for a year and a half, Staind self-released their debut album, Tormented, in November 1996, citing influences Pantera and Sepultura. Until recently, the album was difficult to obtain, as only four thousand copies were originally sold. Since then, the band’s official website has released the album to meet the demand from fans.

During this time, Staind played a show with Limp Bizkit. When Fred Durst saw the controversial cover of the group’s debut album, he tried to have the band kicked off the bill, but when he saw the band’s live show, he changed his tone and befriended them, later singing backup on Aaron Lewis’s live, original version of the future Staind song “Outside.” Durst was one of the executive producers for Dysfunction and Break the Cycle. He also directed a few videos for the band later on.

It’s Been Awhile

The song is about singer Aaron Lewis’s life and about how it’s been a while since he’s done a lot of things. He makes references to his previous drug addiction problem and failed relationships with several women. He mentions his father however he believes he only has himself to be blamed for his problems.

And it’s been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it’s been awhile since I first saw you
And it’s been awhile since I could stand on my own two feet again
And it’s been awhile since I could call you

And everything I can’t remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I’ve rendered
I’ve stretched myself beyond my means

It’s been awhile
Since I can say that I wasn’t addicted
And it’s been awhile since I can say I love myself as well and
And it’s been awhile since I’ve gone and fucked things up just like I always do
And it’s been awhile but all that shit seems to disappear when I’m with you

And everything I can’t remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I’ve rendered
I’ve gone and fucked things up again

Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day

And it’s been awhile
Since I could look at myself straight
And it’s been awhile since I said I’m sorry
And it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the way the candles light your face
And it’s been awhile but I can still remember just the way you taste

And everything I can’t remember
As fucked up as it all may seem to be
I know it’s me
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me

And it’s been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it’s ben awhile since I said I’m sorry

  • Audio from the 2001 album,  Break the Cycle:
Play It's Been A While - by Staind