Way back in 1971 a band called Jethro Tull (who were named after a famous agriculturist from the 1600-1700’s) recorded a song called ‘Locomotive Breath’. It appeared on their album called ‘Aqualung’. A couple of years later, in 1973, a local band called Rabbitt recorded a cover of it which had the same piano intro. That version would make it to number 11 on the Springbok Radio. However it was not the Rabbitt that people came to know and love later in the 70’s. This was an early incarnation of the band where the only member who would feature in the more popular line-up, was Trevor Rabin. He was accompanied on that early version by Errol Friedman, Francis Roos, Louis Forer and Cedric Samson.
Move on a few more years and Friedman, Roos, Forer and Samson had been ditched in favour of Faure, Cloud and Robot. This new line-up decided to dust off the old Tull classic and try it again, this time as a cleaner pretty boy rock version rather than the dense Freedom’s Children-ish rock version of the earlier line-up.
So which to choose from, the 73 version of the early incarnation or the 75 version from ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ (this is of course presuming you are happy to put the Tull version aside for a bit). Well, as already mentioned, the early version is a dense rock affair which has it’s own appeal, especially to those who like a thick sound, while those who prefer a crisper, quicker ‘train on a track’ paced sound with an electric guitar solo to air guitar to version, then the latter version is for you.
What the early version did reveal was what a talent we had in Trevor Rabin as you can already hear someone who knows how to handle an axe. By the time he picks up his guitar a few years later to re-record the song with his new band mates, he is well on his way to being noted as one of South Africa’s great guitarist. It’s up to you to choose which version you prefer, but the bigger question that comes from these 2 versions is did the way the word ‘Charlie’ is sung in the line in ‘Locomotive Breath’ that goes ‘Old Charlie stole the handle and the train it won’t stop going’, have any influence on Patric van Blerk when he wrote Rabbitt’s later hit.
Where to find it:
Boys Will Be Boys – Rabbitt (September 2006) RetroFresh, freshcd 153 (CD)
The Hits – Rabbitt (1996) Gallo, CDRED 602