No products in the cart.

Love Song for a Locomotive

Love Song for a Locomotive

Given that I’ve been writing about music for much of my adult life, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to consider the parallels between the two disciplines. And as writing fiction has evolved for me from fantasy into reality—incorporating some of my musical obsessions along the way—I’ve come to appreciate those parallels more deeply.

All of this came to mind the other day as I was listening to a new album that I’ve just reviewed, by an artist I’ve mentioned here before, Big Big Train. The album is English Electric Part Two, the second half of a double LP that’s among the finest examples of progressive rock in a generation. The anchor song of the entire exercise leads off Part Two, and is called “East Coast Racer.” It is, in essence, a love song for a locomotive.

Big Big Train are a band captured by the history of their own land (England) and consumed with reinterpreting its stories in song—the stories of regular working people, railway engineers and coal miners and ship builders, the people who, in the band’s own words, “helped forge the English landscape.” “East Coast Racer,” telling the epic tale of an engine built for the express purpose of setting a new speed record for steam trains in 1938, runs four times the length of a typical pop single. Listening to it for the first time this week, I had the distinct feeling that composer (and BBT co-founder) Greg Spawton and I have been on similar journeys, and that creating a sprawling 15-minute piece of rock music bears some distinct similarities to writing a novel.

In essence, you’re creating a world for your audience to inhabit, and a series of moments for them to experience within it. At first you’re riffing and jamming, finding themes, forming up a foundation. Then you’re ready to move on, building upon and reprising those foundational themes in new ways, exploring different moods, bringing in new instruments or characters to add texture and dimensionality. Each new section builds on and adds to the overall momentum of the larger work, creating an emotional arc that eventually leads to a moment of revelation, a crescendo, and then, near the end, resolution.

As a member of the audience, you emerge from this experience the same person as when you began—but maybe not entirely. If the song, or the story, has done its job well, then somewhere inside of it you’ve felt something more, some flash of recognition or understanding, some echo within yourself of what the author/composer is attempting to say. That inimitable moment of insight and connection—that’s where art happens.

Comment (1)

  • Angus Prune

    I loved reading your rewiew, I can't get enough of Big Big Train. I didn't think of this song as being a love song until now. Thank you Jason, You have given me even more appreciation for this wonderful creation. Angus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to get all our latest updates & book release news.