There are some songs that you like because they are good, and some you like just because you associate them with a specific event or memory. I would never consider “Maneater” by Hall and Oates to be a rock classic, but it is memorable to me because it was playing on the radio when Jessica Neinbaum talked to me at a party.

Sometimes, the meaning of a song can change throughout time. “Locomotive Breath” is an old song by Jethro Tull. The reason this song is important to me is that it brings up memories of Camp Kinder-Ring in Sylvan Lake, New York. It was already an old song when I attended camp, but it was the favorite band of one of our camp counselors. Whenever we would practice basketball lay-ups before a game, this counselor would put this high energy song on the loudspeaker in order to energize us. The song became engraved in my mind as a “fight song” before a big game.

I loved summer camp, the song, and the lay-ups. It didn’t matter that I never got a lay-up IN the basket. I was a bad basketball player, despite being one of the tallest campers. Just to make it clear to you how bad I was — this was a JEWISH camp, and I was still one of the worst!

In truth, it was an odd choice for a fight song. Years later, in college, when I actually bought the album, “Aqualung,” and read the lyrics, I noticed how depressing the song actually was:

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 won’t stop going —
no way to slow down.

But who cares? It was one of the few Jethro Tull songs with a beat.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. Sophia and I were getting into the car with our luggage, about to go on our trip to Portland.

“One more thing!” I said as I ran back into the house and grabbed a random assortment of music CDs — rock, Latin, classical, jazz, etc. What type of road trip would it be without music?

As I drove up the 405, Sophia rifled through my assortment of CDs.

“What the hell is a Jethro Tull?”

I told her the story about doing lay-ups at my Jewish summer camp.

“Play it. It’s song number 10. Forget the rest of the album which I KNOW you will hate.”

Sophia played the song, and liked it. “Locomotive Breath” became the anthem to our trip. Every morning, as we would start the next leg of our trip, we would put on song number 10, “Locomotive Breath,” and blast it on the speakers.

He sees his children jumping off
at the 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 won’t stop going —
no way to slow down.

Gradually, the meaning of this song changed for me. It wasn’t about camp anymore. It was the THEME song to “Neil and Sophia’s Road Trip.”

70’s Progressive Rock.

Ian Anderson on the flute.

Separated husband and wife visiting bloggers in Portland.

It made sense. And maybe it was the bombastic theatricality of our 70’s theme song that inspired us to get stopped by the cops THREE times during our trip (twice for Sophia and once for me. Sophia was let off, of course. I got a ticket).

Jethro Tull made us into progressive rock rebels.

Last night, Sophia asked me to pick up some eggs at the supermarket. We’ve been home a few days now, and there is still nothing in the fridge. I’m embarrassed to say that I decided to drive the one block to the store. When I turned on the ignition, “Locomotive Breath” started playing on the speakers. One of us must have left the CD on when we left the car.

He hears the silence howling —
catches angels as they fall.
And the all-time winner
has got him by the balls.

I sang along in my garbled New York accent as I drove to Von’s Supermarket. I hadn’t gone half a block when I noticed a police car sitting at the corner of the street. He turned his siren and lights on.

“Pull over” he announced.

What was the problem? Get this — I didn’t have my seat-belt on!

Did he know who he was talking to? I follow every driving rule in the book. I always have my seat belt on! I was just driving one block… and Jethro Tull was distracting me!

The officer gave me a ticket… my second ticket in a week.

Locomotive Breathe. From now on, I will remember YOU as the song that made me into a criminal.

He picks up Gideons Bible —
open at page one —
old Charlie stole the handle and
the train won’t stop going —
no way to slow down.

(not Jethro Tull and definitely not me)

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Neilochka Stalker