Long Train Runnin’ (1973) – the Doobie Brothers

When I was in my late teens, I had this fascination taking photos of anything relating to trains, mostly scenic images of train-tracks running off somewhere. Like the one I took inset at Timbertown, a popular tourist attraction at Wauchope on the mid north coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Where I live now, the sole train-track in Bogota, Colombia passes just a few blocks from my house. I hear the train’s mighty air-horn at least twice daily. Often, I have to pass the ‘level crossing’ and a gulf of traffic to get to where I am going. I often look down the track and hope I can just make out a train in the distance, but of course I never do otherwise the gates would have come down and a siren blaring.
Now that’s a ‘moment’ at a level crossing, when you have to wait for a train to pass and watch the big machine roll by just a few feet away. It gets me giddy just thinking about it.

This nostalgic fascination for Trains or train – tracks is not uncommon and it leads us nicely to today’s song Long Train Runnin’ by the Doobie Brothers. It’s strange that two of their songs appear here in quick succession, just like one train after the other I suppose. Their previous entry Listen to the Music made me reminisce the classic line in Romancing the Stone – ‘Dammit man, the Doobie Brothers broke up! Sh*t! When did that happen‘? Today’s track threw me onto them train – tracks.

[Verse 1]
Down around the corner
Half a mile from here
You see them long trains runnin’
And you watch ’em disappear

Without love
Where would you be now?
Without love

[Verse 2]
You know I saw Miss Lucy
Down along the tracks
She lost her home and her family
And she won’t be coming back

Long Train Runnin was included on the band’s 1973 album The Captain and Me and was released as a single, becoming a hit and peaking at No. 8 on the US Charts. The tune evolved from an untitled and mostly ad-libbed jam that the Doobies developed onstage years before it was finally recorded. Its working title, according to Johnston, was “Rosie Pig Moseley” and later “Osborn“. “I didn’t want to cut it” Johnston later confessed. “…I just considered it a bar song without a lot of merit“. Record Producer Teddy Templeman convinced Tom Johnston (founder and lead guitarist and vocalist of the Doobie Brothers) to write words to the song.

Below the original studio recording of Long Train Runnin’, I have presented a scene from one of my favourite ‘coming of age’ movies Stand By Me. As the 4 boys trek by a train track to search the body of a who has been missing for several days they decide to cross a railway bridge, but there is nothing but a deep ravine below. Anyone fascinated by all the aforementioned yearning of trains and what – not will find few other scenes in movie history that encapsulate that fervor more acutely.

1. Long Train Runnin’ – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
10 comments on “Long Train Runnin’ (1973) – the Doobie Brothers
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    I like trains as well. My uncle worked for the rail lines at one point…his house looked like a train station. I like this song…I’m not a huge Doobie Brothers fan but I do like a lot of their songs.

    Like this means anything…but this is the only Doobie Brothers song we ever played…got a great response. I wanted to do Black Water but those damn harmony parts were too hard…that is the reason we didn’t do many Beatles…the harmonies are too hard for teens learning their instruments.

    • ‘His house looked like a train station’. Now that’s a house I want to visit!
      Same here I know next to nothing about the Doobie Brothers besides this song and Listen to the Music.
      The funny thing hearing people talk about new songs which supposedly encapsulate a Beach Boys or Beatles sound. Is they are wrong! lol They don’t sound anything like them and never will. haha

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        I remember crossing signs that lit up and all sorts of things. You could tell he loved his job.

        That is why we did a lot of Rolling Stones….they have no harmonies for the most part lol. It takes a natural harmonizing to pull it off. Now…later on we did get some good backup singers and we did some…but still…nothing like the originals. Beach Boys…I wouldn’t even attempt…we did Barbara Ann….barely.

      • The devotion your Uncle had in all things ‘train’ is grandioso. It’s hard to see anyone not working in that field that didn’t just want to be associated with trains.

        I’m not a fan of the Stones, but I see what you mean about being able to imitate their stuff. It’s a bit like when they rebooted Elton John or Abba for a new audience. Nothing is going to do justice on the original works.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Some bands and artist are just hard to translate. You can do songs your own way…which we did with a few songs like “Delta Dawn”…I turned that one into hard rock lol.

      • I think the only cover version of a classic American song which I wrote about yesterday and to come out tomorrow (I believe) that supersedes the original (Presley, Nelson) and thereafter is the Pet Shop Boys ‘Always on My Mind’.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Oh yea I remember that one. They did West End Girls also

      • Yeh.. That group, although not a fan by any stretch or West End Girls!

  2. I have heard this song a thousand times. Always liked it but never knew what it was about – except for the chorus! Now I can enjoy the train sounds in the accompaniment.

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