462: Train

Unreleased (1986)
Prince’s contribution to America’s evergreen tradition of train songs. Unsurprisingly it’s a tradition that does’t exist across the pond because instead of romantically symbolising freedom and new horizons, a train in the UK’s post-privatised wasteland symbolises decaying infrastructure soundtracked with broken promises. Sure The KLF and Rolling Stones had a couple of train-related hits but they love to wear that damask cloak of Americana. The Kinks take on the genre was Last of the Steam Powered Trains which is all about a steam train in a museum. Boxcar Willie it ain’t. But I digress – Train was initially set to appear on Prince’s abandoned Dream Factory project but a watered down version eventually got released on Mavis Staples’ Time Waits For No One. Skip that and concentrate on the Dream Factory version if you can find it. A chugging beat. Whistles. “Woo woo”s (more Midnight Train to Georgia than Sympathy For The Devil). No musical trick is considered too literal to portray a departing train taking the singer’s lover away from their failing relationship and the effect is a powerful blues-tinged funk locomotive. It’s not the greatest song of the genre (Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues takes that mantle) but it’s certainly one of the most well-built.