~ Layla, only more ~
If Rocket Queen was an up-and-down encapsulation of a bi-polar relationship, then Locomotive put it all on steroids, cocaine, Jack & coke, and then flipped the record up to 78rpm. With an endlessly-chugging riff utterly worthy of the song title, and bridges and choruses that alternate around the brilliantly-written verses, Locomotive packs more emotion into a single 8-minute opus than almost, well… anyone has in an entire career.
(I was at a loss of who to fill in for “anyone” here, but pick ‘em – James Taylor, Kanye, Michael Bublé, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Barry Manilow, Counting Crows, Gwar – it really doesn’t matter.)
It’s clear there’s a love-hate relationship here, as Axl swings between “I opened up the doors when it was cold outside / Hopin’ that you’d find your own way in” and “You know I’d like to shave your head / and all my friends could paint it red”. Does he have to “peel the bitch off my back” or just “live and learn and then sometimes it’s best to walk away”. And just when you think it’s time to blow up the entire thing and start over, he admits that “if love is blind I guess I’ll by myself a cane” as the piano takes over, and GnR’s note-perfect counterpoint to Layla devolves into it’s own extended piano-fueled alternate-groove guitar solo, showcasing the best of everything Slash has to offer – the wah-pedal effects that mimic the drums underneath the groove, the lead lines that blend between the piano chords and seem to live within the song, rather than on top of them, and the low-octave dives that mimic the bass line to drive the groove forward while he lets the listener take a breath before his next trick on the frets.