A Conversation with Former Jethro Tull Guitarist Martin Barre

 No discussion of great classic rock bands is complete without Jethro Tull.  A big reason why is the sublime guitar of the legendary Martin Barre.  As the band celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Martin has released a record called 50 Years of Jethro Tull which sees him rearrange and rerecord some of the big hits and deep cuts from throughout the band’s history.  Martin recently took some time to talk about the anniversary and this release.

Please press the PLAY icon to hear the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Martin Barre:

On joining Jethro Tull – I definitely didn’t have any inspirations as to where we would go. But it was an amazing event for me because I was a blues guitar player and I played blues flute. So when I heard about Jethro Tull and then eventually went to see them play, it was my dream gig. It was everything I’d ever wanted in music. So to join the band a few months later after I saw them was really incredible. I think if hadn’t lasted a year and finished I would have been very, very happy. Not happy that it finished but it would’ve still been a special event in my life. So, we never, never look past the next few weeks, the next month, the next album it all snowballed and it started quite controlled and slowly and then as we traveled came to the States and I went to other countries in Europe and the Far East it just went crazy. I never knew where it was going or when it was going to end. :52

On feeling more freedom picking the setlist for solo shows as opposed to Jethro Tull –
 Definitely, because the sort of workings of Jethro Tull changed over the years. You know it. It started in ’68, ’69 very much with Ian (Anderson) being in the driving seat and sort of formulating our part in the band.  And then for the Thick as a Brick, it was a very much an equal partnership. Everybody more or less had an equal part to play in the writing and arranging and the performance, the shows and the decisions that were made, and then in the sort of early two-thousands, it was back to me and Ian that had most of the control. Then, as I think Ian had a few issues with the voice, he went back to being very particular about what he could and couldn’t do and what he wanted to do. So I was sort of a little bit nudged out of the main arena, so to speak. So, long story short, being where I am now is heaven on Earth because I know the catalog so well, I know Jethro Tull music so well, and sort of very passionate about it. So to be able to have…control’s the wrong wrong word, but I like to have a lot to do. So I relish all those parts that I have to play in being in a band. 3:45
“Hymn 43”
On putting the Martin Barre Band together – I wanted somebody who bought the cd to think they bought something that a lot of work, thought, and effort had gone into it. I think the worst thing in the world is to have an anniversary, let’s just say a twentieth-anniversary tour for somebody, and they just put a bunch of all songs together with a new packaging. They go on the road calling it a “Twentieth Anniversary Tour” and it’s just the same stuff. I think that’s awful. So I wanted to be the opposite end of that. The girls (Alex Hart & Becca Langsford) come out on the road with us and do backing vocal and they sing those acoustic songs live so that they’re all part of the band. It was important to me because they mean a lot to me. They’re people that I’m involved with here at home musically and, they got their own careers, but we do a lot together. It was just nice for me to have people involved that are really important to my life and my thoughts and practices 7:38
“Steel Monkey”
On his work as an arranger in Jethro Tull – I guess by default that was my job. Once Ian had written the songs he gave everybody a lot of freedom, I just, I don’t know why, it’s not an ego thing, but any band I play in, I want to start doing arrangements, and I just love it. In the old days, I did all the sax arrangements before I was in Tull, I do all the vocal harmonies in the band now, it’s just so much fun. It just comes to me. I wouldn’t say it’s natural, but I have so much enjoyment and satisfaction from doing it. But it’s a labor of love, and I wouldn’t give any of it away, I would fight for it. I’m not gonna give it to anybody else. I think because they traditionally always had an instrumental of I played in the Tull show and I changed them pretty well every tour so that got me into writing and arranging. I guess I’m a late starter as a songwriter but then hopefully there are elements of freshness in what I do that shows. But again, I really enjoy the challenge of writing songs. 9:14
“A New Day Yesterday”
On why his partnership with Ian Anderson was so successful –  I never analyzed it. It might be dangerous to do it, because, if they like that aspect of you, but not that one, it would change the way you were, just trying to avoid the negative part. And I guess, we have the same sort of vision musically, similar taste in music and the attitude probably, and dedication maybe, would be the things we have in common. But I was never aware of them, and I never analyzed them. I think me and Ian have always done what we do, whatever. And if it works, it’s fantastic. If people don’t like what we do, or it doesn’t work with somebody else, then that’s the end of it.  We’re flexible, but not in the way we approach our jobs. 12:00
“Locomotive Breath”
On Tull’s changing musical styles – It was it was never a preconceived. On a lot of the times, people like Dave Pegg brought folk influences into the band, Peter Vettese brought jazz influences or fusion, David Palmer, Dee Palmer, brought classical music to our attention. I think all these influences were always welcomed because  with  this flexibility I’m talking about, it’s just very much open minded and  that ment just wherever music took, we went with it and  made the best of it and enjoyed the changes and the challenges, and certainly all these styles of music bring a different challenge to the player and to the music writer. We always really had a lot of fun doing what we did but we never consciously thought we have to change to keep people’s interest. We just did it because that’s the way we were. But certainly the the people who joined the band here and there brought something to the table. 13:30
“Under Wraps”
On the 2011 breakup of Jethro Tull – It was Ian’s decision. Because in that year, I can’t remember the gig, we were in America and me, Doan (Perry) and Ian sat in a room to talk, Ian asked us and then he dropped that bombshell. He  didn’t wanna play Jethro Tull. He didn’t wanna do Jethro Tull concerts. Me and Doan were just speechless, really, because Ian has always been a very careful, planned out person, he knows exactly what he wants and what he’s gonna do.  In the back of my mind. I thought that this isn’t something he’s done on the spur of the moment,  he really thought through it. It was a very abrupt ending for me and Doane. In a way, it shook me up because I think Tull were getting very lethargic (as a ) band and  the sets were becoming very much the same every tour and nobody wanted any change.  I always try to get changes within the group and ideas in production and line up, but but there was no interest in doing it. It was a timelyoccurance, but it certainly wasn’t of my doing or Doane’s. So, yeah, essentially, it’s all about people management, and some people are good at certain (things) and other people aren’t. It was upsetting.  I always tell people it’s probably the worst decision that Ian’s ever made in his life. And whether he thinks so or not, I’ll never know. But I’ll look at all the other bands touring with their original lineups, or near enough, and people love to see them and hear them. And they will never, ever see or hear Jethro Tull in in the the same respect. 15:19
“Bungle In The Jungle”
On whether the classic members of Tull would ever play if the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – The difficulty is there isn’t a Jethro Tull and I don’t know how the mechanics of it would work…I don’t want to be a prohpet.  I don’t know. It’d be very, very difficult for me.  I think the main thing for me is that my band has given so much to me and for me to Jethro Tull’s music. But what whatever happened or didn’t happen, but in my mind that they would have to be part of it, because I think it’d be a very ignorant gesture to turn my back on them in any way at all, because they just part my, I think the biggest part, of my musical career. 20:30
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  1. If it wasn't for Ian"s "ego"there would be no Jethro Tull,as we know it. If there had been no Martin Barre,Tull would not be the same either. I love them both,and am glad they're still performing,and wish them all the best.💚🍺🍺🍺😉🤘

  2. There is one essential element to Jethro Tull. Ian Anderson. 43 consecutive years in a job he loved, I imagine Martin Barre should be grateful. And expecting his crew, re his current band to come along should the unlikely occurrence of Jethro Tull being allowed in the Rock Hall of Fame occur? Seriously. Do spare me. (and also having referenced them as the "best" version of Tull. How very small minded if he would not come along and he alone were they finally let in but…whatever. However, seeing that he appeared to be unwilling to have his imagery used in Ian's 50 show, (while claiming that he did not know or care what Ian was doing)or in the recent Tull book, small minded indeed and I had been under the impression Martin Barre was a sweet guy. As to Mick Abrahams, his unwillingness to play more than, was that 3 or 4 nights a week and be a blues vehicle for him ? That's the reality. Glenn Cornick? A GROUP decision and a fucked up one at that, but one in which Martin was complicit. Barrie Barlow? Accused Ian of not contributing to John Glascock's funeral, some rank BS. Ian is as his farm manager Ian MacKinnon described to me…." I could not imagine working for a finer gentleman." But Ian is also like me in that he likes cats a hell of alot more than humans. Martin Barre, Barrie Barlow ? Talented….yes. Would the world know their name had they not met Ian Anderson ? Highly unlikely. A few guys who have been in Tull already had established their names namely the four Fairport guys. To a lesser extent Doane Perry and Mark Craney had too.

  3. Watching the 40 years of JT dvd, the reality is most ex band members did not have much praise for Ian if any at all.
    Glen said he'd never forgive him the way he was sacked (which Terry Ellis said was Ians wish), John E quite disgusted the manner of dear John sacking letter, Dee likened him to pontius plate ,Barrie not impressed the way Ian didn't consult anyone over major decisions plus he was disgusted at the pittance Ian was paying John G
    Andy made it clear what he thought of Ian with the captain mainwaring comparsions and now Martins version doesn't make Ian look good, 42 years dedication to be severed in the manner it was, don't suppose many people would be overjoyed, small minded really???
    Maybe the fish farm guy was the only lucky one.
    The R n R Hall of F is load of bollocks anyway, Mark Knopfler didn't even turn up for Dire Straits induction sums it up.

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