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DISC & MUSIC ECHO
14 March 1970
ME AND MY MUSIC
Martin Barre. Guitarist with Jethro Tull. Also plays flute. Age 23. Hails from Birmingham. Rarely sees girlfriend in America, whom he wants to marry. Has two Gibson Les Pauls and uses 200-watt Hi-Watt amp with one or two cabinets, depending on venue. Former groups include Motivation, Penny Peeps and Gethsemane.
"I've been playing guitar for eight years, since I was 15. It was when groups first happened. My sister came home from the local community centre talking about this group. I went along to see them and one of them had a red guitar. I just had to have one — it was just the colour really.
"We used to do music at school but it was all so serious, boring and unexciting ... just another subject. It was like doing maths. Music didn't appeal to me, but I suppose if I had taken an interest in it I would have had the knowledge I yearn for now. I know practically nothing about theory.
"I also play flute but I get very embarrassed playing it. I play it worse now than I did when I started.
"I had guitar lessons at first. When I started my dad used to play me Barney Kessel records and say, 'If only you could play like that ...' But, at the time, I thought it was a load of crap. I like Barney Kessel now.
"I don't practise. The only time I ever did was when I was having lessons. I didn't get further than putting your fingers in the right positions. But I've always got a guitar with me. I played in groups at school and then at college but didn't take music seriously.
"It was while I was at college studying to be a surveyor that I began to care about the music. I started to worry about whether it was good or not. It became more important than college.
"I've been a professional musician for about 3½ years now. The group before Jethro was Gesthemane, which is about the only other one I'm not ashamed of. My first pro group was Motivation which was just soul music. I played tenor sax with that band, but I never could play it. The next group, Penny Peeps, just didn't count musically.
"I haven't any ambitions, musically, because I don't look that far ahead. The only ambitions I have concern the group. personally I don't think about what I'll do in ten years time. I just know I'm going to play music for the rest of my life.
"Music is a serious subject, and it's one thing that remains the same. I just don't understand politics and that kind of thing. Music in the future will become more and more important. It's a part of society that you can rely on.
"Music is not that interesting to talk about. Music just involves your emotions and communicating to people. You get excitement from rock 'n' roll and sadness from folk. But it's very difficult to put into words. The only thing is to listen to it.
"Technique is important. The sounds and effects you get depend more on that than the equipment.
"I developed at first by listening to other guitarists and, now, by not listening to other guitarists. My biggest influence is definitely Clapton. He's the best guitarist in the world, anywhere. And I listened to Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. I never really listened to the blues guitarists like B.B. King. I have never listened to the blues riffs. Some people copy phrases but I prefer to half remember phrases and play what I think.
"All music has cliches, although in jazz and the classics they are less obvious. For me jazz is not so exciting as our kind of music. Technically a lot of it is very good but it usually bores me. Jazz lacks communication.
"Jazzmen get upset when a group of four hairy blokes play simple stuff.
"To Jethro radio is the most important media and we haven't really infiltrated into the Radio 1 mechanism. I think we've failed as far as that's concerned. I really care what people say about our music. It's a great compliment that people sit down, listen and applaud at the end."
Thanks to Mike Wain for this article, and Gerrit de Geus for confirmation of source and date.