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11 October 1980
JETHRO TULL'S GUITAR WIZARD
MARTIN BARRE talks to Ray Coleman
When Ian Anderson realigned Jethro Tull with new blood, he made one particularly shrewd move. He retained the services of Martin Barre.
Even the band's fiercest critics concede the guitar technique and inventiveness of Martin as an outstanding plus. And rather like the great Brian May in Queen plays second fiddle to Freddie Mercury but contributes just as much in the music area, so Martin Barre's guitar solos, as well as his ensemble work, make the Tull sound full.
Next to Anderson, Barre is the longest-serving member of the band, having joined the group in 1968 for the second LP 'Stand Up'.
But last year, he became less sure of the future of the band and increasingly fed up with what he described as their inability to get anywhere in the studios.
"On stage, like a lot of bands in the early days, we were able to get away with a lot of things, cover it up with glossy theatrics. But in the studio we just couldn't get good tracks finished. That's why people would leave. Injecting new blood was always seen as the answer.
"So when Ian said to us last year that we shouldn't necessarily think of Tull as staying like it was for ever and a day, I said to myself: 'That's it.'
"It seemed completely logical to me to pack it in. I was tired of being a musician in this band, and reviews were hinting at the fact that we were either over the hill or old-fashioned. And once you start being called that, you'd had it, mentally.
"You take collective responsibility for all that's good and bad when you're in a group. I thought I'd done my stint with the band, the atmosphere was awful and I decided to stop playing for a while."
Barre says his natural laziness had always prevented him from working on a solo album, which would be a treat for students of his original guitar ideas. But while he pontificated on his future at his Devon home, Anderson recalled him for a few sessions, and a new Jethro Tull was born.
"Ian had to go back to scratch and start again. I didn't think it was morally fair that I shouldn't leave the band as well as some others. John Evan contributed so much. Nobody talks about him any more, but he put probably more into the band than anybody else, and loved the music probably more than all of us when he joined.
"And then, over the years, there were personnel changes and one got the feeling that people in the audience didn't know he wasn't there, so the conclusion was that it didn't matter who was on stage as long as it was Ian Anderson and friends.
"So that meant my only allegiance was to Ian. I always found that hard to take, but I've come to terms with it now, after the changes in the band — and I've never wanted to let Ian down."
Today's band atmosphere, Barre avers, is infinitely better because the music works. Anderson's bossiness is no longer so necessary because
"when things are going right in the studio, you're all sitting around smiling and nobody has to say things are not good enough. In fact, if he did have to say anything like that to this new line-up it would be disastrous! The new line-up has given Jethro Tull the kiss of life. Things work so well between us that I feel completely refreshed.
"I could never join another group, but I could have stopped playing last year quite easily. I also felt that even if Ian was re-forming, he should get a fresh guitar player for his own sake. We'd been together too long."
For Tull's benefit and ours, Martin Barre was persuaded to stay.