Martin Barre

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Martin Barre
Martin Barre 2013.jpg
Barre 2013 performing in Germany, Bluesgarage Isernhagen
Background information
Birth name Martin Lancelot Barre
Born (1946-11-17) 17 November 1946 (age 67)
Kings Heath, Birmingham, England
Genres Progressive rock, folk rock, hard rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, flute, saxophone
Years active 1968–present
Labels RandM, Fuel 2000, Chrysalis, Eagle, Roadrunner, EMI, Capital, Island
Associated acts Jethro Tull, The Penny Peeps, Excalibur, Pat O'May, Fairport Convention
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul
Fender Stratocaster
Hamer Guitars
Custom Built PRS Guitars
Custom Manson guitars[1]

Martin Lancelot Barre[2] (/bɑːr/; born 17 November 1946, Kings Heath, Birmingham, West Midlands, England) is an English rock musician.

Barre has been the guitarist for Rock band Jethro Tull since 1969. He has appeared on every Jethro Tull album except their debut This Was (1968). His sound has been marked by a blend of Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton style blues with the baroque complexities of early 1970s progressive rock and traditional European folk music sounds. Barre has stated in interviews that guitarist Leslie West from American rock band Mountain was a direct influence on his playing. He has also acted as a flautist both on-stage for Tull, and in his own solo work.

Early career[edit]

Martin studied architecture for three years, not finishing his studies due to failing in Spanish and Atomic Science, two subjects Martin thought "had little to do with designing buildings". After doing one job in the area, Martin found being an architect was a "boring career", opting for music instead.[3]

Barre began his career playing saxophone with the Birmingham band, The Moonrakers, in the early 1960s. During July 1966, he joined Beau Brummell's former backing band, The Noblemen, with fellow ex-Moonraker, Chris Rodger, and the group subsequently changed their name to The Motivation. The band also comprised singer Jimmy Marsh, bassist Bryan Stevens, keyboardist Mike Ketley and drummer Malcolm Tomlinson. The group appeared at London's legendary Marquee Club on two occasions and also supported Cream at the Upper Cut in the Forest Gate district of London. They also performed at the Piper Club in Rome for six weeks in mid-1967.

In the summer of 1967, Marsh and Rodger left and the others brought in former Clayton Squares singer Denny Alexander and became The Penny Peeps. Signed to Liberty Records, the band released two singles in 1968—"Little Man With a Stick" backed by "Model Village" and "I See the Morning" backed with "Curly, Knight of the Road". By this point, Barre had switched to lead guitar and his impressive solo on "Model Village" has made the track a popular collectors' item.

Alexander left the band in mid-1968 and the group became a blues outfit under a new moniker—Gethsemane. The new band recorded further material, which was never released, and broke up in mid December 1968, when after a brief career in Fat Mattress with Noel Redding of Jimi Hendrix fame, Barre joined Jethro Tull.

With Jethro Tull[edit]

Barre performing with Jethro Tull in Genoa,
14 February 2010 Photo: Pino D'Amico

"Jethro Tull is first and foremost a band" – Martin Barre, 2013.[3]

By the end of 1968, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson was going through conflicts with his then blues guitarist Mick Abrahams. After a brief stint with Earth, future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi auditioned and joined Jethro Tull briefly, appearing on the Rolling Stones "Rock and Roll Circus" TV special miming to "A Song for Jeffrey". Additionally David O'List of The Nice auditioned for the Jethro Tull lead guitarist slot without success. Barre came to audition for Anderson, but was so nervous that he barely played. For his second audition, Martin Barre didn't bring an amplifier or a guitar cord. Even so, Ian Anderson still approved Barre as Abrahams' permanent replacement. Today, Barre is the longest-standing member in Jethro Tull next to Ian Anderson.

For four decades, Barre's career focused on Jethro Tull. On the first album he recorded, Stand Up, Martin said that he was: "terrified because I had just joined the band. It really showed a change in direction for the band and when it was accepted and became a successful album, we gained a lot of confidence. We extended that confidence into the making of Benefit, in which we were a lot more at ease".[4] On the next album, the world success Aqualung, Martin was more confident, stating that in the recording: "Everybody [the band] had input into the making of the album".[4]

In the following period, his solos blended virtuosity with classical music, like on Minstrel in the Gallery, where the opening track has a four-minute solo, or his piece (shared with Barrie Barlow) "Conundrum" and "Quatrain" in Bursting Out. Martin declared that much of the material from Jethro Tull catalogue was written by himself and Ian Anderson, with Ian getting the credit for writing the lyrics and having the initial idea for the music, which: "then I, or someone else in the band, contribute parts to it".[3] One album he is credited for having put "aditional material" is the classic Songs From The Wood. Curiously, his favourite album in Jethro Tull is the most controversial of the band's career, Under Wraps, which contains two tracks co-authored by him. On his work with Jethro Tull, Martin also stated: "I’m quite pleased with my playing on Crest of a Knave, which was basically me, Ian and [bassist] Dave Pegg working in the studio for two months, so I had ample time to put a lot of myself into that album".[3] He is credited in only another two tracks of Jethro Tull albums: "Hot Mango Flush", from J-Tull Dot Com and "Winter Snowscape" from The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.


Up until the mid-70s, Martin Barre mainly used Gibson Les Paul guitars with Ernie Ball strings, and specially made Gibson picks, which were heavier than normal. He also used a Fender Stratocaster for slide playing. On stage he preferred to run a straight Hiwatt amp with the usual two 4x12 cabinets with a 100 watt head, using minimal effects pedals. Eventually his Les Paul guitars became so valuable he didn't want to take them on the road, so he began using Hamers as his stage guitars.

Subsequently Barre has played Tom Anderson and Ibanez guitars for a short time, followed by Mansons, Schecters, and Fenders. Currently he is playing Paul Reed Smith RS 513 guitars through a Soldano Decatone 100 Watt guitar amplifier with Marshall 2x12 and 1x12 cabinets. On his most recent outings he has been using GHS strings and Alesis PicoVerb effects, and a Hughes & Kettner Tube Meister 18 'tiny amp' (18 Watts) on sessions and gigs.

Currently, Martin is playing a P22 by PRS Guitars on stage; this guitar features separate outputs for the electric side and the acoustic piezo pick-up. As a standby, he uses a PRS ME Quatro.[5]

Initiating solo career[edit]

Barre performing at the Cropredy Festival, Oxfordshire 13 August 2004

In the 1990s Barre began to perform as a solo artist, and has recorded five albums: A Summer Band (1992), A Trick of Memory (1994), The Meeting (1996), Stage Left (2003) and Away With Words (2013). On these recordings, Barre combined rock and guitar-oriented fusion elements in his sound.

On one track of 1994's A Trick of Memory, Barre plays a guitar given to him by friend Mark Mancina. In the album, King Crimson alumnus Mel Collins blows the sax, and Fairport Convention's Martin Allcock and Ric Sanders appears on a couple of tracks and Andy Giddings completes it with Hammond organs. According to the AllMusic review: "the dominant sound is Barre's guitars, soaring, crunching, grinding, or noodling gently, either blues or English folk tunes", to the rewier, the album is a: "A decent debut album".[6] "A Summer Band" was only released in limited edition.

The Meeting (1996) features the bassist Jonathan Noyce, who was then introduced to Tull vocalist and flute player, Ian Anderson by Barre and played with Jethro Tull from 1996–2007.

His 2003 solo effort Stage Left saw Barre essay a number of blues, acoustic folk and even ambient electronic styles. It was the first album to be released in the United States. In the album, Martin shows his style of playing with "tricky and complicated" melodies, being always "elegant, even when he's rocking hard".[7] In 2004 in support of Stage Left, he played a number of solo dates and played at all of the Tull gigs in 2005. According to his official website, he has also recorded work on the recent album by veteran British folk music outfit, Pentangle.

Recent work: albums and tour[edit]

According to a diary entry on his website dated December 2006, Barre says he "has started work on an acoustic project" with Dan Crisp, a singer and guitarist and Alan Bray, a bassist. Barre states he will be playing a number of acoustic instruments with the group, including bouzouki and mandolin. The group has already played three shows and they will continue to collaborate in 2007. No mention is made of the group recording an album.

In 2007, Martin started to participate in the Excalibur series of Alan Simon, appering in the 2007 and 2010 albums of the rock opera.[8] He also appear in live acts.

In 2012 he toured with a band, which he called Martin Barre's New Day, and included Pat O'May, Dan Crisp, Frank Mead, Jonathan Noyce and George Lindsay. In autumn 2013 after the release of Barre's next solo album Away With Words they toured under the moniker Martin Barre & Band. Martin could be seen in the last Cropredy Festival, organised by Fairport Convention, with whom he shared stage with his old Jethro Tull friend, Dave Pegg.

In 2014, Martin announced that he is going to tour as an acoustic quartet (including Dan Crisp and Alan Bray) to promote Away With Words, which already was well received by the Prog Magazine, saying that in the album: "Barre has taken an imaginative approach to his own past by readdressing many of his favourite, often more obscure, nuggets from lull's vast cache, chiefly on acoustic guitar".[9] Still in 2014, a new album was announced to be released in September, called Order of Play[10]


His best-known guitar work includes "Aqualung", "Cross-Eyed Mary", and "Locomotive Breath". Barre's signature solo on the 1971 Jethro Tull standard "Aqualung" was voted by the readers of Guitar Player magazine as one of the top rock guitar solos of all time. Also, in 2007, this solo was rated one of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by Guitar World magazine. Still on Aqualung, Martin earned the 25th best solo ever in the USA and 20th best solo ever in the UK.[11][12]

Dire Straits' leader Mark Knopfler, in a 2005 interview, called Barre's work with Ian Anderson "magical".[13]

Mick Abrahams in his oficial website has called Martin Barre a "fine player" wich "has unquestionably made a wonderful and lasting contribution to the band" [Jethro Tull]. He also called him "a lovely guy" counting him as "a grand player and a good friend".[14]

Joe Bonamassa includes Martin Barre as an direct influence, especially in the blues playing of the early albums.[15][16] Another guitarrists like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson also includes Martin Barre as their influence.[17]


For his discography with Jethro Tull, see main article: Jethro Tull discography



  • Martin Barre (2012) – 2 CD (disc 1 – studio tracks, disc 2 – live tracks).

Guest appearances[edit]

  • 1973 Chick Churchill (You and Me)
  • 1976 Maddy Prior (Woman in the Wings)
  • 1978 Dan Lowe (Fahrenheit 361)
  • 1978 John Wetton (Caught in the Crossfire)
  • 1981 5 Furious Fish (Just for the Halibut)
  • 1987 Paul McCartney (Young Boy)
  • 1997 Spirit of the West (Weights and Measures)
  • 1997 John Carter (Spirit Flying Free)
  • 1998 Clive Bunker (Awakenings)
  • 1998 Willy Porter (Live)
  • 1999 ELP Tribute (Encores, Legends and Paradox)
  • 2001 Various artists incl. Steve Vai, Santana, Alan Holdsworth (Guitars for Freedom 9/11 charity)
  • 2003 Vikki Clayton (Movers and Shakers)
  • 2005 Pentangle (Feoffees' Land)
  • 2007 Dave Pegg (60th Birthday Show)
  • 2007 Excalibur 2
  • 2010 Excalibur 3
  • 2010 Chris Thompson, Gary Brooker, Frank Mead, Henry Spinetti, Dave Pegg (Live in Germany Classic Rock Tour)


External links[edit]