Martin Barre

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Martin Barre
Barre performing at Bluesgarage Isernhagen, Germany, in 2013
Barre performing at Bluesgarage Isernhagen, Germany, in 2013
Background information
Birth nameMartin Lancelot Barre
Born (1946-11-17) 17 November 1946 (age 76)
Kings Heath, Birmingham, England
GenresProgressive rock, folk rock, hard rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, flute, saxophone
Years active1966–present
LabelsRandM, Fuel 2000, Chrysalis, Eagle, Roadrunner, EMI, Capital, Island

Martin Lancelot Barre[1] (/bɑːr/; born 17 November 1946) is an English guitarist best known for his longtime role as lead guitarist of British rock band Jethro Tull, with whom he recorded and toured from 1968 until the band's initial dissolution in 2011. Barre played on all of Jethro Tull's studio albums from their 1969 album Stand Up to their 2003 album The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. In the early 1990s he began a solo career, and he has recorded several albums as well as touring with his own live band.

He has also played the flute and other instruments such as the mandolin, both on stage for Jethro Tull and in his own solo work.

Early career[edit]

Martin Barre was born in Kings Heath, Birmingham, England, on 17 November 1946. His father was an engineer who had wanted to play the clarinet professionally. Barre played the flute at his grammar school. When Barre bought his first guitar, his father gave him albums by Barney Kessel, Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery to broaden his musical perspectives.[2]

In college he studied architecture at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) for three years, but did not complete his studies after failing Spanish and Atomic Science, subjects that he found to have little to do with designing buildings. After designing a road junction in Birmingham, England, he decided that a career in architecture was too boring, and switched to music.[3]

In 1966 he moved to London with his friend, Chris Rodger, who had played the saxophone in their previous band, the Moonrakers.[4] In London, Barre and Rodger got an audition for a band called the Noblemen, who were looking for two saxophonists. Barre bought a tenor saxophone, and after two days' practice was able to bluff his way through the audition.[2] The band subsequently changed its name to the Motivation, and backed visiting soul artists such as the Coasters, the Drifters and Lee Dorsey. The band evolved through several musical styles, from soul to R&B to pop, and in 1967 changed its name to the Penny Peeps. By this time Barre was playing lead guitar. As the Penny Peeps 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".[4] Finally in mid-1968 they became a blues band named Gethsemane, and played in pubs all over England, with Barre playing the guitar and flute.

When Gethsemane and the band Jethro Tull played at a blues club called the Van Dyke in Plymouth, the members of the two bands got acquainted. Then, four months later, while Gethsemane was playing in London and about to break up because of lack of money, Jethro Tull's manager, Terry Ellis, sent his card up from the audience asking Barre to audition for Jethro Tull. The audition did not go well. Barre was so nervous that he barely played; but he arranged a second audition. This time he was offered the job. He spent the Christmas holidays of 1968 learning material that was to become the album Stand Up.[2]

Jethro Tull[edit]

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

On the first album that Barre recorded with Jethro Tull, Stand Up, he 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."[5] On the next album, the world success Aqualung, Barre was more confident, stating that in the recording: "Everybody [the band] had input into the making of the album."[5]

In the following period, his solos blended virtuosity with classical music, such as on Minstrel in the Gallery, where the opening track has a four-minute solo, or his piece (shared with Barrie Barlow) "Conundrum" and "Quatrain" on Bursting Out. Barre declared that much of the material from Jethro Tull catalogue was written by himself and Ian Anderson, with Anderson getting the credit for writing the lyrics and having the initial idea for the music: "then I, or someone else in the band, contribute parts to it."[3] Two albums on which Barre is credited with having contributed "additional material", Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses, are two of those which, he has stated, show his best playing.[6]

Barre embraced the new Jethro Tull sound on the album Under Wraps (1984), despite its foregrounding of synthesisers and relegation of his own guitar work to the background.[7] The album contains two tracks co-authored by him. On his work with Jethro Tull, Barre 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 on only another two Jethro Tull album tracks: "Hot Mango Flush" from J-Tull Dot Com and "Winter Snowscape" from The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Concerning his contribution to Jethro Tull music, Barre stated: "I've done bits and pieces on albums. Sometimes it's a riff; sometimes it's a little segment of music ... I don't mind taking a small role in the writing, and a larger input into the arrangement and playing."[8]

About the end of his involvement in Tull, Barre stated in 2015 that "It's important that people realize there will never be a Jethro Tull again. There will be two solo bands: the Ian Anderson Band and the Martin Barre Band, and long may they exist, and long may they enjoy playing music. I'm not being pedantic. I always hate to hear, 'Oh, you've left Jethro Tull.' I haven't really. Ian wanted to finish Jethro Tull, wanted to stop the band completely."[9]

When Anderson reunited Jethro Tull in 2017 for their 50th anniversary tour, Barre was not asked to return.

Solo work[edit]

Barre performing at the Cropredy Festival, Oxfordshire, on 13 August 2004

On one track of 1994's A Trick of Memory, Barre plays a guitar given to him by friend Mark Mancina. On the album, King Crimson alumnus Mel Collins plays the saxophone, and Fairport Convention's Maartin Allcock and Ric Sanders appear on a couple of tracks, and Andy Giddings plays keyboards. 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 reviewer, the album is "a decent debut album".[10] A Summer Band was released only in limited edition.

In 2003, on his album Stage Left, Barre used an unusual electric guitar style shaped by folk/acoustic and hard rock elements. It was his first album to be released in the United States. In the album, Barre shows his style of playing with "tricky and complicated" melodies, being always "elegant, even when he's rocking hard".[11]

In 2012, with the end of Jethro Tull touring, Martin assembled a band to tour and record the compilation/live titled Martin Barre. The line up included former Tull members Jonathan Noyce and Doane Perry (who split duties with drummer Fred Moreau), John Mitchell, and guitarist Pat O'May.[12]

In 2014, Barre announced that he would tour as an acoustic quartet (including Dan Crisp and Alan Bray) to promote Away With Words, which 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 [sic] vast cache, chiefly on acoustic guitar."[13] Later in 2014 a new album was announced to be released that September, called Order of Play,[14] which was a louder electric record.

Barre announced his sixth solo album in 2015. Called Back to Steel, Barre says the album is a blues rock recording.[15] It was followed by Roads Less Travelled in 2018.

Martin Barre commenced a tour of the U.S. in the spring of 2019 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his joining Jethro Tull and the release of Stand Up. On the tour he was supported by his band consisting Alan Thomson (bass), Dan Crisp (guitar and vocals) and Darby Todd (drums), along with special guests (former Tull members) Dee Palmer on keyboards and Clive Bunker on drums. The band were completed with Ali Humphries and Becca Langsford on backing vocals. The show was presented with a full multimedia backing show provided by fans from The Jethro Tull Group. A new double CD album release was available at the shows. MLB is a celebration of 50 years of Jethro Tull as arranged and performed by Martin, his band and guests.

In August 2019, Barre appeared again at Fairport's Cropredy Convention.[16][17]

For 2020, Barre had planned to celebrate 50 years of Jethro Tull music with a world tour. However, most shows were cancelled or rescheduled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Adam Wakeman, Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer were scheduled to be guest musicians in several presentations.[18]

Playing style[edit]

Barre once said that he tried not to listen to other guitarists so that he would not be influenced by them. He said he never took guitar lessons so that he would not sound like other players.[1] However, one guitarist he has praised and recognized as being an influence is Leslie West, from the American band Mountain.[19][20][21]

Reviewers have sometimes described Martin Barre's sound as "tricky" and "complicated", highlighting his ability to compose melodies instead of simply soloing.[10][11]


Barre's best-known guitar work includes that on the songs "Aqualung", "Cross-Eyed Mary", and "Locomotive Breath". His 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. Authors Pete Brown and HP Newquest named Barre's "Aqualung" solo as the 25th-best solo ever in the USA and 20th-best solo ever in the UK.[22][23]

Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler, in a 2005 interview, called Barre's work with Ian Anderson "magical".[24] Joe Bonamassa cites Martin Barre as a direct influence, especially in the blues playing of the early albums.[25][26] Other guitarists like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson also cite Martin Barre as influences.[1] Rush's Geddy Lee mentions the "great guitar sounds" of Martin Barre when remembering the album Thick as a Brick.[27]


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


  • A Summer Band (1992) - Various live tracks in a limited edition run of 500 CDs.
  • A Trick of Memory (1994)
  • The Meeting (1996)
  • Stage Left (2003)
  • Away with Words (2013)
  • Order of Play (2014)
  • Back to Steel (2015)
  • Roads Less Travelled (2018)
  • MLB - 50 Years of Jethro Tull (2019)


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


  • Live in Munich (2014)
  • Live at the Factory Underground (2019)
  • Live in NY (2020) - 3 disc (1 DVD, 2 audio CD)
  • Live At The Wildey (2022)

Guest appearances[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Epstein, Dmitry M. (November 2000). "Interview with Martin Barre (Jethro Tull)". Let It Rock.
  2. ^ a b c Martin Barre. "History". Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Dear Guitar Hero: Jethro Tull Guitarist Martin Barre". Guitar World. 15 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Martin Barre – Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Flute". Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b "CRR Interview – Forty Years of Aqualung: An Interview With Jethro Tull's Martin Barre". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Jethro Tull: keeping the folk fires burning". 23 January 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  7. ^ Bryan, Jon (6 September 2019). "Not Forgotten: Jethro Tull - Under Wraps". Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  8. ^ "The Martin Barre Interview (2002)". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Martin Barre Talks About Jethro Tull Memories, New Music and More: Exclusive Interview". Ultimate Classic Rock. 1 September 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Trick of Memory - Martin Barre - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Stage Left - Martin Barre - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Martin Barre Talks a 'New Day' for Jethro Tull Music". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Martin Barre: Away With Words". 7 April 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Martin Barre - Latest News". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Martin Barre details 6th solo title - Prog". Archived from the original on 6 August 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  16. ^ Martin Barre Band: "Life is a Long Song" @ Fairport's Cropredy Convention; August 10, 2019 on YouTube
  17. ^ "Martin Barre Setlist at Fairport's Cropredy Convention 2019".
  18. ^ "TOUR DATES, A COMPLETE LIST OF MARTIN'S SHOWS FOR 2021 & 2022". Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  19. ^ "Martin Barre - Jethro Tull". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Interview: Martin Barre - Taking Aqualung on the Road". 29 June 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  21. ^ Moseley, Willie G. (14 February 2002). "Martin Barre". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Martin Barre". Jethro Tull. 17 November 1946.
  23. ^ Prown, Pete, and Newquest, HP (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists, p. 85. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-7935-4042-9.
  24. ^ "Flashback '78: Jethro Tull's Martin Barre and Ian Anderson Create the Seminal Heavy Horses". Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  25. ^ "Joe Bonamassa Interview". Blues in Britain. 2 June 2010.
  26. ^ "Joe Bonamassa Interview : Guitar Interviews". Archived from the original on 11 September 2014.
  27. ^ "Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush Choose 22 Songs That Inspired Them Most - Page 14 | Guitar World". Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  28. ^ "Pat O'May - Celtic Wings". Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  29. ^ "Mick Abrahams details Revived - Prog". Archived from the original on 1 March 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2015.

External links[edit]