Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre takes high road on TAAB2 rift

By Mike Greenblatt

Jethro Tull has been sliced in half, and it’s still bleeding. One half has Ian Anderson resuscitating “Thick As A Brick,” and the other half has Martin Barre touring Europe with The Legends of Rock and his own Martin Barre’s New Day.

Wait a minute! “Thick As A Brick 2” without Martin Barre and drummer Doane Perry? Are you kidding? Anderson has gone on record as saying scheduling snafus between “TAAB2” and Barre’s two projects prevented the two Tull giants from performing together this time around. Let’s see what Martin says, shall we? Hint: It ain’t pretty.

 

Martin Barre Jethro TullJethro Tull’s lead guitarist, Martin Barre, is hitting the road with a pair of projects — The Legends of Rock and Martin Barre’s New Day. But you won’t find him on Ian Anderson’s ‘Thick As A Brick’/‘TAAB2’ tour. Publicity photo/Nick Harrison.

Goldmine: Tell us about The Legends Of Rock. What a lineup! Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer (Fleetwood Mac), John Helliwell, Jesse Seibenberg and Bob Seibenberg (Supertramp), John Wetton (Asia), Jon Anderson (Yes), Les Holroyd (Barclay James Harvest) and you. I wish you’d come stateside.

Martin Barre:  It might happen. They’re talking about Canada in January, but it all depends how the June and October tours go. It all sort of snowballs, but I’m hoping it will carry on. It’s not in my control. And if we do Canada, I don’t see any reason why at some point we wouldn’t come down to the States. Yeah, it’s nice! It’s not my main project, though. But it’s good for me. It’s given me something else to focus on this year, which I really need.

GM: And the material thereof? Is it Tull, Yes, Supertramp, Asia and Fleetwood Mac?

MB: All of the above. Five tracks from each band. There’s a 10-piece backing band. When I first got the set list, I looked at the tracks and thought, “Oh no! I’ve got all this stuff to learn!” But, apparently, I’m only playing the Tull stuff, so it’s a pretty easy gig for me. It’s going to be really good. What I think I’m going to do is call John Wetton. He’s a very good friend of mine. I want to pick one of the Asia tracks to play on. I want to also play on the one Fleetwood Mac track they’re doing by Peter Green. I’d love to do that.

GM: Is Jon Anderson of Yes going to sing Jethro Tull?

MB: No, I actually don’t know who’s singing the Tull. I assume it will be one of the vocalists of the big backing band. One of them, I think, is Bruce Guthrie, and he’s very, very good. But that would be something [laughs]. Maybe Jon’s thinking, “Wow, it’s been my lifetime ambition to sing ‘Aqualung.’ There’s also another element: a band called Excalibur. It’s the guy who put this all together. There will be five or more Excalibur tracks, as well. Jon and I will be together on one of those. It’s all a bit of mix and match.

GM: But your main project is Martin Barre’s New Day.

MB:  It certainly is. And what a band! Frank Mead played sax with Bill Wyman. Drummer Geoff Dunn’s from Procol Harum. I’ve got Jethro Tull’s bassist Jonathan Noyce. Pat O’May is a very good French guitar player who I worked with last year. Vocalist John Mitchell is from an English band called It Bites.

GM: And it’s all Tull material?

MB: Yeah, with some of my instrumentals and a couple of Pat’s songs. Frank is also an amazing blues harpist, so he does a couple of blues things. I think it’ll be about 80 percent Tull. I have to see how rehearsals go. I want it to be a sort of rock-blues show. There’ll be nothing lightweight. The Tull stuff, other than the favorites, will be stuff Tull hasn’t played for 20, 30 years, so it will be pretty fresh. We’ll do the tracks that I’ve wanted to do for a long time: “A New Day Yesterday” [“Stand Up,” 1969], “Teacher” and “To Cry You A Song” [“Benefit,” 1970], a chunk of music from “Thick As A Brick” [1972], something from “A Passion Play” [1973], “Minstrel In The Gallery” [1975], “Home” [“Stormwatch,” 1979] and “Later That Same Evening” [“Under Wraps,” 1984].

GM: Are you going to play some flute?

MB: A bit. Frank also plays flute, and he’s a very good Irish folk flute player. Nobody will be playing in Ian’s style. I don’t think that would be the way to go. The material I’m doing doesn’t have that much flute in it, anyway. In the early songs, it was pretty minimal. It was only the later albums that had a lot of flute. I think it could work out really well.

GM: Is it going to feel funny to turn to your left onstage and not see Ian?

MB: No, it’s not.

GM: You’ve played with him for so long. What has it been? About 150 years, right?

MB: Yeah. About that long.

GM: Give or take a few decades. Hey, I gotta tell ya, I’ve been a longtime fan of Jethro Tull, and you, specifically. I’ve always thought you’ve been one of the most overlooked and underrated guitarists in rock music. I put you on a pedestal. I’ve been in your audiences, thrilling to your guitar solos for decades. I must say, the Tull fans who I know are up in arms over the fact that you and [drummer] Doane [Perry] aren’t on this Ian Anderson “Thick As A Brick 2” project. So let me ask you point-blank: What the f**k, man?

MB: Yeah, well, it’s not something I really want to talk about. I think the fact of the matter is, I know nothing about it. When Ian announced on the American tour last year that he didn’t want to do any more Jethro Tull shows, Doane and I had no idea that he was planning to do “Thick As A Brick 2.” This was all stuff he had planned before he had told us anything. He told us nothing, yet, obviously, he had thought this through for a long time. It is what it is. Everybody has to draw their own conclusions.

My focus now is to carry on the name and the music of Jethro Tull in the tradition that I love and was mostly involved with: the earlier days. I’ve got nothing more to say about it. I could say this, that or the other, but what will happen will happen, and it’s fine. Everybody has a right to do what they want to do in life. It’s very easy for others to be critical of decisions and directions musicians want to go in. It’s not for me to say. I’m more interested in me and going in the direction that I want to go. And it’s opened up a huge area for me. And vocally, Ian can’t really go there anymore. He’s looking at more flute playing. Actually, I don’t know what he’s looking at, but it’s not the heavy Jethro Tull that I want to represent. That’s all my territory. And I shall embrace it with open arms.

Doane PerryLongtime Jethro Tull drummer Doane Perry won’t be behind the kit on Ian Anderson’s ‘TAAB2’ tour, which features live performances of ‘Thick As A Brick’ and its new sequel. Publicity photo/Jay Rubin.

 

GM: To be perfectly frank, I found it painful to be in his audience with him trying to approximate his once-great vocals.

MB: It’s a terrible thing. I don’t want to talk about that. I listen to the early Tull tracks, and Ian’s performance is just stunning. It really is. He had such a great voice. That’s not a nice thing to happen. It’s something he has to deal with, and, luckily, something I don’t have to deal with, because I wouldn’t know what to do. It’s a tragedy.

GM: Tony Bennett sings better at 85 than he did at 45. He’s a freak of nature.

MB: Some guys do. They have better training or look after their voice more. Same as me looking after my hands. I have to exercise and take cod liver oil and all these sorts of pills that are supposed to keep arthritis away. Hopefully, it will. Being a musician is a long-term investment, be it a vocalist or instrumentalist. You have to look after your body and your mind.

GM: Well, it’s just unconscionable for Ian to not inform you of this. I’m outraged. Tull fans are outraged. He reportedly said it was a scheduling conflict.

MB: That’s not true. Sometimes it’s convenient and more pleasant to perceive a different reality than the one that really exists. I’m very positive about everything right now. I’m happier with the people I’m working with. I don’t have a problem with what’s happening. It will all level out. People will like what they like. The difficult corner, though, [with Ian’s project] is that everybody needs to know exactly what’s happening. There’s an element of being misled by not saying anything. The fact that it’s advertised the way it is in some countries certainly doesn’t suggest anything. It also doesn’t explain that Doane and I are not part of it, so the presumption could be that we are there. That bothers me. It’s on my website. It’s a big mistake. If he’s made one mistake, it’s that he hasn’t made it absolutely clear who is in the band, because people don’t go to see Ian. They go to see Ian and the band. And I think it’s quite important to know who’s in the band! It’s a shame. It’ll reflect badly on them.

GM: I knew you would bounce back, but I feel bad for Doane. Why wouldn’t he want Doane? Has Doane spoken to you about it?

MB: We speak. I’m a third of the way through a book. It won’t be this year because I’ve been recording and trying to get all these gigs together but, one day, all those questions will be answered. There are reasons. To be honest, there’s reasons for everything. And I’m fairly sure I know what they are. Nothing is being said. Ian just got Doane and I in a room and said he didn’t want to play in Jethro Tull anymore. But that doesn’t make any sense at all. So you have to sort of look beyond it.

GM: So what did Doane say?

MB: I think you’d have to talk to him. Doane’s a very soft, mellow person. He knows what’s going on. He has other work. Doane has health problems with his shoulder. He’s recording with other artists in Los Angeles. Doane will always work, because he’s such an amazing drummer and has a great network of friends. And he’ll work with me at some point. I’ve also spoken to other guys, like Barrie Barlow, on the possibility of putting together a Jethro Tull band for America, which would have some interesting people in it, like maybe Clive Bunker. I quite fancy the idea of having the lineup of Jethro Tull from a long time ago performing again. It would be hard to get some guys, I know. John Evan lives in Australia. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but it would be good fun trying. It’s a big responsibility, and I would want to get it right. I wouldn’t want to come across with a band that was anything less than 100 percent of what the fans would want and what I would want. I feel in the latter years of Tull, we were so sidetracked by doing such big shows that the production was nonexistent. We kept doing the same show! You can’t do that. I want to get back to doing something really fresh. I’ve always felt reinvesting in a project is the best thing you can do, whereas Jethro Tull has done the opposite. Nothing was put back in. It’s been all take and no give. The shows were bland. Nothing changed. When you get a bit of success, you should take some of that and put it back into the show to make it a better show, rather than just take the money.

GM: After Ian got you and Doane in that room, is that when you decided you had to look after yourself, so you made your “Legends Of Rock” and Martin Barre’s New Day plans?

MB: Oh yeah. I mean, the minute he said it, I knew I had to do it. And I wanted to do it. I’ve done solo things before, but this is full on. I didn’t find the facts of what I had to do a problem. I just found the way it happened a problem. People are such strange creatures.

 

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14 thoughts on “Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre takes high road on TAAB2 rift

  1. Martin is one of the best rock guitar players in history; However, there is no Jethro Tull without Ian!

  2. If I recall my Tull history correctly … Ian sacked Glenn Cornick by having manager Terry Ellis tell him he was no longer in the band when he attempted to board a plane with the group. Ten years later, Barrie Barlow and original band founder John Evan discovered they were no longer in Tull by reading it in Melody Maker magazine. So at least Martin and Doane were given the “respect” of being told to their faces that all those years of dutiful and brilliant service no longer mattered … except to those of us who’ve seen Tull countless times and enjoyed every single minute of their superb muscicianship.

  3. Jeez,

    You guys should invest in some real journalists, this is a hatchet job on Martin, Ian and Tull.

    BTW, to the comment above, there is lots of Tull without Barre, it is just without Barre, shame, but Ian goes on.

  4. Pat, you are certainly entitled to your opinions, as I am entitled to mine. Although I’m not sure what is involved in your definition of a “real” journalist, I feel that Mr. Prince and Mr. Greenblatt meet those criteria in spades under my definition. I am a writer and editor who has amassed two decades of experience in newspapers, radio, magazines and books. These articles represent the core of “real” journalism as I know it: telling the story. We spoke to both of the concerned parties. We made a conscious decision to run their answers as Q&A accounts, so we could present everything as it was asked and answered, so nothing could possibly be taken out of context. In the print magazine, we were able to present the articles side by side, in the same printed issue, so readers could digest all of the information and come to their own conclusions. (Unfortunately, when you run articles on a Web site, you don’t have all the same opportunities as you do in print, including how you write the headlines or visually present the articles, so if that is the only way you became aware of these articles, I can see where you may have a differing opinion.) — Susan Sliwicki

  5. Barrie, John and David left very much of their own volition regardless of Melody Maker not having been apprised of the facts, or willfully ignoring them 32 years ago. However the album that came as a result, A, was originally intended as an IA solo record, and Chrysalis apparently felt it sounded like Tull of the 80’s and convinced IA to release it as a Tull album.
    Re Glenn Cornick, apparently his partying was at such a level that all hands on deck, including the rest of the band, felt it was time for his removal. I have even read recently, with absolutely no knowledge of its accuracy, of talk of Cornick having had several wives in the UK at the time, if so, likely behavior that ran afoul of Anderson, as it would most. As far as I know Zappa for instance, was much more of a nazi as regards his band members behaviors, as long as you could do the job and not upset the cart. As it happens most in those earlier editions of Tull also did not participate in rock and roll behaviors, part of why the groupies referred to them as Jethro Dull! To me another thing that makes them endearing, though likely not the tack I would have taken in 1970,(if not now!)I would probably have been alot more like Glenn, or Dave Pegg to follow!

  6. I absolutely love the old Jethro Tull Music but who is this one Ian Anderson that they refer to ?

  7. It looks like Tull are finished, i have seen the last two tours by Tull down under and the only reason i was there was to just be at the event. I saw Jethro Tull in the 1970’s and it is still the greatest show i have ever seen. Unfortunately Ian Anderson’s voice is shot to bits and he simply cannot carry the band vocally anymore. It’s a shell of it’s once great self and Martin Barre is just carrying on the Tull legacy as he is entitled to do. It must be terribly frustrating for Anderson too, his voice has been gone for over 20 years, the richness and fullness has long since gone. It must not be forgotten that Jethro Tull were once one of the greatest live acts in the world in the 1970’s matching Zeppelin and the Stones at every turn on stage. It does seem a peculiar way of telling someone you have played with for over 40 years that the band is finished then go out and record and tour a sequel to that bands most definitive work? Life’s A Long Song indeed…..

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  9. Martin Barre finally let it out against Ian’s voice, but it has to have deeper roots than that. Good question, who is Jethro Tull. Of course it’s a band, but is it Ian’s or Martin’s. It always sounds funny to me that Ian Anderson defines himself as a flute player and never emphasize his guitar playing. To me he is one of the best acoustic guitar player and as such he is responsible for the important part JT played in the folk movement. And this certainly is the base of the band. Martin Barre has always been able to dress the songs Ian came up with, but to me this is the fundamental dynamics of the group and their sound. Of course, the first recordings with MIck Abrahams are still in our memory and the shift Ian has taken then and the new sound Martin Barre was also reponsible for. But to me Ian Anderson and his songs are the core of JT much more than MB.

    And it’s true his voice has changed, but we’re talking about 40 years here (and the problems one encounters in life). And of course we all agree that Ian (and JT) is great on stage. I’ve seen the band live in Montreal on their TAAB tour around 1972 and it was one of the best shows I have seen (and I’ve seen a lot), theatrically and musically great.

    And indeed, Life’s A Long Song…. (incredible great guitar there)

  10. I have seen tull 4 0r 5 times during the period tween 2000 and 20010 or so ,,Near Austin Tex,,,Every show was perfect to my taste .. The band is one of the best live ,and Martin is a great inspiration to me.Was luckey enough to see them several times in the seventies and eighties .IMO,as a live act they just improved over the years .Became better musicians,and just great all around .If they ever get together again ,fine and wonderful ,if not so be it .Each player will follow their own path .For mepersonally ,Iwould follow Martin anywhere I am able . Ian will always put on a wonderful production .Things change, ,,enjoy what is to follow . Thanks to all incarnationsof Tull for all the great times and music that touched me to my core ..Big part of my life …

  11. My first encounter with Jethro Tull was the brilliant and timeless Aqualung, I discovered with great joy, their earlier albums as well, however Thick as a Brick just didn’t do it for me. I saw them Live in Australia in 1975(Songs from the Wood era). By then they had lost me as a fan of the music, I didn’t like the “Proggy” evolution of the band, in particular, the change from a hard hitting folk-rock band with a unique identity and something to say, to a pale Yes imitation, somewhat pompous, self-indulgent, rightly despised by the Punk movement that later followed. Yes….. Ian’s voice has diminished over the years to the point of just plain bad, but Mr Barre has to be held to account as well. His guitar voice changed as well……from the beautiful “woody” vintage tone to a saturated overly processed mush that I just cannot listen to. check out Aqualung Live. Also the ethics of the bandleader left me cold, from the heartless dismissal of Mick Abrahams, to Glenn Cornick’s shocking termination. Tull lost a lot of cred(with me) when they changed members and the way it was done, despite continuing success after Aqualung. I can understand why John Peel boycotted Tull after the lineup changes. I thought Thick As A Brick was a fine addition but missed the mark – they spent more time designing the cover than creating the album unlike their earlier best period – for my taste anyway. Ian Anderson comes across as a devious, duplicitous, megalomaniac by the way he treated his band members, getting his Manager to do the dirty work. The final nail? I recently viewed “Jethro Tull” on Youtube and it was shocking……all traces of the original power and identity vanished forever, leaving behind the rotting corpse of a third rate tribute band. Time to throw in the towel methinks…….

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