Even the most casual Jethro Tull fan knows that there is no one named Jethro Tull in the group. But of the fans who know that, there are surely many who couldn’t name a band member except for frontman and songwriter Ian Anderson.
Sadly, they might not even be able to name guitarist Martin Barre, who has surely been the band’s most important member, after Anderson, and has provided many of the band’s most memorable riffs. Barre was not there for the band’s 1967 formation, in England, but joined in 1968, and, besides Anderson, was the only member to be in every lineup from then until 2014, when Anderson decided to put an end to it.
Anderson is still performing under his own name, and so is Barre. He’ll bring his five-piece Martin Barre Band to Tim McCloone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, April 12, and to Mexicali Live in Teaneck, April 22. They’ll play Tull songs as well as blues and rock covers, and originals.
Naturally, the Tull songs won’t sound exactly the same as they did when the band used to play them.
“I’ve got lots of ideas,” says Barre, 69. “I love arranging music. I love harmonizing. I really love all the aspects of music that I wasn’t allowed to be involved in, with Jethro Tull, and I think I’m fairly qualified to do it. I mean, I’ve learned a huge amount over the years that I’ve been playing.
“I really enjoy having the responsibility of taking the music somewhere where I want it to go. When the audiences come up and say ‘We really love your version of this’ or ‘We never thought we’d hear this song in a certain way,’ and they really enjoy it, that makes it all worthwhile.”
A tour like the current one — coming to nightclubs instead of the arenas and theaters Tull used to play — isn’t exactly something new for Barre.
“I’ve always done small clubs, all through the years, and I’ve always enjoyed doing them,” he says. “I don’t have a problem with it. I have no pretensions about who I should be, who I am and who I’m not. I’m just another guitar player, out there, trying to play good music and make a lot of friends.”
Barre says that record company executive were really the ones who made the decision to put the emphasis on Anderson, in Jethro Tull. “The marketing people liked someone really unique to be able to market,” he says. “Ian was a very powerful figurehead. He was a very naturally charismatic personality, and people wanted to write about him.”
Barre says it doesn’t bother him that things were that way, though he does wonder how it would have been if the band had approached it differently.
“I saw that interplay between people like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Jagger … a lot of bands have this sort of duo at the front … I think I just saw the great relationship that other people had, and I thought that could have been the same for us. I just think it’s a shame: More of a lost opportunity than something that I regret or resent. I just think, it could have been that way, and it would have been better for it. Nothing would have been taken away from anybody. It just would have embellished the image of what Jethro Tull was.”
He doesn’t see much hope for Tull ever getting back together.
“I think the longer it goes on, the less likely it is it will come back together again. I’ve never (since 2014) heard a whisper, a rumor, a squeak, in that direction. And as I get more involved in my band, and we become more successful, the less I want to do it, anyway. All my energy is going into my own band, and writing music. I’m investing time in the musicality, and getting a huge amount out of it. I’m really happy as a musician, and as a performer. So I’m not missing anything.
“The financial rewards … I think if you wanted to make money, you wouldn’t be a musician anyway. The only way I think in financial terms is, if we make more money, I can put more investment back into the band. My hope is that maybe next year, I’ll bring over (to the U.S.) the two girl singers who I use in England and Europe. And then maybe the year after I can have a Hammond (organ) player.”