Jethro Tull Ex Martin Barre Recalls His ’Horrible’ First Show
Former Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre recalled the difficult experience of his first show with the band, which took place around 50 years ago in the south-west of England. He faced the challenge of having to perform wearing a costume that restricted the flow of blood to his arms, making it difficult for him to play.
He joined Ian Anderson’s group ahead of their rise to fame, and after future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi had briefly served as their guitarist. “It was in Penzance at a very horrible club, which I hope doesn’t exist any more,” Barre told MusicRadar in a new interview.
"We got there ridiculously late, got into this club and there were people all over the floor, comatose," he recalled. "The air was thick with pot and, at the far end, you could just about make out the stage, so we had to bring in the gear climbing over all these people.”
Barre had bought a pirate jacket the previous day, and soon had cause to regret it. “It became quite apparent after the first song that the arms were too tight so I had a severe loss of blood in my left arm, leading to the inability to play," he said.
“We only had one guy in the crew and I called out to him and he brought over his trusty Swiss Army knife and cut away the underside of the jacket around my armpit. This produced a lush flow of blood back into my left hand and service was restored. I think the audience thought it was some sort of Druid blood ceremony – and the only bit of the set they actually enjoyed! We never got asked back.”
In the same interview, Barre recalled his worst-ever journey to a show. “I had to get to Switzerland the next day,” he said. “I got the last flight out of Heathrow, which went via Brussels. I got to Brussels and had to stay in a horrible, horrible motel because fog cancelled flights. The only flight I could get to Switzerland was via Athens on a Greek airliner when everybody smoked. I had the last seat in the very back row, surrounded by smokers. The flight was diverted midair and I ended up in the wrong town in Switzerland. I got on a train and I was so filthy and disheveled they wouldn’t serve me in the dining car. I got to my hotel and it became apparent in the next half an hour that I had inherited some ’visitors’ from that horrible motel … let’s just leave it there, shall we?”
Asked about the best venue he’d ever played, Barre reflected that the concert experience was about the people present rather than the location in which it took place.
“In general terms, the worst country you visit, the poorer the town, the more horrible the place is, the nicer the people are,” he said. “I guess you could say they might be grateful that you’re there, but that would just be really condescending. I tend to think that people who have a very basic existence enjoy things in a very honest way and I would never favor one venue over another. … To me, every gig is the first gig I’ve done and the most important gig I’ve done and I want the attitude that everything is equal.”
Barre’s new solo album, Roads Less Travelled, was recently released.