“Hackett To Pieces - The Life Of A Rock Guitarist” (Part One) - by Ted Sayers. Photographs by Alan Perry and Roger Salem.
Steve Hackett is most likely the best known guitarist that Genesis have possessed and in may people’s eyes he was part of the classic line up.
Steve’s career began before Genesis and his solo albums may not exactly sell in the millions but he is definitely one of today’s most innovative players of the guitar. His recording career now spans almost twenty years and no one can accuse him of not taking chances - indeed he seems to relish the risk! To cap it all, he is one of the nicest people in rock music that I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
His debut recording was with a band called Quiet World. Their only album was released in 1969 and was titled The Road. It is rather hard to come by these days and when placed against other records of its time you may be forgiven for forming the opinion that it was too far ahead of its time.
Steve joined Genesis in 1971 and played on eight of their albums: Nursery Cryme (1971), Foxtrot (1972), Live (1973), Selling England By The Pound (1973), The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974), A Trick Of The Tail (1976), Wind & Wuthering (1976), Seconds Out (1977). His distinctive style developed during his six or seven years with the band and since he has left, he has continued to build on that style.
He took a major gamble in leaving Genesis in 1977 to go solo. This was mainly due to the fact that Steve felt that not enough of his material was being used. Genesis now consisted of a band of three writer/musicians (Phil didn’t write much until later) and therefore Steve maybe felt that his style was being cramped. He had managed to get some of this material out of his system two year previously with the first solo album by any member of Genesis. This was titled: The Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975) and was recorded while Genesis were deliberating on a future minus Peter Gabriel.
Voyage… includes contributions from Phil and Mike (Phil sings on Star Of Sirius - a taste of things to come) and in places it is rather hard going but a few plays by the devoted fan soon overcome this and certain tracks begin to stand out. Ace Of Wands and A Tower Struck Down grip the listener by the throat and refuse to let go. So, with the chance taken, Steve embarked on his solo career and the following year saw the release of the eclectic Please Don’t Touch. On October 4th 1978, Steve played his first solo gig at Chateau Neuf in Oslo Norway and his first UK solo gig was a couple of weeks later at Cardiff University.
|Please Don’t Touch whilst holding Steve’s style and character developed with Genesis, was very varied in mood and almost schizophrenic. Witness the change in mood between the rocking (and ear-splitting) title track and the moving ballad, Hoping Love Will Last sung by Randy Crawford.|
The album was recorded by Steve with the help of a few session musicians including the aforementioned Randy Crawford, Richie Havens; two members of Kansas, and his old partner in crime from Genesis; Chester Thompson among others. The album is mostly instrumental but Steve did put in a few backing vocals on some of the songs. Two singles were released: How Can I?/Kim and Narnia (with a different vocalist)/Please Don’t Touch. Steve formed a band of musicians simply as the means of playing live but obviously, could not use any of the session musicians from the LP with the exception of his brother John on flute.
Here Steve formed a band which ended up recording his next two albums and one of the musicians; Nick Magnus remained with Steve until very recently. The band were: Dik Cadbury (bass), Peter Hicks (Vocals), John Hackett (Flute/Bass Pedals), Nick Magnus (Keyboards), John Shearer (Drums/Percussion), and Steve himself on guitar.
On the Please Don’t Touch Tour, they premiered a couple of as yet unrecorded songs; Clocks and Spectral Mornings and they even performed a rock and roll version of I Know What I Like. So Steve took the band into the studio and the result was the beautiful Spectral Mornings which was released to critical acclaim in 1979.
This was a slightly more consistent album in respect of style and once more Steve took top the road with a very impressive stage show. Once more two singles were culled from the album, these were: Every Day/Lost Time In Cordoba and Clocks/Acoustic Set (live). The 12” also contained a live version of Tigermoth. This latter was Steve’s first 12” single.
Steve and his band also played a prestigious guest spot at the Reading Festival in August 1979 before returning to the studio to record Defector. This was released in 1980 and was once again very impressive with some very colourful musical images. Again he went straight back out on the road to promote the album and its two singles: The Show/Hercules Unchained and Sentimental Institution/The Toast. The latter being a homage to the Big Band days of Artie Shaw. Steve could never be accused of narrow mindedness!
Sadly, this was the end of the road for this band of musicians and Steve stripped the sound down and returned to the studios with only Nick Magnus and John Hackett. For Cured he used a drum machine and just the above mentioned musicians to augment himself.
Part Two next time…