Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett is an English classical/rock guitarist with a career in music that dates back to 1970. He rose to prominence as a member of Genesis between 1971 and 1977, during which time he played on six of the band’s studio albums: Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, A Trick of the Tail, and Wind and Wuthering.

He released his first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, in 1975 while still a member of Genesis. After leaving the band, he resumed his solo career with 1978’s Please Don’t Touch. Since that time, he has released more than 20 solo albums.


Steve Hackett was born in Pimlico, south central London on Feb. 12, 1950, one day before his future Genesis bandmate Peter Gabriel. Hackett has a younger brother, John (b. 1955), who took up flute and has collaborated with Steve on various projects over the years.

As a child, Hackett played recorder and harmonica. He took up guitar at age 12 and taught himself chord progressions and phrasing by playing along to his favorite guitarists. As a teenager, he was influenced by Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, Jimi Hendrix, and other players associated with the British blues rock movement.

In 1968, Hackett made his first recorded appearance on the track “Prologue” by London psych-rockers Canterbury Glass. The track went unreleased at the time but was finally acquitted four decades later on the archival disc Sacred Scenes and Characters.

In 1970, Steve and John joined Quiet World, a folk-psych band signed to Dawn. Though the brothers had begun writing, this band was directed by another set of brothers, John and Lea Heather, who wrote the songs with their non-performing third brother Neil. The Hackett’s are credited with guitar and harmonica (Steve) and acoustic guitar (John) on The Road, Quiet World’s singular album, issued that year. They left the band soon after its release.

That December, Steve placed the following ad in the musicians classified section of Melody Maker: “Imaginative guitarist-writer seeks involvement with receptive musicians, determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms.” It was seen by Peter Gabriel, then vocalist of the up-and-coming Charisma act Genesis, which had recently lost their guitarist Anthony Phillips. At Gabriel’s suggestion, Hackett purchased their then-recent sophomore effort Trespass to grasp the challenge in advance. His now-developed playing style — a mix of classical, folk, and blues rock — instantly meshed with the band’s soft/heavy dynamics, from the pastoral sounds of “Dusk” to the hardened menace of “The Knife.” He played his first concert with Genesis at London’s City University on January 24, 1971.

Hackett’s first album with Genesis was Nursery Cryme, released in November 1971. His innovative tapping technique — later adopted by assorted metal guitarists — is heard on the side-one closing epic “The Return of the Giant Hogweed.” On the Mellotron-laden album closer “The Fountain of Salmacis,” his signature ghostly bends rise through the foggy layers of keyboardist Tony Banks.

Hackett got his first solo spot on a Genesis album with the acoustic classical-guitar instrumental “Horizons,” which appears on their 1972 release Foxtrot. At 1:41, it serves as a prelude to their 22-minute suite “Supper’s Ready.” He would further explore this style during his solo career, including the entirely of his 1983 release Bay of Kings, which features a reworked “Horizons.” The remaining material on Foxtrot is group-credited though one piece, the side-one closer “Can-Utility and the Coastliners,” was primarily composed by Hackett. It’s a through-composed number with oblique lyrics based on the legend of King Canute.

On the next Genesis studio album, the 1973 release Selling England by the Pound, Hackett contributed “After the Ordeal,” an instrumental tapestry of classical guitar and piano that breaks to a sequence of blues-based ghost bends in its final bars. At 4:15, it bisects the two epics of side two: the surreal gang-rivalry dramatization “Battle of Epping Forest” and the romantic obfuscation “Cinema Show.” Hackett had to fight tooth and nail to get his song included, marking the start of tensions between him and certain other members, particularly Banks, the band’s most dominant songwriter.

Also in 1973, Hackett appeared — along with Genesis drummer Phil Collins — on the Capitol/Sovereign release Two Sides of Peter Banks by ex-Yes/then-Flash guitarist Peter Banks. It was originally conceived as a collaborative effort between Banks and Focus guitarist Jan Akkerman, who plays on six numbers. Hackett plays on “Knights (reprise),” one of the few non-Akkerman cuts.

In November 1974, Genesis released The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a thematic double-album that proved to be the last release from the band’s classic five-piece configuration. Hackett displays his avant-garde side on the instrumental “The Waiting Room,” a fractious, largely free-form piece developed under the working title “Evil Jam.” After an elaborate tour in support of this release, Gabriel left the band in May 1975. As Genesis contemplated its next move, Hackett used the downtime to record his first solo album.


Discography:

  • Voyage of the Acolyte (1975)
  • Please Don’t Touch (1978)
  • Spectral Mornings (1979)
  • Defector (1980)
  • Cured (1981)
  • Highly Strung (1983)
  • Bay of Kings (1983)
  • Till We Have Faces (1984)
  • Momentum (1988)
  • Guitar Noir (1993)
  • Blues with a Feeling (1994)
  • Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited (1996)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1997)
  • Darktown (1999)
  • Feedback 86 (2000 — recorded 1986)
  • To Watch the Storms (2003)
  • Metamorpheus (2005)
  • Wild Orchids (2006)
  • Tribute (2008)
  • Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth (2009)
  • Beyond the Shrouded Horizon (2011)
  • Genesis Revisited II (2012)
  • Wolflight (2015)
  • The Night Siren (2017)

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1 thought on “Steve Hackett

  1. Hackett’s first four albums are always the charm — the Trick/Wind-styled Voyage of the Acolyte; the eclectic mix of symphonic epics, folksy ballads, and blazing instrumentals on Please Don’t Touch; and the alternately quirky/mannered variety of Spectral Mornings and Defector — the last two a spiritual double album. Beyond that, the hi-tech Highly Strung is rich and varied, as are later high-points such as Guitar Noirand Darktown, which respectively show him rising above the ’90s and arriving at the new millennium in trademark form.

    Kudos to anyone else who’s already made similar points.

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