Personalities | Steve Hackett | Guitar Genius & Genesis | Guitar Heroes

The guitarist in Genesis from 1970–77, Steve Hackett developed a technical skill and tone control that was a vital factor in shaping the band’s music. He also helped to steer the post-Peter Gabriel Genesis towards a new style before leaving to pursue a solo career.

An undemonstrative performer, Hackett has been a major influence on guitarists looking beyond the blues tradition.

Hackett was born in 1950 and grew up in Pimlico, London, teaching himself guitar as a teenager. Leaving school at 16, he started placing classified advertisements in music paper Melody Maker, seeking ‘receptive musicians determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms’. In 1970, he was approached by Genesis, who were looking for a new guitarist. He joined singer Peter Gabriel, keyboard player Tony Banks, bassist Mike Rutherford and newly recruited drummer Phil Collins.

His introspective manner suited Genesis’ style on Nursery Cryme (1971), adding an extra dynamic to ‘The Musical Box’ and the dominant theme to ‘The Fountain Of Salmarcis’. The line-up gelled more effectively on Foxtrot (1972), with Hackett’s acoustic and electric guitars blending with the tight arrangements and tempo changes on the 23-minute ‘Supper’s Ready’.

On Selling England By The Pound (1973), Genesis reverted to shorter, self-contained songs, and Hackett made some of his strongest contributions with controlled guitar effects on ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ and his epic solo on ‘Firth Of Fifth’. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974) was a complex concept album and Hackett’s guitar, fed through a range of distortion devices, was an evocative part of the musical tapestry on ‘In The Cage’, ‘The Carpet Crawlers’ and ‘The Lamia’.

When Gabriel left in 1975, the rest of Genesis decided to stay together as Hackett took the opportunity to record his first solo album, Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975), expanding on areas he had touched on in Genesis. The next Genesis album, A Trick Of The Tail (1976), with Collins handling the vocals, marked a new beginning for the band and Hackett contributed some strident playing on ‘Squonk’, ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and ‘Los Endos’, as well as atmospheric effects on ‘Ripples’. He also co-wrote ‘Entangled’ with Banks. But despite several co-writing credits on Wind & Wuthering (1977), he was dissatisfied with the level of his contribution and left Genesis while they were preparing the live Seconds Out (1977).

Hackett’s second solo album, Please Don’t Touch (1978), was deliberately diverse, using different guest vocalists as Hackett ventured towards folk and soul, while giving a fresh twist to his progressive style on the vibrant ‘Narnia’. Spectral Mornings (1979) focused on Hackett’s own identity with powerful guitar playing on ‘Every Day’, balanced by the ambient atmospherics of the title track. Defector (1980) maintained the same direction, using Hackett’s touring band.

Cured (1981) and Highly Strung (1983) moved closer to the pop mainstream, and the former gave him a Top 50 UK album, while the latter brought him a minor UK hit with ‘Cell 151’. Throughout the...

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