Steve Hackett | Rock Star Birthdays

Happy Birthday Steve Hackett

February 12, 2019

 

Stephen Richard "Steve" Hackett (born 12 February 1950)

 

Steve Hackett is best known as the guitarist with Genesis during their best years as both a progressive and commercial band, across ten albums of their history. His arrival in the group's lineup at the start of 1971, replacing original guitarist Anthony Phillips, provided the group with the last ingredient that it needed for success. In the years since, while Phil Collins may have enjoyed pop/rock stardom and an acting career, and his other bandmates have had their periodic successes, Hackett has come the farthest as a star performer and composer in his own right.

Hackett's earliest experience in playing professionally came with groups named Canterbury Glass and Sarabande, making mainstream rock with a progressive/ psychedelic edge. It was as a studio musician that he excelled, recording with a band called Quiet World in 1970. They were signed to the Pye Records label and released an LP titled The Road on that company's progressive rock-oriented Dawn Records label. In late 1970, Hackett crossed paths with Genesis when he placed an advertisement in search of like-minded progressive musicians and
Peter Gabriel responded -- the group's original guitarist, Anthony Phillips, had departed and they needed a replacement. He saw them in concert with a temporary substitute in the guitarist's spot and approached them about joining. Hackett was in the lineup in January of 1971 and was quickly established as an integral part of their sound, though his concert work at their earliest gigs suffered from the fact that Hackett had little experience playing on-stage, which initially made him nervous. He subsequently became not only an essential part of the Genesis sound, but also of their image; his bespectacled figure, seated and bent over his instrument in studied concentration, helped to set the group apart from flashier progressive rock outfits of the era.

His skill and vast range opened up the group's sound in new ways during their progressive rock phase; coupled with Phil Collins' drumming in the mix, Genesis turned into a true virtuoso unit, as revealed on the albums
Foxtrot, Genesis Live, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, all among the finest progressive rock LPs ever conceived. Then, following the departure of lead singer Gabriel and his replacement by Collins, and their move toward a more commercial sound, Hackett proved equally adept; the difference was that their albums were now selling in the millions instead of the hundreds of thousands, and he was getting far more public exposure than ever before.

Hackett's first solo album,
Voyage of the Acolyte, dated from 1975 and was, in many ways, almost a lost Genesis album, featuring Collins and Michael Rutherford in its lineup of musicians. Coming out as it did in the wake of Gabriel's departure from the group, it was a cause of some strain among the members, despite their participation, but Hackett stayed with the band through the tour behind the release of Wind & Wuthering, making his last appearance with the group on the Seconds Out live album, ironically just as the band was ascending into the top ranks of concert attractions and recording acts. Hackett's first post-Genesis solo album was Please Don't Touch!, which deliberately hewed very far away from his old group's progressive sound and departed completely from Voyage of the Acolyte as well. He also put together his first touring band, which included Pete Hicks on vocals and John Shearer on drums, as well as brother John Hackett on flute and keyboards, with whom he subsequently recorded the Spectral Mornings album.

Hackett's sound advanced rapidly in the '80s, through albums such as
Defector -- a fascinating musical/political fantasy -- and the pop-oriented Cured. His concert work kept him busy throughout Europe, and the expanding fame of his old band led a steady stream of listeners to check out the work of the former Genesis guitarist, whose playing and personality were so prominent on those classic early albums. He also reunited with Peter Gabriel and Michael Rutherford, and then with all of his ex-bandmates for a pair of 1982 charity concerts. The following year he enjoyed a very successful European single in the guise of "Cell 151" from the Highly Strung LP, which helped propel that album to hit status. The mid-'80s saw him broaden his sound to include various elements of "world music" in his studio work, and he also to begin playing smaller, more intimate halls where his guitar skills could be better appreciated.

In 1986, Hackett hooked up with
Yes guitarist Steve Howe to form GTR, a progressive rock