There’s quite a library of Genesis related books building up, including in recent years those written by band members such as Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. So, it’s good to see guitar ace Steve Hackett publishing his autobiography. He is widely recognised as one of the prime prog guitarists, alongside Steve Howe, Robert Fripp and Dave Gilmour, and has an all-round range that few can match. He is as capable playing classical guitar as he is all out rock, and manages to touch just about all the bases in between. He is an influential player too, being known to have influenced Brian May, Alex Lifeson, Steve Rothery and Eddie Van Halen, amongst numerous others. He is most noted, of course, for his time with Genesis in the 1970s, but he has played with others such as Steve Howe in GTR and Chris Squire in Squackett and one or two others. He has had a successful career since leaving Genesis too, with some landmark recordings of his own.
This is a fast-paced run through Steve’s life in music. The first part of the book deals with his early years and brilliantly portrays what it was like growing up in bleak London’s post-war austerity and dealing with the harshness of schooling. You can understand why the youth of his era were drawn to the colour and magic of rock and roll – it was just so different and affirmative.
What will attract fans though is the material about Genesis and his subsequent solo career. A quote gives Steve’s thoughts as he joined Genesis; ‘once over the wall, you can never go back. I knew there and then I was about to take a leap of faith into that new world and that my life was about to change for good. I was to board a spaceship to a new planet with a bunch of aliens. I emptied my glass, put it down and walked out through the door into the sunshine, clutching that ticket to Mars’.
This is perhaps where the book is most fast paced. It deals with each of the albums that Steve was involved with, and his thoughts on the creation of them. This is very far from a tell-all expose. Steve keeps it all balanced. The tensions are mentioned and dealt with in a fair-minded way, then Steve moves on. There’s no rancour or bitterness. Steve just deals with issues as matter-of-factly as he can. Anecdotes are included, but Genesis were never really into the rock and roll excess that some of their contemporaries indulged in. There are occasional admissions of such a style, but all kept well within proportion. Steve is equally candid when it comes to his solo career, and what it meant to launch it; ‘Had I done the right thing? It was a big risk and a huge step into the unknown. I was leaving a world class band that was by now filling arenas internationally. I had to trust in the power of my instinct and inspiration…’
The trials of maintaining his own band are clear, as is maintaining a presence in ever changing markets. But Steve did, though, go on to produce some remarkable albums of his own while maintaining his progressive outlook.
This is a very interesting book then, well written with intelligence, eloquence, and no little humour. It deals with Steve’s personal issues too – his own insecurities and shyness, his relationships, and getting his own voice heard. Clocking in at less than two hundred pages it could be considered a slight tome but you’ll come across few rock autobiographies as eloquent as this and certainly few that portray the writer’s modesty quite as well.
Publisher: Wymer Publishing
Publish date: 24 July 2020
Hardcover: 208 pages