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Interview: Steve Hackett, former guitarist with Genesis

POPULAR legend has it that when Johnny Rotten and his pals invaded pop music with their snot and safety pins in the 1970s, it was bands like Genesis that took the hit.

Steve Hackett, former guitarist with Genesis
Steve Hackett, former guitarist with Genesis

POPULAR legend has it that when Johnny Rotten and his pals invaded pop music with their snot and safety pins in the 1970s, it was bands like Genesis that took the hit.

Public schoolboys with concepts and complex lyrics were booted into history by the oiks of punk.

Next week’s schedule at The Sage Gateshead tells a different tale.

On Wednesday Steve Hackett, a Genesis member from 1970-77, takes to the stage of Hall One on his Genesis Revisited Tour.

The memory-stirring tour follows last year’s release of his covers album, Genesis Revisited II, sequel to Genesis Revisited.

Now that punk’s part of music history too, there’s the chance to become reacquainted with a period when people lapped up Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and the rest.

Steve contributed to six Genesis studio albums, three live albums and seven singles.

He joined the band in 1970, hot on the heels of Phil Collins, after Peter Gabriel had spotted an advert he had placed in Melody Maker magazine – anticipating punk’s upstarts – calling for musicians “determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms”.

Gabriel made contact and Hackett joined Genesis in time to contribute to the third studio album, Nursery Cryme.

An innovative musician who could play classical guitar and was one of the first to experiment with a new ‘tapping’ technique, his unique sound contributed to the subsequent success of the band.

Speaking recently from Brussels, the morning after a “brilliant” show, Steve recalled his first days in a band set up by a couple of lads from very posh Charterhouse School – Peter Gabriel (vocals) and Tony Banks (keyboards), along with guitarist Anthony Phillips.

“They seemed to have their own language with musical terms they’d learned at school but meant nothing to me. I had to catch up fast,” he said.

Steve remembered suggesting various innovations and initial resistance gave way to openness.

He contributed to the albums of the Genesis golden period, most notably the epic The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway which drew inspiration from Greek mythology and the poet John Keats, among other things.

Released in 1974, it was performed 104 times on a world tour with accompanying light and laser show.

Although it’s all about Rael, a Puerto Rican kid living in New York City, Steve said he sees the album more as a compilation of stories than a concept album, ‘concept’ being a word often uttered through gritted teeth these days.

The “ultimate show” of that famous album, he suggested, was “probably yet to be born”.

But he added: “It could be a musical and the idea has been floated many times.”

On the other hand, a Genesis reunion is unlikely. “There has been lots of talk of reunions, and I suppose it would be wonderful for some fans if we were able to go on in our wheelchairs at the age of 80, but you can’t wait forever.”

His own tour, recalling the best of a band that once burned brightly, is probably the best we’ll get – a nostalgia trip for those, like me, who enjoyed the intricacies of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and A Trick of the Tail.

Reflecting on the previous night in Brussels, Steve mused: “I think it was a family show in the best sense of the word. It seemed to appeal right across the generations.

“There were those who remember Genesis in their heyday and those for whom it has arrived like the next new thing.

“We have a superlative visual show with films and lights and all the bells. It’s just really gratifying to be able to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve always felt that you’ve got to give people a show.”

Steve was happy being back on the road again, he said, even if the adrenalin rush at the start of the tour was keeping him awake at night.

He married third wife Jo a couple of years ago. “We met through film originally. She’s a film-maker and I was doing some film music at the time. She’s fabulous and very dedicated. She travels with me everywhere.”

Jo, it seems, is also a historian, delighting in the opportunities the tour throws up to explore the past.

For many music fans, the gig at The Sage Gateshead on May 15 will also be a bit of a trip down memory lane. Tickets from the box office on 0191 443 4661.

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