Steve Hackett: the soundtrack of my life

Steve Hackett
(Image credit: Future)

London-born Steve Hackett was the guitarist with Genesis from 1971 to ’77. His first album with them was Nursery Cryme, and he departed for a solo career after Wind & Wuthering due to feeling that his material was being overlooked. 

Since his solo debut album Voyage Of The Acolyte (made while still a member of Genesis), Hackett has released 25 albums of his own. He was also a member of GTR with Yes/Asia guitarist Steve Howe, worked with the same band’s bassist, Chris Squire, and has appeared on albums by Alan Parsons, John Wetton, Steven Wilson and Marillion’s Steve Rothery, among many others.

The first music I remember hearing

Mario Lanza’s The Drinking Song, from The Student Prince [a popular musical from 1924]. I used to dance around the room to it and then fall over. That’s a great memory.

The first song I performed live

The first one I played in front of a proper audience was The Stumble, which was written by Freddie King. The gig took place on a pleasure boat going up the Thames. What was my band called? We weren’t even at the point where we’d chosen a name.

The best record I've made

I would have to pick my most recent rock album, At The Edge Of Light [2019]. Others have told me it’s my best work, and when I play it I don’t have any moments of embarrassment. It doesn’t make me wince, and that’s a nice feeling.

The worst record I've made

In 1981 I made an album called Cured. It had a Linn drum machine on it. It was also the first time I’d sung. I wouldn’t say that it was terrible or embarrassing or even badly executed, and it does have redeeming features that include The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, but in some ways I gave in to commercial pressures with that one. It’s very much of its time. The 1980s were a trying period for album artists that the record companies wanted singles from.

The guitar hero

I’ve chosen Jim Hendrix. Jimi wasn’t just a guitarist, it was also the way that he played the instrument and moved with it. I like the fact that he seemed like he and the guitar were one. Jimi was an improviser and he took chances. He didn’t worry about hitting a wrong ’un or fluffing a note. I’m not knocking him for that, he was doing in public what others chose to do in private. That was very laudable.

The singer

I enjoy listening to lots of singers, but I’ll pick Roy Orbison. I like him because he’s a one-off. Nobody else I’ve ever heard sounded anything like him.

The songwriter

People will know Jimmy Webb as the man that wrote MacArthur Park [a hit for actor Richard Harris in 1968], but he wrote many more that were covered by lots of artists, including By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman and Galveston for Glen Campbell.

My cult hero

Paul Butterfield, the fantastic harmonica player. I’ve adored his music since I was a kid. My go-to record of his would be the thrillingly titled Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which I think came out in 1965. Either that or the following year’s East-West.

The greatest album of all time

There’s so much competition, but it has to be Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. At the time [1967] it seemed to touch every known musical form – everything from Middle Eastern sounds to marching bands and classical.

The anthem

If we’re talking about a rock anthem, then I can’t think of anything better than Layla by Derek And The Dominos. That electric guitar riff is without parallel.

The most underrated band ever

I’m going to say the Butterfield Blues Band again. On the night that I saw them, each of them was on fire. It was the best blues gig I’d ever see

My guilty pleasure

Peter, Paul & Mary singing Blowing In The Wind [from 1963]. I loved the way they sounded on that. I remember seeing them sing it on TV and they were note-perfect. And Blowing In The Wind is as powerful as ever. Long live the protest song. There should be more of those.

My Saturday night party song

It would be a toss-up between the Rolling StonesI Wanna Be Your Man, which I absolutely love, or Route 66. If you wanted an original song by the Stones, I still adore Paint It, Black. Any or all of those will prepare me for a good night.

The song that makes me cry

There’s a song by Buffy Sainte-Marie called Many A Mile. It’s the title track of her second album. It’s so, so beautiful. She manages to sing it and sob at the same time. That track has meant a lot to me in my life.

My 'in the mood for love' song

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Bryan Adams. My wife Jo and I had it played at my wedding, so I’ve cavorted to it. It’s a knockout tune.

The song I want played at my funeral

Good God. I’m going to pick one of mine – Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite. I can’t think of any resurrection tunes, but it might raise a smile.

Steve Hackett’s autobiography A Genesis In My Bed is available now via Wymer Publishing.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.