Steve Hackett and the Genesis Documentary

Steve Hackett at Hammersmith Odeon

No, I haven’t had the chance to see the BBC’s Genesis documentary for myself yet, I was out at a gig when it was screened. Judging from the comments on social media including a lot of retweets from Steve Hackett himself, it seriously downplayed his contribution to the band’s music, and completely ignored his prolific solo career. While he wasn’t airbrushed out of history altogether like the unfortunate Ray Wilson, he surely deserves better.

There are a lot of parallels with AC/DC’s Malcolm Young here. Only the most ignorant dismiss Malcolm Young as an anonymous and easily-replaceable sidesman; anyone who understands their music knows his playing was the heart of their sound. It’s the same with Steve Hackett for 70s Genesis.

If you want proof, listen to “Wind and Wuthering”, Genesis’ last Studio album before Hackett left the band in 1977. Then listen to “Burning Rope”, the best song from the Hackett-less “And Then There Were Three”, and imagine how it might have sounded had Hackett played on it. Mike Rutherford’s workmanlike playing is a pale imitation.

Though not known for his stage presence, Hackett is a hugely talented musician, who managed to invent a completely new language for rock guitar. He took the electric guitar way past its blues roots, and in his way he was as groundbreaking as Jimi Hendrix a few years earlier. And he was also a maestro on classical guitar.

Hackett has been the “keeper of the flame” for the music Genesis made in the 1970s, music which Banks, Rutherford and Collins have sometimes seemed embarassed by. While it was fashionable for many years to claim the 80s stadium-pop Genesis to be the real deal, much of their later output has dated badly, and it’s the music they made while Steve Hackett was in the band which has stood the test of time.

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9 Responses to Steve Hackett and the Genesis Documentary

  1. Bruce says:

    I’m inclined to defend the BBC on this one. Yes, his influence on early genesis was immense, but solo – outside of us as fans, he has been largely ignored. Whereas Gabriel, once he left, had a massively successful career – and deserved the focus on his solo career. There was a counter argument (on TNMN) then why did they mention Banks’ solo stuff, which wasn’t successful at all – as Banks himself admitted. However he was a key, and continual, member of Genesis making his solo career relevant – particularly during the time that all of the members (Banks, Rutherford, Collins) were having dalliances outside Genesis.
    The doco wasn’t targeted towards hardcore fans, unlike the Freddie Mercury doco last year, rather it was to provide an overview and help flog the rehashed best-of.

    I also disagree on your summary of the 80s/90s work, to me a lot of the 70s work isn’t worth that much, noodling for the sake of it. But that’s another argument :)


  2. PaulE says:

    I haven’t seen it either, and for the same reason as Tim.
    Perhaps I shall give it a miss altogether if it is this controversial.

    On the benefits of the various eras of the band, I am a fan of the Prog stuff. But there is no point in pretending that if they had carried on with that music, then they would have been ignored as much as Steve’s solo work. As a teenager in the 80s, the commercial band was my gateway into the earlier albums and then (eventually) onto other Prog artists (Floyd, Yes, etc.). A sobering thought that, without Invisible Touch etc., I would have spent Saturday evening very differently.

  3. Tim Hall says:

    Interesting that The Guardian have picked up the story now.

  4. Harold Pinkney says:

    Perhaps I’m easily pleased but I enjoyed it. Needed 2 hours to cover everything I suppose.
    However, I agree was wrong not to mention Steve Wilson at all.
    Loved the moment when Peter Gabriel was pointing the finger at the grumpy Tony Banks!
    In conclusion do think that what was edited out would have been different if this had been aired on BBC 4 and not 2?

  5. Tim Hall says:

    One comment I’ve heard is that Tony Banks is the person everyone accused Phil Collins of being.

  6. Harold Pinkney says:

    I will always remember when Phil was kind to me at the end of one of their concerts at the Theatre Royal on the Selling England By The Pound tour. I followed him out of the stage door and asked for his autograph. He promptly pulled out of his pocket a brand new drumstick and signed it for me!

  7. Paul Richards says:

    70′s Genesis stuff is noodling for the sake of it?!!! Man, you have NO taste in music. Heck, man, the Musical Box plays 70′s Genesis around the world to sell-out audiences. Hackett’s been touring the 70′s stuff as well (saw him twice) and it was unforgettable. Are you a New Direction fan?

  8. Tim Hall says:

    We can do without cheap insults, Mr Richards. A lot of us love 70s Genesis, but liking it isn’t compulsory.

  9. Synthetase says:

    Good, because I can’t stand it. 80s Genesis either, for that matter. ;)