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Friday, December 8, 2023

Genesis’ Steve Hackett on the most “note perfect” guitarist

No band is entirely original, and influences are impossible to ignore. However, the interesting way Genesis remained utterly singular was by conflating so many styles that the resultant melee of inspirations was a sound that you could only call their own. According to the group’s guitarist, Steve Hackett, this expansive development of what was previously just called rock ‘n’ roll began with the birth of psychedelia.

“It’s ancient history now but distorted guitars, backwards stuff, the influence of Indian music – I guess drugs played their part in that too,” he told Cosmic when tracking the musical journey that led to Genesis tracks like ‘Looking for Someone’.

Adding: “I think music was on the change. This whole kind of incorporation of influences from far-flung places happened with psychedelic music”.

Hackett continued: “And I think progressive was perhaps the more organised end of that. I like the romantic side of progressive stuff, but I enjoy the idea of the way psychedelic playing came in and the fact that a solo could go anywhere and could be any length. I loved that, the equivalent of free jazz for rock ‘n’ rollers. And the idea that music could always be surprising.”

However, when you look back at these movements, there is always someone who starts out as a very early progenitor; punk had the likes of Link Wray and Iggy Pop long before the fact, hip hop had Gil Scott Heron over a decade before the genre truly began, and as far as Hackett was concerned, the various offshoots of rock ‘n’ roll can all be traced back to the unique stylings of Hank Marvin, the hungriest man in music.

Reflecting on the influence of the Shadow’s guitarist, Hackett recalled an event in London documenting Marvin’s work. “At that do was Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Steve Howe and myself. And that was rather extraordinary,” he said, recounting how much his peers admired their mutual hero who took Britain by storm in the early 1960s. In fact, from 1960 to 1963, the band managed to achieve the feat of replacing themselves as the top spot in the chart on four separate occasions; when you consider that it has only been achieved nine times, you can imagine the scale of their dominance.

Thus, Marvin served as an introductory point for many of his future peers, and thankfully, for the fate of music, he had beautiful sound. As Hackett continued: “Of course, the reason why all those guys were there was that the first time anyone heard the electric guitar was Hank playing it and of course, it was hugely influential. Hank and his Stratocaster and The Shadows [were] hugely influential stuff. The precision with which they played those tunes!”

Hackett concluded: “I remember seeing them live when it was Cliff Richard and The Shadows. It was on one of those TV shows, and I happened to be in the audience. They were absolutely note-perfect and really, really good. Sometimes I bump into the odd ex-Shadow like Bruce Welch, who lives locally, and I always want to say how good it was. The first record I ever bought back in the day was one of theirs, Man of Mystery. As a nine-year-old, that was the first thing I ever bought.”

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