Wymer Publishing [Publication date 24.07.20]
It was perhaps inevitable: riding the crest of the prog resurgence, repurposing classic Genesis in front of insatiable crowds, and making well received solo albums. And now, the book!
Steve Hackett traces his journey from a youngster in Pimlico, jumping schools, to joining one of the biggest seventies bands and his more recent solo successes.
The first 50 or so pages deal with his childhood, that’s about a third of what is a fairly short account. The key aspects are that Steve was initially attracted to the harmonica before his musical Dad gave him his first acoustic guitar at the age of 12. The rest as they say is history as he joined Quiet World in 1970 and then advertised in Melody Maker for a position in a band “to strive beyond existent stagnant musical forms”.
The main attractions of an autobiography for fans is to fill in some of the already known detail or to learn new facts about their hero. However in Steve’s journey it is what is left out that is the more intriguing.
So whilst we get to learn that he has a strong spiritual interest that has influenced his music, and even practises the power of spiritual healing, he leaves out some critical detail of the last decade.
His divorce from Kim Poor in 2008 (they married in 1981) is only skated over, but the related bust up with manager Billy Budis was widely reported in the press at the time and a legal battle for song rights ensued which Hackett eventually won. The case was significant in that it had the potential to impact other creatives in a similar (divorce) situation. There is also no mention that Poor supplied the unique artwork for many album covers. She’s also absent in the index.
By the last chapter, there is a tendency to name-check his current associates and how great they are which doesn’t really enhance understanding of our guitar hero and seems like padding.
Guitar nerds will not pick up too much detail about his technique, equipment, or approach to playing the instrument although some of his musical philosophy does get stated. Perhaps an appendix at the end of the book could have covered this as it could otherwise distract from the delightfully uncomplicated narrative.
It reminds us also that Hackett has released several exquisite acoustic albums, not least ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Metamorpheus’ with orchestra. A complete and updated discography (including session work) would have been another welcome addition.
A book for fans, definitely, as Steve provides some background to both Genesis and his solo works. His reasons for leaving Genesis are well known but we learn that Mike Rutherford threw a paddy (and a bass guitar) at a soundcheck in 1976 and effectively curtailed Hackett’s idea of a joint band/solo career in the late 1970s. Rutherford was also cited in influencing the television documentary that played down Hackett’s solo career. I think Hackett misses the opportunity to expand on his frustration.
He is very polite when referencing the band members, and connected especially with another free spirit Peter Gabriel. Hackett emphasises the difference in the band members’ backgrounds, juxtaposing his own working class upbringing in the London smog (which may have aggravated a chest condition) with the gentrified existence of Charterhouse expats.
As we mentioned in our own summary recently (link below), Hackett is a genuinely nice guy for the most part guided by his music and this is reflected in his autobiography. If there are few real revelations, it may be still be shocking to some that he is three times married, at times suffered from a lack of self-confidence and even stage fright, entertained groupies (the book title refers), and has dabbled in cocaine. Ste – phen!!
He has evidently eschewed the real excesses of rock and roll, and not least survived the vagaries of the industry and especially the late-1970s when record labels reorientated themselves towards punk and new wave. There was little time then for erudite prog rockers.
This book will do nothing to detract from a career that continues to delight audiences whilst – in the nicest way possible – milking the Genesis cash cow.
Review by David Randall
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