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John Hackett - Prelude To Summer

In his own words - John Hackett's remarks about the songs

Prelude To SummerPrelude to Summer

The opening is inspired by Bach’s Siciliana from the E flat flute sonata. I have always loved Bach’s music, ever since my days of sitting in our dusty old music room at school being initiated into the mysteries of two-part inventions and chorale writing by Norris Marshall, who was not only a fine organist, but also an expert on cloud formation. To this day I wish I had listened more carefully to his wise words – I might have written better counterpoint and kept out of the rain more often.  

Nippy Tune

Whereas all the other pieces, with the exception of 6/8 For Starters, were composed specially for the album, this jolly tune goes back some 25 years. It was originally used by the BBC for one of their language programs Get By In German and was given its title back then by Nick Magnus. There’s also a rock version in one of the flute tutor books Freewheeling that Nick Magnus and I have recorded, but, flute players, beware – it’s in E major (four sharps!), uses both little fingers and those neat syncopations have to be spot on.


Here, I play the opening chugging E minor chords and the arpeggios; the rest is Steve. Though watch for the subtle tremolo mandolins in the middle, played by Nick Magnus, that master of the mellotron.

Le Chat Noir

This is the name of the club in Paris where Erik Satie used to play piano to earn a crust or even a glass of absinthe or two.

Lonely Man

Clearly this piece is strongly influenced by Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies. The title comes courtesy of my friend Jonny Drury of Freenoise, who plays and organises the most amazing freely improvised concerts here in Sheffield. Any man who calls a piece Be Serious With That Kaleidophone or Beautifully Chaotic Planting Arrangements would, I am sure, get Satie’s vote.

John HackettSix-Eight For Starters!

This is called Six-Eight For Starters! because after the opening, the time signature goes fairly bonkers with bars of 5/8 and some that can’t make up their mind if they are in 3/4 or 6/8. But if that sounds tricky, you wait until I bring out my arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring for kazoo and washboard…

Love Lies Sleeping

The original title for this piece was Evening In Madrid and was inspired by a concert the Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio gave a few years ago in a club in the heart of Madrid. Steve kicked off the set by playing solo for the first 20 minutes or so. I wandered out into the audience to find everyone in silent, rapt attention as this Englishman brought the Spanish guitar back home. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so proud of my brother. 


This gave me a chance to use that piece of advanced plumbing featured opposite the disc (for those of you who also bought the physical album) which is my beloved curved-head alto flute. It has a deeper, stentorian tone (to use Steve’s description) so beloved by film composers. It’s said that towards the end of his life, Boehm, the designer of the modern system flute, always preferred to play the alto.

Where Flowers Bloom Unseen

Another track featuring the beautiful sound of Chris Glassfield on his Ramirez guitar. Like the first piece on the album, this is also a Sicilienne in G minor – the opening clearly inspired by the famous Sicilienne by Fauré. But here we soon find ourselves in what I think of as sea-shanty-town, though not all would agree.
For those of you who are not familiar with Chris’s work as a composer and guitarist, I can warmly recommend starting with Autumn Kiss, Acoustic Heart and Amembo


This is scored for guitar quartet. Originally I was thinking Steve would play one of the two harmony top lines, but when he heard my version he thought it was fine and immediately started playing flourishes at the beginning, which helped bring the whole piece alive. And as for Steve’s solo in the middle, I asked him to make it as joyful as possible and he certainly delivered. Are we dancing in Spain or zooming down a Californian highway? What do we care, as long as we remember that whatever life throws at us, there’s always tomorrow!

image 1Voices Of The Sea

It was, by sheer coincidence (or not), that our father, Peter, gave me what ended up as the cover painting. Steve had just recorded this track and when Clive scanned the painting in, I knew it fitted beautifully, not only this piece, but the darker nature of some of the other music on the album.
It was back in the 50’s that Dad brought back an enormous black case from his time in Canada. It contained a beast of an acoustic guitar that was really the starting point for Steve’s and my subsequent interest in music.

Twilight Forest

It all leads back to the guitar really. This piece started life in A minor as a Shadows influenced riff, a bit like Apache. I then transferred it to the piano, transposed it to C minor and ended up entering a deep murky forest somewhere in Eastern Europe, though I’m not quite sure where. 

Ice-Cream Waltz

There are some pieces of music that the artist, after months of anguish, soul-searching and gut-churning Sehnsucht (and liberal helpings of alcohol, hallucinogenic drugs and in Berlioz’s case, murderous intent) manages to wrench from the inner depths of his being – but this isn’t one of them! I wrote this in about 15 minutes while Katrin, my wife, was preparing Sunday lunch.

Flight To Seville

Here I have to confess that I have never been to Seville in my life. But this piece is all about heading off to somewhere warm and sunny, where you can smell the oranges. So, if that place for you is somewhere a little closer to home, then please feel to retitle it Flight to Bognor or some such. It doesn’t quite have the same ring, but in fact I spent some happy days on the beach there as a child.

Gaudi’s Dream

The working title for this track was Pictures as I had always thought of the opening theme as inspired by Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. But then, as the recording proceeded, I realised the piece was less about the pictures in a building but rather more about the building itself and a very large structure indeed. Yes, of course, it was a cathedral, not submerged under the waves like Debussy’s cathedral, but growing upwards, as in a dream.


I think the older and grumpier I get and the more irritated I become at having to take my shoes off at airport scanners (moral – travel is not for those with back trouble or the elderly), the more I think Kant, the philosopher, had it right, never travelling much more than 40 miles from his home town. There’s no place like home.

Velvet Dusk

Non-musicians may not realise just how difficult it is to come up with an original title these days for a song or a piece of music. With this though, I really thought I had it cracked – a nice follow-up to Velvet Afternoon (I suspected Leather Evening might have been done elsewhere) but a few moments on Google soon put paid to that. Apparently, Velvet Dusk is some kind of Italian motor-scooter. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I wrote this tranquil, slightly melancholic piece with a nod to Satie in the middle.


So, finally we reach June, a track dedicated to our mother. Having both your sons playing in a rock band might fill some mothers with horror, but when I used to tour regularly with Steve’s band in the 70’s and 80’s, this was definitely not the case.
There was one concert in Worthing I particularly remember when Steve had generously sent a white limousine all the way to London to pick up and bring Mum to the gig. Unfortunately, there were some bottles of champagne in the back… I remember being on stage, thrashing away at the electric guitar when I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone ‘idiot-dancing’ at the front of the stage. No-one else, just this solitary, gyrating figure – I then realised, with horror, it was Mum!

By John Hackett

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