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A Genesis In My Bed

Steve Hackett - A Genesis In My Bed

The Autobiography

Mike Rutherford was the first with The Living Years and Phil Collins followed with Not Dead Yet. Steve Hackett has now become the third member of the ‘classic’ Genesis line-up to publish his autobiography. The differences in their characters are reflected in the different ways they approach the genre. Rutherford attempted and for the most part succeeded to tell his life as a kind of multi-generational story illustrating the parallels and the contrasts between his and his father’s lives. Collins tells the story of his life and does not spare himself at all (for the most part). Hackett, who has not used a ghostwriter, takes us on a carefully arranged journey through spiritual and musical inspirations from his youth up to the immediate present.

Steve and his BookIf you enjoy listening to Steve in his interviews you will particularly appreciate this book. It is as if he sat across from you and talked about the good old times. As in his lyrics, he uses a language that is rich in metaphors, humorous and eloquent, but never over the top. This is most true in the chapters about his childhood and youth – no wonder, for the earliest memories of most people are rather symbolical. The focus of this slim volume of 167 pages (appendix and photo pages excluded) is on his adolescence and socialisation.

The passages about the Battersea funfair (closed in 1974) that was situated west of the Battersea Power Station of Pink Floyd fame explain Hackett’s penchant for the world of sounds he likes to use on his albums to this day. The park he immortalized in The Wheel’s Turning (on Wolflight) offered little Steve a contrast to the gloomy smog-filled London with its many ruins from the Blitz and the even gloomier experience of repressive schools. It is delightful to see that in those parts about his childhood and youth Steve keeps pointing towards songs (more recent ones, too) that were inspired by this or that event, person, feeling or memory, bringing on many light bulb moments for the reader.

Later chapters have fewer metaphors, though he describes his joining Genesis as being offered a “ticket to Mars”, particularly because of the utterly different social background Banks, Gabriel and Rutherford had. His self-doubts upon joining – he almost backed out again! – and his struggle for appreciation are a recurring motive.

Fans have frequently assumed that Steve’s relationship with Tony Banks had been particularly tense and charged. This book clears away most of those rumours. Steve has appreciative words for all of his band mates (though one gets fewer than the others), and there is little in the book about a “battle” between the guitar and the keyboards. On the contrary. Steve regards himself as a champion of original, big, powerful sounds and the driving force behind the increase in Tony’s instruments, as the one who encouraged experiments – this is actually also evidenced in his solo works. You could get the impression in some places that he overrates his role or exaggerates his input, but that is cleared up right away as he is very straightforward in stating the times he came up with his own material as opposed to offering “just” interpretations and embellishments.

A Genesis In My Bed BuchWe find out a lot about the balance in the band, various alliances and Steve’s growing urge to become independent and make his own decisions. He admits that, in hindsight, he could have stayed in the band and had a solo career if he had kicked it off a bit later. He also makes it clear, though, that he never regretted leaving the band and has no hard feelings towards his former band mates. The one thing Steve still appears to be sore about is the role of a former colleague in the final review of the TV documentary Sum Of The Parts. Incidentally, it is the same person who changed his mind on Steve’s solo activities.

Many people may feel disappointed by how short the book is. We are on page 57 when Steve joins Genesis, and on page 112 he has already left again. The narration speeds up as we near the present. The whole period since the release of Highly Strung is dealt with on 30 pages. It is understandable why Steve rushes through this period: Those were neither formative years nor a period in which he enjoyed particular artistic or commercial success (at least until the new millennium) despite him trying out various styles in earnest. But then those were also years of personal crisis and doubt. We find out why he withdrew, particularly in the 1990s, and about an astonishing spiritual gift that may make you wish he would lay his hands on Phil. The narration suffers only the last couple of pages from the author’s pleasant attempt to appreciate all the people he worked with.

The speed with which Steve leads us through his life makes omissions inevitable. Indeed we do not hear about every conflict, are not taken through the difficult decisions about this or that song. Kim Poor has certainly played a bigger role in Steve’s life than in his book. Some people might have wanted more anecdotes about stolen equipment, nervous breakdowns, groupies and the odd booze or drug escapade… That’s a question of personal taste. What has been left out from this book has probably been left out for a reason. There is not much point in contrasting the book with previous statements of Steve’s, because memories change and so does the way we see things over the years. Hackett appears to have reached a point in his life where he can look back in peace and contentment. The only ones to get sort of slammed are a label boss, music journalists and punk.

A Genesis In My Bed is not a comprehensive work of reference, though the commendable register of people, places and song titles gives you the opportunity. It is a very entertaining narration you can read in one go. It is Steve Hackett’s story. After you have read it you feel that you got to know him better, to understand what drives him on, what is important to him. What more can you expect?

By Siegfried Goellner, English by Martin Klinkhardt

A Genesis In My Bed is available in good bookstores, amazonUK and the HackettStore.

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