Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett are the lesser known members of the rock group Genesis. Each was a key member of the band, and each has had a respectable career apart from the group.
Of the three, Steve Hackett has done the most to keep the early Genesis music alive by re-imagining some of the songs on record and in concert. Hackett joined Genesis in 1972 after guitarist Anthony Phillips departed. I’ve chronicled Phillips in a different blog.
Hackett’s tenure coincided with Genesis’ commercial prog period, when they developed a wider audience and gained more musical muscle. After Peter Gabriel left in 1975, Hackett contributed more with songwriting but it wasn’t quite enough. He was the first to release a solo album while still in the group. As a foursome, Genesis produced two albums of original material (Trick of the Tale, Wind and Wuthering), both very solid albums, before Hackett decided to leave for a solo career in 1977.
In forty-plus years, Hackett has carved out a very respected career, not just as the keeper of the early Genesis flame, but with his long list of solo albums. He has incorporated classical guitar, jazz, progressive rock and classic rock into his repertoire. Hackett tours constantly, going all over the world to sell-out crowds. His albums sold moderately well, although he didn’t chart singles, but he has a devoted following, a legion of fans on every continent. While not a gifted lead vocalist, he often incorporates other singers, but mostly provides capable vocals. Hackett is not afraid to collaborate other musicians and mix-in various musical styles. As a musician he has continued to expand his musical horizons but he never forgot where he came from.
In 1985, Hackett and Yes’ Steve Howe teamed up in a band called GTR. They released one album before moving on. That album that went gold, and had a high charting single, “When the Heart Rules the Mind”, but by the end of the following tour, Hackett found the collaboration and the music unsatisfying, and went back to his solo career.
Hackett embraces the prog-rock mantle, has played with other classic prog-rock groups and has another big tour underway. He shows no sign of slowing down.
When Hackett left Genesis, Mike Rutherford took over guitar duties along with manning the bass. Rutherford is a capable guitarist and was well-matched for the more commercial phase Genesis was headed. He didn’t have the experimental nature or the precision that Hackett brings to the guitar, but the Genesis sound flourished. In concert, Genesis usually handed the lead guitar duties to sideman Daryl Stuermer.
In the 1980s, Rutherford began releasing solo albums in-between Genesis releases, Smallcreep’s Day (1980) and Acting Very Strange (1982). Like Hackett and fellow Genesis member Tony Banks, Rutherford is not an accomplished lead vocalist but does add harmony vocals. Rutherford’s solo albums lacked the punch of his work with Genesis. Rutherford responded by forming a side group, Mike + The Mechanics, a collection of singers and musicians, now in its fourth decade.
The group had great success in the 1980s and 1990s, landing several songs on the charts and attracting quite a following. Singer/pianist Paul Carrack and vocalist Paul Young provided much of the vocal duties during their successful period. The group was most successful with their adult-oriented ballads and mid-tempo songs.
Their biggest hits were: “All I Need Is a Miracle”, “Word of Mouth”, “The Living Years”, “Silent Running” and “Over My Shoulder”.
The band continued recording until 2004 when the hits dried up and they lost their American record deal. By that time, Young had passed away and Carrack departed for a solo career. Rutherford put the group on hiatus until 2011 when he brought together a new band of musicians and released an album. The group has released two more albums and continues to tour, though with a lower profile that their heyday.
In 1979, Tony Banks released his first solo album, A Curious Feeling, a moody, progressive rock album that was met with a thud. Banks employed a drummer and vocalist but did everything else himself. In 1983, The Fugitive, his second release appeared, a more upbeat album. Banks sang all the lead vocals, but didn’t play all the instruments, and the songs were brighter and had tighter arrangements.
In 1988, Banks created a band called Bankstatement, his version of Mike + The Mechanics, though less successfully. In 1991, he released another solo album, Still. In 1994, he formed another band called Strictly Inc. and released an album, although it had limited distribution.
Banks never forgot his classical training. In 2004, he released Seven, a classical album accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This was followed in 2012 with Six Pieces for Orchestra, another classical project, this time accompanied by City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Another classical album, Five, was released in 2018. These weren’t big selling albums, but ones he must have found satisfying.
Along the way, Banks dabbled in film scores. The Wicked Lady appeared in 1983, which included music from the film and re-recorded pieces by Banks. Soundtracks, in 1986, combined music from two films, Quicksilver and Lorca and the Outlaws composed by Banks.
Banks wrote some of the most memorable melodies and song structures for Genesis. He might not have been as “pop” as Phil Collins, but his music had both complexity and beauty. Unfortunately, his work outside of Genesis did not produce the same kind of success. In my opinion, his songs needed a stronger pop style to shape the songs, and the experience of a talented vocalist to fully realize Banks’ vision.