Steve Hackett Recalls How King Crimson Influenced Genesis

Guitar legend Steve Hackett looked back on the old days of progressive rock and seeing King Crimson play live before they released their debut album “In the Court of the Crimson King.”

At that moment, the progressive rock genre label wasn’t still really a thing. However, King Crimson was slowly starting to gain traction with their incredibly unique approach. Alongside them were two other great English bands that were re-writing the rule book — Yes and Genesis.

Speaking of which, Hackett told Dereck Higgins in a new interview that he was seeing Robert Fripp and the co. live back in the day eventually impacted Genesis.

Steve Hackett visit February 23, 2024

Of course, at that time, Hackett still wasn’t a member of the band, but Genesis slowly adopted some of their elements, partially thanks to him. Hackett recalled (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I had seen King Crimson in 1969 before they made ‘In the Court of the Crimson King,’ and slightly before I became a friend of Ian McDonald — who was shortly to leave — but I had seen them string together tunes at the end of their second set.”

Recalling the show, he said:

“And they would stick together things as disparate as Cliff Richard’s ‘The Young Ones’ going into a version of [Gustav] Holst’s ‘Mars’ — it was this idea that you could put anything together.”

King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man (Live at Hyde Park 1969)

Hackett ended up joining Genesis in 1971. Getting ready to make the album “Nursery Cryme,” the band was set on evolving further. Still under the impression of King Crimson, the guitarist had an idea how to help them change their sound. Steve continued:

“Now, we had this discussion with Genesis, and I said — over time, the things that I was working on with them — I was convinced that we needed a Mellotron.”

And there were other aspects apart from a Mellotron. He continued:

“I was convinced that we needed a light show because I had seen what King Crimson could do with a tiny light show. But the fact that it was in sync — and I had seen their use of Mellotron — so the imagination could go out the window with this.”

“It was transformative in the right hands, and they certainly had the goods, so I said, ‘Genesis, if we get our own light show, we get our own Mellotron.'”

To those who may not be that familiar with it, the Mellotron is a keyboard-based instrument. Developed in the early 1960s, it uses magnetic tape as a medium, thus making it a sort of a sampler.

The Mellotron: A Keyboard with the Power of an Orchestra (1965) | British Pathé

Going more into the matter, Hackett also says that he was the one who entertained the idea of Genesis doing much longer pieces. It’s not like they were strangers to the concept. But It was on their next album, 1972’s “Foxtrot,” that they really pushed the concept with “Supper’s Ready.”

And to make this work live and keep the audience engaged, you needed something like a Mellotron. Hackett recalled:

“And by 1972, I got my way by saying, ‘I think we could do a long-form piece because we’ve now got the goods to do it. But it needs to have all the bells and whistles to engage the audience.’ It needed to have all the sound effects because otherwise you weren’t delivering everything.”

Genesis live, Paris Bataclan 1973 long version, 16mm master in 4k

“Obviously, this is before sampling as we know it exists — other than Mellotron — and the mainstay of the set at that time.”

Hackett would stay in Genesis until 1977. This was still the progressive rock era of the band, but we’re looking at a collective of very competitive musicians. As Steve recalled in an interview with Ultimate Guitar last year, things were getting difficult. Reflecting on the mid-1970s, he offered:

“By the time it was ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ – Peter’s final album with Genesis – the band was beginning to fragment into factions. It was obvious Peter wasn’t going to stay.”

“There seemed to be a competition between Peter and Tony [Banks] – to see how much audio space they could fill. And it means you’ve got very busy, crowded virtuosic keyboard work and very busy narrative-driven lyrics from Peter.”

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Official Audio)

“And these two paths seemed to be at loggerheads to a large degree. It became more difficult to define what the other instruments can do – because there was less ‘breathing space,’ as a result of this.”

“So, I think although ‘The Lamb’ has many wonderful tracks on it overall, it really hasn’t been until the later remixes of this that you’re hearing half the detail that was on this stuff.”

“There was lots of detail on it – surround sound and later mixes have brought back the detail that should have always been on it, but I think the limitations of the mixing at the time and various personalities competing for space…”


“It fell into that classic conundrum of what groups have to deal with when there is a power play at work. Where there are separate agendas. Nonetheless, very interesting – and I really enjoyed Peter’s work after the band.”

Photos: CLender (Steve Hackett – Parker Playhouse – 13662640565), Sean Coon (Robert Fripp)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.