GTR came together in 1986 at the very end of what most historians will probably call "the era of the super group." Just as Crosby, Stills, & Nash and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer had each formed from the core of three already established acts, GTR (a commonly used abbreviation used by soundmen to mark the guitar input on a mixing console) jelled when two of England's best known axemen decided it was time to re-invent the concept of the guitar-driven pop band.
GTR didn't stay together very long—only one year and one album with 1986's GTR. Nevertheless, the group managed to have a number 14 hit with "When the Heart Rules the Mind" and their album went gold.
With its formation, GTR merged the talents of Steve Howe (guitarist for both Yes and Asia) and Steve Hackett (long time guitarist with Genesis). But unlike bands like Blind Faith and Asia—super groups whose members came out of a calculated pool of celebrity musicians—GTR was formed out of a mutual respect for each other and a desire to bring back the dual-guitar intensity made popular by bands like the Yardbirds and the Allman Brothers Band.
Since the late-1960s, Howe has held a spot in the elite circle of guitarists. He enjoyed early success in band called Tomorrow with the hit single "My White Bicycle." In 1970, he joined the pioneer British Progressive band, Yes, and became an international star shortly thereafter when the band exploded onto the pop charts with Fragile, and the hit single, "Roundabout." Howe stayed with Yes until 1982, when he along with Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes, ELP drummer Carl Palmer, and King Crimson bassist John Wetton, established Asia. Asia struck platinum success upon the release of its debut LP, but three years and three albums later, Howe was ready to move on.
Hackett, on the other hand, had experienced similar platinum success in Genesis. He was recruited in 1971 into Genesis to replace founding member Anthony Phillips, and was asked to audition after Peter Gabriel spotted a classified ad in Melody Maker placed by Hackett that read, :Guitarist/writer seeks receptive musicians determined to strive beyond existing stagnant musical forms."
Like Howe, Hackett had been leaning more toward bringing the intricate musicianship of prog-rock into the traditional pop song medium. Both Howe and Hackett had recorded solo albums that showcased their respective guitar talents, but the idea of joining forces, after both working in such keyboard heavy bands, was something neither could resist.
Hackett and Howe settled on three relatively unknown musicians to round out the band. Vocalist Max Bacon had been recruited to the band by Hackett after he heard him in a band called Nightwing (Paul Carrack was originally considered but opted to pursue a solo career). Bassist Phil Spalding had played with Mike ("Tubular Bells") Oldfield, and John Mover (the sole Yankee in the band) had drummed for the Prog band, Marillion. The band signed with Arista Records, who gave them commercial guidance without forsaking any artistic integrity.
Both GTR and the label agreed to bring in keyboardist Geoff Downes to produce the band's studio LP. Downes, who had worked in both progressive and pop bands, was the perfect element to bring the act's music to life in the studio. Most of the material captured in this recording are songs from the band's sole studio album. GTR also rounded out the show with tracks from Howe and Hackett's solo LPs, and memorable re-workings of the Yes hit "Roundabout" and the Genesis classic, "I Know What I Like." By the time the band finished its tour, however, problems between the band members had already started to develop. After completing the U.S. Tour, the band did a few shows in Europe, but soon after fell apart.
Today, Hackett tours as a solo act, and Howe is again playing in both ASIA and YES. Highlights of the show include "Here I Wait," "I Know What I Like," "Pennants," "Roundabout," "The Hunter," and "When The Heart Rules The Mind.