Mike Rutherford’s part-time, side project, started life in 1985 and has been extraordinarily successful. He was one of the founding members of Genesis, back in 1967 and by the time the band had reduced to a trio, consisting of Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Rutherford, the songwriting credits were being shared among all three members of the band. Mike, like both Phil and Tony, had material that he wanted to see become something bigger, and so it was that in the aftermath of the chart-topping Genesis album in 1983 he set to work to make an album, but not entirely on his own.
Work began on the first Mike & the Mechanics album in late 1984 when Rutherford played tapes containing musical sketches to producer Christopher Neil. The two men then set about writing them together, according to Rutherford, “He’s much better at finishing, and I’m much better at starting, so it was a good combination.” There are two exceptions: ‘A Call to Arms’, which was an unfinished sketch from the Genesis album sessions; Chris Neil and B.A Robertson developed it into a full-blown song. The latter song-writer also co-wrote the second exception, ‘Silent Running’, the lead single from the album featuring lead vocals by Paul Carrack, formerly with the band Ace, which made No.21 in the UK chart in early 1986 and No.6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single, ‘All I Need Is a Miracle’, featuring lead vocals by Paul Young, formerly with the band Sad Café made No.5 in America but inexplicably, for such a great record, could only make No.53 in Britain.
Mike + The Mechanics, which had its release in late 1985, was a poor performer in the UK, spending just three weeks on the chart and reaching No.78; like many records, history has judged it far better. In America it was a much bigger seller, reaching No.26 on the Billboard album chart, where it stayed on the chart for over a year. Aside from Carrack and Young, and Rutherford himself on bass and guitars the other core members were, Adrian Lee (keyboards) and Peter van Hooke (drums). Van Hooke and his school friend, Chaz Jankel, later of The Blockheads, formed a band with Rik Parnell as the singer; Parnell later joined Atomic Rooster as the drummer, a part he also played in the movie Spinal Tap. By the 1970s van Hooke was drumming with Van Morrison’s band and played on a string of albums. The Mechanics were a class act.
Three years later the second album, Living Years came out. Rutherford had begun writing songs for it after the end of Genesis’s Invisible Touch tour and by early in the New Year he and Neal had an album’s worth of material. Roughly half the tracks are co-written with Neal with the other half having Robertson’s involvement. This includes the first single from the album, ‘Nobody’s Perfect,’ another fantastic record, yet it could only make No.63 in America and didn’t chart at all in Britain; it’s a flawless pop-rock record.
The follow-up was another Rutherford/Robertson song, the album’s title track. Any disappointment felt over the first single’s lack of success was quickly forgotten when ‘The Living Years’ romped to No.2 in the UK and No.1 in America and in a number of other countries. ‘The Living Years’, with lead vocals by Paul Carrack, is one of those songs that resonates with so many people. The music was written by both Robertson and Rutherford; the lyrics are all Robertson’s work. B. A. had recently lost his father and the lyrics deal with the strained relationship between father and son; ironically three months after his father’s death, Robertson had a son. The Living Years album peaked at No.2 in the UK and No.13 in the USA.
Mike & the Mechanic’s third album, Word Of Mouth, came out in 1991 and suffered from a conflict of timing with the recording of Genesis’s We Can’t Dance, meaning there was no tour to support Rutherford’s album. Despite this, it still made No.11 in the UK, while the lead single ‘Word of Mouth’ got to No.13 in the UK and No.78 in the US.
Four years later Beggar On A Beach Of Gold became the band’s fourth album, but prior to its recording Adrian Lee left the band with Carrack filling in along with B.A Robertson and Paul “Wix” Wickens, Paul McCartney‘s long-time musical director for his touring band. Released in March 1995 the album included three UK hits, the ‘Over My Shoulder’ (No.12), ‘A Beggar on a Beach of Gold’ (No.33), and ‘Another Cup of Coffee’ that just failed to make the top.50. In 1996 all the hit singles were collected together on the Hits album.
In 1999 another album called, Mike & The Mechanics came out. This fifth studio album, which reached No.14 on the UK charts, is often called M6, reflecting the retro style cover art. By this time the core of the group was down to Rutherford, Carrack and Young; sadly Paul Young died the year after its release.
It would be five years before the next album, 2004’s Rewired and its is credited to “Mike + The Mechanics + Paul Carrack”, in part because it’s the first of the band’s albums with just one lead vocalist. Aside from various guest musicians, the mixing engineer for the album was Graham Bonnett who among his many credits was the former lead singer with Rainbow. This was the last album with Paul Carrack as in 2011 Mike and a reconstituted Mechanics released The Road with an entirely new band with Andrew Roachford taking over as lead singer. This band is touring and given the string of great albums that Mike Rutherford has created there is no shortage of fine material.