So what is it that makes Mike + The Mechanics so good? That’s easy… great songs, great hooks, fabulous musicianship and a sense of space. Their songs always have a feeling of openess in the way they are crafted and produced. This is big pop rock of the highest order. If you don’t believe us take a journey through their music, this is Mike + The Mechanics in 20 songs.
Mike + The Mechanics hit the ground running with their debut single, a song Mike co-wrote with B.A. Robertson, the Scottish born former pop singer and songwriter. The song was initially called ‘Silent Running’; the addition of the bracketed (On Dangerous Ground) was made after it was chosen for the 1986 movie On Dangerous Ground, which was titled Choke Canyon in the US.
‘Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)’ was also the opening track of the band’s self titled debut album; it’s sung by Paul Carrack, former lead singer with the band Ace, who shared the band’s vocal duties with Paul Young, of Sad Café fame. To begin with the core band was Mike Rutherford on guitar and bass, Adrian Lee on keyboards and Peter Van Hooke on drums. The single made No.6 in America and No.21 in the UK and charted in many countries around the world.
The second single to come from their debut was ‘All I Need Is a Miracle’, this is written by Mike and the album’s producer, Christopher Neil. It features Paul Young on vocals and as Mike said when the single was released, “The thing that makes ‘Miracle’ different, to me, is that it’s a happy song – or it’s primarily a happy song. It’s ‘up’. And I don’t do that very often. …It may not be optimistic, but it’s a positive attitude to life.”
Mike + The Mechanics made great singles but every album has some standout tracks and ‘Par Avion’ is a perfect example. ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ was the lead single from the band’s second album, The Living Years (1988). Given the band’s success in America, in particular, it is amazing that this fabulous song, sung by Young, could only make No.63 on the Hot 100.
For the second single from The Living Years the title track was released and all disappointment was quickly erased when it topped the American charts, made No.2 in the UK and went to the top in a number of other countries. This was sung by Carrack and like ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, it was written by Rutherford and Robertson.
‘The Living Years’ won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically & Lyrically in 1989, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1990. According to Burt Bacharach “‘The Living Years’ is one of the finest lyrics of the last 10 years.” And let’s face it he should know!
Paul Carrack sings ‘Why Me’ and it is another one of those excellent album tracks that litter their recordings. In 1989 the band covered the Beatles ‘Revolution’ and put it out as a non-album single and it made the lower reaches of the Canadian chart, but no where else.
Word of Mouth was the 1991 release and the lead single was the title track featuring Paul Young on lead vocals. It is a great sing-a-long pop song and with a typical Rutherford signature guitar solo it did well on the UK charts, but could only make the lower reaches of the Hot 100. ‘Everybody Gets A Second Chance’ was the third single from the album and it has a great Carrack lead vocal.
It was four years before the next Mike + The Mechanics album when in 1995 Beggar On A Beach of Gold was released. The Rutherford/Carrack composition, ‘Over My Shoulder’ was the lead single from the album and it made No.12 on the UK chart and did well across Europe. They followed it with the album’s title track, with a Paul Young vocal. We’ve also chosen the wonderfully titled, ‘The Ghost of Sex and You’; it’s a song that fully lives up to the title with a great Carrack vocal and an exquisite Rutherford guitar cameo.
By 1999’s self titled album, their second, which to avoid confusion fans refer to as M6 (it followed a Greatest Hits album in 1996), Christopher Neil had left the producers role. ‘Now That You’ve Gone’ was the lead single that did moderately well, but it is a better song than chart places show.
For 2004’s Rewired, the band had reduced to the core of Rutherford and Carrack, although Peter Van Hooke shared the production duties with Mike. ‘Perfect Child’ was the second single from the record and it was not a hit, but it has a wonderful trademark M+M chorus. The album’s closing track is ‘Underscore’ and quite why no one has ever used this on a TV doc it’s hard to know; full of atmosphere it’s a great way to end the record.
2011’s The Road album featured a completely new band with just Mike Rutherford, with the lead vocals being handled by Andrew Roachford (he had a massive hit in 1988 with ‘Cuddly Toy’). The lead single was a song Roachford co-wrote, the stylish, ‘Reach Out (Touch The Sun)’ – Take That would be proud of writing this. The second track from this album that we’ve chosen is ‘Heaven Doesn’t Care’ that has Canadian singer/actor Tim Howar on lead vocals.
Mike + The Mechanics have always been a great live band, the pedigree of the musicians makes that a given and so we’ve chosen to end our musical autobiography with three songs performed ‘in concert.’ The treatment of ‘Silent Running’ is very different from the single, but it just goes to prove the strength of the song. ‘A Call To Arms’ comes from the band’s debut album and is written by Rutherford, Neil and Robertson, but also by Mike’s Genesis’ band mates Tony Banks and Phil Collins. It’s a classic.
To close we’ve chosen ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ because it is…perfect. A great song, with one of those killer hooks that makes Mike + The Mechanics such a great band.