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 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 album's 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.
With The Living Years, Mike + the Mechanics firmly established themselves in the adult contemporary genre after the mid-'80s pop of their debut. Slickly produced with rich vocals from Paul Carrack and Paul Young, The Living Years moves smoothly between anthemic ballads such as the title track and more up-beat numbers such as "Seeing Is Believing." The band even shows a trace of Mike Rutherford's prog rock roots with Genesis on the epic-like, "Why Me?" When the group try their hands at funk, as on "Don't," or harder rock, as on "Black and Blue," they sound quite out of their element. But on mid-tempo tracks with Rutherford's trademark bubbly bass such as "Nobody's Perfect" and "Beautiful Day" and on the infectious "Poor Boy Down" the group display a soulfulness that many in the genre lack even while there is a distinct lack of individuality present in their musicianship.
Words: Geoff Orens
"In a sense the story behind writing The Living Years was kind of different because the first album had been a big success, surprised everyone including me, and I kind of ran out of steam, Invisible Touch tour was a big tour for us and I kind of came back to the UK a bit like I can’t do another project with the Mechanics I’m going to just sort of stop it there. But then I kind of had two months off, got going again, and I think The Living Years song was something that was approached very carefully. B A Robertson, it was his idea. We both lost our fathers about the same time and we both had new babies about the same time, so the story of communication and losing your father and then seeing your new grandchild was common to both of us. But we were kind of worried about writing a song about death, you know, we thought if it didn’t work it could’ve been horribly sort of, could’ve been corny and wrong so it was quite a risk to do it. I think that in a sense that risk was part of what made it even more satisfying. And for both of us quite emotional to do and we had to leave the room a couple of times actually because those beautiful words just seem to encapsulate really what those emotions were about and the other thing I should mention actually is that, not so well known, is that of course Paul Carrick lost his father when he was quite young very young in fact so in a sense that Paul sang it and he sang it so beautifully I think his emotions about his father and himself kind of came out in the vocal performance which kind of made the song even better for it."
Words: Mike Rutherford, 2013
With all of it's members exercising their expertise, the debut album from Mike + the Mechanics posted two Top Ten singles in the span of three months. The songwriting comes out on top before anything else, with the somber stir of "Silent Running," the album's first release, peaking at number six. "All I Need Is a Miracle" followed at number five, with it's Genesis-like tempo and polished chorus, and even "Taken In" cracked the Top 40, a simple ballad that's bettered by Paul Young's genuine emotional charm. Carrack sounds just as sharp as he did with Ace or Squeeze throughout the album's nine tracks, while Rutherford's overseeing of the entire project is apparent. While Mike Rutherford's guitar work isn't overwhelming, both his six-string and bass guitar contributions complete a sound foundation for the vocals. The mood setting drum work of Peter Van Hooke and the keyboard fills from Adrian Lee play a large part in setting the album's tone, and add some pop zest to the majority of the tracks. Even though their next album gave Mike + the Mechanics a number one hit with the darkened "Living Years," their debut reflects a more compliant sound in every aspect.
Words: Mike DeGagne
Rewired is a fine record, a mix of pop/rock synth-orchestrated balladry that favorably recalls both the mid-'70s work of Genesis and the more pop-focused work of Phil Collins -- Paul Carrack's singing is excellent, and Mike Rutherford and Robbie McIntosh's playing (and Rutherford's programming) are seamless and always interesting; only when Rupert Cobb takes over the programming, on "Perfect Child," does the music veer a little too far out of rock and into the pop category, but the interlude is forgivable and the song is pretty enough to carry off the switch in mood.
Words: Bruce Eder
Mike + the Mechanics found themselves with faltering sales for Word of Mouth and for good reason, too; much of the album was filled with formulaic ballads and mediocre writing. With Beggar on a Beach of Gold, Mike Rutherford helped confront this problem by extending the songwriting duties, writing with Paul Carrack and producer Christopher Neil, as well as continuing his collaboration with B.A. Robertson. Thus, songs such as the upbeat numbers "Over My Shoulder" and "Another Cup of Coffee" effectively push past the band's formula with the musicians sounding looser than on previous records. "Plain and Simple" even has some loud guitars. Lyrically, the band has extended themselves as well. "The Ghost of Sex and You" and "Someone Always Hates Someone" approach serious questions about life and relationships without succumbing to adult contemporary clichés. The production has also nicely updated Mike and the Mechanics' sound with electronic loops and keyboard effects, adding a spring to the band's step. While such safe nods to electronica will not impress many younger fans, it should excite the group's core audience, which is a bit older. In the end, although the band does not completely avoid bland material here, this is a surprisingly nice creative turn in the road for a group many counted out.
Words: Geoff Orens
Word of Mouth is the third album by Mike & The Mechanics, released in 1991. There was some overlap with the marketing of the album and the making of Genesis's We Can't Dance, with Mike Rutherford being committed to both. As such, there was no tour for Word of Mouth . This was the final album to feature the band's original lineup, as keyboardist Adrian Lee departed the band prior to the recording of Beggar on a Beach of Gold.
Mike & The Mechanics celebrate the 25th anniversary of their biggest hit Living Years with their first definitive, cross label collection of hits. Formed in 1985 by Genesis founder Mike Rutherford, Mike & The Mechanics had a series of hit songs including Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground), All I Need Is A Miracle, Word Of Mouth and Over My Shoulder. However, it was with The Living Years, that the band went on to have the biggest hit of their career. Now, 25 years on, the track takes pride of place on this collection.