Can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Mike and the Mechanics (name stylised as Mike + the Mechanics) is a side band formed in 1985 by Michael John Cloete Crawford Rutherford (born 2 October 1950), the bassist—and one of the founders—of the Progressive Rock group Genesis.
Rutherford had previously attempted his own solo projects during hiatuses in the band, just as bandmates Phil Collins and Tony Banks did. He released two albums on his own, but didn't like the recording process. He also came to the realization that he was never going to make music entirely on his own, as he still needed a backing band. So he formed a side band, the "The Mechanics" part of "Mike + The Mechanics".
The interesting part of this band is that Rutherford himself was not the lead singer, though he did frequently provide backing vocals as he did with Genesis. The band actually had two lead singers: Paul Carrack, who was a frequent backup keyboardist most connected to the New Wave band Squeeze; and Paul Young, who was the frontman of the relatively-obscure rock band Sad Café. Rounding out the group were drummer Peter Van Hooke (who frequently worked with Van Morrison), and journeyman keyboardist Adrian Lee. The combination became something of a supergroup.
The band released a Self-Titled Album in October 1985, and the first two of its three singles hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States: "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" (#6) and "All I Need is a Miracle" (#5). "Silent Running" also hit the Top 40 in the UK. Their third single, "Taken In", hit #32 in the US.
Their second album, Living Years, would produce one charting single, but it was their only #1 hit in the US: "The Living Years". The single also finally got the band noticed in the UK, hitting #2 there. As a result, their fortunes reversed: they never charted again in the United States, but got a solid footing in the United Kingdom, charting ten times in their next four albums, including five in the Top 40.
The band did come apart in the mid-1990s. Both Van Hooke and Lee left the band in 1995. They brought on experienced studio and touring drummer Gary Wallis, while Carrack took over keyboards. This line-up recorded a second Self-Titled Album in 1999. But the band was dealt a fresh blow when Paul Young died of a heart attack on 15 July 2000. They recorded a new album in 2004, with Carrack taking a larger role in the creative process, but it produced no singles and went nowhere. The original lineup dissolved in 2004, as Carrack became too engrossed in other work to continue.
While Rutherford stated as late as 2009 that the band had "run its course", he reformed the band in 2010. In addition to retaining Wallis as the band's drummer, Rutherford also added Genesis touring guitarist Anthony Drennan, keyboardist Luke Juby, and vocalists Tim Howar and Andrew Roachford (himself a talented musician who toured with Terence Trent D'Arby before getting his own successful music career; he has eight Top 40 hits in the UK, once reaching #4). They have recorded three albums, and continue to tour today.
Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Mike Rutherford bass, guitars, backing vocals (19852004, 2010present)
- Paul Carrack vocals, keyboards, bass (19852004)
- Paul Young vocals, percussion (19852000; his death)
- Peter Van Hooke drums (19851995; touring: 2004)
- Adrian Lee keyboards (19851995)
- Gary Wallis drums (2010present; touring: 19952004)
- Andrew Roachford vocals, keyboards (2010present)
- Tim Howar vocals (2010present)
- Anthony Drennan guitars, bass (2010present)
- Luke Juby keyboards, backing vocals, bass, saxophone, whistler (2010present)
- Mike + The Mechanics (1985)
- Living Years (1988)
- Word of Mouth (1991)
- Beggar on a Beach of Gold (1995)
- Hits (1996)
- Mike & The Mechanics (1999)
- Rewired (2004)
- The Road (2011)
- Let Me Fly (2017)
- Out of the Blue (2019)
I made these tropes up as I went along:
- Calling the Old Man Out: "The Living Years" is a song about a man having a bitter falling-out with his father, and regretting never making amends before his father died. The lyrics of the last verse suggest the father's end was untimely.
- Dummied Out: "A Call To Arms", a song from the self-titled debut album, was originally developed for Genesis's self-titled 1983 album, but wasn't finished at that time. Rutherford got permission from Collins and Banks to finish it for The Mechanics, and gave them writing credit for the song. It's the only Mechanics song with any involvement from the rest of Genesis.
- Lighter and Softer: Strayed away from Rutherford's progressive rock roots far more than Genesis ever did.
- Ominous Message from the Future: "Silent Running" is about someone transmitting a message to the past about a future extraterrestrial threat.
- Shout-Out: The name of "Silent Running" comes from the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running, but has no further relation.
- The "The" Title Confusion: "The Living Years" is the Title Track of the album Living Years (no definite article).