Mike + the Mechanics
Mike + The Mechanics
Mike + The Mechanics was formed in 1985 as a musical side project for its British members, all of whom played in other successful bands, but it quickly evolved into a distinctive band in its own right with a mix of British pop and American soul. The band was assembled by songwriter/guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford, a founder of Genesis, and the band’s lead guitarist. Vocalist/keyboardist Paul Carrack, who played with Squeeze, Nick Lowe, and Ace, vocalist Paul Young of Sad Cafe, and drummer Peter Van Hook, who used to play with Van Morrison, complete the band, which is noted for thoughtful, melodic songwriting and fluid playing.
Their 1985 debut album, Mike + The Mechanics, went RIAA gold and twoof its singles, “All Ineed Is A Miracle” and “Silent Running,” reached Top 10 on the music charts. Mike + The Mechanics embarked on their first tour in 1985, and the video for “All I Need Is A Miracle” became an MTV staple in the mid-1980s. The group met with resounding success from the very beginning of their union, and the core members of the group has remained unchanged over the years.
Members include Paul Carrack (Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Ace), vocalist, keyboardist, raised in England; Mike Rutherford (founder of Genesis), songwriter, lead guitarist, and bassist, raised in England; Peter Van Hook (Van Morrison), drummer; Paul Young (Sad Cafe), vacalist, raised in England.
Group formed in 1985 as a side project for members, all of whom played in other successful bands, but evolved into a distinctive band in its own right; band was assembled by Mike Rutherford; 1985 debut album, Mike + The Mechanics, went RIAA gold and two of its singles, “All I Need Is A Miracle” and “Silent Running,” reached Top 10 on the music charts; first tour in 1985; recorded Living Years in 1988; The Living Years went RIAA gold, single “In the Living Years” garnered four Grammy Award nominations and reached the Top 40 music charts in both the U.S. and Europe; performed at 1990 Grammy Awards Ceremony; embarked upon a world tour in 1990; Word of Mouth released in 1991; Beggar On A Beach Of Gold released in 1995;
Awards: Debut album Mike + The Mechanics went RIAA gold in 1985; The Living Years went RIAA gold in 1988; single “In the Living Years” garnered four Grammy Award nominations.
In 1986 and 1987 Rutherford was busy working on the Genesis album Invisible Touch and its subsequent tour, but he reassembled the Mike + The Mechanics crew soon after to write and record the 1988 album, Living Years. The Living Years also went RIAA gold, attributed in large part to its internationally acclaimed single, “In the Living Years,” which reaped four Grammy Award nominations and reached the Top 40 music charts in both the U.S. and Europe. This single was about the grieving process that follows the loss of a parent, specifically about a son who was reluctant to communicate his feelings to his deceased father, and the song’s sentiment, “I wish I would have told him in the living years,” tugged painfully at the heartstrings of millions of listeners.
Mike + The Mechanics performed at the televised 1990 Grammy Awards Ceremony and then embarked upon a world tour after the release of The Living Years. Rutherford told Gerry Galipault of the St. Petersburg Times that fellow band member Paul Carrack is “an underrated keyboard player” and the beautiful, haunting voice behind the success of the Living Years album.
When Word of Mouth was released in 1991, Mike + The Mechanics had already been established as a force in pop music, so the fact that Word of Mouth wasn’t accepted as well as their previous albums didn’t really phase the band’s members. “Living Years was a hard thing to follow, to begin with,” Rutherford told Galipault, “The reason wasn’t that Word of Mouth wasn’t that good. It just came at a funny time. I changed producers at midfield, and that’s got to affect an album.”
In February of 1995 when the group’s fourth album, Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, was released, the group had slightly altered their musical approach. Their sound was sparser, more spontaneous, and more genuine-sounding. They had previously relied upon strong production effects and light shows when touring, but they found the bells-and-whistles approach wasn’t really necessary and that the audience responded just as well to a pared down approach. Rutherford told The Wall’s David Negrin, “People are looking for freshness again. An honesty, sincerity, a simpleness.”
The title track on Beggar On A Beach Of Gold was meant to inspire an image of a person who has what he needs right in front of him, yet he is begging for money. Rutherford explains to Long Island Update’s Robert Baranello, “Everyone in life seems to be chasing something, particularly material things. Very often, if you look carefully, you see that we’ve got so much already—with loved ones and family all around.” The singles on Beggar On A Beach Of Gold address such topics as social politics, deception, anxiety, homesickness, and personal responsibility.
Although Rutherford is unanimously considered the group’s leader, it is Carrack who tends to the band’s small details in orderto keep everything running smoothly, and he’s the person who is dubbed the official “worrier” for the band. Young, on the other hand, describes himself as “a hired gun” in an interview with Galipault, and explains, “My input is my interpretation of their lyrics on top of their music. for me, it’s quite a simple job. It’s a very unpressured job.”
Young and Rutherford cannot sit down and discuss politics or the Queen of England without disagreeing, but when they turn to matters of the heart, relationships, and perspectives on social ills they find a common ground. Young and Rutherford were raised in different cultural realms; Young was raised in a working-class family in the north of England, and Rutherford was raised in a middle-class family in the south of England. Paul Carrack was also raised in a working-class family in the north of England, but he tends to be much more introverted than his gregarious bandmate, Paul Young.
Carrack told Galipault, “The reason it (the band’s structure) works is because it’s not exactly run on the lines of…a democracy. Basically, Mike is in charge. He and producer Chris Neil…call the shots and we accept that… and he makes it work. I think if it was a democracy, we’d probably end up killing each other.” All of the band members agreed that they somehow lost their focus on their third album, Word Of Mouth, but that they had recouped their previous stride with the release of their fourth, Beggar On A Beach Of Gold.
Rutherford told Guitar World’s Andy Aledort, “The two Pauls, Carrack and Young, are R&B-based, and I’m very English. That combination produces something of an original sound.” Many of the Mike + The Mechanics singles contain thought-provoking lyrics and astute insights, veiled in infectious pop music arrangements that are difficult to forget and even harder to categorize.
Young told Barenello, “This generation is different…in that they are more aware…more like the one in the ’60s… they are spiritual seekers. I don’t think we fit in any convenient box, but…there is a very big audience out there for us who will be open to hearing our music.”
Mike + The Mechanics, Atlantic Records, 1985.
Living Years, Atlantic Records, 1988.
Word Of Mouth, Atlantic Records, 1991.
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, Atlantic Records, 1995.
Long Island Update, February 1995.
Guitar Shop, April 1995.
Guitar World, March 1995.
St. Petersburg Times, March 3, 1995.
The Wall, Volume 111, Issue 3.
Additional information was provided by the Publicity Department of Atlantic Records.
—B. Kimberly Taylor
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