“Guitarist Turned Mechanic” - An examination of Mike Rutherford’s solo career by Alan Hewitt.

He began his career aspiring to eventually be able to play the Marquee Club in London. Well, as many Genesis fans know, that ambition has long since been fulfilled.

Mike has been the mainstay of rock’s greatest enigma. Genesis as a group have to be the most unlikely stars around; they don’t smash up hotel rooms or bite the heads off live animals and yet they sell albums and singles in the millions and can fill any size of stadium and still leave an audience wanting more.

Surely most of Mike’s aims have been achieved by now? Think so? Well think again. Fans of the band were perhaps surprised to hear of the release of a solo album by Mike in 1980. Indeed , the release of this album and A Curious Feeling by Tony Banks, fuelled speculation that Genesis were finished. Those who thought so were soon left with egg on their faces when the masters returned with Duke that same year.

The release of Smallcreep’s Day by Mike in 1980 was just another phase in his career, an expansion of his own individual identity. The album tells the story of a man; Smallcreep, who symbolises the ordinary man who does the same thing day in and day out until he decided to find out if there is anything different outside the factory that is his life. He makes some surprising discoveries and tries to share them with his comrades but they are not interested. In fact, the symbolism of the album reflects the fate of the LP. Those outside of the Genesis converts were stoically disinterested. Many musicians may have been disillusioned by the lack of response but Mike plunged on with Genesis to acclaim from fans and critics alike. The first album was in a very Genesis-like mould and the familiar trademarks were all there to be heard. Two singles were released from the album which are of interest to the collector because they contain unreleased material on the B Sides. One of which shows Mike at work with his old comrade Anthony Phillips for the guitar work on it is in a similar vein.

Mike’s solo career was put on hold while Genesis continued touring and recording commitments and it was not until September 1982 that we next heard from Mike as a solo artist. This time the album was definitely a radical change for Mike. Called acting Very Strange, it featured Mike on vocals which was surprising to those of us who had followed Genesis over the years and had never heard either his or Tony Banks’ voices. Musically the album was heavier and more guitar orientated but still containing the Rutherford trademarks in the form of the ballad Hideaway. A highly experimental album this one and one which shared its predecessor’s fate. Mike, when asked about the album and the fact that it was so markedly different had the following to say: “The reason that people were surprised was because you get an image and it sticks - for years. In fact if you look at the Genesis material you will notice that I include a fair proportion of heavier rock material, which is what I like. For my next effort I wouldn’t mind going heavier still…”

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For once, a Genesis solo album even got a good review in the music press…

Sorry no cheap shots about members of super groups this time. Rutherford’s second solo beats Genesis LPs hands down, with more life and less polish. He obviously looks to Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins for vocal guidance - check the inflections - but his ragged edges add a nifty tang. Nothing radical, just a pleasant surprise. (Trouser Press NYC February 1983).

The promised next album proved to be the one that proved the critics wrong and gave the fans a change from the solo releases by either Gabriel or Collins. Mike’s decision to record the album with a group of writers rather than session musicians enabled him to perhaps feel a little less pressured. In fact, Mike admitted that he was not at his best when on his own… “I’m at my best when I am working with other people, because that brings better things out of me”. Mike’s choice of musicians for this album included some quite well-known ones including BA Robertson, Paul Young (Sad Café), and Paul Carrack (Ace/Squeeze).

The overall result was a very polished album which contained a surprising variety of styles form the pleasant pop of All I Need Is A Miracle to the melodrama and social commentary of Silent Running and A Call To Arms. These tracks also are of special interest for the fact that the former was used as the theme to the film Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) and the latter contains part of an old Genesis song which never fitted into the Genesis recording schedule.

The album was a success in the United States and with a break before Genesis were due to embark on their next round of touring, Mike decided to have a go at solo touring himself. With the same band that had recorded the album, he embarked on a 22 date tour in the States which was to give him an opportunity to showcase his talents and the tour was a qualified success. The album also saw the release of more singles than any of its predecessors, in all three were released, two in the UK and three Stateside to varying degrees of success. Silent Running gained Mike his first solo appearance on Top Of The Pops but none of the singles were greatly successful in the network charts although they did very well in the independent ones.

Mike has said that the Mechanics project is an ongoing one and now that Genesis have finished their touring for the moment, the time is ripe for another outing for the band, hopefully with a UK tour this time round and some further evidence of Mike’s skill with a guitar!

Mike Rutherford Solo Discography

A Side B Side Catalogue No. Release Date
Working In Line Compression CB353 1980
Time And Time Again At The End Of The Day CB364 1980
Halfway There A Day To Remember K79331 1982
Acting Very Strange Couldn’t Get Arrested RUTH 1 1982
Acting Very Strange (Extended) Couldn’t Get Arrested RUTH1T (12”) 1982
Hideaway Calypso U9967 1982
Silent Running I Get The Feeling U8908 1985
Silent Running (*) I Get The Feeling/Too Far Gone U8908T (12”) 1985
All I Need Is A Miracle You Are The One U8765 1985
All I Need Is A Miracle (Remix) You Are The One/A Call To Arms U8765T (12”) 1985
Taken In A Call To Arms 7-89404 1985
All I Need Is A Miracle You Are The One 7-89450 1986


Title Catalogue No. Date
Smallcreep’s Day CAS 1149 1980
Acting Very Strange WEA K 99 249 1982
Mike + The Mechanics (+) 252 496 -1 1985

Figures in ( ) denote the following - (*) = also available in picture disc format.
(+) also available on Compact Disc

Mike has also made several solo appearances on video but details of these are to be included in a future instalment of the Genesis Video Archive.