“Life’s a beach - then you write an album about one…” - Mike Rutherford talks about the new mechanics album: Beggar On A Beach Of Gold. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt at Mike’s home on 21st December 1994. Photographs by: Andrew Nagy. Jon Guntrip and Alan Perry. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
TWR: Where does the title of the album come from?
MR: It’s from a song; there’s a song on the album called Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, which I wrote with b A Robertson. He got the title when he was messing around with titles and the song came very quickly. It’s a lovely idea in this day and age when everyone is chasing things and trying to find something; material things or success or whatever. The song is really saying that if you only took the time to look around you or within yourself you will find what you want.
The album cover is something I am really pleased about and features a beggar - well, it’s me actually! (laughs). I’m sitting in this old battered coat on this beach made out of gold coins and that’s a strong image which I liked.
TWR: How many tracks are there on the album?
MR: Thirteen. It’s a lucky number for me. I got married on the thirteenth, I lived at number thirteen Coal Street in London and A Trick of The Tail came out on the thirteenth. I actually recorded nineteen songs and two cover versions - twenty one tracks in all. I started off thinking that we would drop some of these but as things went on they felt strong so we finished them all, which is why it took longer than I had intended. I started in January and it took about four or five months to record because of the number of songs that I had. I wouldn’t do it again but nothing sounded weak.
TWR: Have you kept the same writing team as before?
MR: Yeah, I’ve written more with Paul Carrack this time. I think that we have improved an awful lot as a writing team second time around.
TWR: How do you think it compares with Word Of Mouth which you have said that you were not entirely happy with…?
MR: I am very pleased with this album. To me the Mechanics are more about moods and atmospheres and this album is more like that. I had great difficulty selecting the tracks for this one. There were six or seven that I thought were definite and seven that could be on there and I could chop and choose but then in the middle of all that, Tony Smith suggested that we try a couple of cover versions. I said ’why? I’ve already written nineteen songs, I don’t think we need any more!’ but he said ’try it, the mechanics have a certain sound just see what you can do with it. If you don’t like it you don’t have to use it as there are so many Mechanics tracks but it might produce something worthwhile…’
I went in and recorded a Shadows medley and the Stevie Wonder song; Help Me When I Fall In Love. That was done fairly straight and Paul sang it on the first day and it sounded good, so we put it down there and then with the keyboards and everything. The other song Chris Neil suggested; You Really Got A Hold On Me by Smokey Robinson. I wasn’t too sure about that one so we put it down at The Farm and it didn’t quite work out so well so we did it differently with a straight 4/4. The two Pauls duetted on it after all these years, which was something I had been after and it really came out strong. It’s good that the two Pauls sing in a nice rough way. It’s very souly with an R & B vocal. After that I decided that they were both nice versions but everyone seemed to go with the Stevie Wonder song so I put that on the album at the end. I really love that other song but I can’t have two covers on the album.
TWR: What is the title of the first single from the album?
MR: The first single is called Over My Shoulder. It should be released on 7th February with the album coming out later in the month.
TWR: Will there be a Mechanics tour this time round?
MR: Yes. Funnily enough, Virgin are going to do a sort of launch on 18th January where we are going to play a half hour set which is actually worse than rehearsing for a full show! (laughs) but that should be good fun. Adrian isn’t with us this time on keyboards, and this album is very different because I played a lot of the keyboards on it with the guitar synth and it was very easy getting the sounds I like and many of them left this room with character and sounding quite full.
By the time I had done my parts and BA had no problem on the songs we wrote together. Then Paul Carrack obviously played keyboards on the songs we wrote together and so I wondered what the point of getting Adrian to do it was. He came down for a few days and in that period of time I felt it was time for a change.
TWR: So who have you got for the keyboard parts on the tour?
MR: We are looking around for keyboard players and I think that we don’t really need two keyboard players and Paul Carrack is kind of worried (laughs). He really is a very good keyboard player and there’s a whole area of hi tech stuff which Adrian used to produce on stage note for note the sound of the album which is actually not that important. I don’t mind the live sound being different to the record. At the Virgin 21st birthday gig we did this summer we did a version of Over My Shoulder which was different to the album but it made me think that maybe we should have a couple of backing singers this time and do more with the vocals.
We’re thinking of changing drummer on this tour. I have spoken to Peter about it and he has made some enquiries. I think the main tour will be in the summer and I think it will be called “Have Backline Will Travel” (laughs) because the Mechanics show last time had this lighting rig and a nice stage setting that was cheap and cheerful and this Virgin gig that we did made me realise that I just want to go to the gig; I don’t want all this fuss! It’s easy and so much fun and I think we should move towards that.
All of that helps but the Mechanics don’t need it. Genesis have much more drama in the set and therefore we need something to help emphasise that but with the Mechanics it’s much more of a small R & B band or at least more like that, that’s my feeling. We were a bit hi tech last time with all the sequencers and stuff and I just think that the Mechanics should be a bit simpler and down to earth. I suppose I went out the first time still wearing the Genesis hat and that’s how we do it but this time on I can start really doing something on stage. We have two excellent singers who can really make a song hang around the voice and I want to move on and change all the time.
TWR: Are you more confident about this album?
MR: I am very confident about this album. You don’t
start wearing that hat until you have finished them. I come in and I write and
I don’t really care if anything ends up being recorded and you have to
be selfish and choose what you want to do. I like this album very much and I
feel very strongly about it - it does feel good to me. The last album I finished
in a fit and it didn’t feel good to me; it was a bit laboured. This album
got better all the way through.