"An anniversary MoT" - Twenty years of Mike & The Mechanics remembered by Alan Hewitt.
Doesn't time fly when you are having fun? It only struck me the other day that The Mechanics are celebrating twenty years as a band this year and this feature is an affectionate look back at their career.
Rumours began circulating in the summer of 1985 about Mike forming his own band. This was treated with a healthy degree of scepticism by yours truly who had heard the rumour mill go into overdrive before. October of that year saw the proof that Mike was preparing another stab at solo success with the release of Silent Running; a classic slice of Mike Rutherford and this time accompanied by the dulcet tones of Paul Carrack and Paul Young whose credentials with Ace, Squeeze and Sad Café respectively were beyond reproach. Silent Running was Mike's first solo chart success in the USA and the single; when re-issued here in the UK achieved a healthy position too by which time the band's first album: Mike + The Mechanics had also pierced the reaches of the UK and US charts.
This initial success was no mere flash in the pan though. Successive singles; All I Need Is A Miracle and Taken In also achieved chart success at home and abroad. In fact these three songs formed a neat trilogy of promotional videos too telling the humorous story of the band's trials and tribulations at the hands of their nefarious manager played by the sadly now deceased, Roy Kinnear. Mike's pop and rock sensibilities were keenly displayed on this album and his choice of singers was inspired. Carrack's soul-funk was matched by the out and out rocker that was Paul Young. It was a match made in heaven and with other classics such as A Call To Arms gracing the album; there was something there to keep the most hard bitten of Genesis fans happy.
The album's success took everyone by surprise, Mike not least of all but it was well deserved and amazingly enough, the band even managed to organise a tour in the US in early 1986 Controversially sponsored by Michelob; the "Miracle Tour" took in most of the larger theatre sized venues in the US including several haunts from the early days of Genesis' success in the States and Canada. Ably backed by Adrian Lee on keyboards and Peter Van Hooke on drums and another Sad Café refugee; Ashley Mumford on guitar; the band drew on the new album along with a choice selection of tracks from Acting Very Strange and the Spencer Davis Group's classic: Gimme Some Lovin' and the tour was very well received and a qualified success.
Mike + The Mechanics UK Discography 1985-86
Silent Running (7", 12" and 7" Picture Disc) single.
Mike + The Mechanics (Vinyl, Cassette and CD) album
All I Need Is A Miracle (7", 12" and 12" Picture Disc) single
Mike + The Mechanics "The Miracle Tour 1986 Set List
Hanging By A Thread/Half Way There/Silent Running/Taken In/I Don't Wanna Know/Maxine/Par Avion/A Call To Arms/Tempted/I Get The Feeling/Take The Reins/All I Need Is A Miracle/Gimme Some Lovin'.
Mike + The Mechanics 1985-86 Videography
Silent Running TOTP BBC TV
Silent Running Solid Gold Classics US TV
Sky Channel Interview 5.4.86
Silent Running P.I.T German TV
Mike's commitments with Genesis and their album Invisible Touch and the massive tour that followed that release ; meant that it would be a further two years before fans heard anything else from The Mechanics. November 1988 saw the first fruits of the new project with the release of Nobody's Perfect; an up tempo rock track which once again brought the band's profile into sharp focus here in the UK where the single achieved minor chart success. The new album: Living Years was a further demonstration of Mike's enormous talent as a song writer and no more was this evident than in the title track which soon became one of the "anthems" of the 1980's when it was released as the second single from the album; famously responsible for reducing Rolf Harris to tears on TV AM! This album also contained a much more rocky element with such numbers as Don't and Black And Blue and Seeing Is Believing.
Once again the band rolled out the touring mobile, this time taking in their first gigs in the UK and Europe as well as two separate tours of the US. A planned tour of Australia sadly did not come to fruition but for those of us lucky enough to see any of these shows; the band were in fine form and they even found time to record a spunky version of The Beatles' classic: Revolution as part of the American comedy duo Cheech and Chong's latest movie soundtrack, copies of which are now highly sought after by collectors. The new look live show was a stripped down affair with basic lighting but no expense spared on the music which featured a high octane show based on the band's new album and its predecessor wisely ditching cover versions and earlier references; to focus on the new album and bring another exhilarating show to the fans.
Disc: TWR archives
Mike & The Mechanics Living Years UK Discography 1988-89
Nobody's Perfect (7", 12"; 12" Picture Disc vinyl and 3"
The Living Years (Vinyl; Cassette and CD) album
Nobody Knows (7", 12" vinyl and 3" CD) single
Mike & The Mechanics Living Years Tour Set List 1989
Nobody's Perfect/Seeing Is Believing/Silent Running/Don't/Nobody Knows/Hanging By A Thread/Why Me?/Taken In/Beautiful Day/Black And Blue/Par Avion/A Call To Arms/The Living Years/I Get The Feeling/Take The Reins/All I Need Is A Miracle/Poor Boy Down.
Photo: TWR Archives
Mike & The Mechanics Living Years Videography 1988-90
TV AM Interview 8.11.88
Living Years Wogan Show BBC TV 13.1.89
TV AM interview 15.1.89
Night Network ITV (Insert Mike Zurich 89 photo here.
Motormouth ITV Photo: G Truffer/TWR)
Phillipshalle Dusseldorf (Private film) 27.2.89
Rheingoldhalle Mainz (Private film) 10.3.89
Princes Trust Rock Gala 26.8.89
In Profile ITV
Living Years Grammy Awards Ceremony
With two highly successful albums under their belts, The Mechanics took another well-deserved break before returning with that "difficult" third album in 1991. Word Of Mouth should have consolidated The Mechanics' position but fell between two stools. Mike admitted that the album was a struggle and it shows. The up tempo numbers such as Word Of Mouth and Get Up would have been ideal concert favourites but the poppier tracks and ballads which were the staples of the rest of the album, failed to live up to the high standards set by its predecessors. They might have come over better in the live context but sadly, this album overran into the time allocated for Genesis' follow-up to 1986's massive album: Invisible Touch and Mike's commitments to Genesis for the writing, recording and touring in support of We Can't Dance ensured that there was no time to organise any live gigs in support of the album, and it remains the only untoured Mechanics album.
Mike & The Mechanics Word Of Mouth UK Discography 1991-92
Word Of Mouth (7" , 12" vinyl and two part CD) single
Word Of Mouth (Vinyl, Cassette and CD) album
A Time And Place (7", 12" vinyl and two part CD) single
Get Up (7" vinyl and CD) single *
Stop Baby (7" vinyl and two part CD) single archives)
Everybody Gets A Second Chance (7" vinyl and two part CD) single
* This single was withdrawn from the stores prior to distribution.
Mike & The Mechanics Word Of Mouth Videography 1991-92
The Making Of Word Of Mouth Electronic Press Kit.
TV AM interview 13.3.91
Word Of Mouth (Promotional Video)
A Time And Place (Promotional Video)
A Closer Look Official Video Compilation.
The lengthy break that followed the release of this album certainly seems to have benefited the band. The next album; 1994's A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold is perhaps the ultimate album by the band. Practically every track on it had "hit" written on it and no less than four singles were eventually released from it with Over My Shoulder and Another Cup Of Coffee becoming firm radio staples through 1994 -95. Even the album B Sides were, in my opinion, deserving of a place on the album and it is indicative of just how good a song writing team Mike and B A Robertson had become and also how confident that both Paul Carrack and Paul Young had become that tracks such as Boys At The Front (a homage to rock fans everywhere) and You Never Change were relegated to the status of B Sides.
|Confidence was deservedly high as the band set off on another lengthy tour including auspicious first performances in a South Africa only recently free of the shadow of Apartheid, although an added incentive must have been the Rugby World Cup which was taking place there at the same time (great planning, eh guys!) along with a handful of shows in the US and another lengthy tour of the UK and Europe. Their performance at Johannesburg's Sandton Towers is still one of only a handful of gigs that was filmed for TV but sadly remains officially unseen outside of South Africa. Fundamentally, the shows were a magnificent show case for the new album which was played in almost its entirety augmented by healthy selections from the band's extensive back catalogue as well as a marvellous medley featuring classic tracks from the bands that Mike and the two Pauls had previously been members of including marvellous versions of the Sad Café hit Every Day Hurts and the Ace hit How Long?|
Mike & The Mechanics A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold UK Discography 1994-95
Over My Shoulder (7" limited edition vinyl and two part CD) single
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold (CD) album
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold (Two part CD) single
Another Cup Of Coffee (Two Part CD) single
Mike & The Mechanics A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold Tour Set List 1995
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Silent Running/Over My Shoulder/Another Cup Of Coffee/Someone Always Hates Someone/You Really Got A Hold On Me/Web Of Lies/Every Day Hurts/How Long?/I Can't Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)/Word Of Mouth.
Mike & The Mechanics A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold Videography 1994-95
Victory Club London album launch 18.1.95
Over My Shoulder Des O'Connor Show ITV
The Bridge VH1
Over My Shoulder GMTV
Over My Shoulder David Letterman Show
Ellis Park Stadium Johannesburg (ITV Rugby World Cup feature)
Sandton Towers Johannesburg 9.6.95 South African concert broadcast
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold Top Of The Pops BBC TV
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold VH1
Taratata French TV studio performance
House Of Blues US TV Concert broadcast15.8.95
Stars '95 German TV
Samstag Nacht German TV
Lowenverheilung German TV
Roxy Bar Italian TV
Mio Capitano Italian TV
Tickets: TWR Archives
Capitalising on the success of this album; the band released the Hits album and video compilation in 1996 and once again undertook an extensive UK tour in support of it. The album spawned two singles; Silent Running and a re-working of the classic All I Need Is A Miracle neither of which dented the charts unlike the album which was a high chart entry in the UK. The live set for this tour was fundamentally the same as that of the previous year and this merely served to re-iterate The Mechanics' position as one of the most consistent live acts in the UK.
Mike & The Mechanics Hits UK Discography 1996
Hits (CD) album
All I Need Is A Miracle 96 (Two Part CD) single
Silent Running (CD) single
Mike & The Mechanics Hits Tour Set List 1996
Silent Running/Seeing Is Believing/Get Up/Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Someone Always Hates Someone/Don't/Plain And Simple/Another Cup Of Coffee/Eyes Of Blue/Nobody's Perfect/Everyday/How Long?/I Can't Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Word Of Mouth/Over My Shoulder.
Mike & The Mechanics Hits Videography 1996
Hits Official Video Compilation
All I Need Is A Miracle 96 Des O'Connor Show ITV
Harold Schmidt Show German TV
A further four years were to elapse before The Mechanics saw the light of day again. With Genesis in hiatus following the end of the Calling All Stations tour there was a great degree of doubt about what the future held for both them and The Mechanics. 1999 saw the answer at least as far as the latter were concerned with the M6 album which lacked some of the fire of its predecessor but was nonetheless a fine and polished effort. Major chart success eluded the band's singles this time and the album received mixed reviews at the time. The new live show took the best elements from the previous two tours and coupled them with a healthy dose of the new effort; a "Greatest Hits Plus…" affair if you like. Ironically, as things would turn out; the band's performance on WDR TV's "Ohne Filter" programme on 19th September 1999 would later take on an extra special significance for fans and the band themselves. The band were evidently still very much enjoying themselves and hopes were high that with Genesis in apparent terminal decline; that The Mechanics would pick up the baton and run with it.
Photo: J Guntrip/TWR
Mike & The Mechanics M6 UK Discography 1999
Now That You've Gone (Two Part CD) single.
M6 (CD) album
Whenever I Stop (Two Part CD) single
Mike & The Mechanics M6 Tour Set List 1999
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Ordinary Girl/Now That You've Gone/Another Cup Of Coffee/Always Listen To Your heart/Whenever I Stop/Silent Running/My Little Island/If I Could See You Now/Every Day Hurts/How Long?/I Can't Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
Tickets: TWR Archives
Mike & The Mechanics M6 Videography 1999-03
Hanover Grand Club London 10.5.99 (Private Film)
Whenever I Stop (Promotional Video)
Ordinary Girl (Promotional Video)
"Ohne Filter" WDR TV Studio concert 19.9.99
"This Is Your Life" BBC TV 23.1.03
Events in the following year were to take fans completely by surprise with the sudden and unexpected death of Paul Young in July of that year. The handful of festival gigs which had been planned for that year were subsequently scrapped and the band appeared to be on indefinite hiatus. The BBC sprang a surprise on Mike and the fans in 2003 with an edition of This Is Your Life dedicated to Mike. This was a rare occasion where most of his old band mates including Steve and Ant were present along with many of Mike's friends and a few lucky fans for an interesting but sadly all too short look at Mike's career to date.
The decision by Mike and Paul Carrack to continue with The Mechanics must have been taken after much soul-searching by the pair of them. The hole left by Paul Young's death was not something that could be easily plugged and they wisely decided not to do so but to try their hand at a new direction for the band. The lush production values which had graced the band's previous efforts were pared back and a leaner sounding album with the emphasis on experimentation was the result. Rewired, was eventually issued in 2004 and received minimal coverage in the press and certainly took this listener by surprise. There is an unfinished "feel" to this album to my ears and it still does not sit easily with me to be honest. Maybe I simply miss the presence of Paul Young too much, I don't know but the band themselves even seemed uncertain about it. A tour was eventually organised but only as a support act to some of Phil Collins' massive stadium shows in Europe. A measly one gig in the UK was eventually organised in September of last year which was also filmed for a live DVD which was released earlier this year. The new album achieved no success with the charts, despite initial copies coming replete with a bonus DVD disc of promos; eventually being re-packaged with the Hits album in a forlorn attempt to garner some fresh sales.
Mike & The Mechanics Rewired UK Discography 2004
Rewired (CD) album initial pressing with bonus CD ROM disc
Rewired (CD) album re-issue digipak with Hits album
Mike & The Mechanics Rewired Tour Set List 2004
Sooner Or Later/Falling/Now That You've Gone/Silent Running/If I Were You/One Left Standing/Living Years/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
Mike & The Mechanics Rewired Videography 2004-05
Rewired Promotional Video DVD.
Live At Shepherd's Bush Official Concert DVD
Twenty years on and six studio albums is no bad tally for any band. The Mechanics have had their highs and their lows and have made many new friends along the way. Whatever the future may hold for the band, their legacy remains and it is an astonishing one for an outfit originally intended to be a "part-time" band!