“All I need is a mechanic” - The story of Mike + The Mechanics' debut album. Your grease monkey: Alan Hewitt.
The mid 1980’s were to be an incredibly busy period for Mike and indeed, for all the members of Genesis past or present. Genesis themselves were gearing up to becoming one of the biggest rock acts in the UK and the world. Mike himself had already dabbled with solo work with 1980’s Smallcreep’s Day and 1982’s Acting Very Strange both of which had been greeted with mixed views by fans and critics alike.
It was nevertheless quite a surprise when in the summer of 1985 word began to reach us that Mike had decided to put together another group and had recorded a new set of songs under the title: Mike + The Mechanics. Mike had got together with songwriter B A Robertson and had recruited both Paul Carrack (ex-Ace/Squeeze) and Paul Young (ex-Sad Café) as singers for the project. Mike himself explained the rationale behind his decision to front another band in an interview he gave to TWR…
“Looking back on it, it was a bit like Genesis. I wanted to be a song writer, so I got together with Chris Neil and B A Robertson and we tried to get some other people to do our songs. I always believed in that but it didn’t really happen…. I started to record the songs in Monserrat with Chris Neil and Adrian Lee and then came back to England. I think it was just one of those lucky things ; Paul Carrack came down and sang Silent Running and then another day Paul Young came down and it was just a great combination of voices. He sang All I Need Is A Miracle and things just sort of happened…”
Paul Carrack had been in the frame for the singer’s job on Mike’s first solo album; Smallcreep’s Day which didn’t materialise but B A Robertson fortuitously got in touch with him as he recalls…
“ I Bumped into B A Robertson who asked me to sing on a demo for him. He tracked me down. I’d never met him but he tracked me down to sing on a demo of a song he’d written and I did that and then he mentioned that he was working with Mike for a solo album and would I be interested in coming down? So B A drove me down there one day and I went in and on Silent Running they didn’t even have any lyrics and I just sort of la la la’d and made it up and I guess that was an audition…”
The old boys’ network certainly seemed to have a large amount of influence on the formation of the initial recording band with word of mouth (pardon the pun) definitely playing its part as Paul Young remembered…
“I got a ’phone call about June ’85 from … I think it was Chris Neil … no it was Keith Hopwood who used to be in Herman’s Hermits and he said… he’s a friend of mine and he’s also a friend of Chris Neil’s and we all kind of know each other and he said; ’Chris is looking for you and I don’t know what he wants but is it OK if I give him your ’phone number?’ And I said; ’sure’ then I got a ’phone call from Chris and he said; ’I’m doing a solo album for Mike Rutherford, do you want to come down and the first track I tried was All I Need Is A Miracle and they said it was cool for me to do a couple more and so I did and got a nice cheque and thought that was the end of it! (laughs) Then I got a call about three months later saying that Silent Running and All I Need Is A Miracle had been top and five respectively in America and we had another one on the boil and did I want to go over there and tour with them? “
The album, simply titled Mike + The Mechanics was released in the autumn of 1985 by which time both the debut single and its follow up had done good business in the UK charts and elsewhere too. Anyone expecting The Mechanics to be merely an extension of Genesis were in for quite a shock however. The new album gave everyone a firm reminder of exactly how good a writer of pop songs Mike actually is. Augmented by the not inconsiderable writing talents of B A Roberston, the new album was chock full of shorter, punchier but equally enjoyable songs and Mike gained a whole new audience for his work as a result.
Genesis did play their part in the album, however. One song in particular; A Call To Arms has Genesis written large all over it and many speculated if the song had originated from one of those famous “bits” which are often left over from the band’s recording sessions. Mike acknowledged the fact himself…
“It was a Genesis bit. The main sequence had been discarded from the album before it (Genesis) and I always liked it, so I tried to do it and it didn’t come out right. I had a couple of people play on it from a band I had produced and it’s always a bad sign when you have to go through two or three singers!”
With the album doing so well in the US, a short tour was organised in the summer of 1986 prior to Mike reconvening with the rest of Genesis to begin the promotional work for their massive album: Invisible Touch. The tour took in smaller venues which were definitely more suited to the Mechanics’ whole ethos. The band for the tour included both Pauls, Mike along with album keyboard player; Adrian Lee and drummer Peter Van Hooke along with another member of Sad Café; Ashley Mumford on guitar. With only one album with a mere eight songs on it, the band had to look elsewhere for material to fill their repertoire as Mike recalls…
“The scenario with the first album was that it had done great in America and they were keen to have us go over there and the album had eight songs on it! Only EIGHT songs, we were in trouble! So we did a bit of Tempted and a bit of Maxine and it was fun…”
From the recordings of some of these gigs, it was obvious that both the band
and the audience were having a great time. Audiences in the UK and Europe however,
were not to have the opportunity to see the band until the release of their
next album, but that, dear readers, is another story!