The Genesis of a Mike & the Mechanics fan by Katherine Stratton.
For all of their being everywhere during the decade of my birth, Genesis largely passed me by. I wouldn’t even know I enjoyed them until I was a teenager and wouldn’t become a fan until I was older still.
My father was in the Navy and I spent my early years living in Belgium with only two English language TV channels to choose from. When the Gulf War wasn’t being broadcast, it was mainly re-runs of Cheers and Roseanne, interspersed with public service announcements telling you not to beat your spouse, abandon your pets etc or appoint the wrong power of attorney. There were no music videos , no ads, no real reflections of what was going on in the lives of my fellow young people.
|To make matters more difficult, my parents were not the most eclectic of music listeners. When my father was home, he tended to choose classical options, while my mother stayed faithful to her love of country & western music. I was an only child, so I had no siblings to influence me. School didn’t even help at first, as my parents had decided to send me to the French speaking section of the international school., meaning that for my first year or so I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying. There was radio on the school bus in the morning but it was mainly talked over by the two affable and boisterous Italian bus drivers at the front on the AK-47’s they would need to use in case a terrorist tried to hijack us. It was very isolating, but I can’t recall ever feeling lonely - just bewildered.|
I’m not sure if I ever heard a Genesis song during this time though it must have happened. Eventually, as my parents made friends, I made friends with their children. A turning point came when the older sister of one of these friends was kind enough to give me a copy of a Bryan Adams CD that she was “too cool” for. I listened to that album again and again, it was all I had that was new and that was mine.
When we eventually moved back to the US, when I was ten, the music scene had changed completely. Getting access to everything all at once, everything I had missed and everything that was of the now was mind blowing. I was very quickly swept into the fold of kids who wore oversized surf t shirts and Vans and who rarely washed their hair. It was all grunge with some hip hop thrown in. It was interesting but it still wasn’t for me. While we all watched MTV at friends’ houses, when I was at home I watched VH1. For those of you who are not American or have mot lived in America, the difference between the two was that MTV was new and therefore “cool” and VH1 was old and so “uncool”. MTV was Top Of The Pops and VH1 was Top Of The Pops 2.
Even though it wasn’t coo, through it I had my first experience of Sledgehammer, of all I Need Is A Miracle and of Invisible Touch, the whole shebang, just ten years too late. I finally knew what I liked and what’s more, I had something that was mine, just like that old Bryan Adams CD. My dad had his thing, my mum had hers and now I had my thing.
Throughout High School, my experiences were much the same. Music rotated again, and the kids at school were into boy bands, jam bands such as the Dave Matthews Band and Phish (who were huge at my school), and more hip hop. Unluckily for me my best friend was another devote of the old country & western music, so we didn’t get to share our tastes very often. On drives, my one veto was always “nothing country” while hers was “nothing from the ’80’s”. So we listened to a lot of The Beatles. It was all good.
I did go through that period of time feeling you can’t admit to anyone that you like anything Phil Collins has ever touched. That condemnation was never fair and perhaps my reaching adulthood and finally being able to stop caring what other people think (to a degree) is what pushed me to listen to them even more. It also pushed me into catching up on what the Mechanics had been doing during this decade and to realise just how much I like Mike’s song writing and always have.
While I never got to go to shows, share mix tapes or mutually rave about an album with someone, I had a pretty good time loving Genesis on my own. Recently a friend that I used to babysit back in the ’90’s said that she remembers being with me the first time she ever heard a Phil Collins song. While I don’t remember that specifically (as there has been a LOT of Phil in my life) it does make me smile to know that my love of the band touched someone else’s musical memory. We young fans don’t ’havv firsthand memories of the band or the ticket stubs to go with them, which will always be a shame. But the most important part of being a fan is just as true for us as it is for the older generation, remembering who you were with, what you were doing, and who you were with when you first heard a certain song.
My life as a fan now is about as far removed from my childhood experience as I could imagine. I still don’t have anyone in my immediate circle that enjoys Genesis though I did catch my boyfriend enjoying Jesus he Knows Me the other day. But the Internet solves that problem. Over the past year or so I’ve been enjoying getting to know the band all over again through other people’s recollections and fan sites, as well as starting my own, something that I think will certainly keep me occupied for a very long time to come.
Well Katherine, if you take me and TWR as your yardstick then you will indeed be bust for a VERY long time to come!