The Living Years

The Living Years, by Mike Rutherford

After his time in Genesis (bass and guitar), Michael John Cloete Crawford Rutherford is probably best known for his song ‘I Wish I’d Told My Dad I Loved Him Before He Died’ by Brian Pern ‘The Living Years’ by Mike & the Mechanics, which is a kind of moving, kind of twee song in which an estranged son wishes he’d known his dad better. In actual fact Rutherford and his dad had a pretty close relationship. His father was a navy captain and WW2 veteran who expected his public school educated son to go into something suitably public schooly. Alas, young Michael fell in with disreputable company like Mr & Mrs Gabriel’s little boy and discovered rock’n’roll. But far from blowing his lid, Captain Rutherford was 100% behind him. When he realised Mike was serious about the music business, he phoned around all the Genesis parents and persuaded everyone to crowdfund the group so that the lads could buy decent equipment. Thereafter this WW2 veteran, one of the ones who sent the Bismarck to the bottom, faithfully followed Genesis wherever they went on tour, cotton wool strategically inserted in ears. A trick he probably learned when he was C.O. of a naval gunnery school.

But what really makes this work is that, after his dad’s death, Mike found a copy of his unpublished autobiography in the attic. Excerpts of which he publishes as he goes, parallelling his career with his father when they are in the same place (decades apart) or at the same age. Father and son write with the same wry, dry sense of humour.

This answers a question that bugged me when I discovered Genesis in my own public school years: how exactly would my own parents react if after my extremely expensive education, for which they made sacrifices, I decided to join a rock band? Of course, Rutherford could probably pay his fees back in spades by now, which may be some kind of consolation. The same thought might have occurred to the parents of Chris Martin, another stupidly rich public school educated rock star – and even better, Captain & Mrs Rutherford never had to put up with Gwyneth Paltrow as a daughter-in-law: so, win all round.

Interested to see that the gradual commercialisation of the Genesis sound from the late 70s onwards wasn’t just down to the pernicious influence of Phil Collins, as I’ve always imagined: Rutherford is quite happy to own up to it on behalf of all three of them as the natural development of their music. And I will concede that not developing at all – even if every album was A Trick of the Tail – would get dull. But. Still. Hmm.