Mike + the Mechanics and Genesis: Sons and Fathers

October 28th is a day worth remembering for fans of Genesis: it is the day on which Mike Rutherford’s side project, Mike + the Mechanics, released their second studio album Living Years (1988), as well as the day on which Genesis’s final studio album, We Can’t Dance (1991), came out.

Each album includes a powerful and melancholy reflection on the often fraught relationship between sons and their fathers. If you don’t find them to be powerful and melancholy, I can’t help you, because it means you have no soul.

Rutherford co-wrote “The Living Years’ with B.A. Robertson; the beautiful vocal is from Paul Carrack. It is a heartbreaking reflection on misunderstanding, wasted time, and lost opportunity, and yet of the persistence of family bonds and family characteristics (for good or ill) across generations.

Here’s how it starts:

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Oh, crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud (say it loud), say it clear (oh say it clear)
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late (it’s too late) when we die (oh when we die)
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

You should listen to it.

Three years later Genesis gave us “No Son of Mine” as the lead-off track on We Can’t Dance. Phil Collins has the lyric credit on this one, though the music–quite sonically interesting, particularly at the beginning, where a sound like a groan of defeat anticipates what is to come–is attributed to all three members of the band (i.e., Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford). Collins’s vocal is, as is regularly the case, exquisite.

In this one, the narrator attempts reconciliation with his abusive father before it’s too late. But the attempt is a failure, and he only hears the repeated refrain, “You’re no son, you’re no son of mine”:

Oh, his words how they hurt me
I’ll never forget it
And as the time, it went by
I lived to regret it

You’re no son, you’re no son of mine

As it turns out, there are some things that time doesn’t heal. Go ahead and listen to it, too.

(Image credit: Wikipedia.)


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