Saturday, March 25, 1989

Mike + the Mechanics “The Living Years” hit #1

The Living Years

Mike + the Mechanics

Writer(s): Brian Robertson, Mike Rutherford (see lyrics here)

Released: December 27, 1988

First Charted: December 31, 1988

Peak: 11 US, 12 CB, 2 GR, 2 RR, 14 AC, 5 AR, 2 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 23.6 video, 79.63 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Guitarist, bassist, and songwriter Mike Rutherford made his name with Genesis, but at the height of their success formed Mike + the Mechanics as a side project. Their 1985 self-titled debut produced the top-ten hits “Silent Running” and “All I Need Is a Miracle.” Rutherford returned to Genesis and they peeled off five top-ten hits from their 1986 Invisible Touch album. Another Mechanics album followed in 1988 and produced an unlikely chart-topper about “losing one’s father before having the chance to say what is in one’s heart.” FB

Rutherford’s father, William, had been in the Navy and served in World War II as well as the Korean War. He and Mike didn’t get along well. William even tried to ban his son from playing guitar, but eventually came around when Mike joined Genesis and even bought some equipment for him and let the band stay at his house. SG

Still, the two never had a close relationship. Mike said, “Fathers and sons of my generation just didn’t say things like ‘I love you’ to each other.” SG Mike was on tour with Genesis when his father died. He flew home for the funeral and then back to America in time for the next Genesis show. Rutherford’s third child was born a year later. In a weird coincidence, B.A. Robertson, with whom Rutherford had written “Silent Running,” also experienced the death of his father in 1986 and the birth of his son soon after. Between them, they crafted “The Living Years.”

Paul Carrack sang lead, as he had on “Silent Running.” He previously reached the top ten in the 1970s with Ace and the song “How Long.” He also sang “Tempted” for Squeeze in 1981. Carrack could relate to the song’s theme about losing one’s father as his own dad had died when Paul was 11. Carrack sings “in a sort of soulful bleat, but he never goes too crazy with it…The song’s chorus is a big, booming thing with a whole kids’ choir…But the quieter verses are what give the song its power.” SG Author Steve Sullivan calls it Carrack’s “finest performance ever.” SS The song has “a sleek sort of calm to it.”SG It “expresses important truths in an eloquent, moving way without succumbing to mawkishness.” SS


  • FB Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 723.
  • SG Stereogum (6/30/2021). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 574.

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First posted 12/26/2022; last updated 1/13/2023.

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