Mike Rutherford's Living Years in Genesis Had Many Revelations

The Living Years: The First Genesis Memoir By Mike Rutherford Thomas Dunne Books, 256 pp., $25.99.

While best known as the guitarist (and sometimes bassist/guitarist) for prog rockers-turned-pop-sensations Genesis, Rutherford takes the title of his autobiography from the 1988 hit of his offshoot group, Mike + the Mechanics.

Guaranteed to make grown men weep, the song and its familiar chorus is about the often stiff emotional relationship between fathers and sons (which, it seems, transcends national borders), and the importance of actually expressing love "before it's too late."

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It's fitting. For while the book of course covers Rutherford's life growing up and his decades with Genesis, there are also excerpts from his father's own unpublished memoir, discovered after the often distant, career British navy man passed away. His picture is visible in the video for the song, as is Mike Rutherford's own son as they visit a cemetery to the sound of Mechanics vocalist Paul Carrack's soaring voice.

And while Capt. William Rutherford may have not quite "gotten" his long-haired son's choice of career -- when he first sees Genesis live, the button-downed sailor is greeted with the site of Peter Gabriel crawling through a 30-ft. inflatable penis onstage -- he was nonetheless proud of the success it afforded his son and his family.

Rutherford tells plenty of great stories of the early years of Genesis, from the early stirrings of the band while several members attended the English boarding school Charterhouse and the first U.S. gig in the cafeteria of Brandeis Univeristy in 1972, to the growing album sales and more elaborate concert tours.

Observations of his bandmates are of great interest. Tony Banks is prickly, sometimes jealous, and the first to disappear at the sign of any trouble. Peter Gabriel a interesting seeker whose favoring of bizarre masks and costumes on stage to allowed him to dissolve into character. Steve Hackett is private and aloof, but an incredible guitar player.

And Phil Collins, a good-time guy with (at least early on) a seemingly bottomless stomach for booze who nonetheless lived for music and to play, and was as meticulous with his personal life as he was with band business and artifacts. When Collins' solo career takes off to stratospheric heights, Rutherford is happy for his friend, but knows it spells some trouble for the band as a unit; forming Mike + the Mechanics proves a more than worthy offshoot, though.

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Story continues on the next page.

 

Oddly, the bulk of the book takes readers just up to the band's greatest commercial success in the mid/late '80s, and then doesn't delve into too much. In terms of pages, the ensuing times speed through more rapidly than perhaps necessary.

Thus, you'll read more about albums and the band's circumstances around albums like Selling England By the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway than Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance. This should more than please those who prefer the "Peter Gabriel Years" to the "Phil Collins Years."

The Living Years certainly could have benefited from a heftier page length and more details on the actual making of the music. But -- until Pete or Phil come out with their own books -- it's a boon for Genesis fans, right on the heels of the career-spanning documentary Sum of the Parts.

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