MIKE RUTHERFORD


... A Brief History ...

Part One: 1950-1987

 

Michael John Cleote Crawford Rutherford was born October 2, 1950 in Surrey, England. The son of a naval officer, Rutherford, by the age of seven, was sent to boarding school, where he first developed an interest in the guitar. Mike’s early interest in the guitar was largely driven by his older sister, Nicolette, who frequently listened to the popular music of the day, including Elvis Presley. His parents indulged his new found passion and bought him a 6-string nylon guitar. It wouldn’t be long before Mike purchased his first electric guitar and formed his first childhood band, The Chesters, with two of his schoolmates.

 
  For the next album, 1977's Wind and Wuthering, Genesis once again found themselves seeking a touring drummer. This time, the band hired Chester Thompson, best known for his work with Frank Zappa and The Mothers and the jazz super group Weather Report. After completing the 1977 world tour, Genesis was mixing their second live album, Seconds Out, when Steve Hackett announced his departure from the band. Rather than replace Hackett, bassist Michael Rutherford decided to take on the task of guitars and bass, making Genesis a trio. Unbeknownst to the band at the time, this new line-up would remain intact for more than 15 years. 
 
By September 1964, Mike was attending Charterhouse, a prestigious English public school (what Americans would refer to as private school) founded in 1611 just outside Godalming. The very strict and academically focused nature of Charterhouse was not easy for Rutherford to adapt to. By 1965, Mike found solace with fellow schoolmate Anthony (“Ant”) Phillips who, like Rutherford, also played guitar and shared his interest in the music of bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones.

Phillips formed a new school band, The Anon, with Rutherford and fellow students Richard MacPhail, Rivers Job, and Rob Tyrrell.  Over the next two years, the Anon performed together at school events and functions. In early 1967, The Anon joined forces with fellow Carthusians Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel, who had recently been performing together as The Garden Wall. They recorded some demos together with Peter Gabriel on drums and vocals, Tony Banks on piano, Anthony Phillips on guitar and Mike Rutherford on bass.
 
  The three remaining members, Collins, Banks, and Rutherford, returned to the studio to record their eleventh (and aptly named) album, 1978's ...And Then There Were Three... Although beyond their comprehension at the time, this album served as the catalyst for Genesis' explosion into the mainstream. The album effectively bridged the transition from progressive rock to radio-orientated pop, earning the band's first RIAA-certified gold record for 500,000 plus copies sold in the States and yielded their first big U.S. hit, "Follow You Follow Me," which reached #23 on the singles chart. 

Years later, ...And Then There Were Three... would go on to earn platinum certification for more than one million copies sold and peak at #14 on the albums chart in the United States. With the departure of Steve Hackett, another guitarist was needed for touring purposes. For this reason, the band chose Daryl Stuermer who was best known for his work with jazz greats like George Duke and Jean-Luc Ponty. 
As Genesis began to evolve musically, some fans felt that the group's departure from the progressive sound of the early to mid 1970s was a form of selling out, commercially speaking.
 
This new band managed to pawn off a cassette copy of their amateur demos to Jonathan King, a former Charterhouse alumni, who had recent success on the pop charts with the 1965 UK hit “Everybody’s Gone to the Moon.” King listened to the tape while driving home that day and liked what he heard on the demo tape, especially the voice of the singer, Peter Gabriel. King later signed the young, yet unnamed band, to a publishing contract in 1967. The band enlisted the help of drummer Chris Stewart to allow Peter Gabriel to focus on being lead vocalist, and with that, the band line up was complete.

The band recorded additional demos that failed to gain the interest of King, so the band went back to record a song in the vein of one of King’s then favorite bands, The Bee Gees, known as “The Silent Sun.” The song would reinstate King’s interest in the group, and would later be released as the band’s first single in 1968. The band still needed a name and despite many recommendations, including Peter Gabriel’s suggestion of Gabriel’s Angels, they ended up settling on King’s moniker for the group, Genesis.
 
  Despite this, the band continued to follow their artistic vision and eventually gained public acclaim (although, critical acclaim typically alluded the band throughout most of their career). Following the 1978 world tour, the band took time off to work on a variety of outside projects and to deal with personal matters.

Mike Rutherford used his time away from Genesis to write and record his first solo album, Smallcreeps Day
which was based upon a fictional book by Peter Currel Brown. Rutherford enlisted Genesis Producer/Engineer David Hentschel and a cast of musicians that included Anthony Phillips on keyboards, Noel McCalla (from Manfred Mann's Earth Band) on vocals, the very respectable rhythm section of Simon Phillips on drums and Morris Pert on percussion, along with Rutherford taking on guitar and bass chores as he had with the prior Genesis album, …And Then There Were Three… The album was released in February 1980 on Charisma Records and peaked at #13 on the U.K. chart. The Smallcreep's Day album was picked up by Passport Records in the United States and peaked at #163 on the U.S. Charts. Despite some critical success, the album's two singles “Working in Line” and “Time and Time Again,” failed to gain any commercial success.
In 1968, the band released two singles “The Silent Sun” and “A Winter’s Tale” followed by the release of their debut album, From Genesis to Revelation, in March 1969. From Genesis to Revelation featured the original line-up sans drummer Chris Stewart who had been replaced with percussionist John Silver. Commercially, all three efforts proved to be fruitless. Jonathan King, who tended to be more singles orientated, became increasingly frustrated with Genesis’ tendency to prefer longer compositions, and the group and their producer eventually parted ways.

Genesis spent the next year writing new material and hitting the road, refining their live performances at smaller gigs at universities and technical colleges. During this period, the band felt the need to move away from a softer acoustic sound and focus more on a louder electric sound. This dramatic change was driven by the issues at the time with amplification of softer music in a live concert setting. The result caught the attention of Tony Stratton-Smith, who signed Genesis to his Charisma Records label in April 1970.

The band returned to the studio to record their next album. Unfortunately, with the completion of the second album, more personnel changes were needed by the summer of 1970. Co-founding member and guitarist Anthony Phillips quit the band due to an increasing bout with stage fright, which had developed significantly over the past year. Genesis used Phillips’ departure as an opportunity to seek out a new drummer and gave new Trespass drummer John Mayhew his walking papers. Given their very close relationship, Mike took Ant’s departure from Genesis very hard, but the band carried on and began their search for a new drummer and guitarist.
 
 

Genesis regrouped to release Duke in April 1980. The trio found that they had produced their most successful album to date. Duke featured two popular hit singles: "Misunderstanding" and "Turn It On Again." It was during this period that Genesis swept Melody Maker Magazine's poll in Europe, ranking #1 in a total of six categories. The Duke album and the success of the two singles fueled a very successful world tour.

Genesis' first U.S. top ten and RIAA-certified platinum selling album, Abacab, was released in September 1981 and peaked at #9 on the U.S. albums chart. By this point, each album seemed to follow the pattern of more commercial success than its predecessors. 

In October 1970, the band released their second album, Trespass. The band had managed to quickly fill the constantly revolving drummer’s seat with child actor and percussionist, Phil Collins. Collins had come to Genesis from the group Flaming Youth, and quickly impressed Gabriel, Banks, and Rutherford with his abilities as a drummer. Genesis struggled to identify a guitarist strong enough to replace Anthony Phillips. The band auditioned many musicians for the spot including former Flaming Youth guitarist Ronnie Caryl and Mick Barnard, the latter of which held the guitarist chair for a couple of months while a permanent replacement could be found. By the end of 1970, Genesis had replaced Barnard with Steve Hackett, a young guitarist who had just recorded an album with the group Quiet World.

This newly revamped line-up would remain intact for five years. During this period, Genesis released four studio albums (Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway), one live album, and toured almost non-stop. It was also during this period that the band began experimenting in art rock. The group gained a major cult following in Europe and parts of North America with their powerful progressive music and elaborate stage shows.

Lead singer Peter Gabriel's stage presence and flair of ornate costumes, along with the band's dedication to musical perfection in the live setting, quickly gained Genesis some much needed attention and acclaim, but the band continued to fail, commercially speaking. Despite this, the band's momentum continued to rise.
 
  Abacab featured three U.S. hit singles, "No Reply At All", "Man On The Corner" and "Abacab." Following Abacab, which had by this point sold more than two million copies in the U.S. (earning double-platinum status), the band released their third live album, 1982's Three Sides Live, which peaked at #10 on the U.S. albums chart.

In North America, Three Sides Live was a double LP set with three sides of material recorded live in concert and one side of non-LP studio recordings, including the U.S. hit "Paperlate." The version currently available is identical to the European issue, which is completely live (The majority of the non-LP studio recording from the original U.S. version of Three Sides Live would later resurface in 2000 on the second Archive box set and again in 2007 on the 1976-1982 box set). Three Sides Live went on to sell more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. earning yet another RIAA gold album certification for Genesis.
  
During this period, Mike Rutherford signed a solo recording contract with WEA in Europe and a subsidiary Atlantic Records in North America. In 1982, Rutherford found time to release his second solo album, Acting Very Strange, which included pieces of songs he had written previously but never released. The project included Noel McCalla helping out again on vocals, Genesis touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer assisting on guitars, Police drummer Stuart Copeland, Peter Robinson on keyboards, and a number of other respected musicians. Rutherford decided to take on vocals himself for the project, which Mike later admitted may not have been the best choice.

Unlike Smallcreeps Day which was a very progressive rock sounding album, Rutherford’s Acting Very Strange was more of a straight forward pop/rock album and met with very mixed reviews. The singles “Halfway There”, “Maxine”, and the title track, much like the album, failed to make a commercial impact.

In November 1974, Genesis released what would be their final album with this line-up, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. The conceptual double album remains one of the group's most critically heralded projects to date. The Lamb eventually earned gold certification in the U.S. for sales in excess of 500,000 copies and peaked at #41 on the U.S. albums chart. In May 1975, by the end of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour, the band received their most devastating loss yet. Vocalist Peter Gabriel had decided the leave the band for personal reasons. 

Despite rumors to the contrary, Genesis chose to carry on. The band returned without a lead singer to the studio to begin work on a new album. After auditioning a number of potential singers, Genesis bandmate Phil Collins decided to take the job while maintaining his role as drummer. Collins had sung lead on a few tracks previously and supported Gabriel on backing vocals since joining the group, so he seemed like an obvious choice to some. Others thought Collins would lack the ability to successfully carry off signature Gabriel sung tunes like "The Musical Box" which were staples of Genesis live shows at the time.  
 

 


That year also saw the brief return of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett for a one-off reunion concert in England. The now legendary concert was not officially recorded, but the now infamous and widely circulated audience recorded bootleg of the show is probably one of the most sought after unsanctioned recordings ever made from a Genesis concert.

1983's self-titled Genesis album, which went quadruple platinum in the U.S., gave the band their first top ten American single, "That's All." The album also spawned several other hit singles, reaffirming Genesis' superstar status. At the end of the 1984 world tour, the band went on hiatus, and all members pursued solo projects.

In 1985, Rutherford sought guest musicians for a yet unnamed solo project. He tentatively called the new project Not Now Bernard. The recording sessions featured compositions written by himself and songwriters Christopher Neil and B.A. Robertson.
At this point, Genesis was still not without conflict. As democratic as Genesis was in selecting each other's songs for album inclusion, Steve Hackett started to feel that some of his compositions were being unfairly overlooked. Hackett had used the gap of time the band needed to locate a new lead singer to record his first solo album, Voyage of The Acolyte. But the artistic freedom of one solo album did not permanently relieve his dissatisfaction with Genesis. In fact, the creative control Hackett experienced during the making of that solo album only intensified his desire as a songwriter and musician.

Genesis' next album, 1976's A Trick of The Tail, restored their underground following's faith in the group, but started to take the band in another direction musically. While the art rock style of Gabriel-era Genesis disappeared, Collins proved to be a suitable replacement as lead singer and a consummate showman. On the 1976 Genesis tour, the need for Collins to get in-front of the audience as lead vocalist, forced the band to add a second drummer. Genesis enlisted progressive-rock drummer Bill Bruford, best known at the time for his work with bands like Yes and King Crimson. 
While Bruford provided adequate support while Collins took center stage, he was not satisfied simply supporting the band on the road and left at the conclusion of the tour.
  Eventually re-named Mike & The Mechanics at the suggestion of his manager, Tony Smith, the band featured vocalist Paul Carrack on several tracks including “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” which was a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic reaching #6 on the Billboard singles chart in the U.S. As a result of the success of the self-titled album, Mike Rutherford asked vocalists Paul Carrack and ex-Sad Café front man Paul Young to tour in support of the project along with keyboardist Adrian Lee and drummer Peter Van Hooke.

By 1986, Mike and the Mechanics had toured the United States with The Miracle Tour, and had two additional hit singles, including "All I Need Is A Miracle" which peaked at #5 on the Billboard album chart. The Mechanics debut album had sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S.
earning a Gold status from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and peaking at #26 on the Billboard album chart. Through the Mechanics, Rutherford found solo commercial success that came to rival his other band, Genesis. At the end of the Mechanics tour, Mike Rutherford returned to the studio with Phil Collins and Tony Banks to begin work on the sixteenth Genesis album.

Later that year, Billboard Magazine honored Genesis and its members for having the most singles by one group (and as solo artists originating from one group) on the publication's Hot 100 Chart (Steve Hackett with GTR, Peter Gabriel, Michael Rutherford with Mike & The Mechanics, Phil Collins, and Genesis all had singles near the top of the chart). In addition, the Invisible Touch album went to number three on the Billboard album chart, and went on to sell more than six million copies in the United States alone. This unprecedented achievement made U.S. pop history, with Genesis becoming the first group (and foreign act)  to earn five top five singles from an album.

The 1986/87 world tour in support of the Invisible Touch album was massive. The ten month tour took the band to 111 shows, 59 cities, 16 countries, and a total of more than three million fans. After completing the tour, the band went their separate ways to recuperate and, once again, work on outside projects.  Genesis was paid further tribute that year when Rolling Stone magazine named the group "Band of The Year" in their annual reader's poll.    

Click here to read part two of the Mike Rutherford biography: 1988-2014

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