As a lifelong Genesis fan (I first saw them in 1970, just after I bought Trespass) I did enjoy reading this book. It was good to read the background behind many of the Genesis stories and get some more depth and detail of the members of the band. However, much as I enjoyed it I felt once I have finished it that an opportunity had been missed. Too many areas and times were passed over in a few sentences and every time a particular album was discussed there was just enough material to get you interested but never enough so I felt satisfied. A typical example is his comments on the album 'Genesis'; he quite rightly describes the first half of that album as being some of the best stuff they ever produced but fails to mention that the second half is some of the worst 'pop' rubbish they ever made. There are numerous examples of this throughout the book and my ultimate feeling about the book is one of dissatisfaction.
on 20 February 2014
Illuminating biography which highlights some personal details that were previously unknown to me. As a serious Genesis fan this was a wonderful read.
on 26 January 2014
For dyed-in-the-wool Genesis fans this book is a must-read: the first memoir by one of only two of the band's members who've been there since the very beginning. However, for the casual Genesis or Mike + The Mechanics fan, there really isn't much which hasn't been dealt with in more depth in other biographies. As a genre, the autobiography tends to succeed depending on how controversial it is. While there is the occasional surprising revelation in The Living Years, there are very few indiscretions.
The most entertaining aspect is of course the first-person immediacy; reading about events in Genesis's history from someone who was there, whereas until now Genesis fans have had to make do with third-person biographies (the most thorough being 2007's Chapter and Verse). But Rutherford's life is not only about the music. His father was a captain in the Royal Navy who saw action during World War Two. Interestingly, Rutherford junior draws parallels between his own career and his father's, so at the beginning of the book we get excerpts from Rutherford senior's unpublished memoirs as well.
This is a highly enjoyable literary device which, unfortunately, only lasts for around the first third of the book. Once Rutherford junior has joined Genesis, the emphasis is very much on the band, and the author proceeds chronologically through the Genesis discography until his father passes away in 1986, when Rutherford was in the middle of the Invisible Touch tour. Afterwards, he goes through Mike + The Mechanics very quickly, and 2007's Turn It On Again tour is also not dealt with in any depth.
I can't help feeling that this memoir should have been substantially longer. The literary device of using excerpts from his late father's unpublished memoirs was excellent, and should have been kept up throughout the whole book. In addition, I think Rutherford could have said a great deal more on how he created his music: we do get descriptions, especially of songs like The Living Years and Land of Confusion, but I finished this book wishing he'd spent several thousand more words going into a lot more depth. On the one hand, perhaps he feels there's not that much more to be said, but on the other I think a lot of people are very interested and would have appreciated a greater creative analysis. Certainly a missed opportunity.
Also, on my Kindle version there were around fifteen significant typographical issues: a few repeated words, a number of words which ran together, and - unforgivably for a traditionally published book - two instances of "less" which should have been "fewer". However, these mistakes did not spoil my enjoyment of the book, and I point them out only because, as a traditionally published book, potential readers are being asked to pay top money for it.
In summary: absolutely a must-read for serious Genesis fans, it's like having a private interview with Rutherford; some parts are surprisingly personal and more revealing than information in previous Genesis biographies. It is a joy to read about events in Genesis's history from Rutherford's own perspective. For the casual fan, there is still much to enjoy, and this is a wonderful insight into the evolution of the greatest rock band in the world. The only drawback is the book's brevity - it could have, and really should have, been quite a bit longer than it is.
on 26 June 2015
I found this to be a relaxed read, probably in keeping with his personality. The author reveals doses of dry humour, self deprecation and a degree of emotional honesty. He does show an enormous affection for his parents, particularly his father, whom he admired from a distance. Mike also shows his admiration of Phil Collins who seemingly could do no wrong. He is not shy though, to hand out doses of his blunt acerbic wit in Tony Bank's direction.
I liked the fact that Mike is comfortable sharing his foibles and preferences. He clearly enjoyed a substance or two in his day and made reference to his putting music before his band of brothers. Only to find after the fact, that someone important to him was already walking out the door. Youthful detachment he admits to and also a willingness to change that in later life.
A strength of his is that he respects people and their decisions. He mentions that it needed his wife and children to make him less of a wet fish with his feelings. Where the book falls down a little is that nothing is handled in the book with passion, pride and detail. The narrative is fairly sanitised emotionally and often I felt that there must be more to a story or anecdote and of course it wasn't revealed.
The thing that stuck out for me most in the book is that his musical abilities and his passion were never a foal point. Especially his involvement in the writing process. What did he think of his guitar playing abilities and what does he feel proud of as his contribution to the Genesis legacy? He will tell you that his singing ability is proportionately related to the amount of alcohol he drinks, yet he never reveals the essence of his success.
Since Mike is likeable and seemingly easygoing it is reasonable to expect that confrontations are rare in his life. He never speaks of any in the book. This risk of this of course is that the emotional energy is removed repeatedly. Staying cool is not easily and interestingly transcribed from the page.
So what made him so successful? He plays most of it down and hides what we all want to know. How does this nice, inoffensive bloke with a decent pedigree, rise to top of his industry? He would have us believe that stuff happened, sequentially ..and hey, as you do after a while ....the band finally wrote some good songs and packed some huge stadiums. That's too remote a story for me and left me a little bemused and no more informed.
He doesn't do justice to his time with Mike and the Mechanics. The 'non-band' as he would have it, may have been a loose arrangement and for a fairly short period, but they made a huge impact in the charts. Granted the ensemble produced commercial music with hooks normally found in advertising jingles, but the paying public still recognised its value as important memory making pop art. It took a smart person to do this but needless to say, he leaves us with little detail.
To be fair, there are many anecdotes that keep one interested and as I said, its an easy, pleasant and relaxing read. No dynamic rock star energy pulsating throughout. Its laid back and humorous, as you would expect from him.
on 10 February 2014
Being a huge fan of Genesis I read this book very quickly. Whilst I found the parallels of Mike's life with that of his father an interesting and at times moving chronicle, I would have liked more detail and reflection on his musical career. Whilst the early Genesis career is covered in some detail, there are still gaps in the story. The later career is glossed over fairly quickly. Mike is such a likeable guy with a very balanced view of life that the book is unsurprising. We know Mike, Phil and Tony are still very close and as such we don't expect there to be any bombshells, but I would have liked a little more of Mike's assessment of their musical output than we get here. But, to be fair, I don't think that is what Mike intended with this book. It is essentially a collection of anecdotes in the frame of a cross-generational comparison fueled by the desire to give a voice to his father. The stark comparisons of a disciplined naval career and an exploratory and creative music career gives the book its purpose. As such it is entertaining, highly readable and at times poignant. But for those, like myself, looking for more insight into the Genesis machine, they may have to wait for Phil's oft-promised biography.
on 26 February 2014
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the band history and reading about the circumstances surrounding member changes and recording over the years I struggled with Rutherford's concept of juxtaposing his father's anecdotes and memories with those of his own. As described in the lyrics of the classic 'The Living Years' the relationship with his father was somewhat distant (if respectful) , whereas the relationship with his Genesis cohorts was a lot closer. Perhaps the two stories should have been told in different books.
on 2 February 2014
With Tony Banks (keyboards), Rutherford (bass and guitar) is one of the two musicians to have been in the (progressive) rock band Genesis since its inception in the late 1960s. There have been numerous books written about Genesis and its most high profile members (Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins) but this is the first autobiography to have been published.
The son of a Royal Navy Captain, Rutherford was born in 1950. He went to boarding school from a young age and it was at Charterhouse that he met the other founding members of Genesis. Though critically acclaimed (to a degree) and attracting a loyal fan-base, it wasn’t until after Gabriel and (guitarist) Steve Hackett left, leaving the band reduced to a three-piece (Banks, Rutherford & Collins) in 1978, that Genesis became the globe-straddling, 1980s-dominating behemoth that most people born before 1970 will know (and, often, either love or hate!)
Rutherford uses the father/son device interestingly in the book. After his father died in 1986, Rutherford found his father’s diaries, relating not just to his naval career but also reflection on his life in industry after leaving the navy and on his son’s career as a professional musician.
Rutherford had a parallel career with Mike & The Mechanics. One of their biggest hits was ‘The Living Years’ (1989) which addresses a son's regret over unresolved conflict with his now-deceased father.
Rutherford includes multiple extracts from his father’s diaries throughout the book and repeatedly expresses regret that the relationship with his father wasn’t deeper or warmer than it was.
Received wisdom over the years has been that Banks and Rutherford were typical public school boys – stiff upper lips, reserved, not in touch with their emotions. Rutherford acknowledges this, and confirms it, but doesn’t really give the impression that he wishes it was otherwise.
If you’re not a Genesis fan I cannot think of a single reason you might want to read this book. If you’re after sordid details of the rock star life, you won’t find them here.
If you are a Genesis fan then, sadly, there’s still not much new here. Yes, sure, it’s the first book by a proper ‘insider’ but, really, it just confirms what we already knew.
The only really new information is just not that fascinating. He’s a bit late for a gig so needs a police escort to the venue! The limousine taking his wife to the airport breaks down so she has to hitch a ride! He forgets about a ‘stash’ in his bag and is searched by the police! He has to stay out of the UK for a year for tax purposes and it puts a bit of a strain on him and his family!
What I was hoping to learn was much more information about the departures of (a) Gabriel in 1975 and (b) Hackett in 1977. Rutherford says little, other than that the departing members just said: “OK, I’m off.” I suppose it’s all in keeping with that British Public School Stiff Upper Lip ™.
And I would have liked a lot more information on the writing/recording process. How, exactly, did they come up with the words and lyrics that have stuck with many of us for decades? Other than learning that they argued a lot – when they wrote the good stuff – and that they just jammed and the songs appeared as if by magic – the boring 80s stuff – we find out very little.
But that’s the great conundrum for a fan (like me) who was moved by the music of Genesis as a teenager and who still, nearly 40 years later, still finds much to enjoy in the Gabriel/Hackett-era (1970-1977) recordings. How could a group of young men (who went on to later produce such relatively anodyne music) produce such a powerful body of work? It must have been the chemistry, man.
Thus, if you’ve never heard of Mike Rutherford, you’ve absolutely no reason to read this, and if you have heard of him, you’ll learn little more should you decide to pick it up.
Perhaps Mike’s had a little too much marijuana over the years. He’s just a little too laid back, even now. A poke with a sharp stick might be in order… for all the (ex) member of Genesis – they’re all still alive, and that’s saying something – so they can get off their country gent backsides and gives the fans what they deserve for a lifetime of support. A Gabriel/Genesis reunion tour 2015? Fingers crossed.
on 16 February 2014
A delightful reading with a very good English Tea, in the afternoon.
And even a greater one with a glass of Southern Comfort, on the rocks, at night.
I was always amazed by MIke's 12 string playing. A great bass pedal soloist, with an even greater groove on the bass guitar.
MIke's playing is as key to Genesis sound as George Harrison's to the Beatles.
I have always been amazed by the Englishness of Mike's look, and I really fully understood his contribution to Genesis sound, by seen Sebastien, of "The Musical Box" playing. Genesis was a "live band", and MIke's contribution to the sound of it, can be fully understood by, either having seen him play live (lucky those of you who saw him in 73 at the Roxy's), or nowadays by seeing "The Musical Box".
The book is very well written, it just flows, it takes you back to "The Maltings", to the "Marquee", to the wonderful "London" of the seventies.
My surprise is that, however his upper level education, Mike was a true "hippie", in all the sense of the word.
If you are a Genesis follower, this is a must. If you like music, this is a "must", if you like to read a good book, this is a wonderful written testimony of a great period of creativity and freedom.
A great book!.
G, Hou, TX, US.
on 8 February 2014
If you're a fan of early Genesis, the book adds context to some of your favourite music; little that's wholly new, but presented in a candid way and with sincere respect for other band members and crew. Mike's text is occasionally annotated with his Father's narrative - small sections of his memoirs. The writer's intention is usually to draw parallels between the lives of father and son, and they work reasonably well, but you might also sense in it a craving for paternal approval. Mike's relationship with his father is explored and their mutual love and respect is evident albeit in the traditionally muted style of the British middle classes. It's all distilled in the words of Mike's hit "The Living Years", co-written with B A Robertson.
One highlight is Mike's description of the agony of a year spent away from home - if ever you could sympathise with a tax exile...
on 12 April 2014
For a man with such a long and varied career, his autobiography looked ridiculously short when I first set eyes on it. However, Mike Rutherford writes concisely and, for the most part, without unnecessary padding or gossip. He delivers the facts without embellishment as he guides us through his life and work.
As others have said, it does occasionally feel quite wooden, as Mike himself can often appear in interviews. This, combined with his tendency to leap around in time and space with each subsequent chapter makes for a slightly jilted reading experience. The book also reveals what Rutherford himself considers to be the most interesting and important parts of his career which may not always match up to the readers opinions. As such, some topics have whole chapters dedicated to them while others, including some major events in the Genesis timeline that the reader may be fascinated by, are dismissed in a sentence or less. This however, is the nature of autobiography and we see Mike Rutherford's life through his own eyes.
In terms of what is actually dealt with in the book, fans of Genesis, Mike + the Mechanics, and even his solo work shouldn't be disappointed. Every album is addressed and each member of Genesis and M+tM are referenced and described. This makes for some very interesting revelations about Peter Gabriel about whom Mike Rutherford is very complimentary and Tony Banks of whom Rutherford paints a less flattering picture. We are given a backstage pass to some of the more bizarre incidents of his career (the aforementioned Peter Gabriel leaping from a stage, breaking his leg, and being forced to finish a show anyway being just one) and get an idea of the friendships that have been made (and broken) during several decades of his career.
It's a fascinating read as getting into the mind of a musical legend is always an enjoyable experience and no other member of Genesis has written an autobiography but to be honest, it doesn't quite satisfy. Much more could have been written. Obviously, what Mike Rutherford wants to divulge is his own business but this doesn't feel like a book worth of material.
For those looking for a book that really sinks it's teeth into Genesis and their work written (spoken) by the band themselves, I would recommend Genesis: Chapter & Verse which tells the story of the band in there own words.
I would also recommends Spencer Bright's biography of Peter Gabriel which is slightly dated now but very good.
There is also a decent Phil Collins biography available which claims to be definitive but is very dated now.