Mike Rutherford talks about the genesis of Genesis, the generation gap, love, death and causing a kerfuffle in the Borders

The generation gap was a term much bandied about in the late 1960s and not without good reason.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 11:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 11:32 am
Mike Rutherford, formerly of Genesis.

Many parents of teenage children in the 1960s found it difficult to relate to their long-haired offspring and vice versa.

A huge part of that stemmed from the impact of the Second World War years and the privations and horror that had come with them.

Many of those parents came from a generation for whom public service, duty and personal responsibility were paramount.

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Mike Rutherford, centre, reunited with fellow former Genesis members Tony Banks, left, and Peter Gabriel in 2014 for a BBC documentary.

That is an aspect of society that has long fascinated Mike Rutherford, founding member of stadium rock giants Genesis and also well known for his later band Mike and the Mechanics.

And it is something he will talk about when he appears at next month’s Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in Melrose.

The veteran musician will be appearing alongside comedian and festival patron Rory Bremner.

Rutherford, 65, published his memoir The Living Years back in 2014. His father, William Francis Henry Crawford Rutherford was a retired naval captain who had fought through the Second World War and the Korean War .

Mike Rutherford, centre, reunited with fellow former Genesis members Tony Banks, left, and Peter Gabriel in 2014 for a BBC documentary.

Rutherford has previously said that as a teenager in the late 1960s, with hair down to his elbows and being a member of a rock band, the last thing he wanted to be like was his father.

Thrown out of the posh Charterhouse public school in Surrey, Rutherford hated rules and regulations – something his late father had lived by as a naval officer.

But it had been his parents who took the young Rutherford to his first gig – Cliff Richard at the Manchester Apollo – and his mother took him to buy his first guitar when he was only 10.

By his final year at Charterhouse, he had met Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and the other founding members of Genesis, Anthony Phillips and Chris Stewart.

Rutherford was surprised when his father decided to support his musical career, despite all the money previously spent on an expensive education.

Rutherford’s father even put up some more money so the band could buy equipment and persuaded Gabriel and Banks’s fathers to do the same.

Rutherford Snr went to Genesis concerts too, albeit with his naval gunnery earplugs firmly in place first.

But father and son inhabited two very different worlds, and communication, as Rutherford travelled the world with the increasingly successful progressive rock band, became strained.

“I am sure my dad always hoped I’d grow out of the obsession with music and being in a band, but he never opposed me over it and was always very supportive,” said Rutherford.

“I think it was mainly due to the fact that his generation, which had survived the war, were worn out and shocked by it, so I don’t think he was that bothered about whether I had long hair or not.

“He probably thought there were much more important things to worry about.

“I just wish we’d been able to talk more when we still had time on our side.”

It was while on tour in the US in 1986 that Rutherford’s phone rang with the news his dad was dead.

“Fathers and sons of my generation just didn’t say things like ‘I love you’ to each other,” Rutherford said.

The title of Rutherford’s book, The Living Years, comes from the name of his biggest hit with Mike and the Mechanics, a No 2 in 1989.

“BA Robertson and I wrote the song together shortly after the deaths of both our fathers. It was a highly emotional experience, as you can imagine,” he explained.

And Rutherford still gets letters today from people eager to tell him how that song has touched their lives – even encouraging some to pick up the phone to talk to their own fathers after long silences, and that’s something that pleases him greatly.

It was after rummaging round in an attic and discovering a dusty old trunk that Rutherford came across a copy of his father’s own memoirs.

“My grandfather, who was an army medic in the First World War, had published two volumes of his own memoirs, but dad’s had never been published,” he recalled.

“But it proved the inspiration for me to write my own memoir and include some of dad’s own life stories in it.”

Naturally, Rutherford will also pepper his appearance in Melrose with anecdotes about his time in one of the world’s biggest rock bands, formed in 1967.

Unlike many popular bands that eventually go their separate ways, the members of Genesis remain friends almost a decade after calling it a day.

“We don’t see eachother all the time, but we keep in touch,” he said.

“I think it’s because it was always fun for us – that was the bottom line.”

This will not be Rutherford’s first visit to an event in the Borders directed by Borders Book Festival founder Alistair Moffat as Genesis played at Kelso’s Tait Hall in 1972.

Reminded that fireworks let off on the stage during the gig nearly brought on a heart attack for the then hallkeeper, Rutherford laughed.

“We always had fun and that’s why I keep doing stuff – because it’s still fun,” he said.

Rutherford will be speaking at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival on Friday, June 17, at 8pm.