Genesis might never have come into existence without Second World War naval captain William Francis Henry Crawford Rutherford CBE DSO.
He supported his son Mike’s music ambitions from the start and watched the group grow from humble beginnings, travelling to gigs in a Hovis bread van, to a million-selling live act who toured the world... just as he himself had done in the line of duty.
The progressive rock group began in 1967 and were at their height by 1986 while Mike was also enjoying success with his new group, Mike + The Mechanics.
There was drink, drugs and there were arguments and excess. But, in the background – and sometimes in the audience – there was also the loyal Captain Rutherford, earplugs at the ready, Melody Maker in hand. A proud father.
“More than anything else I had achieved it was buying a house that impressed dad,” recalls Mike in his new memoir The Living Years. “He hadn’t owned a house until he was 50 and a father of two: I was 27.”
The Genesis star was forced to re-examine his relationship with his father when the captain died suddenly in 1986 when Mike was in America playing to 20,000 people a night during a six-show run in Chicago.
He had to fly back to New York for another concert immediately after the funeral in the UK and says his father’s death did not really hit him until six years later when his mother died.
“My father and I belonged to a time when sons didn’t tell their fathers they loved them. I‘d never told my dad that I loved him and my biggest regret was not telling him what a wonderful man he’d been in my life.”
Guitarist, bass-player and songwriter Mike was only 17 when Genesis was founded at public school Charterhouse.
“I’m sure my father thought give him two years and he’ll grow out of it,” says Mike. “It’s hard to imagine nowadays what it was like because the idea of having a career in music in those days was like ‘you’re doing what?’ There was no career to be had.
“I’m sure my father was wise enough to know that actually he couldn’t talk me out of it, being in the band. So the best thing would be to let it ride and I’m sure he hoped that it would just fizzle out.
“Luckily he lived long enough to see the band do really well which for me was very satisfying, he came to see our concerts and he’d put his ear plugs in as the lights went down for the first song.
“I don’t blame him at all it was still very foreign to him but I think he enjoyed just seeing his son starting a serious career.”
The British rock group went on to international success and has sold more 130 million albums worldwide and played around 1,500 shows over the years.
Following a 10-year hiatus, Genesis regrouped in 2007 and performed a series of sell-out stadium concerts throughout Europe and the US. Mike has also topped the US charts with his other group, Mike + The Mechanics.
His memoir, the first by a Genesis member, reveals the truth about the band’s evolution following the departure of singer Peter Gabriel and his replacement by Phil Collins.
But the captain’s presence can be sensed on every page and the book contains excepts from his father’s unpublished memoirs, which Mike discovered in a trunk years later alongside an encouraging letter from Hollywood film star David Niven, his medals and sword.
His father spent 36 years in the Navy, gained two Mentions-in-Despatches in the Second World War and a Distinguished Service Order earned off the coast of Korea in the early 50s.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the generational change from my father’s era,” says Mike. “He was born in 1906, two world wars, and they came out of WW II I think shell- shocked and, until my generation, young men of 20 wanted to become their fathers. Wear the same trousers, wear the same jackets, do the same things and something happened in the early 60s with The Beatles. This cultural change happened.”
Mike already has a busy year ahead planned with Mike + The Mechanics. The Singles 1985-2014 and the Living Years 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition were both released through Universal on January 20 and the band is also touring the UK appearing at Birmingham Symphony Hall on March 1.
“It’s funny you almost remember the early days with fonder memories because later on in my career with Genesis and The Mechanics you’re playing so many places, arenas all round the world, they all blur into one,” admits Mike.
“But the early shows you know, Greens Playhouse in Glasgow and so many different venues they stick in your mind very clearly and now, I mean to this day, I still find it strange sometimes that I’m playing the old concert halls in England, the old theatres with the fainted velvet seat and the cigarette burns and I think to myself I was here 40 years ago! And I can’t really believe the idea but it’s quite nice in a way.”
Mike says he is also proud of the fact that all the members of Genesis are still friends after all these years. “We don’t see each other all the time like that at all. I haven’t seen Peter for a good year, I saw Phil in August, but I feel that appreciation for each other what we did together and shared is still intact.
“It’s tough when bands break up and they fall out and it becomes acrimonious because those memories are then slightly damaged and I feel that all our memories are still very much intact. And actually the last photograph in the book, in the picture section, is of us all together about 10 years ago with Steve and Pete and Phil. The caption is ‘Still talking.’
So will Mike and Genesis ever be seen again? “I think it’s unlikely, there are no plans. I’ve always said for years my answer is never say never. Nothing planned but we’ll see.”
* The Living Years by Mike Rutherford is published by Constable at £20 hbk, e-book £12.99. Mike and the Mechanics play Symphony Hall on March 1. For tickets visit www.thsh.co.uk