Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"Silent Running" by Mike + the Mechanics

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2539
Date:  11/23/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  6
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Phil Collins wasn't the only member of Genesis to do their own works/projects outside of the band. Mike Rutherford also ventured out during the 80s. He recorded two solo albums, 1980's Smallcreep's Day and 1982's Acting Very Strange, but nothing much came from them save the #39 Rock track "Maxine" from the second LP. Rutherford wasn't very pleased with either of the albums and in the end he didn't much care for working on his own. He preferred to work in a collaborative environment and so for his third project he began writing and recording songs with other musicians, specifically with producer Christopher Neil. As the project took shape, a band slowly started to form that eventually became Mike + the Mechanics. This time around, Rutherford decided not to do the lead vocal work and brought in two vocalists for the project/band, Paul Carrack and Paul Young. Carrack had already had some success with the band Ace ("How Long," #3, 1974) and on his own ("I Need You," #37, 1982). Young, not to be confused with the UK hit making singer, had done well with his band Sad CafĂ© ("La-Di-Da," #78, 1981). They both became permanent members and were featured on the band's self-titled debut album. This first single, sung by Carrack, was issued out. It took a little time for the tune to catch on, but it eventually it would reach #1 at Rock, #6 Pop, and #7 AC. The album would make it to #26 and eventually go gold.

ReduxReview:  It's dark, it's mysterious, it's atmospheric, it's sci-fi themed, and the title is not in the lyrics. These things don't necessarily describe a hit song and yet for this particular one, it all worked. Admittedly, it took me a little bit to warm up to this tune, but once I did it was hard to get out of my head. It sets a moody tone right off the top and never lets up. It was different than other fare on pop radio and it stood out. The album was quite good too. I thought the whole thing was a bit of a take-off (not necessarily rip-off) on The Alan Parsons Project with the sci-fi themes, concise pop tunes, big ballads, varied vocalists, and the production. Yet it was done well enough to stand on its own without confusing the two artists. It was here that Rutherford proved that Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel weren't the only ones from Genesis who could have Top 10 hits outside of the band.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although this track was simply titled "Silent Running" on the album, it would later get a title update when issued as a single. It became "Silent Running (On Dangerous Grounds)" after the song was selected to be in the 1986 film On Dangerous Grounds. In the US where the film was made the title was Choke Canyon, but it was changed to On Dangerous Grounds for release in other countries such as the UK where the band hails from. The movie, which starred Stephen Collins, was not a critical or box office success.  2) Although "running" is heard in the chorus, the full title of the song is not included in the lyrics, which has a sci-fi/time travel elements to them. According to a story on American Top 40, when Rutherford was pondering a title for the song, he happened to remember the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running that starred Bruce Dern. Although Rutherford's song has nothing to do with the film, the sci-fi connection led him using the title. Yet in another interview with Songfacts, Rutherford said that at the time the song was being written, he had not seen the film. Perhaps both could be true, but then again, it could have been coincidence. (On a side note, two songs were written for the 1972 film including one titled "Silent Running," which was performed by Joan Baez.)


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