Friday, February 25, 2022

"The Living Years" by Mike + the Mechanics

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3763
Date:  01/07/1989
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The band's second album, Living Years, didn't get off to a great start. While its first single, "Nobody's Perfect," did reach #3 at Rock, it stalled in the bottom half of the Pop chart. That was a disappointment since their debut album featured a pair of Pop Top 10 hits. Looking to gain back their mainstream audience, the band issued out this next single. The sentimental ballad struck a nerve with a lot of folks and that led to the song becoming the band's first and only one to reach #1 on the Pop chart. It would also get to #1 AC and #5 Rock. The hit would later on earn four Grammy nominations including Record and Song of the Year. With the tune hitting #1, sales of the album increased and it would reach #13 and become their second LP to go gold.

ReduxReview:  If you are going to do a reflective sentimental pop track, this is how you do it. Everything in the tune from the lyrics to the arrangement with the children's choir is perfectly geared to eke a teardrop from even the most hardened soul. The advice given to all songwriters is write what you know and I think B.A. Robertson did that with his lyrics and did it well. This could have easily slipped down the icy saccharine path, but I think Robertson got the message across without weight it down with treacle. The rolling rhythms and sing-a-long chorus only made the song stronger. In the pantheon of father/son songs, this one sits alongside classics like Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" (#1, 1974) and Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" (#9, 1981).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This was obviously a personal song for its writers; band member Mike Rutherford and composer B.A. Robertson. The pair had previously written Mike + the Mechanics' first hit, the #6 "Silent Running," so when Rutherford was ready to work on new material for a second album, he hit up Robertson. The pair would co-write five songs for Living Years including the heartfelt title track. In 1986, both Rutherford and Robertson would experience the loss of their fathers. The bond they shared of losing a parent would be poured into "The Living Years." Robertson had written the first two verses of the song before taking it to Rutherford. He would write the remaining verses later. Robertson based the lyrics on his relationship with his father and had actually started to write it just prior to his father's death. He would write the last verse later, which mentions a newborn child. Robertson's son was born a few months before his father's death. The song was finished just prior to the recording sessions for the album and the lead vocal part was assigned to band member Paul Carrack. He easily related to the song because his father died in an accident when Carrack was just 11. Plenty of other people related to the song as well and they made it a major #1 hit.


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