Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: The Living Years - Mike Rutherford

It’s hard to remember a time when Genesis wasn’t a superstar band with a multitude of chart topping hits. It is also hard to remember that the band started with Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins was virtually unknown to the group. Yet, that is the exact origin of the band Genesis, which Mike Rutherford formed with three other classmates in England during the late 60s.

The Living Years is the poignant tale of Mike Rutherford told through his eyes and mirrored by an autobiography that his father wrote but never published. Throughout the memoir, Rutherford splices in sections of his father’s autobiography comparing the happenings of his life at the time of his father’s. Looking at both what his father was doing at Mike’s age, and showing glimpses of his father’s reflections on Mike during certain points of his life. The Living Years is a magnificent remembrance of a rock musician’s journey. It is also the first memoir written by any member of the band.

Genesis’ first album would sell less than 700 copies and was recorded while the band was still in school, figuring their way in life. Even Rutherford wasn’t sure if it would become a full time career. His self doubt and uncertainty resonate through the early part of the memoir, as Rutherford still held on to the possibility of pursuing a career in something other than music. All of those uncertainties would be swept away when Phi Collins entered into Rutherford’s life.

Collins grounded the band in many ways both musically and as the calming force amongst a band rife with internal conflict and turmoil. While the rest of the band would argue endlessly to get their point across and attempt to strong arm the other members, Collins remained calm and stayed out of the quarrels. In that regard, the other members of Genesis seemed to listen to his points with more interest.

For the first part of their career, Genesis was led by Peter Gabriel, but when he departed the band, Genesis found themselves at a crossroads. Losing both their lead singer and most creative voice of the band was a devastating blow, one that would have crippled almost any other band. But Genesis preserved and ultimately thrived after the departure. After many auditions of new singers, it was ultimately decided that Collins should take over lead vocals. He would go on to become the singer/drummer of the band until his departure in 1996.

The Living Years is more than just the tale of a guitarist from an international renowned band; it’s also the story behind the members of that band. From the quirky intricacies of ex-leader Peter Gabriel, to the levelheaded calmness of late arrival Phil Collins, Rutherford is clear, concise, and ultimately honest in his assessment of the members of his band, his relationship with his parents, and the frame of mind that he was in during each stage of his career. The Living Years is a memoir of a boy who grew into a man. As a young man, Rutherford made decisions that he wouldn’t necessarily make as an older gentlemen, and he reflects upon that as The Living Years unfolds. And intertwined throughout it all are the memories of the father. Key excerpts of his father’s memoir are strategically located throughout the book, enhancing the narrative and adding to the overall brilliance of the writing.

Anyone interested in understanding Genesis from an insider’s viewpoint and obtain the true documented history of the band needs to read The Living Years. Beyond that, any fan of rock bands and memoirs would also thoroughly enjoy this wonderful writing. Above all else, The Living Years is the story of a man filled with many self doubts who went on to be the founding member for one of the most influential and critically acclaimed bands in the history of rock and roll. It is an interesting insight into the world of a rock musician and all of the fun, fame, and uncertainties that come with the career. Rutherford’s composition on the history of his life is brutally honest and brilliantly attractive. The Living Years is documented proof of his legacy and a fantastic historical piece for the fans. A better recollection of the entire history of Genesis cannot be found, nor should it. This is a story best told by the band’s one true founding member.

The Living Years is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold.

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