Defend the Indefensible: Mike and the Mechanics' "The Living Years"

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
I don't think it can be done, but good luck to all those venturing an attempt.

Looking back, when I first heard this song on the radio, because of the overblown chorus, I assumed it was yet another charity benefit single, though couldn't figure out the theme of the charity it was for (and it only became more perplexing as the lyrics unfolded).

Joe (Joe), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:20 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

no, can't oblige you there, it's unsaveable.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:23 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I gotta tell yous that over the last 10 or so years, I know of at least 3 English teachers who have used this in units about poetry/music. Another event to solidify a student feeling intellectually superior to their teachers.


peepee (peepee), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:28 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

....to be honest, though, this song makes me LA (laugh audibly)

peepee (peepee), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:29 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

hurrah for marc almond featuring gene pitney who kept this deadly dirge off the number one spot back in the early days of 1989!

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:29 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Oh God, that song.. At the college where I work there was a student who chose it as his song to do as a cover version (midi arrangement) for a project. Unfortunately he could barely play a note so I had to work out all the chord changes for him and then he passed it off as his own work. He was an ex-Rastafarian, roots reggae kind of guy who for some reason had a sentimental attachment to the song (something to do with his father dying and an identification with the lyrics) so I had to be respectful and all but it was purgatory listening to that song over and over again to duplicate the arrangements.

Oak (small items), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:36 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I have no memory of this song whatsoever.

Pashmina (Pashmina), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:38 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

It's too late
When we die...

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:39 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I remember Dieter Meier of Yello slagging off this track on Radio 1 's Roundtable !

http://www.radiorewind.co.uk/Roundtable_Show_page.htm

Dieter Meier of Yello describing Mike and The Mechanics' The Living Years as "worse than the worst pornography."

DJ Martian (djmartian), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:43 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

About the best that can be said about it is that it's unconventional subject matter for a hit single, especially for its time. I guess there's other songs talking about the relationship (or lack thereof) between father and son, but not too many that were so overplayed.

Sean Carruthers (SeanC), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:43 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

like "father and son" by cat stevens and/or boyzone, you never heard that anywhere.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:45 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Remember the charts at the time were dominated by SAW productions.

DJ Martian (djmartian), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:45 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

just as well.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:48 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

compared to BA Robertson's real masterpiece, "I Have A Dream" by the Scottish World Cup Squad '82 featuring John Gordon Sinclair. Now THERE'S poignancy for you!

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 11:49 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Without Mike and the Mechanics, Tim would have had one less thing to make fun of Gareth for.

brittle-lemon, Monday, 27 June 2005 11:55 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The chorus is truly an embarrassment. Let us not have choirs again, please, unless you can equal the brilliance of "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

But (trying defend it per the thread title), the guitar part in the verse is kind of nice; that quiet chugging. Mike's aesthetic in songcraft is atrocious, but he's a pretty tasteful guitar player.

The verse has a similar vibe to "Follow You" and "Throwing it All Away." Those two songs were some of the more borderline-acceptable parts of Genesis's ineluctable slide into the tar pit of soft rock.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The came on VH1 Classic a couple of weeks ago. I was happily having a cup of coffee, sitting at my computer while the wife was sort've puttering around. "Ooh, I like this song," she exclaimed......forcing me to drench my keyboard and monitor in a hot spray of incredulous java.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:06 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Can't defend it at all. My dad likes it though.

robster (robster), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:08 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

...same keyboard player as Reel Around the Foutain ... does that count?

Jez (Jez), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:11 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Well it counts against the record if that's what you mean. Especially when the keyboard player is also the singer.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:12 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Mush.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:13 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Mush yes, but still I wish I could do anything like that nicely muted guitar part in the verse.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:30 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I just wish Stefan Jaworzyn had done the guitar part in the verse instead.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:34 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Ooh, I have to disagree with the 'quite chugging' guitar part (same as "Throwing It All Away" or "Hold on My Heart")--that for me is one of the most squeamish things about the song. It's like someone rubbing a balloon.

Joe (Joe), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:34 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Every week-end at some point back in the late 80s, le Journal de Montreal would ask a different hockey player a bunch of questions (favorite food and such). When asked about their favorite song, every last one of them said "The Living Years".

Patrick (Patrick), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:38 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

was that pre-helmets?

peepee (peepee), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:46 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

haha, OTM, Joe. I'll take "Nobody's Perfect" meself.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 12:51 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The priest at my church read the lyrics of this song to the congregation when I was in 3rd grade.

miccio (miccio), Monday, 27 June 2005 13:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"Say it LOUD. Say, it, CLEAR."

This is not a defense of it.

miccio (miccio), Monday, 27 June 2005 13:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I was volunteering to sort some donated records at the community radio station on Father's Day and the guy on the air chose to play this song and a few other Father/Son relationship type songs (he also played Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band," gag me!). Someone called him up and said "Fuck You!" and then hung up. I thought "serves you right, playing this shitty music..."

Tripmaker (SDWitzm), Monday, 27 June 2005 13:06 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

my fav. song when i was...wait, it came out in '89? jesus, I would have thought I'd have had better taste as a seven year old. gross. i hate young me!

Zack Richardson (teenagequiet), Monday, 27 June 2005 13:07 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

For your consideration:

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I'm a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got

You say you just don't see it
He says it's perfect sense
You just can't get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts

So Don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up, and don't give in
You may just be O.K.

Chorus

I wasn't there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I called his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 27 June 2005 13:59 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Yep, as mawkishly insipid as I remembered it.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:00 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I think I can make a few defenses of this song:

1) The bitterness of the song makes it a little more sophisticated than "Gee dad, I miss you." I actually find the second stanza kind of effective in this way. "I'm a hostage to all his hopes and fears," -- that's kind of a dark, difficult idea for a top-10 pop song, even if it does make the cliched pairing of "hopes and fears"

2) Why do people rag on this song so much more than Time After Time? The Lauper song is equally soft-rock-y, sentimental, and maudlin, and I don't think you can argue that it's lyrically or musically superior.

3) I really did like this song (and Time After Time) when I was a little kid.

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Unless Mike + the Mechanics had any more US radio hits after this one, it's defensible in that it marked the end their US chart presence altogether.

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:05 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

4) Has there ever been another hit song, by a dude, that is so shamelessly soul-bearing without making an attempt to woo a woman?

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:07 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

4) Has there ever been another hit song, by a dude, that is so shamelessly soul-bearing without making an attempt to woo a woman?

This question deserves its own thread.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=3201
More defenses:

Comments:
The song "In the Living Years" has always eluded me to this day, and now that I have located the artists and the lyrics, I can understand why. I totally relate to this song and it has made me realize the importance of making sure we always tell our loved ones what and how we feel no matter how hard it is to say. Thanks for allowing me to join in to make comments and check out the things you have in here. Donna
- Donnalynn, Blaine, WA
Paul Young who was the 53 year old lead singer with Mike and the Mechanics (and previously Sad Café) died from a suspected heart attack in July 2000. He collapsed at his home in Altrincham, Cheshire, UK.
- Danial, Dubai, Other
Paul Carrack was also in the bands Ace and Squeeze. This is one of my favorite 80's bands and I think they were very underated. I still have a videotape of the '89 Grammy performance of this song.
- Steve, St. Louis, MO
It's pretty inspirational alright - powerful stuff!!
- Helen, Dublin, Ireland
Love this song, inspires me to live life in the now not in the past or future
- Daniel, Perth, AK

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:23 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Also, more songs about mothers and fathers:

http://www.songfacts.com/additionalSearches.lasso?about=More%20songs%20about%20a%20mother%20or%20father

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:24 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

It's no Silent Running!

M@tt He1geson (Matt Helgeson), Monday, 27 June 2005 14:31 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Oh goodness. I couldn't remember this song at all (although I knew I'd heard it before) up until Miccio's post -- AND NOW THE HORROR RETURNS TO MY MEMORY AND OH GOD MAKE IT STOP SEAR THE PAIN AWAY NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ian Riese-Moraine eats nation-states for breakfast! (Eastern Mantra), Monday, 27 June 2005 15:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

This song just NEVER seemed to end. In fact, I don't even know how it ends. I don't think I ever heard the end of it. I'll bet it was a fadeout.

Ian Riese-Moraine eats nation-states for breakfast! (Eastern Mantra), Monday, 27 June 2005 15:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got

and

You just can't get agreement
In this present tense

Words can't describe how much I loathe these lines. I penned better lyrics when I was thirteen! So clumsy, so lazy, so urgh...

Ian Riese-Moraine eats nation-states for breakfast! (Eastern Mantra), Monday, 27 June 2005 15:23 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I'd be very hard-pressed to name a song worse than this one.

The Good Dr. Bill (The Good Dr. Bill), Monday, 27 June 2005 16:44 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

This song and Billy Vera and The Beaters "At This Moment" were 80s songs that got in my head inexplicably and I can still remember the lyrics to on command. So frightening.

Candicissima (candicissima), Monday, 27 June 2005 17:03 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I would shoot this song if I could.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 27 June 2005 17:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Ned, quit mongering hate!

M@tt He1geson (Matt Helgeson), Monday, 27 June 2005 17:05 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Matt, I am a holy mission.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 27 June 2005 17:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Rather, I am on a holy mission. But I could be a holy mission too.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 27 June 2005 17:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I absolutely love... "At This Moment". Dude can SING that song.

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Monday, 27 June 2005 17:11 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Nope, alive and touring, Ned....you big tease.

http://www.carrack-uk.com/Paul-Carrack---intro-Sam-Mo.jpg

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Monday, 27 June 2005 18:59 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"Look! It's my dignity cowering in the corner!"

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Monday, 27 June 2005 18:59 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Tom Sizemore?

Gear! (Ill Cajun Gunsmith) (Gear!), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:00 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"Don't Shed A Tear" is nice.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

There's no way in hell that "Time After Time" is worse than "Living Years", unless your ears are made of cheese.

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:19 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

It's...OH! I got it...It's not as cloyingly sappy as "Cats in the Cradle"

You can at least tap your toe to "Cradle" though now I do wonder what it would've sounded like had Ugly Kid Joe coverd "Living Years" instead.

Pleasant Plains /// (Pleasant Plains ///), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:27 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Oh, and Paul Young is the Mechanic who is no longer in the Living Years.

Pleasant Plains /// (Pleasant Plains ///), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:32 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

There's no way in hell that "Time After Time" is worse than "Living Years", unless your ears are made of cheese.

So awesome-o.

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:34 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Oh, and Paul Young is the Mechanic who is no longer in the Living Years.

Not to be confused with that other Paul Young who took a putrid, runny dump all over "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:35 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

ten bucks says "The living Years" gets remade as a #1 smash by some Groban type in the next five years.

Gear! (Ill Cajun Gunsmith) (Gear!), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:40 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

... the same Paul Young who proposed a whole new system of home-ownership based the laying down of hats.

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:56 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

AARGH. based "on" the laying down of hats.

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 19:57 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Although if the Good Paul Young were in Mike & The Mechanics we'd have the singer with the soul pretensions to give their corporate pop a hint of depth.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 20:00 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

OW. OW. OW. I think I just had an embolism...

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 20:01 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I have heard of this 'depth'

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 27 June 2005 20:02 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Interesting. What is this 'depth' of which you speak?

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 20:09 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The Bad Paul Young was incapable of a "Come Back & Stay" or "Everytime You Go Away".

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 20:32 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

And for that we are all thankful. But all this talk of cross-breeding Paul Youngs, good AND bad, with Mike & The Mechanics is doing nothing for my embolism.

Is it just me or is the badness of "Living Years" encapsulated by the line 'You can listen as well as you hear'...

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 21:51 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

That's actually a clever line.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 22:55 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Because...?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 27 June 2005 22:59 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Cuz listening's different from hearing. Ned, all you need is a miracle.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 27 June 2005 23:25 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Error. Does not compute.

VegemiteGrrl (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 27 June 2005 23:46 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

It's really really hard to make a song that bad.

Defended!

jhoshea (scoopsnoodle), Tuesday, 28 June 2005 00:40 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

eight years pass...

utterly necessary

Euler, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 14:18 (five years ago) Permalink

Townsend and the girl on the right side obv the best looking

Euler, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 14:25 (five years ago) Permalink

I always get it mixed up with Back in the High Life Again which is an awesome song

Dan I., Tuesday, 3 December 2013 22:30 (five years ago) Permalink

Yes! Those Steve Winwood songs have aged remarkably well. Another good one is "Still In The Game" which MTV used to play at least once an hour in its first year of existence.

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 22:43 (five years ago) Permalink

The Living Years was like a breath of fresh air after the dystopian nightmare of Silent Running.

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 22:46 (five years ago) Permalink

five years pass...

this record sells like crazy on discogs. for whatever reason I assume it's to Russians.

pippin drives a lambo through the gates of isengard (Sparkle Motion), Wednesday, 20 March 2019 06:53 (one month ago) Permalink

I hate this song with the white-hot thermonuclear intensity of 1,000 suns, but maybe (?) it's existence is redeemed by the fact that it s l o w l y creeped into the musical terroir enough to where Mike Rutherford's guitar rhythm in the intro, via a crazy butterfly-effect that in all likelihood never happened (but stay with me), eventually bubbled up at random occurrences (dentist offices, Ralph's aisles, oil-change outlets) just often enough to inspire the intro to a damn good song ("So Special") from one of my favorites of '16 (The Loudspeaker EP) by MUNA.
https://open.spotify.com/album/05QlkSlB3MxfqtjiurXxe0

Or, MUNA may simply be fans of Genesis/Rutherford (I hear an echo of "Throwing it All Away" from "Invisible Touch" in their "Promise")

Prefecture, Wednesday, 20 March 2019 15:09 (one month ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

It's too LATE when we DIEEEE

Buttigieg comes right from the source (Neanderthal), Saturday, 6 April 2019 21:14 (two weeks ago) Permalink

die listening to this song more like

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 6 April 2019 21:18 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Have to admit we dont see eye to eye here

findom haddie (jim in vancouver), Saturday, 6 April 2019 21:30 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I do not like this song, also it's of the same level of quality as Africa by Toto and lots of people seem to like that for some reason.

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Saturday, 6 April 2019 21:34 (two weeks ago) Permalink

cmon, Africa is fuckin' When The Levee Breaks compared to The Living Years

That said I recently read Rutherford's memoir of the same name and it was pretty good

Paul Ponzi, Saturday, 6 April 2019 22:46 (two weeks ago) Permalink

well, parents put their kids in British public schools with the expectation that those kids can form paragraphs.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 6 April 2019 22:50 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Every generation
Hates this fuckin song

Buttigieg comes right from the source (Neanderthal), Saturday, 6 April 2019 23:23 (two weeks ago) Permalink

There's no song I hate more in the world. My friend Adam knows this and used to call my answering machine and singing it softly every six months or so. It is so awful.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Monday, 8 April 2019 14:23 (one week ago) Permalink

I was about to fulminate on how Paul Carrack has never sung or played on anything decent whatsoever, then I remembered he sang on Squeeze's "Tempted". Apart from that it's been a 50-year reign of terror. Even his early 70s prog band (Warm Dust) were shit. Checking him on Discogs, it seems he has over 50 releases (albums, singles and DVDs) on his own label since 2000 or thereabouts. 50! Who the fuck needs 50 Paul Carrack records?!

Zeuhl Idol (Matt #2), Monday, 8 April 2019 15:06 (one week ago) Permalink

I do not like this song, also it's of the same level of quality as Africa by Toto and lots of people seem to like that for some reason.

― mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Saturday, April 6, 2019 9:34 PM (two days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

otm.

☮ (peace, man), Monday, 8 April 2019 15:21 (one week ago) Permalink

I have childhood fondness for both this and Silent Running, but Over My Shoulder was the bane of my ITV Chart Show-watching existence for what seemed like an eternity when I was a teenager.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 8 April 2019 15:25 (one week ago) Permalink

i kind of like 'how long' tbh xxp

kolarov spring (NickB), Monday, 8 April 2019 15:26 (one week ago) Permalink

so do grocery stores

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 8 April 2019 15:31 (one week ago) Permalink

i actually like over my shoulder

findom haddie (jim in vancouver), Monday, 8 April 2019 16:46 (one week ago) Permalink

weird to google and see that over my shoulder didn't even get into the top 10 in the uk because it felt like it was on the radio all the time for a couple years

findom haddie (jim in vancouver), Monday, 8 April 2019 16:47 (one week ago) Permalink

M&tM are opening for Phil Collins in June? Oh, the unfulfilled expectations of deluded Genesis fans

doug watson, Monday, 8 April 2019 18:06 (one week ago) Permalink

silent running is miami vice rock, so much better than this

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 8 April 2019 20:24 (one week ago) Permalink

Predicted Brexit.

dinnerboat, Monday, 8 April 2019 20:34 (one week ago) Permalink


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.