A new year, and a new installment of our series on Collecting the Mechanics. This month, Alan Hewitt takes us through the Mechanics’ touring history with a selection of standout audio and video recordings. Where possible, we have tried to add links to clips from the videos that are mentioned.
Words and photos by Alan Hewitt of The Waiting Room.
Continuing the look at the various aspects of collecting which are associated with the band, we now look at the various live and studio performances which the band have made over the years. As you may imagine, this is perhaps one of the most fertile areas of endeavour for a collector and what follows is by no means an exhaustive listing of the material that is available in this field, but more of a taster to whet your appetites, if you will. So, here, tour by tour and album by album is a look at some of this fascinating material…
1985-86 : MIKE & THE MECHANICS / MIRACLE TOUR
As we all know, the band came to life in the autumn of 1985 with the release of the debut album by the band. With the success of the two singles from the album (see previous feature), demand to see the band was high and, at least in the USA in the summer of 1986, that demand was to be satisfied by a series of shows which were performed under the moniker “The Miracle Tour”. Thankfully for collectors, several of these debut gigs have been preserved for posterity, of which the one from St Louis, MO on 11th June is probably the best.
Here we finally get to hear the Mechanics in their natural environment: the stage, and they do not disappoint. With only one album to draw from, we also not only get to hear most of that but also a couple of bona fide rarities such as ‘Half Way There’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ and ‘Maxine’ from Mike’s second solo album, Acting Very Strange, both of which benefit enormously from Paul Young’s rock ‘n’ roll pipes. We also get the Squeeze classic ‘Tempted’ and the Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ rounding off a thoroughly enjoyable performance. All delivered with minimal fuss, which is all part of the Mechanics’ creed to this day – the music does the talking, which is just as it should be.
Track Listing: Hanging By A Thread/Half Way There/ Silent Running/Taken In/I Don’t Wanna Know/Maxine/Par Avion/A Call To Arms/Tempted/I Get The Feeling/Take The Reins/All I Need Is A Miracle/Gimme Some Lovin’. Source: Audience Recording.
Audiophiles among you may not be particularly fond of this recording and for you, the King Biscuit Flower Hour recording from the band’s gig at the Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, MA on 2nd June may be more to your taste. Sadly, this is an edited recording as is the norm with such broadcasts and it is missing several of the rarer tracks mentioned in the above recording and padded out by several tracks from the band’s show at the same venue in 1989.
Track Listing: Hanging By A Thread/Silent Running/Maxine/Taken In/A Call To Arms/Tempted/I Get The Feeling/All I Need Is A Miracle/Nobody’s Perfect */I Believe */The Living Years*. Source: Radio Broadcast.
To pad this out there is also another highly enjoyable recording from the band’s gig at Grand Prairie on 27th June, which is fundamentally the same show as its St Louis counterpart. There are also a handful of other recordings from this tour in circulation.
Sadly no live visual recordings from the 1986 tour appear to have been made either officially or privately, but fortunately at least in the UK and Europe the band did put in the groundwork in terms of promotion for the album, and a handful of items made their way on to the first in a series of DVD releases by the sadly defunct Epping Forest project. The items from the relevant period are as follows:
Silent Running – Solid Gold Classics US TV 1985
Silent Running – Top Of The Pops BBC TV 1985
Interview with Mike – Sky Channel 1986
Hanging By A Thread – ITV (UK) 1986
Silent Running – Promotional Video 1985
All I Need Is A Miracle – Promotional Video 1985
1988 – 90: LIVING YEARS
The band’s profile was to be raised enormously by the international success of the title track to their second album, Living Years, released in the autumn of 1988. Fortunately, at last we have both audio and visual records of the shows the band put in as well as even more televisual material to accompany it.
At last fans in the UK and Europe got to see what American audiences had seen in 1986 as in the spring of 1989 the band undertook their first extensive tour of the UK and mainland Europe. I was fortunate to be at two of the UK gigs and also – “ahem” – made decent recordings of both of them – purely for the archive of course, folks! Of these, the gig in Manchester on 5th March was probably the most enjoyable (enjoyed even more by the fact that it was the first time TWR interviewed Mike). Anyway, now with two albums of their own to draw on, the band opted to omit the pre-Mechanics material which had been present during the ‘86 gigs, which is a pity as fans would have loved the opportunity to hear them. What we have here is a band in fine form, brimming with confidence and, being Mr Young’s home town gig, there was plenty of rabble rousing throughout. Set wise, we got most of both of the Mechanics’ two albums with standout tracks being ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, ‘Hanging By A Thread’, ‘A Call To Arms’, ‘The Living Years’ (naturally) and the rabble rousing finale, ‘Poor Boy Down’.
Track Listing: Nobody’s Perfect/Seeing Is Believing/Silent Running/Nobody Knows/Hanging By A Thread/Why Me?/Taken In/Beautiful Day/Black & Blue/Par Avion/A Call To Arms/The Living Years/I Get The Feeling/Take The Reins/All I Need Is A Miracle/Poor Boy Down. Source: Audience Recording.
A bare two weeks later TWR was also present at the show in Newcastle, most memorable for one member of the audience not far from me shouting out on several occasions for ‘Working In Line’. Sadly the band did not oblige, but they did turn in another excellent evening’s entertainment as this recording documents. Set list wise, this was the same show as Manchester.
The day after this gig, the band played the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in London and their performance was captured in edited form for another BBC radio broadcast which featured the following tracks: Nobody’s Perfect/Seeing Is Believing/Silent Running/ Don’t/Why Me?/Par Avion/Taken In/A Call To Arms/The Living Years/Poor Boy Down.
With the band finally getting to gig in Europe, we are also lucky to have the first visual documents of their shows from a pair of gigs, the first of which took place at the Philipshalle Dusseldorf on 27th February. Filmed on super 8mm footage and on a tripod, this is an extremely enjoyable document of an entire gig on this tour and one which any Mechanics fan should have in their collection. The second recording, while inferior to this, does manage to capture the excitement and atmosphere of the gigs and was filmed at the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz on 10th March. Interestingly enough, the performance by opening act, UK Prog rockers IQ, was also filmed at this gig.
The band also returned to the USA for two separate tours, one in April and the other in August, and like the European tour, there are several recordings in circulation documenting both legs of the tour from which I have selected two. The first of these is from the band’s gig at Universal City, CA on April 28th 1989. Another excellent quality audience recording here captures the band performing the same set as they had done throughout the UK/Europe.
By the time the band returned to the USA in August, they had recorded the cover version of The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ track mentioned in our previous feature and this track was to feature in the band set from their show at Concord on 29th August. A shorter set list here had the band performing the following songs; Nobody’s Perfect/Seeing Is Believing/Don’t/Beautiful Day/Nobody Knows/Silent Running/Taken In/The Living Years/I Get The Feeling/Poor Boy Down/All I Need Is A Miracle/Revolution. Source: Audience Recording.
In addition to these and the other recordings which are currently in circulation from these tours, there is also an increasing body of TV appearances. Many of the main ones were once again captured on the Epping Forest series mentioned earlier and these are as follows:
TV AM (UK) interview – 8th November 1988
TV AM (UK) interview – 1989
Motor mouth (UK) interview – 1989
Various interview clips (UK) – 1989
Night Network ITV (UK) – 1989
Living Years – Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 26th August 1989
Living Years Grammy Awards Ceremony – 22nd February 1990
In Profile ITV (UK) – 7th April 1990
TV AM (UK) interview – 1990
A Closer Look (Official Video) – 1990
WORD OF MOUTH 1991
That difficult third Mechanics album, Word Of Mouth. appeared in the spring of 1991, although sadly Mike did not have time to put together any gigs before returning to the Genesis fold for the recording of their 1991 We Can’t Dance album. Thankfully, however, there are a handful of TV and other performances from this period for collectors to get their mitts on which have been rounded up on the second volume of the Epping Forest series and comprise the following material:
Word Of Mouth – album electronic press kit 1991
TV AM (UK) interview – 1991
TV AM (UK) interview – 1991
This Morning (UK) interview – 1991
Word Of Mouth – TVE1 (Spain) – 1991
1995-96: A BEGGAR ON A BEACH OF GOLD/HITS
The waiting for Mechanics fans was finally over on 13th February 1995 when the band released their fourth and most successful album, A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold. An enormously successful album both at home and overseas, this success was celebrated by extensive touring both in the UK and Europe and even with a handful of gigs in the recently Apartheid-free South Africa. Such was the success of the album that a Hits compilation album was released in 1996 and this was accompanied by another round of touring in the UK and Europe.
Once again, recordings from this period are plentiful with a typical example being the two night stint the band performed at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton on 21st and 22nd June 1995. I was present at both gigs and can state that both nights saw the Mechanics in great form, buoyed no doubt by the success of the album and the various singles which had been released from it. With no shortage of material to draw from, these shows and the subsequent ones drew from each and every Mechanics album with passing nods to the “other” bands the main protagonists had been in, as well with a wonderful medley of some of their better known numbers.
Track Listing (21st): A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Silent Running/Plain & Simple/Over My Shoulder/Another Cup Of Coffee/Someone Always Hates Someone/You Really Got A Hold On Me/Web of Lies/Every Day Hurts- How Long- I Can’t Dance Medley/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)/Word Of Mouth. Source: Audience Recording.
Other recordings available include: Wolverhampton 22.3.85, Derby, Nottingham and London.
I mentioned earlier the band’s trip to South Africa, thankfully the band’s gig from Sandton Towers in Joahnnesburg on 5th June 1995 was captured in its entirety by local TV. Here we have the band once again in fine form and this is another essential item for collectors.
An abbreviated performance from VH1’s Live At The House Of Blues series was also filmed and is available as part of the ongoing “Anthology” series of DVDs mentioned in this feature.
No other live footage from the 1995 tours is in circulation, but once again, those wonderful people at Epping Forest did a grand job of putting a further selection of TV appearances and interviews from this period together including the following:
Victory Club London album launch clip 1995.
Over My Shoulder – Top Of The Pops 1995.
Over My Shoulder – Des O’Connor Show (UK) 1995.
Over My Shoulder – Kenny Live RTE (Irish TV) 1995.
Over My Shoulder – ARD TV (German TV) 1995.
TV AM (UK) interview – 1995.
VH1 on stage 1995.
A Beggar On A Beach of Gold (Promotional Video)
A Beggar… VH1 On Stage 1995.
South Africa Rugby World Cup ITV (UK) live clip 1995.
A Beggar… Brian Conley Show ITV (UK) 1995.
Another Cup Of Coffee – Samstag Nacht (German TV) 23rd September 1996.
Another Cup Of Coffee – Goldene Lowe (German TV) 29th October 1996.
Interview clips 1995-96.
VH1 album feature 1996.
Hits (Official Video) 1996.
The band took to the road again in the spring of 1996 for a UK only tour of most of the major theatres including a first visit to my home town of Liverpool on 15th April 1996. Thankfully this show was recorded (can’t think who by…) and is another thoroughly enjoyable document of a show which was not exactly the same as it had been in 1995, several Beggar…tracks being omitted and a couple of Mechanics classics given a different treatment. Several other recordings from this tour also document what was another enjoyable outing by the band. The set list for the 1996 gigs comprised the following tracks: Silent Running/Seeing Is Believing/Get Up/A Beggar On A Beach of Gold/Someone Always Hates Someone/Another Cup Of Coffee/Plain & Simple/Eyes of Blue/Nobody’s Perfect/Every Day Hurts/How Long?/I Can’t Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle.
1999: M6 and THE END OF AN ERA
Another three years were to elapse before the band got back together again. Trying to emulate the enormous success of Beggar… proved a difficult task and the new album, punningly titled M6 (a reference to the UK’s motorway network and not as many assumed to it being their sixth album although, if you count the Hits compilation, I guess it IS their sixth album I will leave you to argue that one out amongst yourselves folks). Once again, demand to see the band was high and they staged an extensive tour of the UK in the spring of 1999, opening with a warm up gig at the Hanover Grand Club in London on 10th May at which an invited audience including yours truly and a gaggle of lucky TWR readers go to see the band premiere their new album. The show was also sound recorded for Capitol Radio although as usual, several songs were edited of the subsequent broadcast.
Subsequent recordings from several of the UK gigs are in circulation including an excellent one from the band’s gig in Manchester on 11th June 1999, at which the band performed the following tracks: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Ordinary Girl/Now That You’ve Gone/Another Cup Of Coffee/Always Listen To Your Heart/Whenever I Stop/Silent Running/My Little Island/If I Could See You Now/Every Day Hurts-How Long- I Can’t Dance Medley/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
Of all of the band’s tours to date, this one is blessed with a lot of TV live recordings, as well as another excellent radio recording from the RTL Studios in Paris. The visual recordings once again have been gathered up by the Epping Forest project and volumes 4 and 6 of this are essential viewing for any serious Mechanics collector comprising the following material…
VH1 Uncut – 9th June 1999.
Ohne Filter (Germnan TV) – September 1999.
This last recording is perhaps one of the most important in the entire Mechanics catalogue as it was to be Paul Young’s last appearance with the band before his sad death in June 2000.
Paul Young’s untimely death at the age of 53 in the summer of 2000 stopped the Mechanics in their tracks. Festival gigs planned for that summer were immediately scrapped and the band went on indefinite hiatus before returning to the studio in 2003, emerging in the spring of 2004 with a new look and a new album: Rewired. Sadly, the loss of Young was immediately apparent and the material was lacklustre by comparison with its predecessors. There was evidently a crisis of confidence within the band themselves as live duties this year were confined to acting as support act to one Mr Philip Collins (“who?” I hear you ask). These gigs took place in most of the enormous arenas that are dotted around Europe and the resulting recordings easily demonstrate exactly what they had lost with Young’s death.
Several of the band’s shows on this tour were recorded and of these, the best that I have heard comes from the gig at the Amsterdam Arena on 19th June 2004. Being opening act meant that the band were effectively reduced to a much shorter time slot than normal and their shows usually comprised the following tracks: Falling/Now That You’ve Gone/ Silent Running/If I Were You/One Left Standing/Living Years/Over My Shoulder/Word of Mouth.
As far as I am aware, there is no extant film footage from any of these gigs although several of Phil’s performances were privately filmed, but that is another story entirely. However, the band did put in one gig in the UK at the Shepherds Bush Empire Theatre which, once again, yours truly was lucky enough to attend. I have to say that my memories of the gig are not the best. The band missed something magical without Paul Young, and the resulting performance captured on the subsequent Mike + The Mechanics + Paul Carrack Live At Shepherds Bush London (Christ, what a mouthful!) shows a band that were not at their best and which were soon effectively to implode, for good as most fans thought….
2010 – :HITTING THE ROAD – THE ROAD AND BEYOND
I am sure that like me, any Mechanics fan was equally surprised in the autumn of 2010 when it became apparent that far from being over, The Mechanics had been given a revamp and were about to start activity again. Who had Mike found to not only replace the late Paul Young, but also Paul Carrack, who had departed to pursue his own burgeoning solo career? Well, the answer to that question became apparent when the band made their first public appearance at the Band On The Wall Club in Manchester on 25th November 2010. If Mike had been extremely lucky finding the original singers then, his vein of luck had evidently not run out as his choices of Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar proved to be equally inspired. Roachford’s credentials in the UK at least were already proven and he is one of the finest singers of his generation. Canadian born Howar was an unknown quantity and had the much more difficult job of filling Paul Young’s shoes – no easy task! Thankfully, as history has subsequently demonstrated, the band are just as potent now as they ever were.
That first gig was thankfully captured on both sound and vision, the latter showing the band in relaxed form and evidently enjoying themselves and both radio and TV broadcasts feature differencing tracks which were as follows:
(TV): A Beggar On A Beach of Gold/Reach Out/Living Years/Over My Shoulder/All I Need Is A Miracle/Interview
(Radio): Introduction/The Road/Get Up/Try To Save Me/A Beggar On A Beach of Gold
The band’s album, The Road, was released in May 2011 with a full UK tour following it. With no singles released from it, the emphasis as Mike himself put it when talking to TWR about the album, was to re-establish the Mechanics brand via road work and indeed the years since 2011 have seen the band putting in the hours and the mileage with extensive tours both here and abroad.
Thankfully once again collectors have plenty of material to get their teeth into with a veritable slew of recordings available for your listening and viewing pleasure. From the ones available here at TWR HQ, a couple stand out. First of these is the gig at the Apollo Manchester on 20th May 2011. This must have been a particularly nerve-wracking gig for Tim Howar, stepping out in front of Paul Young’s home (and decidedly partisan) crowd. He needn’t have worried. If the evidence of this recording is anything to go by, he did a grand job. In fact, I can attest to that as I had the enormous pleasure of seeing the band from the second row at the marvellous Empire Theatre in my own home town two days later. The band opted to give the fans exactly what they wanted and these gigs were effectively a recapitulation of exactly how good a live band The Mechanics were (and are!) with a set list that had the hits to prove it… The Road/Beggar On A Beach of Gold/Get Up/Try To Save Me/Another Cup of Coffee/Nobody Knows/I Don’t Do Love/If I Were You/Only To Be With You/Follow You Follow Me/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/Over My Shoulder/All I Need Is A Miracle/Cuddly Toy/Word Of Mouth.
The rest of the tour is well documented by audio recordings and also by a few decent visual ones as well including the following:
Band On the Wall Manchester – 25th November 2010
The Road – Electronic Press Kit 2011
Playhouse Edinburgh (Private Recording) – 24th May 2011
Warburg WDR (German TV) – 16th July 2011
Avo Sessions Basle (3 Sat German TV) 29th September 2011
2012 and 2013 were spent continuing to re-establish the Mechanics with various festival and other appearances throughout the UK and Europe, rebuilding the band’s following and gaining new fans along the way.
The set lists for these gigs predominantly remained as follows (2012): A Beggar On A Beach of Gold/Get Up/Try To Save Me/Another/Throwing It All Away/This Generation/ The Road/A Time And Place/Everybody Gets A Second Chance/Silent Running/Cuddly Toy/Follow You Follow Me/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
(2013): A Beggar On A Beach of Gold/Get Up/Another Cup Of Coffee/Try To Save Me/Cuddly Toy/Follow You Follow Me/I Can’t Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
From the 2012 tour there are numerous audio recordings including the following: Kiel 24th June, Holmfirth 29th June, Birmingham 30th June and Cardiff 4th July.
2013 is represented by a couple of interesting TV and private recordings which are as follows:
“Live Rust” Regenbogen Radio Awards (German TV) 2013 at which the band performed : A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Another Cup Of Coffee/Over My Shoulder/All I Need Is A Miracle/Living Years, and Main Square Arras France 6th July 2013 (Private recording) at which they performed the following tracks: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Another Cup of Coffee/Try To Save Me/Cuddly Toy/Follow You Follow Me/I Can’t Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
2014 saw the band celebrating the 25th anniversary of the pivotal Living Years album with an extensive series of gigs both throughout the UK and with festival appearances in the summer in Europe. Sadly, as far as I am aware, no visual evidence of these gigs has surfaced but there are plenty of audio recordings, the best of which are from the band’s gigs at Rhyl on 12th February and New Brighton on 22nd February, both of which not only feature the entire show but also the band’s sound check. Set lists for these gigs and the rest of the UK shows ran as follows…
Beggar On A Beach of Gold/Another Cup of Coffee/Get Up/Try To Save Me/I Believe/Silent Running/Don’t/This Generation/Turn it On Again/When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground/Everybody Gets A Second Chance/Nobody’s Perfect/Cuddly Toy/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
The band’s shortened festival sets are documented by their performance at the Theatre de la Cité in Carcassone, France on 19th July which ran as follows…Get Up/Try To Save/Silent Running/I Can’t Dance/Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
2015 saw the band back on the road for extensive tours in the UK and a return to the USA for the first time since 1989. Promoting the Living Years re-issue and the recently issued The Singles 1985 – 2014 packages, both tours are well documented by audio recordings although once again, sadly, as far as I am aware, no visual record of any of them has surfaced. With plenty of recordings to choose from, the bands sets are represented here by the following recordings….
Pabst Theatre Milwaukee WI USA 19th March 2015 for which the band performed the following tracks: Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Silent Running/Another Cup Of Coffee/Seeing Is Believing/Try To Save Me/Turn It On Again/The Road/Taken In/Nobody’s Perfect/Cuddly Toy/I Can’t Dance//The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Word Of Mouth.
Royal Concert Hall Glasgow UK 13th April 2015.: Silent Running/A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Another Cup of Coffee/Get Up/Try To Save/Seeing Is Believing/Let Me Fly/Turn It On Again/The Road/Everybody Gets A Second Chance/Nobody’s Perfect/Cuddly Toy/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word of Mouth.
2016 has seen the band opt for a short series of festival performances mainly in Germany and as yet, none of these have reached TWR HQ (ed. note: the Frankfurt show from September 2016 is available) but by the time they reconvene for 2017’s Word Of Mouth UK tour with rumours of a new album in the pipeline the future looks bright for the Mechanics and collectors of their live material.
I hope that this article has given you an insight into just how much material is out there for collectors but for further information the best resource is, without doubt the indefatigable Simon Funnell’s magisterial The Movement web site : www.genesis-themovement.org is the place to look. Happy hunting!