July 14, 2000 – Paul Young (Sad Café/Mike + the Mechanics) was born on 17 June 1947 in the Wythenshawe district of Manchester, England. Paul started out in the music industry when he was just fourteen, forming skiffle band Johnny Dark and the Midnights. Paul eagerly worked his way up the music world, with his first big break coming in 1964, when he was asked to replace the Toggery Five vocalist Bob Smith. The Toggery Five contained more than one future star, with future Jethro Tull members Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker already within their ranks. Keen to establish themselves, The Toggery Five released their first single: “I’m Gonna Jump” to a controversial reception (it was a song about a guy about to jump into the river, as his girlfriend had just left him). It was duly added to a watch list by the BBC, which thusly stunted it’s success.
A few singles later, the band reshuffled to become Paul Young’s Toggery, a band which enjoyed a solid, if short lived amount of success in the UK gig scene.
With no obvious recording future in the Toggery name, Paul began guesting on other artists records, amongst them, Roger Cook’s “Minstrel In Flight” album. It quickly became apparent that Paul was able to pen a good tune, and so he continued his writing career, composing material for groups as diverse as The Drifters and White Plains. Missing the live element of being in a band, Paul eventually met up with song writing guitarist, Ian Wilson, who along with lead guitarist, Chris Gill, became the core of another Manchester band, Gyro.
Similar to Paul’s Toggery years, Gyro proved to be a strong live act, but lacked the ability to attract a good recording contract.
Despite their live reputation, Gyro didn’t last, but another Manchester band of the time, the prog outfit Mandalaband, had recently lost it’s founder (Dave Rohl) and were looking for a new direction to go in.
Mandalaband bassist, John Stimpson, approached Paul to replace then singer, David Durant, but as the band still had contractual obligations to David, Paul declined. Eventually such issues were overcome, and Paul joined the band with the suggestion that they be renamed to Sad Café.
With a new, more immediate sound forming, Paul and John Stimpson asked Ian Wilson to join them, and the lineup soon settled as Paul Young (vocals), Ian Wilson (guitar), Victor Emerson (keyboards), Ashley Mulford (guitar), John Stimpson (bass) and Tony Cresswell (drums).
With the forming of Sad Café, Paul’s career gained some much needed upward stability. In September of ’77, the band released their first album, “Fanx Tara”, which proved a surprise success for both band and record label. It became clear that the chemistry between the band members was working, and this chemistry translated equally well on stage. Building on this, Lenni, who had played the saxophone on the Tony Cresswell penned track, “Fingus’ Holiday” was also invited to join the band on a permanent basis.
Sad Café’s career gathered apace, releasing the critically acclaimed “Misplaced Ideals” in ’78, and gaining an avid live following in northern England. However, it wasn’t until the release of their 1979 album “Facades” and the Young/Emerson penned single “Everyday Hurts”, that their success was solidified. Riding the wave of positive feedback the band had been getting from a number of radio one DJ’s of the time, “Everyday Hurts” managed to reach number three in the UK chart.
Needing no excuse to hit the touring circuit, the band seized on the single success “Everyday Hurts” afforded them, and toured the album exhaustively for the rest of the year, filling out venues such as Manchester’s Apollo with ease.
Lineup changes followed the release of “Misplaced Ideals”, and drummer Tony Cresswell bowed out to pursue a successful career as a tour manager, and in his place stepped Dave Irving.
Encouraged by the success which had greeted “Facades”, Sad Café returned to the studio in 1980, to record and release their self titled album “Sad Café”. Whilst arguably being every bit as strong a release as “Facades”, the album lacked the vital hit single, and despite selling respectably, it failed to follow up on the success of “Facades”.
This didn’t stop the band giving their all on stage though, with the proof captured on record, on what I can comfortably say is one of my all-time favourite albums: “Sad Café Live”. Few albums better showcase a band on top of their game, with album opener, “On With the Show” being worth the price of entry alone. Sad Café’s current phase of existence culminated in 1981 with the magnificent – yet bizarrely underrated – “Ole”.
After a successful tour, Sad Café was put on an enforced hiatus. A myriad of problems plagued the band, horrendous mis-management had reduced the band to bankruptcy, leaving the group in financial ruins.
It wasn’t until 1985 that Paul and fellow collaborator, Ian Wilson, kicked Sad Café back into shape, and released the fantastic “Politics of Existing”. Entitled to reflect the bitter few years which proceeded its release, the album was gratefully received by fans, but without the muscle of a major music publisher behind them, it stumbled in the charts and failed to re-launch the bands career.
Thankfully, 1985 proved to be a turn-around year for Paul. Still reeling from the financial impact the demise of Sad Café had left him, it was met with great relief when around this time, Mike Rutherford came calling. Coming from the back of major success with super group Genesis, Mike was keen to establish a solo project with a little more substance than his own previous releases, “Small Creeps Day” and “Acting Very Strange”. With ACE and Squeeze ivories and keys man, Paul Carrack already on board, Mike brought Paul Young in for his more up front approach, and renowned live qualities.
With their debut album garnering two hit singles, “Silent Running” and “All I Need is a Miracle” (Sung by Paul Young), the Mechanics began their career in fine style, encompassing a short but successful tour of the states, and a third single release with the sober “Taken In”.
After being propelled to success with the release of the Mechanics second album and single, “The Living Years”, the Mechanics released a string of rhythmic, heartfelt and uplifting albums, with “Word of Mouth” in ’91, and “Beggar On A Beach of Gold” in ’95. Ten years later, twelve million albums sold and a host of successful tours under their belt, the Mechanics released “HITS” in ’96, which sat comfortably within the top ten of the UK chart for several weeks. The release of “HITS” marked quite a mile stone in both the bands and Paul’s career, signaling that a band which had initially been taken lightly by all involved, was now one of the UK music scenes definite success stories.
1999 marked another flurry of activity for Mike & The Mechanics, with the release of their self titled sixth album, (“M6” to its friends) which was released to high praise, with even the usual dumb struck journalists at Q magazine awarding the album a fully justified 4/5. The release of “M6” was bookended by a hugely successful tour of the UK, where the band and Paul Young proved beyond doubt that they were one of the most solid live acts going.
During his career, he provided lead vocals on several chart hits, including Sad Café’s “Every Day Hurts” and “My Oh My”, and Mike + The Mechanics’ “All I Need Is a Miracle”, “Word of Mouth”, “Taken In” and “Nobody’s Perfect”. He was brought into Mike + the Mechanics on the recommendation of producer/songwriter Christopher Neil and Neil’s manager. Young’s power and range lent themselves to the band’s heavier songs.
His powerful rock voice and wide vocal range was generally assigned to handle the heavier songs, while Carrack’s pure, soulful voice was assigned to ballads and more pop-oriented numbers. Paul provided lead vocals for the hit singles “All I Need Is a Miracle,” Word of Mouth”, and “Taken In”.
Displaying so much energy and vitality on tour, Paul’s fatal heart attack on Saturday 15th July 2000, came as a shock to everyone. Having displayed no symptoms, an autopsy revealed that Young had no previous heart condition.
He was 53.
Paying tribute, Mike Rutherford said of Young, “He had a fantastic voice, one of the best rock voices of his generation…a complete natural.” Former Marillion vocalist and 1980s chart peer Fish described him as “one of the finest frontmen and singers from the history of the British music scene”, who exhibited “immense personality, glowing charisma and outrageous positivism”.