7 Songs: Gary Numan

Back in the late 70's there were not many bands experimenting with electronic music and Gary Numan was one of the first artists to make a commercial success with new technology driven sound. Kicking off at the height of punk rock, with his band the Tubeway Army, he already made prominence with the influential Are Friends Electric? clearing the path for the electro pioneer Gary Numan as solo artist.


In 1979, Numan released Cars, his most commercial song to date, purely synthesized and drum machine driven which explained the European concept of New wave and anticipated future at the same time. His image of an android like persona, cold and mysterious which perfectly fit the music and the themes around J.R. Ballard and dystopian Sci-Fi. With the decline of synth pop, Numan adapted new music influences like Jazz and funk and his music became more sophisticated. Beyond the 90's, it became loud, adapting industrial and goth styles.

With more than 40 years in the music business, Numan has released more than 20 albums and more than 60 singles and 10 mill records in total. 'Replicas' as well as the debut album 'The Pleasure Principle' and 'Telekon' all reached No1 in the UK. With all the upcoming releases, his popularity started to decline and after his fifth studio album, he left Beggars Banquet and launched his label Numa Records, on which his sixth album 'Berserker' was released. This label continued to release his music as well as from other artist as well with little success.

Along OMD and the Human League, he is considered as the Pioneer of electronic music in the 80's and his influence goes beyond the decade. At one point, his music was even seen as a love child between Kraftwerk and David Bowies Berlin trilogy albums. With the emergence of Nine Inch Nails and Marylyn Manson his music was rediscovered and often cited as an influence. Below is a selection of favorite Gary Numan songs discovered throughout the years under different circumstances.

Are 'Friends' Electric?

Are 'Friends' Electric? was the first hit for Gary Numan and his band Tubeway Army which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart, staying there for four weeks. Sales in particular benefited from the record company's use of a picture disc. It was the first time a band reached No 1 in the UK charts where all band members played electronic instruments and synthesizers. This was also a totally unheard of sound in mainstream chart music in 1979 where technology and alienation was perfectly portrayed with great synth walls and robotic and cold lyrics. The Sugarbabes covered this song and achieved a number one UK hit in 2002.


Cars

After Numan dropped the name Tubeway Army and continued with the same band members as solo artist, he released his debut Cars, his most commercial and biggest hit to date. The song was featured on Numan's debut album 'The Pleasure Principle' and both the song and the album were released in 1979. Similar to Are Friends Electric, this song was avant-garde, futuristic and different from everything else what one could hear in the charts. It was an electronic odyssey with the rhythm section, bass guitar, gloomy and apocalyptic synths and a shot of tambourine. The song was covered twenty years later emphasizing more the guitar sound on it.

We Are Glass

Released as a third single, We Are Glass reached the No 5 in the UK charts and it was also his first official release in the 80's. It was in the fashion of Numan's second album 'Telekon' although it was not originally included on it, only on the album reissue. The sound was enriched with more guitars and even piano and viola and the great effect of hand clapping which was also visualized in the music video. Futuristic as the previous with the Numanoid factor, it was the closest he ever got to Cars with the success factor.

Music for Chameleons

Numan joined the Air Training Corps as a teenager, when he wanted to be either a pilot or a pop star. The sudden popularity in the music only delayed his first dream however delayed until late 1981 when he took a trip around the world in his airplane. Music for Chameleons was composed during the trip and it was the first song that was taken from his third album 'I, Assassin' released in 1982. The song failed to cope with the popularity of the above-mentioned singles but is still one of the favorite Numan tunes.

We Take Mystery To Bed

We are still on the 'I, Assassin' and We Take Mystery To Bed was the second single and the follow up to the above which even charted better. On this track fretless bass and drums play well with the dance groove and the general atmosphere is still dark and reminds of Gary's early work, still less synthetic. According to his biography the song was written about Gary's girlfriend Deb whose letters are also visible in the video. This single was the last top 10 hit for Gary Numan.


Berserker

With the release of his fifth studio album 'Warriors', Gary Numan left Beggars Banquet and for his sixth album he decided to launch his own record label Numa Records on which 'Berserker' was the first long player and also the first single. Numan had full control over the production process and on this album he geared up the synths growing more in the dance genre, with less gloomy bass and more female backing vocals, still keeping the guitars. Despite the solid production neither the album nor the single managed to make an impact on the charts and Numan further wandered off from the mainstream.

My Name is Ruin

Taken from Gary Numan's 21st studio album, 'My Name is Ruin' was the lead single released in 2017. The song is about a man living in a post-apocalyptic world, whose daughter gets taken away from him and his whole life from then on becomes the need to get her back. In fact, Numan's 11-year-old daughter Persia contributes vocals to the track. The album was produced by his long time collaborator Ade Fenton.  The video was recorded in the desolate deserts of southern California.

Below is the link to YouTube playlist with almost all Gary Numan Releases from 1978-2021.

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