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Gary Numan

One of the founding fathers of synth pop, Gary Numan's influence extends far beyond his lone American hit, "Cars," which still stands as one of the defining new wave singles. That seminal track helped usher in the synth pop era on both sides of the Atlantic, especially his native U.K., where he was a genuine pop star and consistent hitmaker during the early '80s. Even after new wave had petered out, Numan's impact continued to make itself felt; his dark, paranoid vision, theatrically icy alien persona, and clinical, robotic sound were echoed strongly in the work of many goth rock and (especially) industrial artists to come. For his part, Numan just kept on recording, and by the late '90s he'd become a hip name to drop; prominent alt-rock bands covered his hits in concert, and a goth-flavored brand of industrial dance christened darkwave looked to him as its mentor.

Numan was born Gary Anthony James Webb on March 8, 1958, in the West London section of Hammersmith. A shy child, music brought him out of his shell; he began playing guitar in his early teens and played in several short-lived bands. Inspired by the amateurism of the punk movement, he joined a punk group called the Lasers in 1976. The following year, he and bassist Paul Gardiner split off to form a new group, dubbed Tubeway Army, with drummer Bob Simmonds; they recorded a couple of singles under futuristic pseudonyms (Valerium [or Valerian], Scarlett, and Rael, respectively) that attempted to match their new interest in synthesizers. Scrapping that idea, Webb rechristened himself Gary Numan and replaced Simmonds with his uncle Jess Lidyard. Thus constituted, Tubeway Army cut a set of punk-meets-Kraftwerk demos for Beggars Banquet in early 1978, which were released several years later as The Plan. That summer, Numan sang a TV commercial jingle for jeans, and toward the end of the year the group's debut album, Tubeway Army, appeared. Chiefly influenced by Kraftwerk and David Bowie's Berlin-era collaborations with Brian Eno, the album also displayed Numan's fascination with the electronic, experimental side of glam (Roxy Music, Ultravox) and Krautrock (Can), as well as science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

The group's second album, Replicas, credited to Gary Numan & Tubeway Army, was released in early 1979. Its accompanying single, "Are 'Friends' Electric?," was a left-field smash, topping the U.K. charts and sending Replicas to number one on the album listings as well. (The record also included "Down in the Park," an oft-covered song that stands as one of Numan's most gothic outings.) Numan had become a star overnight, despite critical distaste for any music so heavily reliant on synthesizers, and he formed a larger backing band that replaced Tubeway Army, keeping Gardiner on bass. The Pleasure Principle was released in the fall of 1979 and spawned Numan's international hit "Cars," which reached the American Top Ten and hit number one in the U.K.; the album also became Numan's second straight British number one. He put together a hugely elaborate, futuristic stage show and went on a money-losing tour, and also began to indulge his hobby as an amateur pilot with his newfound wealth.

Numan returned in the fall of 1980 with Telekon, his third straight chart-topping album in Britain, and scored two Top Five hits with "We Are Glass" and "I Die: You Die"; "This Wreckage" later reached the Top 20. In 1981, Numan announced his retirement from live performance, playing several farewell concerts just prior to the release of Dance. While Dance and its lead single, "She's Got Claws," were both climbing into the British Top Five, Numan attempted to fly around the world, but in a bizarre twist was arrested in India on suspicion of spying and smuggling. The charges were dropped, although authorities confiscated his plane. His retirement proved short-lived, but when he returned in 1982 with I, Assassin, some of his popularity had dissipated -- perhaps because of the retirement announcement, perhaps because the charts were overflowing with synth pop, much of which was already expanding on Numan's early innovations (which were starting to sound repetitive). I, Assassin was another Top Ten album, and "We Take Mystery (To Bed)" another hit, but in general Numan's singles were starting to slip on the charts; the title track of 1983's Warriors became his last British Top Ten hit.

Numan and Beggars Banquet subsequently parted ways, and Numan formed his own Numa label, kicking things off with Berserker in late 1984. (Sadly, longtime collaborator Paul Gardiner died earlier that year from a drug overdose.) Released in 1985, The Fury became the final Numan album to reach the British Top 20. Over the next few years, Numan collaborated occasionally with Shakatak's Bill Sharpe, releasing four singles from 1985-1989. Following 1986's Strange Charm, Numan signed with IRS, but the relationship was fraught with discord from the start. IRS forced Numan to change the title of 1988's Metal Rhythm to New Anger for his first North American release since 1981 (and also remixed several tracks), refused to release his soundtrack for the film The Unborn, and would not fund any supporting tours for New Anger or 1991's Outland. When his contract expired, Numan returned to Numa for 1992's Machine + Soul.

The industrial-tinged Sacrifice, the first glimmering of Numan's return to critical favor and underground hipness, was released in 1994. Over the next few years, bands like Hole, the Foo Fighters, and Smashing Pumpkins covered Numan songs in concert, and Marilyn Manson recorded "Down in the Park" for the B-side of the "Lunchbox" single; moreover, Nine Inch Nails cited Numan as an important influence. With his fan base refreshed and expectations raised, Numan delved deeper into gothic, metal-tinged industrial dance on 1997's Exile. However, he didn't truly hit his stride in this newly adopted style until 2000's Pure, which was acclaimed as his best work in years and expanded his cult following into new territory. Into the new millennium, a number of Gary Numan compilations hit the shelves, as well as 2003's Hybrid, which found him reworking and modernizing his earlier pop hits. Jagged was released in 2005, and incorporated more of an industrial goth sound. The album was co-produced and co-written with Ade Fenton, who returned for the 2011 follow-up Dead Son Rising. That same year he appeared on Gloss Drop from post-rock group Battles, lending his vocals to the album's "My Machines" single. In 2013 he released his 20th studio album, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind). ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)

1. I Am Dust

2. Here In The Black

3. Everything Comes Down To This

4. The Calling

5. Splinter

6. Lost

7. Love Hurt Bleed

8. A Shadow Falls On Me

9. Where I Can Never Be

10. We're The Unforgiven

12. My Last Day

x

Track List: Jagged

1. Pressure

2. Fold

3. Halo

4. Slave

5. In A Dark Place

6. Haunted

7. Blind

8. Before You Hate It

9. Melt

10. Scanner

11. Jagged

12. Fold

x

Track List: Live In London

Disc 1

1. Introduction (Live)

2. Down In The Park (Live)

3. Dominion Day (Live)

4. Friends (Pure Version) (Live)

5. Films (Live)

6. A Question Of Faith (Live)

7. Voix (Live)

8. Everyday I Die (Live)

9. Dark (Live)

10. You Walk In My Soul (Live)

Disc 2

1. Noise Noise (Live)

2. An Alien Cure (Live)

3. Cars (Live)

4. Absolution (Live)

5. Dead Heaven (Live)

6. Metal (Live)

7. Bleed (Live)

8. Are 'friends' Electric? (Live)

9. Band Introduction (Live)

10. We Are So Fragile (Live)

11. Jo The Waiter (Live)

x

Track List: Pure

1. Pure

2. Walking With Shadows

3. R.I.P.

4. One Perfect Lie

5. My Jesus

6. Fallen

7. Listen To My Voice

8. A Prayer For The Unborn

9. Torn

10. Little Invitro

11. I Can't Breathe

x

Track List: The Radio One Recordings

1. Me, I Disconnect From You

2. Down In The Park

3. I Nearly Married A Human

4. Cars

5. Airlane

6. Films

7. Conversation

8. Me, I Disconnect From You

9. Metal

10. Down In The Park

x

Track List: Warriors, incl. 6 Bonus Tracks

1. Warriors

2. I Am Render

3. The Iceman Comes

4. This Prison Moon

5. My Centurion

6. Sister Surprise

7. The Tick Tock Man

8. Love Is Like Clock Law

9. The Rhythm Of The Evening

10. Poetry And Power

11. My Car Slides (1)

12. My Car Slides (2)

15. Warriors (Full Length Version)

x

Track List: I, Assassin

1. White Boys And Heroes

2. War Songs

3. A Dream Of Siam

4. Music For Chameleons

5. This Is My House

6. I, Assassin

7. The 1930's Rust

8. We Take Mystery To Bed

9. War Games

10. Glitter And Ash

11. The Image Is

12. This House Is Cold

13. Noise Noise

14. We Take Mystery To Bed (Early Version)

15. Bridge? What Bridge?

x

Track List: Dance

1. Slowcar to China

2. Night Talk

3. A Subway Called 'You'

4. Cry the Clock Said

5. She's Got Claws

6. Crash

7. Boys Like Me

8. Stories

9. My Brother's Time

10. You Are, You Are

11. Moral

13. Face to Face

14. Dance

15. Exhibition

16. I Sing Rain

x

Track List: Telekon

1. This Wreckage

2. The Aircrash Bureau

3. Telekon

4. Remind Me To Smile

5. Sleep By Windows

6. We Are Glass

7. I'm An Agent

8. I Dream Of Wires

9. Remember I Was Vapour

10. Please Push No More

11. The Joy Circuit

12. I Die: You Die (Alternate Version)

13. A Game Called Echo

14. Photograph

15. Down In The Park (Piano Version)

16. Trois Gymnopedies (First Movement)

x

Track List: The Pleasure Principle

1. Airlane

2. Metal

3. Complex

4. Films

5. M.E.

6. Tracks

7. Observer

8. Conversation

9. Cars

10. Engineers

11. Random

12. Oceans

13. Asylum

14. Me! I Disconnect from You (live)

15. Bombers (live)

16. Remember I Was Vapour (live)

17. On Broadway (live)

x

Track List: Replicas Redux

Disc 1

1. Me! I Disconnect From You

2. Are 'Friends' Electric?

3. The Machman

4. Praying To The Aliens

5. Down In The Park

6. You Are In My Vision

7. Replicas

8. It Must Have Been Years

9. When The Machines Rock

10. I Nearly Married A Human

11. We Are So Fragile

12. Do You Need The Service?

13. I Nearly Married A Human 2

Disc 2

1. Me! I Disconnect From You (Early Version)

x

Track List: Dead Son Rising

1. Resurrection

2. Big Noise Transmission

3. Dead Sun Rising

4. When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come

5. For The Rest Of My Life

6. Not The Love We Dream Of

7. The Fall

8. We Are Lost

9. For The Rest Of My Life (Reprise)

10. Into Battle

11. Not The Love We Dream Of (Piano Version)

x

Track List: Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) (Deluxe Version)

Disc 1

1. I Am Dust

2. Here In The Black

3. Everything Comes Down To This

4. The Calling

5. Splinter

6. Lost

7. Love Hurt Bleed

8. A Shadow Falls On Me

9. Where I Can Never Be

10. We're The Unforgiven

12. My Last Day

Disc 2

Comments

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If you are the answer then I must have asked the wrong question
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I love this when my brother came home from the army he played this to death that's why I love it
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Classic Song... ***
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IN CARS
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@Zero Signal. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. The FF cover is amazing and is not even mentioned in the list of bands that have covered his songs. I remember that song being on the Test Drive 6 soundtrack.
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Just a good classic song
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One hit wonder
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This fit right into my agenda, car's.
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Awful song terrible yuck
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I often ask myself this question as well, Gary
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I can't believe that I have only been into Numan the last couple of years... better late than never...
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Saw Gary in oo' , I think he is a robot! He never ages!
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pinot7
Quite possibly THE best track of all time! It never gets old. It is mystical and so Piscean (Gary is a Pisces) This song is just stellar! Pleasure Principle-on e of my all time favs.
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Seen on YouTube when he and Trent from Nine Inch Nails played it together it was awesome I loved it
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30 some years old and yet such a futuristic sound with robotic voice of gary! This will be with us as long as we exist!
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How?
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LONG LIVE THE 80'S........ . L O V E THIS SONG AND VIDEO!
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tdoug_78
Just Discovered this guy, well at least who he is. Obviously I have heard Cars, but my only exposure to Down In The Park has been Foo Fighters, which rocks of course
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His pre Pleasure Principle material really is surprisingly good!
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bikeday13
Church of Gary Numan...i would go
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Gary Numan rules.
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Metal \m/
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Hmm the bio completely left out the Fear Factory Cars cover and video which Gary took part in..... it was kind of a big deal at the time. It introduced Numan to people like me who had never heard of him before.
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This is the BEST 80's song and video for me!
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Gary dead? No way. I saw him live here in new Zealand about six months ago. Absolutely incredible.
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NUMAN!
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Gary Numan ' music over the last 15 years has been amazing. I enjoy his early music from 79 to 83, but I really love the direction he has taken
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suntzu67
Genius, Revolutionar y and ahead of his time.
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I wonder what Gary's doing today because he didn't do much of the 80s
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I think Gary Numan is very old... or dead. :|
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LOVE THIS SONG! LOVE THIS VIDEO! LOVE LOVE LOVE
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Best song on this album and the rest of the songs are so amazing
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Asoe
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Wierdo
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brendao37
what a weirdo!!! yes Cars. wonderful weirdness
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osirisnicano r
Listening to this song on a plane...
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I've always loved this song.
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To Gary and his music; live now always and forever! Thank You
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Much 80s.
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Cool Car's
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This was my first favorite song. I didn't like music until this. I was 12.
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Oh the 80's how wonderful!!!
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mfreiman8
Copyright Issues...
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what happened to the lyrics?
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Sickest of the sick......
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Back in the 80's I thought the music video for cars was so kool!
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I don't like it
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CARS
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the synthesizer is top notch in this song check out the bridge!!! ...seemless! ! !
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Dig it.
Show more

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