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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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

This was my first favorite song. I didn't like music until this. I was 12.
Oh the 80's how wonderful!!!
mfreiman8
Copyright Issues...
what happened to the lyrics?
Sickest of the sick......
Back in the 80's I thought the music video for cars was so kool!
I don't like it
CARS
the synthesizer is top notch in this song check out the bridge!!! ...seemless! ! !
Dig it.
Best song......Be s t video
Was looking for songs for a Halloween party and discovered Gary's Haunted...wh a t a great song!
The SF show was fantastic as well. Are Friends Electric? was a particular highlight!
jay4paz4
marcdes: Yes. Saw him last night in Minneapolis. Incredible.
GO SEE HIM LIVE NOW!! GREAT SHOW!!
Only an artist like Gary Numan(new-ma n ) could invoke such devotion and passion in people .Its the old adage,"there s no such thing as BAD publicity" (or in this case) comments
Whom ever is playing the drums in the song cars is a smoking strong drummer!
Who doesn't love this song, at least on some level!?! This song in a way, is a masterpiece of many things blended together at a time in music that was amazing. I have always completely enjoyed this song through and through, year after year...<><
Great song!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Love it!!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

See the thing about Gary Numan right? Is he's a pop star... but he's also got a pilot's license! Imagine that!
krj972
Gary just gets better with time, and that's not an affront to his early material. It's just amazing that he is still breaking new ground, still being inventive when most artists with a similar career length became repetitive or weak. Rock on Gary!
The Smiths are a similar artist? A band that famously refused to use synthesizers and drum machines in the techno-drenc h e d 80s?
A one hit wonder? What a joke! The US market is so limited! There are so many great artist in Europe. People need to get out of the shell!!
why dont they have the splinter album on here?!
His songs are to short for me. He needs to add like 15 minutes to each one
Not a one hit wonder Bond, James Bond. You don't know this guy's music then, or you wouldn't just dismiss him that way.
James Bond, go listen to Replicas and tell me if he is copying the Cars
Does he really live in his car please tell me gary numan beacause if you have a corvette I wanna move in with you
eirraca
Gary is such a gift.
This guy is imitating the Cars. One hit wonder
Mr Webb is awesome
This song reminds of Two and a Half Men haha
Yeah, like Dominion Day for instance.
Funny how many great bands have a crappy song become their signature hit. Numan has 50 songs better than Cars
Cars is one of the best songs ever!
This is the part where we touch the monkey. TOUCH IT! TOUCH THE MONKEY.
Wow, I used to listen to this in fourth grade on my Panasonic boombox.
Foo Fighters did an amazing cover of Down in the Park.

Chirstian Deaths cover is not that bad either.
He was diagnosed with Aspergers quite a few years ago. It easily explains his intense style eh? Rock on Gary!
THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE IS ONE OF MY FAV ALBUMS EVER AND I LOVE THE PHOTO ON THE COVER. HIM IN THE ARMANI OR VALENTINO SUIT ( I have been debating that for like ever) staring at the red pyramid which is aglow. It's like he is trying to communicate with his home planet or gaze into the future! Get the logic people!! Love Tubeway Army Too!! GN & TA FOREVER!!
IF HE WAS SINGLE??!!
Here in my car I can listen to an 80s band called the cars.
lcoon04229
Crazy how different this is from what he used to be. Amazing Musical Artist though.
true genius! started so much and brought it to mainsteam- also a lryical master- love it!
LOVE THIS ALBUM SO MUCH!! LOVE THE COVER TOO! SO AWESOME!
'pure, distilled ' is an oxymoron
I'm frightened by the liquid engineers!
I use to rollerskate to this song in the 80's!
My two favorite songs from the eighties... Metal & Down in the Park! Gary was way ahead of his time and gave us electronica.
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