Gary Numan is an English keyboardist, vocalist, composer, and pilot who has been musically active since the late-1970s. He emerged as the frontman of synth-punks Tubeway Army, which issued two standalone singles and a self-titled album in 1978. After placing his name in front on their 1979 breakthrough release Replicas, he became a solo artist and issued the popular albums The Pleasure Principle, Telekon, and Dance on Beggars Banquet. (His backing band from this period recorded separately as Dramatis.) Starting with his 1984 release Berserker, Numan issued sixteen albums on self-press Numa.
Numan was born Gary Anthony James Webb on March 8, 1958, in the Hammersmith district of west London. As a teenager, he attended Brooklands Technical College and enlisted in the the Air Training Corps.
As punk took hold in Southeast England, Webb adopted the stagename Valerian and played guitar in a sequence of bands (Mean Street, The Lasers) and auditioned for The Jam. In 1977, he teamed with Lasers bassist Paul Gardiner in the band Tubeway Army, which also featured Webb’s uncle, drummer Jess Lidyard (b. 1950). That fall, they demoed an album’s worth of material that was later issued as The Plan. Select tracks (“My Shadow in Vain,” “Something’s in the House,” “Steel and You”) were later recut for their first album. On the strength of these demos, the band got signed to the fledgling new wave indie label Beggars Banquet.
1978: Tubeway Army Singles, Album
In 1978, the Tubeway Army released two standalone singles and an album. Both singles identify Valerian as the songwriter. After the second release, he adopted the surname Numan, inspired by a yellow pages ad for a plumber named Neumann.
“That’s Too Bad”
The Tubeway Army cut this single on October 16, 1977, at Spaceward Studio in Cambridge, the site of 1977–78 folk and punk recordings by The Killjoys (pre-Dexys Kevin Rowland), Lockjaw (Cure-related), The Mekons, Spriguns (Magic Lady), The Soft Boys, Swell Maps, and the Cuddly Toys precursor Raped. This was the fifth release on Beggars Banquet (BEG 5) after two singles by The Lurkers and a single apiece by Johnny G and The Doll.
“That’s Too Bad” is housed in a b&w picture sleeve with red screen-counter text and an uncredited retro-futurist illustration of a dome city with an underground tube tunnel. A photo of Tubeway Army appears on the back sleeve, which identifies the trio as ‘Valerian’, ‘Scarlett’ (Gardiner), and ‘Rael’. It’s not confirmed whether the last of those is Lidyard or drummer Bob Simmonds, a short-term enlistee (winter 1977–78) who appears on the back pic.
The Tubeway Army recorded this single on April 15, 1978, at the Music Centre in Wembley. The producer, Kenny Denton, engineered earlier albums by Tasavallan Presidentti and (Hot Chocolate co-founder) Tony Wilson. As a performer, he self-produced singles under the band monikers After Hours, Dimples, Music Maker, Nostromo, and The Banana Bunch.
Lidyard was absent from this session, where Webb employed drummer Barry Benn and second guitarist Sean Burke. Photographer Mike Stone took the b&w group pics on the “Bombers” sleeve. On the front pic, the Army huddles under light-flash behind the pallid, beady-eyed, peroxided frontman. The back shot shows them side-to-side with Webb standing left in a mesh top. Apart from the ‘Valerian’ credits on the record labels, the musicians are unnamed on this sleeve.
Benn and Burke hailed from Open Sore, an unsigned punk act that placed one track (“Vertigo”) on the April 1978 Lightning Records release Farewell to the Roxy, a collection of live numbers from thirteen acts who played the London venue on its final three nights of operation. Burke cut a subsequent one-off single with Robert and The Remoulds (featuring ex-Omaha Sheriff keyboardist Bob Noble) and re-teamed with Benn in the Station Boys, which morphed into Tubeway Patrol for the 1981 DJM single “Do Eyes Ever Meet” (b/w “No Time”). They recorded an album’s worth of material that was later issued in digital form under the collective title Welcome to the Station Boys.
After Numan’s 1979 breakthrough, Beggars Banquet reissued this single and its predecessor as a double-single in a 7″ gatefold that replicates the imagery from both releases.
The Tubeway Army issued their self-titled debut album on November 24, 1978, on Beggars Banquet. It features twelve originals recorded by the trio of Numan, Gardiner, and Lidyard.
1. “Listen to the Sirens” (3:06)
2. “My Shadow in Vain” (2:59)
3. “The Life Machine” (2:45)
4. “Friends” (2:30)
5. “Something’s in the House” (4:14)
6. “Everyday I Die” (2:24)
7. “Steel and You” (4:44)
8. “My Love Is a Liquid” (3:33)
9. “Are You Real?” (3:25)
10. “The Dream Police” (3:38)
11. “Jo the Waiter” (2:41)
12. “Zero Bars (Mr. Smith)” (3:12)
The original 1978 release of Tubeway Army, limited to roughly 5,000 copies, appeared in the UK (blue vinyl, orange labels) and the Netherlands (blue labels). This version is housed in a blue gatefold sleeve with the name and titles in white, sans serif, lower-case text with surrounding tubes that form the “w” and “m” in the group’s name. The inner-gates feature song lyrics and a b&w performance pic of Numan, who uses that name for the first time on this release.
Sessions took place in July–August 1978 at Spaceward. Numan self-produced Tubeway Army, which was engineered by Spaceward co-founder Mike Kemp, a soundman on Magic Lady, Give It to The Soft Boys, and punk singles by The Users and The Unwanted (with eventual Psychedelic Furs guitarist John Ashton).
After Numan’s subsequent breakthrough, Beggars Banquet reissued this album in mid-1979 under the name Tubeway Army featuring Gary Numan. This release is housed in a black-and-white single sleeve with a linear impression of Numan by childhood friend Gary Robson, who traced the singer’s face on the “Bombers” sleeve. The contents of the original inner-gates (lyrics, performance shot) are replicated on the inner-sleeve of this version, which reached No. 14 on the UK Albums Chart.
Gary Numan recorded a second album with the Tubeway Army during a string of winter 1978–79 sessions that produced multiple outtakes (later compiled on The Plan). Once his second album hit the market, he ditched the Tubeway Army moniker and formed a new band that retained bassist Paul Gardiner and introduced drummer Cedric Sharpley and keyboardist–violist Chris Payne. Sharpley hailed from symphonic rockers Druid, who cut the 1975–76 EMI albums Toward the Sun and Fluid Druid.
Numan and his new band did the promotional rounds with two auxiliary players: guitarist–keyboardist Rrussell Bell (who later joined Numan’s band) and keyboardist Billy Currie of Ultravox, a band on brief hiatus since the departure of frontman John Foxx. Ultravox made the 1977–78 Island albums Ultravox!, Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, and Systems of Romance, all huge influences on Numan’s early cyborg punk and subsequent neon-synth sound.
Gary Numan released his second Tubeway Army album, Replicas, on April 4, 1979, on Beggars Banquet. It features ten Numan originals, including the advance a-side “Down in the Park” and his breakthrough hit “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” Numan plays guitar and keyboards on Replicas, which retains the prior album’s trio lineup with bassist Paul Gardiner and drummer Jess Lidyard.
Replicas marks Numan’s embrace of electronic sounds centered on the Minimoog. The lyrics tie to the theme of machmen: 21st-century humanoids. Numan’s concept derives from the 1968 dystopian novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by American sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick.
Musically, Replicas encompasses uptempo synth-rock (“Me! I Disconnect from You”), layered epics (“Down in the Park,” “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”), and space-age instrumentals (“When the Machines Rock,” “I Nearly Married a Human”). Three songs (“The Machman,” “You Are in My Vision,” “It Must Have Been Years”) take the guitar-based approach of the first Tubeway Army album.
1. “Me! I Disconnect from You” (3:23)
2. “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” (5:25)
3. “The Machman” (3:08)
4. “Praying to the Aliens” (4:00)
5. “Down in the Park” (4:24)
6. “You Are in My Vision” (3:15)
7. “Replicas” (5:01)
8. “It Must Have Been Years” (4:02)
9. “When the Machines Rock” (3:15)
10. “I Nearly Married a Human” (6:31)
Gary Numan self-produced Replicas between December 1978 and January 1979 at Gooseberry Sound Studios, a low-cost London facility used for concurrent reggae and post-punk recordings (Poet and the Roots, Red Beat) and the debut Killing Joke EP Almost Red.
The engineer on Replicas, John Caffery, also worked on the 1978 Stiff release On the Other Hand There’s a Fist by pop-novelty singer Jona Lewie. He subsequently engineered Factory titles by Joy Division (Closer) and Section 25. Replicas was mixed by Rikki Sylvan, who recently made an unreleased electronic album (Radio Mercury) and led the punk band Rikki & The Last Days of Earth, whose 1978 DJM release Four Minute Warning is one of the earliest Ultravox-influenced artifacts of the new wave era.
On the Replicas front cover, Numan stares through his living-room window to a crescent-moon night with an (illustrated) neon sign outside his property that reads (in reference to the album’s ultimate hit) The Park. The back cover shows a zoom-in of his right eye, which reflects stick-bodied aliens on his pupil (a flat bar across the iris — mimicked on the round glow-light worn between his lapels on the inner-sleeve). Replicas credits the Beggars Banquet visual team of photographer Geoff Howes (Flashman), make-up artist Mary Vango (Duncan Browne – The Wild Places), and illustrator Tony Escott (Chrome).
Eighteen days ahead of Replicas, Gary Numan released “Down in the Park” as the lead single, backed with the non-album “Do You Need the Service?” The single appeared simultaneously as a three-track 12″ with an alternate version of “I Nearly Married a Human” (6:38), this paced to a drum machine and stripped of vocals apart from Numan’s quiet repetition of the title.
B. “Do You Need the Service?” (3:39)
B. “We Are So Fragile” (2:46)
On the week of June 30, 1979, “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” overtook “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward as the No. 1 song on the UK Singles Chart, where it reigned for four weeks and bowed to “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats. “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” reached No. 3 in Ireland, No. 8 in New Zealand, No. 9 in the Netherlands, and peaked at No. 12 in Austria and Australia.
Gary Numan mimed “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” on the May 24 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which aired the song for seven weeks amid spring–summer hits by Amii Stewart (“Light My Fire”), Chic (“Good Times”), The Damned (“Love Song”), David Bowie (“Boys Keep Swinging”), Donna Summer (“Bad Girls”), Elvis Costello & The Attractions (“Accidents Will Happen”), Judie Tzuke (“Stay With Me Till Dawn”), The Korgis (“If I Had You”), Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (“Don’t Kill It Carol”), The Pretenders (“Kid”), Public Image Ltd (“Death Disco”), The Real Thing (“Boogie Down”), The Ruts (“Babylon’s Burning”), Siouxsie & The Banshees (“Playground Twist”), The Skids (“Masquerade”), Sparks (“Beat the Clock”), Stonebridge McGuinness (“Oo-Eeh Baby”), Supertramp (“Breakfast In America”), and Thin Lizzy (“Do Anything You Want To”). Numan appeared with Gardiner and the rest of his new live five-piece backing band composed of Cedric Sharpley, Chris Payne, Billy Currie (all on his upcoming third album), and Rrussell Bell.
Replicas spent nine weeks in the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart. On the week of July 21, it ended the five-week reign of Discovery by Electric Light Orchestra as the No. 1 album. Abroad, Replicas reached No. 8 in New Zealand and No. 11 in Australia.
The Pleasure Principle
Gary Numan released his third album, The Pleasure Principle, on September 7, 1979, on Beggars Banquet. It contains ten mononymic-titles about mediums (“Films”), vehicles (“Cars”), androids (“Metal”), and automatons (“Engineers”). “Cars” gave Numan his second UK No. 1 hit and also charted abroad, including the US, where it became one of the earliest British new wave singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Pleasure Principle retains bassist Paul Gardiner and introduces keyboardist–violist Chris Payne and drummer Cedric Sharpley — Numan’s core backing band on the ensuing tour and subsequent album. Numan plays synthetic percussion and co-handles Minimoog and Polymoog with Payne, who also plays piano. Ultravox anchor Billy Currie plays guest violin on “Tracks” and “Conversation,” the latter with backing vocals by Numan friend (and Tubeway Army line artist) Garry Robson.
Musically, The Pleasure Principle continues the Replicas balance of concise synth-rock (“Metal, “Observer”) layered epics (“Conversation,” “M.E.”), and futurist instrumentals (“Airlane”). Select tracks (the ethereal “Complex” and the martial “Engineers”) presage developments in post-punk and industrial rock. This is Numan’s only album with no guitar.
1. “Airlane” (3:18)
2. “Metal” (3:32)
3. “Complex” (3:12)
4. “Films” (4:09)
5. “M.E.” (5:37)
6. “Tracks” (2:51)
7. “Observer” (2:53)
8. “Conversation” (7:36)
9. “Cars” (3:58)
10. “Engineers” (4:01)
Numan demoed the Pleasure Principle material in April–May 1979 just as Replicas and its second single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” hit shelves. Sessions occurred mid-year at Marcus Recording Studios, London’s first 48-track facility. Pleasure Principle is one of the earliest albums completed at Marcus along with the 1979 Ariola release I Ain’t Signing Nothin’ by the Reg Webb Band, a jazz-funk combo with a young Nik Kershaw. Marcus staffer Harvey Webb co-engineered Pleasure Principle with Rikki Sylvan.
The Pleasure Principle takes visual cues from a namesake painting by Belgian surrealist René Magritte (1898–1967). In Magritte’s 1937 painting (subtitled Portrait of Edward James), a suited man with his head obscured in a sphere of light sits at a wooden table with a lump of stone. Numan, in turn, sits visible before a glowing purple Perspex pyramid (front) that he uses to obscure his face standing upright (back). The inner-sleeve shows Numan and his new band (Gardiner, Payne, Sharpley) knee-deep in an illustrated pyramid against a blue background. The Pleasure Principle credits the Replicas visual team of photographer Geoff Howes and illustrator Tony Escott with make-up by one Patti Burris.
B. “Asylum” (2:31)
In the “Cars” video, Numan slow-walks into a fluorescent triangle stage set, where his suit morphs from black to red leather. Director Derek Burbidge employs multiple effects (slow motion, mirror imaging), including stop–starts synchronized to the clap refrains. Each bridge finds Numan inside his tambourine. Numan’s band overtakes the stage set, where Sharpley drums inside the triangle, lined with Gardiner, Payne, and two non-contributors to the studio recording: Currie and guitarist–keyboardist Rrussell Bell. Each of the four plays a free-standing keyboard, including bassist Gardiner, who enacts the clapping sound. Later in the clip, multiples of Numan stand single file with their hands in the steering position as an endless giant Polymoog runs beneath.
“Cars” became Gary Numan’s second straight UK No. 1 single on the week of September 22, when it ended the four-week reign of “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Cliff Richard and bowed the following week to “Message In a Bottle,” the first of two 1979 UK No. 1 hits by The Police. Abroad, “Cars” reached No. 5 in Ireland and No. 9 in Australia. In Canada, “Cars” appeared as a Beggars Banquet blue-label release and reached No. 1 on the RPM 100 Singles chart.
Numan mimed “Cars” amid red rays, flashing blue lights and green-lit polygons on the August 30 broadcast of TotP, which thrice aired the song amid late-summer hits by The Commodores (“Sail On”), Gerry Rafferty (“Get It Right Next Time”), Kate Bush (“Them Heavy People”), Madness (“The Prince”), Nick Lowe (“Cruel To Be Kind”), Rainbow (“Since You’ve Been Gone”), Sad Cafe (“Every Day Hurts”), Secret Affair (“Time For Action”), Sister Sledge (“Lost In Music”), The Specials (“Gangsters”), Squeeze (“Slap and Tickle”), The Stranglers (“Duchess”), and The Tourists (“The Loneliest Man In the World”). Numan appears with his six-piece live band (Currie included) and sports all black with a red–blue tie.
On November 16, Numan lifted “Complex” as the second single; backed with a live version of the early Tubeway Army rocker “Bombers.” The 12″ version of “Complex” contains a second live number, “Me! I Disconnect From You.” Both live tracks come from his September 28, 1979, show at the Hammersmith Odeon.
The video for “Complex” opens with Numan’s rotoscoped outline duplicated to a vanishing point. Amid backdrops of Gardiner’s bass and Numan’s keyboard, Sharpley appears in cutaways along with violist Payne and violinist Bell against a white background. Numan materializes in the flesh as the lyrics commence (at 1:28). Between the vocal passages, his likeness saturates and granulates.
“Complex” reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart.
The Pleasure Principle spent seven weeks in the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart. On the week of September 22, it overtook In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin as the No. 1 album. The back-to-back chart peaks of Replicas and Pleasure Principle (two months apart) made Numan one of three acts (along with ABBA and Blondie) with two UK No. 1 albums in the 1979 calendar year. The Pleasure Principle spent two non-consecutive weeks at No. 1, which Boney M interrupted before Numan reclaimed the spot and then conceded to Blondie’s Eat to the Beat.
Abroad, The Pleasure Principle reached No. 11 in Canada, No. 19 in New Zealand, and No. 24 in Australia.
ATCO released the album on January 16, 1980, in the US, where The Pleasure Principle reached No. 16 on the Billboard 200. That month, “Cars” (b/w “Metal”) appeared as Gary Numan’s debut US single. On the week of February 16, “Cars” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it lingered long enough to rank No. 12 on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1980 list. His US chart success bucked the general aversion of American FM radio to the British new wave (pre-MTV).
Gary Numan and his band embarked on their first tour with sixteen UK shows in September–October 1979, including two nights (Sept. 27–28) at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. On Thursday, November 22, they performed three songs (“Me, I Disconnect From You,” “Metal,” “Down In the Park”) at Wembley Arena as part of a televised benefit concert in aid of ‘Year of the Child’ — a UNICEF event with sets by David Essex, Sky, Wishbone Ash, and Cat Stevens, who gave his final performance that night and then left the music industry for a life of Islam.
On Saturday, February 16, 1980, Gary Numan performed “Cars” and “Praying to the Aliens” on the US NBC comedy-sketch program Saturday Night Live, hosted by actor Elliot Gould. Numan launched a thirteen-date North American tour that commenced on Feb. 18 at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall and wrapped on March 9 at the Santa Monica Civic Center. Tours followed in Europe (March), Japan and Oceania (May) around sessions for his next single.
“We Are Glass”
On May 24, 1980, Gary Numan released “We Are Glass,” a mid-tempo synth-rocker backed with an adaptation of the Erik Satie standard “Trois Gymnopedies (First Movement).” This is Gary Numan’s third single since dropping the Tubeway Army banner (seventh overall).
A. “We Are Glass” (4:46)
B. “Trois Gymnopedies (First Movement)” (2:45)
The “We Are Glass” video opens with a smoking blue vortex, where a giant glass hand emerges through Numan’s doubled silhouette. Numan appears in a black jump suit with red crisscross shoulder–waist belts — mimicked on the accompanying sleeve design and the cover to his upcoming album. Director Derek Burbidge uses visual effects similar to the “Cars” video (slow motion, image mirroring, shaded zoom-ins). As the song unfolds, Numan bursts through a glass partition, dances in a hall of windows, sits with a sunburst Gibson on a glass throne, and sings cross-armed against the blue vortex.
“We Are Glass” reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart.
“I Die: You Die”
A. “I Die: You Die” (3:40)
In the “I Die: You Die” video, Numan (red-streaked hair) appears in two nighttime guises: shades and a black tunic (singing and walking a corridor) and a white blazer (driving a red-upholstered car). He sings the second chorus pressed against a locked phonebooth.
Ongoing Numan photographer Geoff Howes took the dry ice, cross-belt photos for the “I Die” picture sleeve and subsequent album.
“I Die: You Die” reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 16 in Ireland. Numan (clad in a leather jacket and straight-leg jeans) performed the song against a cloudy backdrop on The Kenny Everett Video Show.
Gary Numan released his fourth album, Telekon, on September 5, 1980, on Beggars Banquet (UK, Europe), WEA (France, Oceania), and ATCO (US). It became his third straight UK No. 1 album. Thematically, it concludes his cybernetic trilogy started with the 1979 albums Replicas and The Pleasure Principle.
Telekon contains ten songs (49:54 run time) that explore the ethereal sides of Numan’s prior work. Six songs surpass the five-minute mark. The album’s vinyl tracklist omits the two preceding singles, despite the visual continuity in the sleeves and videos. However, “We Are Glass” and “I Die: You Die” appear as side-closing sixth tracks on original cassette issues of Telekon. In North America, “I Die: You Die” appears on Side One in lieu of “Sleep by Windows.”
Telekon retains The Pleasure Principle lineup: bassist Paul Gardiner, keyboardist–violist Chris Payne, and drummer Cedric Sharpley — joined here by keyboardist Denis Haines and Living Ornaments guitarist–violinist Rrussell Bell. Numan expands his pre-existing keyboard arsenal (Minimoog, Polymoog) with the ARP Pro Soloist, Roland Jupiter-4, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Yamaha CP-30, and Roland CR-78.
Musically, Side One of Telekon balances heavy, lurching numbers (“This Wreckage,” “Remind Me to Smile”) with electo-minimalism (“Sleep by Windows”) and the hypnotic, swaying rhythms of “The Aircrash Bureau” and the title track. Side Two bookends three lucid numbers (“I Dream of Wires,” “Remember I Was Vapour,” “Please Push No More”) with the layered epics “I’m an Agent” and “The Joy Circuit.”
1. “This Wreckage” (5:26)
2. “The Aircrash Bureau” (5:41) Simple Minds take group-credit for hand claps.
3. “Telekon” (4:29) The swaying rhythmic repetition recalls “Electrical Language,” a pioneering electro-pop number on the 1978 Be-Bop Deluxe swan song Drastic Plastic.
4. “Remind Me to Smile” (4:03)
5. “Sleep by Windows” (4:58)
6. “I’m an Agent” (4:19)
7. “I Dream of Wires” (5:10) Numan appears on a near-identical cover by Robert Palmer on the singer’s 1980 Island release Clues, released one month before Telekon. (Clues also contains the Numan–Palmer co-write “Found You Now,” a foreshadow of Gary’s embrace of funk.)
8. “Remember I Was Vapour” (5:11)
9. “Please Push No More” (5:39) is a duo recording between Haines (piano) and Numan (JP 4, Minimoog, Polymoog, voice). The song’s arrangement — delicate piano and icy synth with cybernetic vocals at a slow, rhythmless pace — recalls “My Sex,” the pioneering electro-minimalist piece that closes the 1977 debut album by Ultravox.
10. “The Joy Circuit” (5:12)
Numan recorded Telekon during the first half of 1980 at Matrix Studios, a three-year-old London facility used for concurrent albums by French electronic musician Bernard Szajner (aka Zed) and former X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene. Additional sessions took place at Rock City Studios, a newly-opened Shepperton facility used for 1980 albums by Kiwi new waver Zaine Griff and Scottish electro-band Berlin Blondes.
Telekon credits engineers Nick Smith (“This Wreckage”), Graeme Myhre (3, 7, 8, 10), and Steve Smith (2, 4, 5, 6, 9). Nick worked with producer Mike Thorne (The Shirts, Wire) on Berlin Blondes and also engineered 1980 recordings by Hazel O’Connor and a revamped Beggars Opera. New Zealander Myhre worked concurrently on Griff’s Ashes and Diamonds and titles by fellow Kiwis Lip Service and The Knobz. Steve co-engineered “Please Push No More” with Matrix mixing engineer Jess Sutcliffe, a soundman on late seventies classic by XTC (Go 2), Anthony Phillips (Sides), Gong (Downwind), and recent titles by the Belgian acts Once More, TC Matic, and Jo Lemaire + Flouze.
B. “Photograph” (2:28)
Numan mimed “This Wreckage” in a red–white version of the shoulder-belt Telekon getup on the December 18 broadcast of TotP, which also featured holiday ’80 hit by ABBA (“Super Trouper”), Adam & The Ants (“Antmusic”), The Beat (“Too Nice to Talk To”), The Boomtown Rats (“Banana Republic”), Jona Lewie (“Stop the Cavalry”), Madness (“Embarrassment”), The Police (“De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”), Spandau Ballet (“To Cut a Long Story Short”), The Specials (“Do Nothing”), The Stray Cats (“Runaway Boys”), and Numan collaborator Robert Palmer (“Looking for Clues”).
TotP reaired “This Wreckage” on its January 15, 1981, broadcast amid new year hits by Dire Straits (“Romeo & Juliet”), Light of the World (“I Shot the Sheriff”), Queen (“Flash”), Phil Collins (“In the Air Tonight”), Stevie Wonder (“I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It”), UFO (“Lonely Heart”), and revamped Numan muse Ultravox, who mimed the epic UK No. 2 title-track from their fourth studio album Vienna.
Telekon became Numan’s third straight No. 1 album on the UK Albums Chart, where it overtook Flesh and Blood by Roxy Music on the week of September 13, 1980, and bowed the following week to Never for Ever by Kate Bush. Original UK copies contain a six-fold poster and an order form for Numan merchandise. In the Netherlands, Beggars Banquet pressed Telekon on red vinyl.
Numan and his band promoted Telekon on a twenty-date UK tour that included four nights (September 15–18) at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. They rounded out 1980 with a twenty-date October–November North American tour that opened at the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens (10/14) and closed at the Edmonton Kinsmen FieldHouse (11/12).
In April 1981, Gary Numan announced his “retirement” from the road after a three-night showcase at London’s Wembley Arena. Beggars Banquet issued Living Ornaments ’79 and Living Ornaments ’80 — respective documents of his September 28, 1979, and September 16, 1980, shows. The two records appeared as separate discs and together as a box set. The combined set features nine songs from The Pleasure Principle tour and ten from the Telekon tour. The ’79 show also appeared on video with added visual effects.
Numan’s performance of “Down in the Park” (from the ’80 set) also appears in the anthology film Urgh! A Music War, which collects live numbers from thirty-three new wave acts, including Athletico Spizz 80 (“Clocks Are Big; Machines Are Heavy–Where’s Captain Kirk?”), Au Pairs (“Come Again”), Echo & the Bunnymen (“The Puppet”), Gang of Four (“He’d Send in the Army”), Magazine (“Model Worker”), The Members (“Offshore Banking Business”), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (“Enola Gay”), The Police (“Driven to Tears”), XTC (“Respectable Street”), Klaus Nomi (“Total Eclipse”), and the American bands Devo (“Uncontrollable Urge”), Oingo Boingo (“Ain’t This the Life”), Pere Ubu (“Birdies”), Skafish (“Sign of the Cross”), and Wall of Voodoo (“Back in Flesh”). In the “Down in the Park” clip, Numan rolls across the stage in a spacecraft cockpit chair lined with the Telekon stripes (also represented in the overhead neon fixture).
With Numan confined to studio work, his backing band — drummer Cedric Sharpley, keyboardist–violist Chris Payne, keyboardist Denis Haines, and guitarist Rrussell Bell — formed the breakaway band Dramatis, which signed to Elton John’s Rocket Record Company for the 1981 album For Future Reference, which spawned three singles: “Ex Luna Scientia,” “Oh! 2525,” and “No-One Lives Forever.” Numan (credited as ‘The Big G’) sings guest vocals on “Love Needs No Disguise,” which Beggars Banquet issued as a joint Numan–Dramatis a-side, backed with the Future Reference cut “Take Me Home.” Numan appears in the “Love Needs No Disguise” sporting the fedora’d spiv look of his two ensuing albums.
Numan also produced 1981 solo singles by longtime bassist Paul Gardiner and childhood friend Nicky Robson. Beggars Banquet issued “Stormtrooper In Drag,” a down-beat Numan–Gardner lurch with Gary on vocals. (The b-side, “Night Talk,” appears on Numan’s subsequent album.) Robson co-wrote both sides of his Scratch Records single (“Stars” / “Eye to Eye”) with (later Sade) keyboardist Andrew Hale.
Meanwhile, Payne collaborated with Billy Currie and new Ultravox frontman Midge Ure on “Fade to Gray,” a 1981 hit for the Ultravox–Magazine side-project Visage with vocals by Blitz impresario Steve Strange.
Gary Numan released his fifth studio album, Dance, on September 4, 1981, on Beggars Banquet. Select tracks feature ongoing Numan sidemen Cedric Sharpley (drums), Chris Payne (viola), and Paul Gardiner (bass), who yields on five tracks to Japan bassist Mick Karn, whose distinct fretless lines alter Numan’s sonic framework.
Sharpley drums on “A Subway Called ‘You’” and “She’s Got Claws,” which both feature Payne and the fretless bass and saxophone of Karn. The latter two (along with percussionist Tim Steggles) back Numan’s large self-handled keyboard arsenal (Polymoog, Prophet 5, Roland JP 4, CP 30, CR78) on the lengthy, lucid album-opener “Slowcar to China.”
Karn also plays fretless on “My Brother’s Time” and interacts with ex-Japan guitarist Rob Dean on “Boys Like Me.” Both tracks (along with “Night Talk”) feature the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, programmed on “My Brother’s Time” by Numan’s adopted sixteen-year-old brother John Webb. Gardiner plays bass on the remaining tracks plus guitar and ARP Odyssey on the co-written “Night Talk,” which features Numan himself on bass.
Queen drummer Roger Taylor backs Numan on “Crash” and interacts with phantom Canadian violinist Nash the Slash (ex-FM) on the closing tracks “You Are You Are” and “Morale,” a slight on the Blitz scene where Taylor plays toms beside Gary’s uncle: original Tubeway Army drummer Jess Lidyard.
1. “Slowcar to China” (9:05)
2. “Night Talk” (4:26)
3. “A Subway Called ‘You’” (4:38)
4. “Cry, the Clock Said” (9:56)
5. “She’s Got Claws” (4:58)
6. “Crash” (3:39)
7. “Boys Like Me” (4:16) contains seductive vocalise by one Connie Filapello, a sessionist on 1982–83 albums by Akiko Yano and Ippu-Do‘s Akira Mitake.
8. “Stories” (3:11) features Australian musicians Mick Prague (bass) and Roger Mason (Prophet 5, CP30), both backing players of Melbourne new wave singer James Freud. (Mason cut an EP with Dean in Illustrated Man and reteamed with Freud in Models.)
9. “My Brother’s Time” (4:38)
10. “You Are, You Are” (4:03)
11. “Moral” (4:33)
Numan self-produced Dance in June–July 1981 at Shepperton’s Rock City Studios, the Telekon recording site also used for concurrent titles by Peter Green, Tygers of Pan Tang, and The Vapors. “This Wreckage” soundman Nick Smith and assistant Sean Lynch co-engineered Dance in sequence with titles by Newcastle popsters White Heat and Wakefield metal trio Vardis.
Dance is housed in a gatefold sleeve with photos of Numan dressed forties style against black-light columns. Longtime Numan photographer David Bowie (Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)), Visage (self-titled), Ronny, and Toyah.
and side-view, seen waist-up (back) and full-scale (inner-gates). The make-up artist, Richard Sharah, also has credits on 1980–81 New Romantic-style sleeves of
B1. “I Sing Rain” (2:29)
B2. “Exhibition” (4:24)
For the “She’s Got Claws” video, Numan partnered with Julien Temple, who directed the 1980 Sex Pistols mockumentary The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. Temple recently entered video-making with 1980–81 clips for songs by Jean Michel Jarre (“Magnetic Fields Part 2”), Judas Priest (“Breaking the Law,” “Heading Out to the Highway”), The Kinks (“Predictable”), and The Stray Cats (“Stray Cat Strut,” “Rock This Town”).
In “She’s Got Claws,” an exotic lady takes evening Polaroid shots of the caged cats at Southam Zoo, where Numan (clad in detective overcoat and fedora) poses for a picture. In her attic, he brings her a dead caged bird, which she takes with her manicured hands and runs off. Numan appears next at a bar inside a converted greenhouse, where she leads a catsuited dance trio. Outdoors, she taunts and feeds a caged black panther. She faces Numan in the attic, where she morphs into the panther (seen in the shadows) and leaves him face-clawed. The actress, Sheila Ming, also appears in the 1982 Duran Duran video “Hungry Like the Wolf,” in which she claws singer Simon Le Bon during a jungle scene.
“She’s Got Claws” reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart. TotP aired the video on their September 3 broadcast amid late-summer singles by OMD (“Souvenir”), The Pointer Sisters (“Slow Hand”), Soft Cell (“Tainted Love”), The Teardrop Explodes (“Passionate Friend”), UB40 (“One In Ten”), and former Ultravox frontman John Foxx (“Europe (After the Rain)”).
Dance reached No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart. Later CD issues add the two b-sides plus “Face to Face,” “Stormtrooper in Drag,” and the vaulted title-track “Dance.”
Gary Numan intermixed work on Dance with the setup of Numanair, a small-charter flight company based at Blackbushe Airport in Yateley, Hampshire. With co-pilot Bob Thompson, Numan launched a round-the-world flight in his Cessna T210L Centurion, which ran afoul with air-traffic control in India. During November–December 1981, they circled the globe in Numan’s Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain (registered G-NMAN).
On January 29, 1982, Numanair’s Cessna T210L Centurion ran out of fuel over Southampton and made a forced landing with Numan as a passenger.
Gary Numan released his sixth album, I, Assassin, on September 3, 1982, on Beggars Banquet. It features eight songs that extend the fretless jazz sound and after-hours vibe of Dance with newfound traces of funk, evidenced on “War Songs” and the title track. Four songs surpass the six-minute mark, including “White Boys and Heroes,” “Music for Chameleons,” and “We Take Mystery (To Bed),” all pre-released as edited single a-sides.
I, Assassin substitutes Numan’s usual sidemen (then occupied in Dramatis) with veteran Manfred Mann’s Earth Band drummer Chris Slade and bassist newcomer Pino Palladino, whose fretless style imparts a Karn-like sound on tracks like “A Dream of Siam.” Keyboardist Roger Mason (who played on the Dance track “Stories”) assumes a full role on I, Assassin along with Numan’s teen percussionist brother John Webb. In the liner notes, Numan thanks one Mike for saxophone and harmonica (heard on “The 1930’s Rust”).
I, Assassin is the second of two Numan albums that portray the artist as a 1930s/40s-style spiv with allusions to Dick Tracy and Chicago crime lords.
1. “White Boys and Heroes” (6:23)
2. “War Songs” (5:05)
3. “A Dream of Siam” (6:13)
4. “Music for Chameleons” (6:06)
5. “This Is My House” (4:52)
6. “I, Assassin” (5:26)
7. “The 1930’s Rust” (3:55)
8. “We Take Mystery (To Bed)” (6:10)
Sessions spanned the first half of 1982 at Shepperton’s Rock City Studios, where Dance soundmen Nick Smith and Sean Lynch engineered I, Assassin in sequence with titles by Vardis and Liverpool metalheads Spider.
I, Assassin pictures Numan in gray Dick Tracy garb leaned beside a street pole (front) and curb-seated (inner-sleeve). The back cover shows the same street spot in Numan’s absence. He based the cover on the suited street-light pose of Frank Sinatra on the cover of the singer’s 1954 Capitol 10″ Songs for Young Lovers. (Genesis and Rupert Hine utilize the Tracy image in their respective 1981–82 videos for “Keep It Dark” and “The Set Up.”)
In February, Numan released “Music for Chameleons” as an advance single; backed with “Noise Noise.” The Beggars Banquet 12″ contains an extended a-side (6:57) and a third track, “Bridge? What Bridge?” This was Numan’s seventh post-Tubeway solo single (eleventh overall).
B1. “Noise Noise” (3:44) Features the pop duo Dollar: Thereza Bazar (backing vocals) and David Van Day (handclaps).
B2. “Bridge? What Bridge” (4:22) Features backing vocals by Japan bassist Mick Karn and Numan’s childhood friend Nick Robson.
In the “Music for Chameleons” video, Numan pulls up at a dark-alley gambling joint in a 1937 Packard Darrin: panned across the driver side from its Goddess of Speed hood ornament. Clad in a white tux and flatcap, Numan enters the joint with two gun-toting accomplices. He taunts a rival mobster and approaches a blond showgirl, who motions him onto the stage an accompanies him to a poker table, where he steals the earnings at gunpoint. He leads her out of the joint amid gunfire between his men and rival forces. They drive off as the Chicago Bulletin goes to press with the AM headline “Underworld Erupts.”
“Music for Chameleons” reached No. 19 on the UK Singles Chart. Numan and his band (dressed ala Dick Tracy) mimed the song on a smokey gray neon-lit stage for the March 4 broadcast of TotP, which twice aired the song amid hits by ABC (“Poison Arrow”), The Cars (“Shake It Up”), Classix Nouveaux (“Is It a Dream”), J. Geils Band (“Centerfold”), Japan (“Ghosts”), and Visage (“The Damned Don’t Cry”).
B. “The Image Is” (5:53)
In the “We Take Mystery (To Bed)” video, a spiv-suited Numan sways silhouetted in dry ice and struts across a luminous red floor impression of Robson’s line-art from the reissued first Tubeway Army album. He shatters a glass-panel replica of said image and proceeds in multiple guises: detective, repair man, TV host (in a swivel ball chair). Later, Numan aligns his face to a film-projection of the 1978 line art.
“We Take Mystery (To Bed)” peaked at No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart. Numan made second song clip for the June 17 broadcast of TotP, which also featured summer hits by ABC (“The Look of Love”), Adam Ant (“Goody Two Shoes”), Bow Wow Wow (“I Want Candy”), Echo & The Bunnymen (“The Back of Love”), The Human League (“Don’t You Want Me”), Roxy Music (“Avalon”), Trio (“Da Da Da”), and Toyah (“Brave New World”). In the TotP “We Take Mystery” clip, Numan and his I, Assassin touring band drive through New York City and arrive at a club where they don detective garb and perform against a white backdrop.
B1. “War Games” (3:55)
B2. “Glitter and Ash” (4:42)
Numan shot a low-budget “White Boys and Heroes” video for the August 26 broadcast of TotP, which aired it amid summer ’82 hits by Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come On Eileen”), Haysi Fantayzee (“John Wayne Is Big Leggy”), Kool & The Gang (“Big Fun”), and Toto Coelo (“I Eat Cannibals”). In Numan’s clip, he portrays a forest park ranger who scans the valley by jeep and returns to his Hollywood Hills home, where he shoves his blond wife and teenage son into the pool on the line “have no time for women and boys.”
I, Assassin peaked at No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart. On early UK copies, the LP labels feature the stylized black-lit silhouette image of Dance (title included) due to a surplus of prints from the prior album. In 2002, Beggars Banquet issued a 20th Anniversary CD version of I, Assassin with seven bonus tracks, including the five non-album b-sides and the 1982 outtake “This House Is Cold.”
On April 23, 1983, Gary Numan appeared on The Saturday Show, a Central TV children’s program. He sat in the audience with a model of his Numanair Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain. When asked if air-traffic control can identify Numan by the site of his plane, he noted the red G-NMAN registration on the black aircraft.
Warriors welcomes back three-fourths of the Dramatis faction of Numan’s 1979–81 backing band: drummer Cedric Sharpley, guitarist Rrussell Bell, and keyboardist–violist Chris Payne. Numan’s now-adult brother John Webb plays additional keyboards and percussion.
Side One and the closing track (“The Rhythm of the Evening”) feature the guitar, keyboards, and production work of Bill Nelson, who presaged the Tubeway Army style on the final Be-Bop Deluxe album Drastic Plastic and took a Numan-esque route with Red Noise and his subsequent solo career.
Numan employs onetime If saxophonist Dick Morrissey of labelmates Morrissey Mullen, whose fretless bassist Joe Hubbard replaces I, Assassin‘s Pino Palladino (now occupied in Paul Young‘s backing band). Select tracks feature backing vocals by Shakatak co-singer Tracy Ackerman.
1. “Warriors” (5:50)
2. “I Am Render” (4:56) John Webb composed the music. Numan’s lyrics concern Dr. Charles Render, the protagonist in the 1966 sci-fi novel The Dream Master by American author Roger Zelazny.
3. “The Iceman Comes” (4:25)
4. “This Prison Moon” (3:18)
5. “My Centurion” (5:22) concerns Numan’s near-fatal 1982 crash in his Cessna T210L Centurion aircraft.
6. “Sister Surprise” (8:29)
7. “The Tick Tock Man” (4:22) features keyboardist Terry Martin, who cut a 1984 single at Matrix Studio (“Slave to the Rhythm” / “Automatic”) as part of the detective-clad Troubleshooters.
8. “Love Is Like Clock Law” (4:00)
9. “The Rhythm of the Evening” (5:54)
At the insistence of Beggars Banquet distributor WEA, Numan hired a producer for the first time in his career. Bill Nelson produced Warriors in sequence with his 1983 solo titles Chimera and Savage Gestures for Charms Sake and tracks by A Flock of Seagulls, The Units, and Fiat Lux, which featured his younger brother (and onetime Red Noise bandmate) Ian Nelson. Numan long admired Nelson’s work with Be-Bop Deluxe and marveled at his guitar work in the studio. However, personality differences soured their working relationship. Numan remixed the album and self-produced two re-recorded tracks: “Sister Surprise” and “The Tick Tock Man.”
For the Warrior cover and accompanying promotions, Numan donned post-apocalyptic soldier of fortune garb inspired by Mad Max. He purchased most of the articles at a Soho S&M shop.
B. “My Car Slides” (3:01) The 12″ contains a second version of the b-side (4:42).
In the “Warriors” video, Numan flies a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star G-TJET, as seen from within the cockpit and through aerial footage from a nearby aircraft.
“Warriors” reached No. 20 on the UK Singles Chart. However, chart compilers didn’t count sales of the picture disc toward the overall sales total. Numan and his band appeared in full Mad Max leather garb amid pink–yellow smoke and flashing neon bolts on the September 1 broadcast of TotP, which also featured hits by Big Country (“Chance”), Genesis (“Mama”), New Order (“Confusion”), and ex-Sandrose singer Rose Laurens (“Africa the Voodoo Master”).
B. “Poetry And Power” (4:31)
Numan and his band mimed “Sister Surprise” in the same Mad Max garb (apart from Numan, who wore a leather jacket) amid a cagey stage set on the October 20 broadcast of TotP, which also featured autumn ’83 hits by Billy Joel (“Uptown Girl”), Culture Club (“Karma Chameleon”), Depeche Mode (“Love, In Itself”), Elton John (“Kiss the Bride”), Freeez (“Pop Goes My Love”), Howard Jones (“New Song”), Meat Loaf (“Midnight at the Lost & Found”), and Men Without Hats (“The Safety Dance”).
Warriors reached No. 12 on the UK Albums Chart. This was Numan’s first studio album with no US release.
- Tubeway Army (1978)
- Replicas (1979)
- The Pleasure Principle (1979)
- Telekon (1980)
- Dance (1981)
- I, Assassin (1982)
- Warriors (1983)
- Berserker (1984)
- The Fury (1985)
- Strange Charm (1986)
- Metal Rhythm [aka New Anger] (1988)
- Automatic (1989)
- Discogs: Gary Numan
- English Albums: G
- 45worlds: Gary Numan
- 45cat: Tubeway Army
- 45cat: Gary Numan
- NumanDiscography.co.uk: Concert Tours
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