Famous Like Me > Composer > N > Gary Numan
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Profile of Gary Numan
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||8th March 1958
|Place of Birth:
||Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Gary Numan (born Gary Anthony James Webb on March 8, 1958) is a British singer, songwriter and electropop pioneer.
Numan rose to prominence at the tail end of the 1970s, initially recording under the band name Tubeway Army. After recording an album's worth of punky demos, he was signed by Beggars Banquet Records in 1978 and quickly released two singles, neither of which charted. A self-titled, New Wave orientated album later that same year sold out its limited run and introduced Numan's fascination with dystopian science fiction and, more importantly, synthesisers. Almost from nowhere, Tubeway Army reached number one in 1979 with the powerful single "Are 'Friends' Electric?", the parent album Replicas simultaneously climbing to number one in the album charts.
A few months later he repeated the feat with "Cars", which became a top ten hit in America as well, and the 1979 album The Pleasure Principle, both released under Numan's own (assumed) name, which he had plucked from an advert in the "Yellow Pages". Topping both single and album charts simultaneously was noteworthy enough; doing so twice in the space of six months was astonishing. A sell-out tour followed. The Pleasure Principle was a rock album with no guitars; instead, Numan used synthesisers fed through guitar effects pedals to achieve a phased, heavy metal tone. Self-produced in a fortnight for very little money, The Pleasure Principle sounded like nothing else, and remains one of Numan's most highly regarded efforts today.
Numan wore costumes and make-up and openly proclaimed his influences: David Bowie, Marc Bolan and contemporary electronic acts such as Ultravox and The Human League. In interviews he came across as aloof, pretentious and mildly obnoxious, attributes which would later be assigned to a mild form of Asperger's Syndrome. Numan's great popularity and unabashed love of wealth alienated critics and even some fellow musicians; Yes recorded a sardonic song about him, "White Car," for their 1980 album Drama, a reaction to his habit of tearing around London in the white Chevrolet Corvette given to him by Beggars Banquet; his one-time idol, David Bowie, allegedly had him thrown off an episode of The Kenny Everett Video Show on which both were scheduled to appear.
Numan bewildered the press. He was a driven, creative, troubled 21-year-old loner who still lived with his parents. He was not punk. He was not quite New Romantic either, and retrospectives of the period tended to ignore him and his influence. Yet during this period, Numan generated an army of fans calling themselves Numanoids, enough of whom would remain loyal to carry him through the latter half of the 1980s, when his fortunes began precipitously to fall.
In 1980 Numan again topped the album charts with Telekon, although the concurrent singles "We Are Glass" and "I Die: You Die" only reached numbers five and six, respectively. By this time Numan was sick of the pressures of fame, and announced his "retirement" from touring with a series of expensive, sell-out concerts at Wembley Arena. The decision to retire would be short-lived, but would have a fateful effect on his career, as Numan found the fickle pop audience quickly turned their attention to other artists.
After this decline in his career, in 1981, Numan had an embarrassing episode involving his hobby of flying, which briefly put him in the UK news. Attempting a round-the-world flight in a light aircraft, Numan had to make a forced landing (reported in the press as an outright crash) in India, where he was arrested, and suspected of smuggling and espionage. Contrary to news stories at the time, Numan says he was not piloting the plane himself during the landing. During the late 1980s, he had his life threatened on several occasions by a mysterious stalker.
Turning his back on electropop, Numan experimented instead with jazz, funk and lightweight pop. His career quickly nosedived, eclipsed initially by Adam Ant, and later by Duran Duran, Culture Club, and Depeche Mode. He spent the decade in a creative malaise, trying to recapture his former chart glory with undistinguished albums stylistically derivative of artists like Robert Palmer and Prince. Each album saw a new "image", none of which captured the public's imagination to nearly the same extent as the lonely android of the late 1970s. His penchant for sharp suits and hats seemed faintly ridiculous, while his later adoption of suits and shades seemed opportunistic. Numan was no longer a pioneer but a follower. Collaborations with Bill Sharpe of Shakatak helped little, though one single the duo recorded, "Change Your Mind", did see chart action. His own record label, Numa, had been launched in a flurry of idealistic excitement, but a lack of radio play and sales drained away the fortune he had amassed in the late 1970s. By the mid 1990s he was living in a small semi-detached house, driving a cheap hatchback Rover, pondering his future.
Even Numan considers his 1992 Machine & Soul, a misguided attempt at a purely commercial release recorded solely to pay off debts, a career low point. The music was uninspired and the album sold only a few thousand copies. By 1994, Numan decided to stop attempting to crack the pop market and concentrate instead on exploring more personal interests, including his vocal atheism. His future wife Gemma encouraged him to strip away the influences of the previous years. Numan re-evaluated his career and went in a harsher, more industrial direction with his songwriting on the album Sacrifice; for the first time, he played almost all the instruments himself. The move was well-received, as Numan's harder and darker sound emerged just as Numan-influenced bands like Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana were enjoying their first rush of fame. Numan's next two albums Exile (1997) and Pure (2000) restored Numan's critical reputation; Numan even toured the U.S. in support of Exile, his first stateside concerts since the early 1980s.
Resurrection of career
After years of ridicule in the press, Numan found himself an artist respected by his peers, with such musicians as Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighters), Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Marilyn Manson proclaiming his work an influence and recording cover versions of old Numan hits. The band Basement Jaxx had a huge hit in 2002 with "Where's Your Head At?", which relied on a sample of Numan's "M.E." - from The Pleasure Principle - for its hook. The band Fear Factory produced a cover of "Cars" featuring a guest appearance by Numan. Nine Inch Nails covered the song "Metal" on their album "Things Falling Apart". "Cars" remains Numan's most enduring song; it was a hit again in 1987 and 1996, in the latter case thanks to an appearance in an advert for Carling.
In 2003, Numan enjoyed fleeting chart success once again with the Gary Numan vs Rico single "Crazier," which was a collaboration between Rico and Gary Numan and reached No.12 in the U.K. chart. Rico, who is an up and coming artist from Glasgow, also worked on The remix album Hybrid which featured reworkings of older songs in a more contemporary industrial style. In 2004 Numan took control of his own business affairs again, launching the label Mortal Records and releasing a series of live DVDs as a precursor to his next studio album, Jagged Halo.
Numan married Gemma O'Neil, a clinician and a member of his own fan club. In 2003, the couple had their first child, Raven. Numan has also always been extremely close to his parents; his fan club and website shop have been family businesses which they have helped run. Numan has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and is one of the few celebrities to have revealed this.
- That's Too Bad (1978) - with Tubeway Army
- Bombers (1978) - with Tubeway Army
- Down In The Park (1979) - with Tubeway Army
- Are 'Friends' Electric? (1979) - with Tubeway Army
- Cars (1979)
- Complex (1979)
- We Are Glass (1980)
- I Die: You Die (1980)
- This Wreckage (1980)
- Stormtrooper In Drag (1981) - with Tubeway Army co-founder Paul Gardiner
- She's Got Claws (1981)
- Love Needs No Disguise (1981) - with members of former backing band as Gary Numan and Dramatis
- Music For Chameleons (1982)
- We Take Mystery (To Bed) (1982)
- White Boys And Heroes (1982)
- Warriors (1983)
- Sister Surprise (1983)
- Berserker (1984)
- My Dying Machine (1984)
- Change Your Mind (1985) - with Bill Sharpe as Sharpe And Numan
- The Live EP (1985) - tracks: Are Friends Electric/Berserker/Cars/We Are Glass
- Your Fascination (1985)
- Call Out The Dogs (1985)
- Miracles (1985)
- This Is Love (1986)
- I Can't Stop (1986)
- New Thing From London Town (1986) - with Bill Sharpe as Sharpe And Numan
- I Still Remember (1986)
- Radio Heart (1987) - with Radio Heart as Radio Heart Featuring Gary Numan
- London Times (1987) - with Radio Heart as Radio Heart Featuring Gary Numan
- Cars (E Reg Model) (1987) - re-mix
- All Across The Nation (1987) - with Radio Heart as Radio Heart Featuring Gary Numan
- No More Lies (1988) - with Bill Sharpe as Sharpe And Numan
- New Anger (1988)
- America (1988)
- I'm On Automatic (1989) - with Bill Sharpe as Sharpe And Numan
- Heart (1991)
- My World Storm (1991)
- Emotion (1991)
- The Skin Game (1992)
- Cars ('93 Sprint) (1993) - re-mix
- A Question Of Faith (1994)
- Absolution (1995)
- Dark Light - The Live EP (1995) - tracks: Bleed/Every Day I Die/The Dream Police/Listen To The Sirens
- Dominion Day (1998)
- RIP (2002)
- Crazier (2003) - with Rico as Gary Numan vs. Rico
Not including numerous compilations, many of which are unauthorized.
- 1978 The Plan (early recordings, unreleased until 1984)
- 1978 Tubeway Army (also known as The Blue Album)
- 1979 Replicas
- 1979 The Pleasure Principle
- 1980 Telekon
- 1980 Living Ornaments '79-'80 (live recording)
- 1981 Dance
- 1982 I, Assassin
- 1983 Warriors
- 1984 Berserker (first album on self-owned Numa label)
- 1984 Live White Noise (live recording)
- 1985 The Fury
- 1986 Strange Charm
- 1987 Exhibition (retrospective compilation from Beggars Banquet days)
- 1987 Ghost (live recording)
- 1988 Metal Rhythm (released in a re-sequenced edition in the US as New Anger)
- 1989 The Skin Mechanic (live recording)
- 1989 Automatic (collaboration with Bill Sharpe under the moniker "Sharpe + Numan")
- 1990 Outland
- 1992 Machine + Soul
- 1994 Dream Corrosion (live recording)
- 1994 Sacrifice
- 1995 Dark Light (live recording)
- 1995 Human (Gary Numan and Michael R Smith, instrumental album)
- 1997 Dawn (US reissue of Sacrifice; same track listing)
- 1997 Exile
- 2000 Pure
- 2002 Exposure (compilation of Beggars Banquet and recent material; two new recordings plus new track "Exposure")
- 2003 Scarred (live recording)
- 2003 Hybrid (remix project featuring Curve, Alan Moulder, Rico and Flood; three new songs including Andy Gray mix of "Crazier")
- 2004 Live At Shepherd's Bush Empire (live recording)
- 2006 Jagged Halo
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