Gary Numan (born Gary Webb) was the creative force and frontman for the British synth group Tubeway Army. The group’s membership was a constant flux, other than Numan and bassist Paul Gardiner. They released their first album in 1978 and a second album in early 1979. The single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” was a number one hit in the U.K., where it was one of the first chart-toppers with all synthesizer instruments. During this period the group began to be called “Gary Numan and Tubeway Army” and by the time a third album came to be recorded it was issued under Numan’s moniker.

The Pleasure Principle was another U.K. chart-topper and greatly influenced other synthpop bands to follow. It was headlined by the massive U.K. number one and U.S. top ten single “Cars.” The song’s driving electronic beat and Numan’s own “machine” persona were clearly influenced by Kraftwerk. Numan designed the song to be a hit single and he was richly rewarded. Musically, the song was a bridge for American audiences who were deep in Disco infatuation, and who soon would be flocking to New Wave.

Further albums were ignored in the U.S., though in the U.K. he carved out a notable though slowly declining career. His changing images never caught on in the same way his ’79-80-era “Lonely Android” persona did. By the 2000s, current rock acts such as Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and the Foo Fighters were covering Numan’s songs and crediting him as an influence. Some minor U.K. hits followed for Numan who continues to tour.


“Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” by Tubeway Army