My first gig was seeing Gary Numan (with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as support) at a sold out Birmingham Odeon on his first major tour in 1979. He was riding high with his Pleasure Principle album at number one and the accompanying single, Cars in the top ten after having already hit the top spot. It was something that I remember to this day, and set me on the road to experience live music for the rest of my life so far. What a first gig to have!
Despite feeling like I was at the centre of the pop universe at this gig I have since taken an awful lot of flack over the years for being a Gary Numan fan, and if you have read my previous posts on Backseat Mafia you might be surprised that I would identify myself as such. Indeed it is true to say that I have often identified him as my ‘guilty pleasure’, but looking back I think that this was more about others’ attitude to him than my own and interestingly I have also had a number of old friends over the years tell me that they were sorry for giving me such a hard time and that, actually, they now recognise Numan’s importance and the value of his music.
So to this extent I feel vindicated, and I hope that Gary does too because the flack that I took for liking him was nowhere near as bad a what he got for being him. He was at best ignored and in many cases vilified by much of the mainstream media who did not seem to like to support artists who took as many risks as he did; following up the mega-selling Cars with the electric ballad Complex being a prime early example, but this is why he was still selling out shows to his rabidly loyal fan-base.
I parted company with Gary in the mid-nineties citing musical difference (I already had done with Bowie). He went off in a particular direction that I did not want to follow, nothing wrong with that, but I have continued to follow his career and regularly play his varied earlier work, much of which has not aged half as much you might imagine (and certainly a lot less than much of eighties pop). So while many have accused Numan of copying Bowie with his many changes of persona and music, Numan certainly possesses the talent to continually reinvent himself and develop new directions in his music. While I decided to get off I have never felt the need to renounce him as I respect anyone who is prepared to take so many risks with his career.
This is why I was very interested to see that he is bringing out a new album, Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) in October, with an accompanying tour the following month. The first track, I Am Dust, from the Splinter album has just been released and while I do not feel qualified in saying whether I think it is a return to form, it certainly reflects an artist who is on form. From the pulsating Nine Inch Nails influenced beginning (or is a Numan influenced beginning since Trent Reznor cites him as a key influence) the track develops into a heavy slab of machine music, the sort of blues that have made Depeche Mode much more famous.
This is the problem with talking about a new Gary Numan track, he has been so influential himself on so many genres from metal to hip hop it is difficult to say who influenced whom. In reality this should not matter because none of his music is derivative and clearly still the work of a creative mind.
The album is out on 14th October, while the tour kicks off in Bristol on 7th November; I notice that he is taking in Sheffield this time; I might just be tempted back into the fold.
Tour dates are: