About In Conversation with Gary Numan
Gary Anthony James Webb , known professionally as Gary Numan, is an English singer, songwriter, composer, and record producer. Born in West London, he first entered the music industry as frontman of the new wave band Tubeway Army. After releasing two albums with the band, Numan released his debut solo LP The Pleasure Principle in 1979, topping the UK Albums Chart. He achieved his peak of mainstream popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the No. 1 singles "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars", but maintains a cult following.
Numan is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music, and his signature sound consists of heavy synthesiser hooks fed through guitar effects pedals. He is also known for his distinctive voice and androgynous "android" persona. In 2017 he received an Ivor Novello Award, the Inspiration Award, from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.
Gary Anthony James Webb was born on 8 March 1958 in Hammersmith, West London, the son of a British Airways bus driver based at Heathrow Airport. He was educated at Town Farm Junior School in Stanwell, Surrey, Ashford County Grammar School, then Slough Grammar School in Berkshire, followed by Brooklands Technical College in Surrey. He joined the Air Training Corps as a teenager. He then briefly held various jobs including forklift truck driver, air conditioning ventilator fitter, and accounts clerk.
When Numan was 15 years old, his father bought him a Gibson Les Paul, which he regards as his most treasured possession. He played in various bands, including Mean Street and the Lasers, before forming Tubeway Army with his uncle, Jess Lidyard, and Paul Gardiner. His initial pseudonym was "Valerian", probably in reference to the hero in French science fiction comic series Valérian and Laureline. He later picked the surname "Numan" from an advert in the Yellow pages for a plumber whose surname was "Neumann".
Numan came to prominence at the end of the 1970s as lead singer, songwriter, and record producer for Tubeway Army. After recording an album's worth of punk-influenced demo tapes , he was signed by Beggars Banquet Records in 1978 and quickly released two singles, "That's Too Bad" and "Bombers", neither of which charted.
A self-titled, new wave-oriented debut album later that same year sold out its limited run and introduced Numan's fascination with dystopian science fiction and synthesisers. Tubeway Army's third single, the dark-themed and slow-paced "Down in the Park" , also failed to chart, but it would prove to be one of Numan's most enduring and oft-covered songs. It was featured with other contemporary hits on the soundtrack for the 1980 film Times Square, and a live version of the song can be seen in the 1982 film Urgh! A Music War. Following exposure in a television advertisement for Lee Cooper jeans with the jingle "Don't Be a Dummy", Tubeway Army released the single "Are 'Friends' Electric?" in May 1979. The single took seven weeks before finally reaching No. 1 at the end of June; its parent album Replicas simultaneously reached No. 1.
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