Gary Numan (real name Gary Anthony James Webb) joined The Lasers as a guitarist and rapidly took over the helm of the punk band, who, with a name change to Tubeway Army, signed to Beggar’s Banquet in 1978.
Numan became a synth-pop pioneer almost by accident. Making the first Tubeway Army album in Spaceward Studio in the summer of 1978, he stumbled across a Mini-Moog left behind by another band.
Tubeway Army’s debut album abruptly swerved from its guitars-only conception to an electronically turbo-charged New Wave.
Numan dumped his day job in a shop the day the first Tubeway Army single, That’s Too Bad, was released. To his disappointment it did not sell. Neither did the next two . . .
But after Are Friends Electric? and Cars, and the album The Pleasure Principle (1979) entered the charts at #1, Numan dropped the Tubeway Army name, insisting that the group was only put together for touring and never as a permanent fixture.
While the immediate success of Are Friends Electric? and Cars satisfied fans, it riled critics who (as always) perceived anyone who could rise to fame so fast as a charlatan, a huckster out for dollars while starving artists were out for art.
The backlash syndrome never hit anybody so hard as it hit Gary Numan.
Numan was a blatant imitator; not only was he dismissed as a Bowie-clone, but, critics said, he managed to merge the worst of Brian Eno and Ultravox in the most simplistic and elementary fashion imaginable.
While real artists like Eno, latter-day Bowie and Talking Heads toiled endlessly for art’s sake, selling respectably but never really crossing over massively into the pop charts, Numan’s watered-down pap was simplistic enough for even the dullest of minds. Which was why, they said, he sold so many records.
When posing was the biggest sin of all, Gary Numan was the poseur exemplified.