Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Gary Webb, 8 March '58, London) UK singer, synthesizer player. Joined the Lasers at 16, changed name to Tubeway Army '77: lineup Numan, vocals and guitar; Paul Gardiner, bass; Numan's uncle Jess Lidyard, drums; made two singles 'That's Not It' and 'Bombers', recruited second guitar Sean Burke, replaced Lidyard with Barry Benn, disbanded mid- '78. Reformed Army to cut demos (issued as Tubeway Army '79 on Beggars Banquet). He'd doubled on keyboards before, but interest in synth was timely (inspired by Euro-rock groups Can, Kraftwerk): stream of keyboard bands followed him into charts as punk faded. LP Replicas '79 developed ideas further, though singing was a suitable punk monotone. Single 'Are ''Friends'' Electric' with insidious synth hook over relentless rhythm was a surprise no. 1, abetted by picture-disc format; album followed suit; 'Cars' also no. 1 and with album The Pleasure Principle credited to Numan solely, now backed by Gardiner, Ced Sharpley (ex-Druid) on drums, Chris Payne on keyboards and viola. 'Cars' also made top ten USA. He added guitarist Russell Bell, keyboardist Billie Curry (the latter from Ultravox, another influence); '79 stage shows incl. robots, fluorescent tubes and other novelties, but sound was somewhat two- dimensional. Collaborated with Robert Palmer on his Clues '79, writing 'I Dream Of Wires'. His own Telekon '80 was no. 1 LP, single 'I Die You Die' no. 6, but signs that interest was flagging and music press criticism led to retirement from live performance: Living Ornaments 1979--80 made no. 2 in album chart by being available for one month, then deleted. The new decade was littered with synth bands; backing group now called Dramatis, with Dennis Haines replacing Currie, failed to carve own niche despite Numan fronting them for top 40 single 'Love Needs No Disguise'; he summed up his career on Newman Numan, came back with albums Dance '81, I Assassin '82, Warriors '83; number of guests on these (guitarist Bill Nelson, drummer Roger Taylor from Queen, Jim Morrissey on sax, Pino Palladino on bass, etc) suggests esteem of fellow musicians. Hard core of fans remained to give him top 20 hits with 'We Take Mystery To Bed' (top ten), 'Music For Chameleons' and 'White Boys And Heroes' '82, 'Warriors' and 'Sister Surprise' '83; top 40 'Berserker' '84 was first release on own Numa label, also albums White Noise Live and The Fury '85. Videos and stage shows were always impressive, his place as synth pioneer assured; duet single 'Change Your Mind' '85 with Shakatak keyboardist Bill Sharpe showed a lyrical side. Cold Metal Rhythm '89 in UK was called New Anger in USA on IRS, his first release there since '81. There were more releases on Numa; he was also well known for interest in flying, owned several vintage planes. Random '97 on Beggars Banquet was a two-CD tribute album with 26 acts covering his robopop ditties, followed by his own new studio album Exile '97, breaking no new ground.