“I’m over the top paranoid” confessed Gary Numan – who at the time still essentially was Tubeway Army alongside a revolving cast of session musicians – to a bemused Paul Morley. The pair were speaking in one of the first interviews undertaken following the release of Are Friends Electric?, the breakout single taken from the group’s second album, Replicas.
Who knew. Tubeway Army had originally played rock orientated material in keeping with the guitar-obsessed times, but a chance meeting between Gary Webb/Numan and an abandoned Minimoog analogue synthesizer changed all that. Now spiked by the dystopian visions of J.G. Ballard and Phillip K. Dick – and a healthy dose of Low-era Bowie – the airplane flying singer began to design soundscapes for a near future where technology and humanity lived in an uneasy state of coexistence.
Our Friends Electric? became the most famous and against pretty much everyone’s expectations went on to sell a million copies, Numan menacing Top of The Pops audiences for weeks on end as the Musicians Union tutted about being made redundant. Over five minutes long, with it’s dolorous stabs and alien poetry the cyber waltz marked a discernible turning point for British music. Numan left his own project and went solo immediately after, the Army’s legacy a hit written about an android prostitute which had been sung enthusiastically in school playgrounds up and down the land.