It Was 40 Years Ago Today! Cars by Gary Numan
I was but a mere twelve-year-old kid in a small town when Cars was released on August 21, 1979. It’s a mystery where I may have heard it for the first time, but it changed my perspective on music permanently. The striking intro of warbly synth sounds abruptly broken by a snare drum, followed by the unforgettable sound of the Polymoog’s Vox Humana patch still has such a deep impact on me even after 40 years!
While I recall having heard synthesizers used in music and soundtracks prior to Cars, this was unlike anything else I had heard. It was love at first listen. Even though I had been playing drums for a few years already, I would have dropped them like a hot potato had I been able to get my hands on a PolyMoog, MiniMoog, or the like.
Meanwhile, I had purchased a copy of the 45 (single) from a local shop and drummed along with Cars quite a few times until I had memorized the part. It wasn’t long before I had purchased the album and fell in love with all ten tracks. Metal, Films, Cars, and Observer were my favorites but I enjoyed them all. Something I didn’t really notice at the time was that the album didn’t use the usual electric guitars that were omnipresent throughout the musical charts at the time. Speaking of music released in 1979, the following albums also came out that year.
- Pink Floyd – The Wall
- Supertramp – Breakfast In America
- Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
- Van Halen – II
- The Cars – Candy-O
- Gang Of Four – Entertainment!
- AC/DC – Highway To Hell
- Michael Jackson – Off The Wall
Like any album you truly loved back then, you probably owned more than one format. In this case, I had purchased the vinyl LP, 8-track, and cassette. This fascination with Gary Numan’s sound did the inevitable and inspired me to buy other albums. Telekon came out the following year and became another favorite. Eventually I picked up copies of Tubeway Army and Replicas, both excellent!
It was almost 22 years after the release of Cars when I finally saw Gary Numan perform live for the first time on the North American leg of the Pure Tour. He played at Bogart’s here in Cincinnati on Friday, April 27, 2001. Gary performed Films, Cars, and Metal from The Pleasure Principle album along with twelve other songs. After the show was over, I joined in the line of people waiting outside of his bus for a chance to meet and talk to him. He struck me as a quiet and humble man. It was a brilliant show from a down-to-Earth man who makes music that seems to originate from other worlds.
Gary Numan returned to Cincinnati on August 1, 2006, supporting the North American leg of the Jagged Tour. He performed Metal, Films, and Cars along with twelve other songs. Once again, I had a chance to meet and talk to him which only proves to me that he appears to be as consistent off stage as he does on. It was a solid performance and well worth the time spent!
In 2013, I helped create, organize, produce, and release a unique tribute – a collection of songs inspired by Gary Numan for a fundraiser for Autism. The Replicon Project features 18 tracks created by a handful of musicians from around the planet that share a common interest – the music of Gary Numan.
Synthesizers have always fascinated me, so when I found out from a friend that Gary Numan would be performing at Moogfest in 2016, it was an easy choice to attend. Finding out that he would be performing Replicas, The Pleasure Principle, and Telekon in their entirety over the course of three nights at Moogfest was mind-blowing, to say the least! It was a great event and seeing three of my favorite albums performed live was something very special.
The most recent live show I attended was on September 14, 2018, at Bogart’s here in Cincinnati. His success has grown and his discography includes over 20 studio albums, 25 live albums, and appearances on seemingly countless compilations. He moved to the United States with his family. His daughter has performed live with him. He uses crowd-funding to create new albums. He’s still out there working hard, and despite writers (always) saying he is making a comeback, he hasn’t really stopped. It’s inspiring and his shows are worth checking out. I can only imagine just how many people he has inspired over the decades.
In closing of this tribute to the 40th anniversary of Cars and to the brilliantly talented Gary Numan, I encourage you to press the play button below and watch the classic music video for Cars. Enjoy!