Gary Numan's Life Beyond the "Long Shadow" of "Cars"
While his latest record, the dark and evocative Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) is giving him some of the best reviews of his 35-plus-year career, Gary Numan knows that many people associate him with one song: 1980's synth-heavy Top 10 hit "Cars."
The memorable song, and its equally memorable video, is like an instant time capsule, and is likely to be Numan's defining legacy in song. Which is both a blessing...and a curse.
"The blessing is that it's just gone from strength to strength," Numan writes via email while on a plane from London to L.A. "I don't think I'm being big-headed when I say it's probably one of the best-known songs in the world."
It's used constantly in ads, being covered or sampled, and has had the kind of success that most songwriters can only dream of. And therein lies the curse.
"It labels you, it becomes this three-minute sound bite that defines your entire career, very inaccurately to say the least," Numan adds. "It's cast a long shadow that's very difficult to escape, and I've tried."
Still, he says he is at "ease" with the song's legacy (and probably doesn't mind cashing those royalty checks either), but feels that Splinter might just be the record that helps him step out of that automotive shadow.
Since his 1978 debut recording with Tubeway Army through a discography bulleted with solo work and collaborations, Numan has long been at the forefront of electronic music.
And while he also plays frequent guitar, it's his keyboard and computer synth work that remains his hallmark, as his music evolves alongside as technology does.
But to those who feel electronic music doesn't have "soul," Numan's response is clear: Bugger Off.
"I believe the exact opposite is true," he offers. "With electronic music, you not only search for the melody and structure of a song, but for the very sound itself. No other genre allows you the same degree of sound design or to search for the sound that expresses the emotion you feel."
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