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Gary Numan

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Hammersmith, West London, UK (1979 – present)

One of the founding fathers of synth pop, Gary Numan’s influence extends far beyond his lone American hit, “Cars,” which still stands as one of the defining singles. That seminal track helped usher in the era on both sides of the Atlantic, especially his native England, where he was a genuine pop star and consistent hitmaker during the early ’80s. Even after new wave had petered out, Numan’s influence continued to make itself felt; his dark, paranoid vision, theatrically icy alien persona, and clinical, robotic sound were echoed strongly in the work of many rock and (especially) artists to come. For his part, Numan just kept on recording, and by the late ’90s, he’d become a hip name to drop; prominent alt-rock bands covered his hits in concert, and a goth-flavored brand of industrial dance christened looked to him as its mentor.

Numan was born Gary Anthony James Webb on March 8, 1958, in Hammersmith, West London, UK. A shy child, music brought him out of his shell; he began playing guitar in his early teens and played in several short-lived bands. Inspired by the amateurism of the movement, he joined a punk group called “The Lasers” in 1976. The following year, he and bassist Paul Gardiner split off to form a new group, dubbed “Tubeway Army”, with drummer Bob Simmonds; they recorded a couple of singles under futuristic pseudonyms (Valerium , Scarlett, and Rael, respectively) that attempted to match their new interest in synthesizers. Scrapping that idea, Webb rechristened himself Gary Numan and replaced Simmonds with his uncle Jess Lidyard. Thus constituted, “Tubeway Army” cut a set of “punk-meets-Kraftwerk” demos for Beggars Banquet in early 1978, which were released several years later as “The Plan”.

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