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Sixty Seconds: Gary Numan on being snubbed by David Bowie and his career comeback


Gary Numan has just written his new memoir, (R)evolution (Picture: Metro.co.uk/ REX)

Synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan, 62, has opened up on being thrown off the Kenny Everett show, road rage’s role in his classic song Cars, and living with Asperger’s.

Your new memoir is called (R)evolution. What’s behind the name?

The revolution part of it comes from the introduction of electronic music to mainstream. I’m not saying I was the revolution but I was part of it, right at the front end when it became mainstream.

It wasn’t until Are Friends Electric? and Cars that it really became another mainstream genre. And the evolution part is more to do with me as a person, how I started and things that have happened and shaped me.

People of a certain age will remember your No.1 hit Cars in 1979 but not many will know you wrote it after a road rage incident. Would you have written it had it not been for that?

Possibly not! The lyrical content is from the incident where I got set upon in London but the musical side of it, and this is the thing that makes me laugh, is that Cars is considered an electronic classic – yet it wasn’t written on a synth or keyboard but a bass guitar!

Gary hass been in showbiz for over 40 years following his hit single Cars in 1979 (Picture: Fraser Gray/REX)

You’ve been in the music business for over 40 years. That must make you proud?

The thing I’m proud of is that I’m still around. It’s difficult to have a long career in the music business and some tend to bland out when they get to the latter part of it.

I’ve not done that – my albums, if anything, have got heavier and harder as I’ve gone on. I’ve managed to build my career from the low point it got to back up to a decent level again by not blanding out.

And I still can’t get played on radio for love nor money.

Was it hard reliving the ups and downs?

As soon as you start writing about them it’s like a door straight back to those feelings again. You remember the bad times but also the amazing things like how it felt to get that phone call saying I was No.1 in the charts.

Didn’t David Bowie once get you thrown off the Kenny Everett Show?

Yeah. I’d been to do the show and the man directing it had also filmed Bowie’s promo videos and he said, ‘Bowie’s going to be in next week’ and invited me to come along to watch.

David Bowie had Gary kicked off the Kenny Everett show (Picture: Erik Pendzich/REX)

We were in a little side room to the studio. I’d only been famous 10 minutes and could barely see over Bob Geldof’s shoulder. It was amazing to be there as I was a lifelong Bowie fan.

But then the music stopped and the director came in and said, ‘Bowie’s seen you and you’ve got to go.’ So I got thrown out of the studio. I’ve got no bad feeling about it – he had whatever insecurities he had at the time.

I don’t know if he saw me as a threat but after that he said some really lovely things – that I’d written two of the finest songs in British music history.

Your career declined for a long period but then your album Savage reached No.2 in 2017. Did that surprise you?

Yes, it did. The one before got to No.20 and that was the highest chart position I’d had in 32 years, maybe more. My massive fear then was, how could I do better than that? I didn’t think I could do it again.

So for Savage to get to No.2 was extraordinary. I cried like a baby when I got the phone call. I didn’t expect it, I had no idea there was that amount of emotion bubbling under the surface.

You have Asperger’s. How has that affected your life and career?

The way I see things sometimes is different. But I’ve become very familiar with it and I think I recognise most of the time when I’m being Aspergsy and can moderate and adapt.

But from a career point of view it gives you so many things that are essential – drive, focus, obsession, the ability to take criticism and wrap it in a little box because emotionally you can do that.

Those sorts of tools are incredibly useful to a career like this where mental resilience is a primary requirement.

You were in the UK this summer but your ‘drive-in’ shows were cancelled because of Covid…

It was a massive disappointment. It was such a chance to see live music again and it was a different way of going about it – a really weird moment where gigs suddenly became sitting in your car.

It’s obviously not the ideal way to see a gig but given the circumstances it was an interesting solution.

But I was really surprised that some people were really anti the shows – I got some serious s**t for saying I was doing them. I couldn’t understand it.

You’ve lived in LA since 2012. Any regrets about leaving Britain?

No. That’s no disrespect to Britain, which I love, but the life here is very different. You have the climate and the outdoor life with so much to do because it’s rarely spoilt by rain.

We have the ocean, beaches, mountains and desert close by. People are really friendly. Brits are cynical when Americans say ‘have a nice day’ but they actually mean it.

(R)evolution: The Autobiography by Gary Numan is published by Constable

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