The Pleasure Principle (Gary Numan album)

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The Pleasure Principle
Studio album by Gary Numan
Released 7 September 1979 (UK)
25 September 1979 (USA)
Recorded Mid-1979 at Marcus Music AB, London
Genre New wave, synthpop
Length 41:07
Label Beggars Banquet (UK), Atco (USA)
Producer Gary Numan
Gary Numan chronology
The Pleasure Principle
Singles from The Pleasure Principle
  1. "Cars"
    Released: 21 August 1979
  2. "Complex"
    Released: 16 November 1979

The Pleasure Principle is the third studio album, and debut album under his own name, by English musician Gary Numan. Released about six months after Replicas (under the name Tubeway Army) in 1979, The Pleasure Principle also went to number 1 in the United Kingdom.

Structure and release[edit]

Numan completely abandoned guitars on the album. This change, coupled with frequent use of synthetic percussion, produced the most purely electronic and robotic sound of his career. In addition to the Minimoog synthesizer employed on his previous album, Numan made liberal use of the Polymoog keyboard, particularly its distinctive "Vox Humana" preset. Other production tricks included copious amounts of flanging, phasing and reverb, plus the unusual move of including solo viola and violin parts in the arrangements. Numan was also influenced by Kraftwerk; the track "Cars" has the same musical "glides" as "Autobahn" and both used the same synthesizers.

Notable tracks included "Airlane", the lead-off instrumental; "Metal", sung from the perspective of an android longing to be human (covered by Nine Inch Nails on Things Falling Apart, Afrika Bambaataa on Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light and used as backing for Planet Funk's "Who Said"); "Films", acknowledged by Bambaataa as an important influence on the U.S. hip hop scene; "M.E.", told by the last machine on Earth (later used as backing for Basement Jaxx’s "Where’s Your Head At?"); the electronic ballad "Complex", a UK number 6 single; and "Cars", a worldwide synthpop hit. "Cars" reached number 9 in the U.S. and number 1 in Canada,[1] helping make The Pleasure Principle Numan's strongest stateside showing, but lack of a strong commercial follow up meant he was tagged[by whom?] a one-hit wonder there.[citation needed]

Numan toured throughout the world in support of the album with a huge stage set including banks of neon lights and twin pyramids which moved across the stage via radio control. The live show was captured on record as Living Ornaments ’79 and on video as The Touring Principle. The support act on the UK leg of the tour was Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. An expanded version of Living Ornaments '79 was issued on CD in 2005, and the final show of The Touring Principle was captured on the CD Engineers (released exclusively through Numan's official website) in 2008.

Of the bonus tracks currently available on CD, "Random" and "Oceans" were instrumental outtakes from The Pleasure Principle sessions, originally issued on vinyl with other previously unreleased tracks in 1985; "Asylum" was the instrumental flip of the "Cars" vinyl single; the live versions of "Me! I Disconnect From You" and "Bombers" made up the B-side of "Complex", having been recorded on tour and lately made available in their original context on the expanded Living Ornaments '79 CD, along with "Remember I Was Vapour" and "On Broadway". The latter two tracks first saw the light of day as a promotional single shipped with early pressings of the album Telekon in 1980; Numan's unlikely version of the classic "On Broadway" was dominated by a characteristic synthesizer solo by then-former (and soon-to-be-again) Ultravox band member Billy Currie.

Numan performed a special gig dedicated to the album at Manchester Academy on 21 November 2009, similar to Numan's previous tours for Replicas and Telekon. Numan had been scheduled to play the 2010 Coachella Festival in Indio, California but was forced to cancel, due to the Icelandic volcano eruption that disrupted air travel. To make up for this, Numan embarked upon a 16-date mini-tour of the U.S. that August, in which he performed The Pleasure Principle in its entirety.[2]

Album art[edit]

The album art references The Pleasure Principle (Le Principe du Plaisir), a painting by René Magritte.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Robert Christgau (B)[4]
Mojo 5/5 stars[5]
Q 4/5 stars[6]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[7]
Smash Hits 7/10[8]
Spin 8/10[9]
Uncut 4/5 stars[10]

Allmusic's Greg Prato rated The Pleasure Principle four-and-a-half out of five stars. He explained that "there is not a single weak moment on the disc" and that "the quality of the songs gets stronger and stronger as the album progresses". He concluded: "If you had to own just one Gary Numan album, The Pleasure Principle would be it."[3] Robert Christgau rated the album a B. He stated that it was where "metal machine music goes easy-listening." He also stated that "this time he's singing about robots, engineers, and isolation. In such a slight artist, these things make all the difference."[4]

Track listing[edit]

All songs are written by Gary Numan, except where noted.

  1. "Airlane" – 3:18
  2. "Metal" – 3:32
  3. "Complex" – 3:12
  4. "Films" – 4:09
  5. "M.E." – 5:37
  6. "Tracks" – 2:51
  7. "Observer" – 2:53
  8. "Conversation" – 7:36
  9. "Cars" – 3:58
  10. "Engineers" – 4:01
CD bonus tracks
  1. "Random" (Demo) – 3:49
  2. "Oceans" (Demo) – 3:03
  3. "Asylum" (B-side of "Cars") – 2:31
  4. "Me! I Disconnect from You" (live) – 3:06
  5. "Bombers" (live) – 5:46
  6. "Remember I Was Vapour" (live)* – 4:46
  7. "On Broadway" (live) (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) – 4:48

Track listing (30th Anniversary Edition)[edit]

To coincide with The Pleasure Principle 30th Anniversary Tour, a special edition of the album was released on 21 September 2009.[11]

Disc one
  1. "Airlane"
  2. "Metal"
  3. "Complex"
  4. "Films"
  5. "M.E."
  6. "Tracks"
  7. "Observer"
  8. "Conversation"
  9. "Cars"
  10. "Engineers"
Disc two
  1. "Airlane" (Demo version)
  2. "Metal" (Demo version)
  3. "Complex" (Demo version)
  4. "Films" (Demo version)
  5. "M.E." (Demo version)
  6. "Tracks" (Demo version)
  7. "Observer" (Outtake Mix)
  8. "Conversation" (Demo version 2)
  9. "Cars" (Demo version)
  10. "Engineers" (Demo version)
  11. "Random" (2009 remaster)
  12. "Oceans" (2009 remaster)
  13. "Asylum" (2009 remaster)
  14. "Photograph" (2009 remaster)
  15. "Gymnopedies No. 1" (Demo version)
  16. "Conversation" (Demo version 1)
  17. "M.E." (Outtake Mix)

Disc three (Bonus tracks only available on the 3CD version available from the Numan website)

  1. "Down in the Park" (The Live EPs – 1980)
  2. "On Broadway" (The Live EPs – 1980)
  3. "Everyday I Die" (The Live EPs – 1980)
  4. "Remember I Was Vapour" (The Live EPs – 1980)
  5. "Bombers" (The Live EPs – 1980)
  6. "Me! I Disconnect from You" (The Live EPs – 1979)
  7. "Conversation" (The Live EPs – 1979)
  8. "Metal" (The Live EPs – 1979)
  9. "Down in the Park" (The Live EPs – 1979)
  10. "Airlane" (Living Ornaments '79)
  11. "Cars" (Living Ornaments '79)
  12. "We Are So Fragile" (Living Ornaments '79)
  13. "Films" (Living Ornaments '79)
  14. "Something's in the House" (Living Ornaments '79)
  15. "My Shadow in Vain" (Living Ornaments '79)
  16. "Conversation" (Living Ornaments '79)
  17. "The Dream Police" (Living Ornaments '79)
  18. "Metal" (Living Ornaments '79)

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Year Peak
UK Albums Chart[12] 1979 1



  1. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Prato, Greg. The Pleasure Principle - Gary Numan at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Consumer Guide Album review". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Buckley, David (November 2009). "Filter Reissues". Mojo (London: Bauer Media Group) (192): 109. ISSN 1351-0193. 
  6. ^ Q Thomas H Green, November 2009, p.123
  7. ^ Record Collector review, Joel McIver, November 2009 (#368), p.95
  8. ^ Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (20 September – 3 October 1979): 25.
  9. ^ Spin Simon Price, September 1998, pp. 188-189
  10. ^ Uncut Rob Young, October 2009
  11. ^ "Gary Numan Online Store". 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  12. ^ "Number 1 Albums – 1970s". The Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin
Oceans of Fantasy by Boney M
UK Albums Chart number one album
22–27 September 1979
6–11 October 1979
Succeeded by
Oceans of Fantasy by Boney M
Eat to the Beat by Blondie