Tubeway Army

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Tubeway Army
TubewayArmy2.jpg
Tubeway Army's line-up for most of their recordings
(L to R): Gary Numan, Jess Lidyard and Paul Gardiner
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres Punk rock, post-punk, new wave, electronic
Years active 1976–1979
Labels Beggars Banquet
Website garynuman.co.uk
Past members Gary Numan
Paul Gardiner
Jess Lidyard
Bob Simmonds
Barry Benn
Sean Burke
Billy Currie
Trevor Grant
Chris Payne
Cedric Sharpley

Tubeway Army were a London-based punk rock and new wave band led by lead singer Gary Numan. They were the first band of the post-punk era to have a synthesizer-based number one hit, with their single "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and its parent album Replicas both topping the UK Album Chart in mid-1979. After its release, Numan opted to drop the Tubeway Army name and release music under his own name as he was the sole songwriter, producer and public face of the band, but he retained the musicians from Tubeway Army as his backing band.

History[edit]

Aged 19 years, Gary Webb had fronted London band Mean Street in 1976 (their song "Bunch of Stiffs" appeared on the Live at the Vortex compilation, and was the B-side of the Vortex 7"). Leaving this band acrimoniously, he auditioned as lead guitarist for another band called The Lasers, where he met bass-player Paul Gardiner. The pair left The Lasers soon after and formed Tubeway Army, initially with Webb's uncle Jess Lidyard on drums. Webb rechristened himself "Valerian", Gardiner "Scarlett" and Lidyard "Rael".

Webb was a prolific song-writer and ambitious for commercial success. The band began playing gigs on the punk scene in London and managed to secure a record deal with the independent Beggars Banquet label. They released two guitar-heavy, punk-style singles in the first half of 1978 ("That's Too Bad"/"Oh! Didn't I Say", and "Bombers"/"Blue Eyes"/"OD Receiver"). These failed to chart.

Soon afterwards, the Tubeway Army album was released on blue vinyl, at which point Webb adopted the name "Gary Numan". Allegedly, Numan actually took his new pseudonym from a local Yellow Pages where a plumber called "Arthur Neumann" was listed, the singer abandoning the German spelling, to become Numan. Whilst still largely guitar/bass/drums-based, the album saw his first tentative use of the Minimoog synthesizer, which he had come across by accident in the recording studio during the album sessions. Lyrically the record touched on dystopian and sci-fi themes similar to those employed by authors such as Philip K. Dick, of whom Numan was a fan (the opening lines of the song "Listen to the Sirens" are a direct lift from the title of Dick's book Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said). Whilst the album's modest initial pressing (which included a large batch of warped editions) sold out, it did not enter the album charts at that time, and no singles were lifted from it. By this time Tubeway Army had decided to abandon live shows – Numan was unhappy with pub-venue gigs on the often violent London punk scene (the only known recording of a Tubeway Army concert – a London show from February 1978 – was released as a bootleg album in the early 1980s. It was later officially included under the title Living Ornaments '78 as bonus tracks on the 1998 CD re-release of the Tubeway Army album).

Following swiftly on in early 1979, excited by the possibilities of synthesizers, Numan took Tubeway Army back into the studio to record a follow-up album, Replicas. The result was more synth and science fiction orientated than the last album. The first single from the album, the bleak, slow-paced keyboard-driven song "Down in the Park", failed to chart, although it would prove an enduring cult track in the years to come, oft-covered by several well-known acts such as Nine Inch Nails. However, the next single, "Are 'Friends' Electric?" was more successful, technically becoming the first new wave single to achieve major chart positioning, soon reaching the no.1 slot. A special picture-disc helped boost sales but what particularly grabbed the British public's imagination was Tubeway Army's appearance on the BBC show The Old Grey Whistle Test, followed soon after by a slot on Top of the Pops. The band appeared all dressed in black and near-motionless, Numan in particular giving a performance often referred to as being "like an android" (a style that was later reported to have been a means of covering stage nerves but which then became his trademark). The single climbed steadily to stay at number one in the UK charts for 4 weeks, with Replicas following suit in the album charts. With Tubeway Army still avoiding live shows, Numan recruited some additional musicians to make these television appearances (see above).

Numan became the first synth-based artist in Britain to break through into major commercial success. At this point, he dropped the Tubeway Army name and subsequent releases were made under the artist name Gary Numan.

Personnel[edit]

Members[edit]

  • Gary Numan (a.k.a. "Valerian") – vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers (1976-1979)
  • Paul Gardiner (a.k.a. "Scarlett") – bass guitar, backing vocals (1976-1979; died 1984)
  • Jess Lidyard (a.k.a. "Rael") – drums (1976-1977, 1978-1979)
  • Bob Simmonds – drums (1977-1978)
  • Barry Benn – drums (1978)
  • Sean Burke – guitar (1978)
  • Billy Currie – synthesizers (1979)
  • Trevor Grant – guitar (1979)
  • Chris Payne – synthesizers (1979)
  • Cedric Sharpley – drums (1979; died 2012[1])

Lineups[edit]

Years Lineup Albums
1976-1977
1977-1978
  • Gary Numan – vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers
  • Paul Gardiner – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Bob Simmonds – drums
1978
  • Gary Numan – vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers
  • Paul Gardiner – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Barry Benn – drums
  • Sean Burke – guitar
1978-1979
  • Gary Numan – vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers
  • Paul Gardiner – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Jess Lidyard – drums
1979
(Old Grey Whistle Test and
Top of the Pops performances)
  • Gary Numan – vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers
  • Paul Gardiner – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Billy Currie – synthesizers
  • Trevor Grant – guitar
  • Chris Payne – synthesizers
  • Cedric Sharpley – drums

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK
[2][3]
NZL
[4]
SWE
[5]
US
[6]
1978 Tubeway Army 14
1979 Replicas
  • Released: April 1979
  • Label: Beggars Banquet, Atco
1 8 37 124

Compilations[edit]

Year Details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK
[2][8]
NZL
[4]
SWE
[9]
US
[10]
19841 The Plan
  • Released: September 1984
  • Label: Beggars Banquet
29

1 The demos were recorded in 1978 but not released until 1984. Beggars Banquet have re-released and re-mastered these recordings numerous times. Current CD editions supplement the original album tracks with all single A- and B-sides, 12" bonus tracks, studio out-takes, and recovered bootleg live material.

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK
[2]
AUT
[11]
GER
[12]
BEL
[13]
IRE
[14]
NED
[15]
NZL
[4]
1978 "That's Too Bad" -
"Bombers" -
1979 "Down in the Park" 198 -
"Are 'Friends' Electric?" 1 12 23 14 3 9 8 Gold
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed 18 March 2012
  2. ^ a b c "UK chart positions". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  3. ^ "The Plan UK chart position". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c "New Zealand chart positions". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "Swedish chart positions". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "The Plan US chart position". allmusic.com. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  7. ^ "UK certificates: searchable database". bpi.co.uk. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  8. ^ "The Plan UK chart position". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  9. ^ "Swedish chart positions". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  10. ^ "The Plan US chart position". allmusic.com. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  11. ^ "Austrian chart positions". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  12. ^ "German single positions". musicline.de. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  13. ^ "Belgian single positions". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Irish charts: searchable database". irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  15. ^ "Dutch chart positions". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Goodwin, Paul (2004) Electric Pioneer: An Armchair Guide To Gary Numan