The Pleasure Principle (album)

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The Pleasure Principle
Studio album by
Released7 September 1979
StudioMarcus Music AB, London
ProducerGary Numan
Gary Numan chronology
The Pleasure Principle
Singles from The Pleasure Principle
  1. "Cars"
    Released: 21 August 1979
  2. "Complex"
    Released: 16 November 1979
40th Anniversary Edition cover
Gary Numan, The Pleasure Principle - The First Recordings, front cover.png
40th Anniversary Edition release

The Pleasure Principle is the debut solo studio album by English musician Gary Numan. Released about six months after Replicas (1979), the second album with his band Tubeway Army, The Pleasure Principle peaked at number 1 in the United Kingdom.

Composition and release[edit]

The Pleasure Principle has been described as featuring synth-pop[1] and new wave[2] throughout. Numan completely abandoned electric guitar on the album.[3][4] 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" had the same musical "glides" as "Autobahn" and both songs 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, Thought Industry on Recruited to Do Good Deeds for the Devil and 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 from the perspective of 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,[5] helping make The Pleasure Principle Numan's strongest North American showing, but lack of a strong commercial follow-up resulted in him being tagged as a one-hit wonder there.[6] The album was #49 in the Canadian Top 100 of the year.[7]


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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Numan performed a 16-date mini-tour dedicated to the album across the UK and Ireland during November and December of 2009, similar to Numan's previous tours for Replicas and Telekon, performing the album in its entirety.[8][9] 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 another 16-date mini-tour of the U.S. that August, in which he again performed The Pleasure Principle in its entirety.[citation needed]


Of the bonus tracks later included on CD reissues, "Random" and "Oceans" were instrumental outtakes from The Pleasure Principle sessions, originally issued on vinyl with other previously unreleased tracks in 1985, while "Asylum" was the instrumental B-side of the "Cars" vinyl single. The live versions of "Me! I Disconnect From You" and "Bombers", which appeared as B-sides of "Complex", were recorded on tour and later 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 were first released as a promotional single shipped with early pressings of the album Telekon in 1980; Numan's cover 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.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[10]
Classic Rock9/10 stars[11]
Mojo5/5 stars[12]
Q4/5 stars[14]
Record Collector4/5 stars[15]
Smash Hits7/10[16]
Uncut4/5 stars[18]
The Village VoiceB[19]

AllMusic's Greg Prato rated The Pleasure Principle 4.5 of 5 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."[10] Robert Christgau rated the album a B, saying that it was where "metal machine music goes easy-listening." He also stated, "This time he's singing about robots, engineers, and isolation. In such a slight artist, these things make all the difference."[19]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Gary Numan, except where noted.

Side one
  1. "Airlane" – 3:18
  2. "Metal" – 3:32
  3. "Complex" – 3:12
  4. "Films" – 4:09
  5. "M.E." – 5:37
Side two
  1. "Tracks" – 2:51
  2. "Observer" – 2:53
  3. "Conversation" – 7:36
  4. "Cars" – 3:58
  5. "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

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.[20]

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 (Out Take Mix)"
  7. "Observer (Demo Version)"
  8. "Conversation (Demo Version 2)"
  9. "Cars (Demo Version)"
  10. "Engineers (Demo Version)"
  11. "Random (2009 Re-Master)"
  12. "Oceans (2009 Re-Master)"
  13. "Asylum (2009 Re-Master)"
  14. "Photograph (2009 Re-Master)"
  15. "Gymnopedie No. 1 (Demo Version)"
  16. "Conversation (Demo Version 1)"
  17. "M.E. (Out Take 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)

40th Anniversary Edition[edit]

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the release of The Pleasure Principle, a special edition of the album, The Pleasure Principle: The First Recordings was released on 11 October 2019.[21] Released on 2 LP coloured vinyl and 2 CD editions.

CD 1
  1. "Cars (Demo Version 2)"
  2. "Films (Demo Version)"
  3. "Complex (Demo Version)"
  4. "Random (Remastered 2009)"
  5. "M.E. (Demo Version)"
  6. "Conversation (Demo Version 2)"
  7. "Tracks (Demo Version 1)"
  8. "Cars (Demo Version 1)"
  9. "Metal (Demo Version)"
  10. "Airlane (Demo Version)"
  11. "Trois Gymnopédies No.1" (Demo)"
  12. "Observer" (Demo Version)"
  13. "Conversation" (Demo Version 1)"
  14. "Engineers" (Demo Version)"
  15. "Asylum" (Remastered 2009)"
  16. "Oceans" (Remastered 2009)"
  17. "Photograph" (Remastered 2009)"
CD 2
  1. "Airlane" (BBC Peel Session)
  2. "Cars" (BBC Peel Session)
  3. "Films" (BBC Peel Session)
  4. "Conversation" (BBC Peel Session)
  5. "Tracks (Outtake mix)"
  6. "Complex (Outtake mix)"
  7. "M.E. (Outtake mix)"
  8. "Engineers (Outtake mix)"
  9. "Airlane (Outtake mix)"
  10. "Cars (Outtake mix)"

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Year Peak
UK Albums Chart[22] 1979 1
Canada-RPM Magazine[23] 1980 11
US Billboard 200[24] 1980 16



  1. ^ Sandlin, Michael. "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 16 August 2000. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  2. ^ Jackson, Josh (8 September 2016). "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  3. ^
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  5. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - December 20, 1980" (PDF).
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "The Pleasure Principle – Gary Numan". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  11. ^ Doran, John (November 2009). "Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle: 30th Anniversary Edition". Classic Rock. No. 138. p. 96.
  12. ^ Buckley, David (November 2009). "Filter Reissues". Mojo. London: Bauer Media Group (192): 109. ISSN 1351-0193.
  13. ^ Sandlin, Michael. "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 16 August 2000. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  14. ^ Green, Thomas H. (November 2009). "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Q (280): 123.
  15. ^ McIver, Joel (November 2009). "Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle: Expanded Edition". Record Collector (368): 95. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  16. ^ Starr, Red (20 September – 3 October 1979). "Albums". Smash Hits: 25.
  17. ^ Price, Simon (September 1998). "Retro Active". Spin. 14 (9): 188–89. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  18. ^ Young, Rob (October 2009). "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Uncut (150).
  19. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (31 March 1980). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  20. ^ "Gary Numan Online Store". 21 September 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  21. ^ "Gary Numan / 40th anniversary reissues". Super Deluxe Edition. 21 August 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  22. ^ "Number 1 Albums – 1970s". The Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Albums" (PDF). RPM. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Gary Numan Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 5 May 2018.

External links[edit]