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.


Following Replicas, Numan recruited a permanent drummer and a keyboard player and demoed an album's worth of new material in April 1979. This was before the single "Are 'Friends' Electric?" from the previous album had been released. A second session that yielded four further songs followed some weeks later. The day after "Are 'Friends' Electric?" reached number one on the UK singles chart Numan and his band recorded four of the new songs in a session for John Peel, credited to Gary Numan and dropping the group name Tubeway Army. By the time Replicas reached number one on the albums chart The Pleasure Principle was being recorded at Marcus Music Studio, London.[1]

Composition and release[edit]

The Pleasure Principle has been described as featuring synth-pop[2] and new wave[3] throughout. Numan completely abandoned electric guitar on the album.[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.

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]


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.[7][8] 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[9]
Classic Rock9/10[10]
Mojo5/5 stars[11]
Q4/5 stars[12]
Record Collector4/5 stars[13]
Smash Hits7/10[14]
The Village VoiceB[17]

Robert Christgau of The Village Voice described The Pleasure Principle as "metal machine music goes easy-listening," continuing: "This time he's singing about robots, engineers, and isolation. In such a slight artist, these things make all the difference."[17]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic's Greg Prato opined that The Pleasure Principle was distinguished by the consistent quality of its songs and the presence of drummer Cedric Sharpley, who "adds a whole new dimension with his powerful percussion work."[9] Prato concluded, "If you had to own just one Gary Numan album, The Pleasure Principle would be it."[9]

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.[18]

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.[19] 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)"



Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1979–80) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[20] 24
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[21] 11
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[22] 64
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[23] 19
UK Albums (OCC)[24] 1
US Billboard 200[25] 16
Charts (2009) Peak Position
UK Albums (OCC) 98
Charts (2019) Peak Position
UK Albums (OCC) 36

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1979) Position
UK Albums (OCC) 34
Chart (1980) Peak
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[26] 49


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[27] Gold 100,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Gary Numan The Pleasure Principle - The First Recordings Archive Beggars
  2. ^ a b Sandlin, Michael. "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 16 August 2000. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  3. ^ "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  4. ^ Zaleski, Annie (11 November 2010). "Electronic-music icon Gary Numan talks performing his landmark album, The Pleasure Principle". Riverfront Times. St. Louis. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  5. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". RPM. Vol. 33 no. 13. Toronto. 21 June 1980. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Hewitt, Ben (7 July 2009). "Gary Numan Announces Tour". The Quietus. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c Prato, Greg. "The Pleasure Principle – Gary Numan". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  10. ^ Doran, John (November 2009). "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle: 30th Anniversary Edition". Classic Rock. No. 138. Bath. p. 96.
  11. ^ Buckley, David (November 2009). "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Mojo. No. 192. London. p. 109. ISSN 1351-0193.
  12. ^ Green, Thomas H. (November 2009). "Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle". Q. No. 280. London. p. 123.
  13. ^ McIver, Joel (November 2009). "Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle: Expanded Edition". Record Collector. No. 368. London. p. 95. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  14. ^ Starr, Red (20 September – 3 October 1979). "Albums". Smash Hits. Vol. 1 no. 21. London. p. 25.
  15. ^ Price, Simon (September 1998). "Retro Active". Spin. Vol. 14 no. 9. New York. pp. 188–89. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  16. ^ Martin, Piers (March 2018). "How to Buy... Gary Numan". Uncut. No. 250. London. p. 43.
  17. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (31 March 1980). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  18. ^ "Gary Numan Online Store". Townsend Records. Archived from the original on 16 July 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  19. ^ Sinclair, Paul (21 August 2019). "Gary Numan / 40th anniversary reissues". Super Deluxe Edition. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  20. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 220. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  21. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 4768a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  22. ^ Okamoto, Satoshi (2006). Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Oricon. ISBN 978-4-87131-077-2.
  23. ^ " – Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle". Hung Medien. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  25. ^ "Gary Numan Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Top 100 Albums" (PDF). RPM. Vol. 34 no. 6. Toronto. 20 December 1980. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  27. ^ "British album certifications – Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 3 November 2020.Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type The Pleasure Principle in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]