Do Androids Dream of Electric Music?

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Many people are somewhat familiar with British electronic music innovator Gary Numan as a result of his overplayed hit song “Cars” and its catchy line “Here in my car, I feel safest of all. In cars.” Unfortunately “Cars” overshadows a wealth of other songs by Numan and the band in which it all began, Tubeway Army.

On May 19th, 1979, Tubeway Army released the single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” which reached number one in the British charts and stayed there for four weeks. Three years before the release of the film Blade Runner, Gary Numan celebrated the novel that was the inspiration for the classic film, Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Tubeway Army

Despite being over five minutes long and possessing, in the words of its composer, “no recognisable hook-line whatsoever,” the single topped the UK charts. Whilst the track’s distinctive sound stood out at the time, sales also benefited from the record company’s use of a picture disc and Numan’s striking, “robotic” performance on the TV shows The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops.

This performance, taken from the British top 40 TV show Top of the Pops, predates Data from Star Trek – The Next Generation by eight years, but yet there is an uncanny similarity between the two representations of androids with utterly pale alabaster like skin. During his tenor with Tubeway Army and for the early 1980’s, this was the manner in which the public saw Gary Numan. Much in the zeitgeist of German electronica band Kraftwerk, Numan embraced the machine and became the machine. It is a sound that seems commonplace now, but in the 1970’s this style of music was totally original and heralded the rise of a dark future lit by neon and lightning . . . Cyberpunk!

Are Friends Electric?

“Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” has been a mainstay of Numan’s concerts since its release and appears on all ten of his official live recordings to date. A semi-acoustic version appeared on the 2006 Jagged tour set list. The song was sampled by Richard X in a song titled “We Don’t Give a Damn About Our Friends” as a mashup with vocals from Adina Howard‘s “Freak like Me“, which the Sugababes then recorded under the latter title and achieved a number one hit with in the UK in 2002. It was also covered by Information Society on their 1997 album Don’t Be Afraid, and The Dead Weather for their B-side of “Hang You from the Heavens“. The song was covered by American rock band Weezer and released alongside their 2008 single, Pork and Beans. “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” was featured in the video game Need for Speed: Carbon and the AMC Television show Halt and Catch Fire. The song has also been referenced as the inspiration for the theme song of the British TV show The IT Crowd.

Listen to more Outer Space Music HERE and see what happens when you get stuck between rock and a dork place.


 

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