Postcards from Slough
Postcards from Slough

Gary Numan

Gary Numan was born Gary Anthony James Webb on 8th March 1958 in Hammersmith, West London. He was educated at Town Farm Junior School in Stanwell and Ashford County Grammar School finishing his secondary education at Slough Grammar. Gary Webb went on to further education at Brooklands Technical College, Surrey, and joined the Air Training Corps. Early employment included fork lift driver, air conditioning fitter and clerk in an accounts department.

 

When he was 15, Webb was given a Gibson Les Paul guitar by his father and he played in various bands before forming Tubeway Army with his uncle Jess Lidyard and Paul Gardiner. After recording enough demo music for an album, which was to be released in 1984 as The Plan, Tubeway Army were signed by Banquet Records in 1978 and released a couple of singles.

 

That’s Too Bad was an aggressive punk track not at all in the highly-synthesized style that the band were to successfully adopt later. Bombers was a more conventional rock song with a guitar solo and introducing a signature synth riff that did foretell the sound of the Tubeway Army. Neither made the charts but they were added to a 1999 CD re-issue of The Plan.

An impression of the 1979 album Tubeway Army The button below provides a link to a video of Are Friends Electric?

A third single, Down in the Park, was released in 1979 again failed to make the charts but it showed a further progression until the fourth single Are Friends Electric?, also released in 1979, finally established the distinctive Tubeway Army/Numan sound. It reached number one in the singles chart while at the same time Replicas also reached number one in the album chart.

Later that year the Tubeway Army name was dropped in favour of Gary Numan and the single Cars reached number one in the British and Canadian charts and number nine in the US chart. The album The Pleasure Principle, which did not feature any guitars, reached number one and was accompanied by a sell-out tour. The button below provides a link to a video of Cars.

The name of the band ‘Tubeway Army’ was dropped in favour of ‘Gary Numan’ for the 1979 album The Pleasure Principle.

Guitars were reintroduced for the next album Telekon which also topped the charts and singles from the album We are Glass, I Die: You Die and This Wreckage reached number 5, 6 and 20 respectively. Numan and his band went on their second major later that year spilling into 1981.

 

Numan began experimenting with other musical styles and featured guest artists such as Mick Karn (bass and saxophone) and Rob Dean (guitar) of Japan, and Roger Taylor (drums) of Queen on his next album Dance (1981). The 1980s saw a gradual decline in Numan’s musical career until 2013 when Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) was released and made number 20 in the UK album chart.

 

Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) was promoted by the 2013/2014 tour of the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

Album

Year

Chart

Notes

Tubeway Army

1978

 

 

Replicas

1979

1

 

The Pleasure Principle

1979

1

 

Telekon

1980

1

 

Dance

1981

3

 

I, Assassin

1982

8

 

Warriors

1983

12

 

The Plan

1984

29

Release of early demos

Berserker

1984

45

 

The Fury

1985

24

 

Strange Charm

1986

59

 

Metal Rhythm

1988

48

Entitled New Anger in US

Automatic

1989

59

With Bill Sharpe

Outland

1991

39

 

Machine + Soul

1992

42

 

Sacrifice

1994

 

Entitled Dawn in US

Exile

1997

 

 

Pure

2000

58

 

Hybrid

2003

99

 

Jagged

2006

59

 

Dead Son Rising

2011

87

 

Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)

2013

20

 

Flying career

Gary Numan gained his Private Pilot’s Licence on the 17th December 1980 at Blackbushe and treated himself to a Cessna 182 light aircraft. The following year, on the 29th June 1981, he founded his own airline called Numanair. The registered office was based in Farnham with the aircraft based at Blackbushe Airport. Air Oxford handled the commerce.

 

Aircraft included a six-seat single-engined Cessna 210 Centurion. He used this aircraft on his first attempt to fly around the world and got as far as India. Another aircraft was a twin-engined Piper Navajo registered G-NMAN. In 1981 he used this aircraft on his successful second attempt to fly around the world with Bob Thompson.

Forced Landing

On the 29th January 1982, one of Gary Numan’s aircraft made a forced landing while on approach to Southampton Airport with him as a passenger. The incident occurred in the afternoon of 29 January 1982 as Numan and his pilot were returning from a music industry meeting in Cannes in the south of France. The aircraft, a Cessna T210 Centurion registration G-OILS, was experiencing an electrical power problem and it also ran out of fuel and the pilot was forced to land in a field near the airport. The aircraft crashed through the hedge at the end of the field and ended up on the B3354 Botley to Horton Heath road. Neither Numan nor his pilot were injured but the aircraft was written off.

 

In an on-the-spot interview on BBC One TV’s South Today, Numan said: ‘It looks like we ran out of fuel but according to the calculations and the gauges it still had one hour twenty minutes left in it’.

Numanair’s Cessna 210 Centurion G-OILS. It is shown in the original colours of when it was registered as G-BCZP so this image may not be completely authentic.

Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) Report (abridged)

The aircraft was returning to Southampton from Cannes. Approximately 30 minutes after departure from Cannes, the aircraft alternator began to malfunction causing the electrical components including the fuel gauge to behave erratically. The pilot was able to use the radio but with reduced transmission range. The aircraft had been refuelled at Cannes and the pilot had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be able to complete the journey.

 

After passing over Portsmouth, they began to descend from 1,500 feet and the crew were briefed to expect to operate the undercarriage manually and that the aircraft flaps may not work due to the lack of electrical power. The pilot and Numan began airfield approach checks and visual contact with Southampton airfield had been made. The pilot selected the starboard fuel tank.

 

At 1,000 feet the engine lost power. The undercarriage was extended manually and the aircraft force-landed into wind on a grass field approximately 1,100 feet in length. Although the aircraft touched down within the first 100 feet, the flapless configuration and minimal braking caused the aircraft to over-run the boundary hedge and come to rest on the B3354 Botley to Horton Heath road. Neither Numan nor his pilot were injured but the aircraft was written off.

 

Rescue and recovery services reported that the aircraft was no fuel in either tank. No evidence was found of any fuel leakage was found which could have contributed to the shortfall of fuel. The reason for the electrical generation was found to be a failed alternator drive belt. The lack of electrical power was serious because it meant that they had no power to lower the flaps and decrease their landing speed so even if they had made Southampton they would have been coming in fast and may have had to land on the grass to try to slow the aircraft down.

Display Pilot

Gary Numan’s Harvard T Mk II G-AZSC

 

In 1984 Gary Numan bought a Harvard trainer registered G-AZSC and had the aircraft painted to resemble a Japanese Zero fighter. He also gained a stunt pilot flying licence and flew the machine on the display circuit. He and friend Norman Lees, who also owned a Harvard, formed the radial pair performing aerobatics on the 1992 display circuit. Later they teamed up with other fliers to fly up to 5 Harvard trainers in in group displays for six seasons.

Photographer unknown – PfS/MoBA 11/01/2017

Gary Numan’s Harvard G-AZSC at Wycombe Air Park in 1986

In 1996, as the colours were fading, Numan had the aircraft painted in a more authentic US colour scheme with the codes 43/SC. He moved the aircraft to Duxford and, having clocked up over 650 hours on the aircraft, he sold it in 2005 to Goodwood Road Racing Company.

The same aircraft in more a little more authentic colours

 

Numan qualified as an instructor as well as a stunt pilot and holds licences for piston and turbine helicopters. He gave up stunt flying since too many of his fellow pilots including Norman Lees and his own instructor died in air accidents.

 

Numan’s airline Numanair fell into financial difficulties and after 31 years in operation, was dissolved on the 18th June 2013.

Photographer unknown – PfS/MoBA 11/01/2017

Gary Numan’s Harvard at Blackbushe in 2008

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