THE 1000 BEST SONGS IN THE WORLD EVER.
177-Tubeway Army-Are ‘Friends’ Electric.
1979-Number 1 single.
Best Bit-At 0.01. Two UK Number 1 singles to date have been banned from airplay while holding the top spot, ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin from 1969, (see also best songs 467) and ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Holywood from 1983. Had the powers in charge known what this song was really about, then there would have been three.
Gary Anthony James Webb (see also best songs 772 and 232) was born on March 8th, 1958, in London, England. He has sold in excess of 10 million records, and was at the height of his success in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, he continues to have a cult following to this day. His use of the synthesizer was groundbreaking in the late 1970’s, and helped to pave the way for acts such as Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears in the 1980’s, and artists from the 1990’s such as Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson have also cited Numan as a major influence.
‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’ was the breakthrough hit for Gary Numan, and was first released on Numan’s second studio Album ‘Replicas’ from April 1979. At that time Numan was releasing music with the other members of his band under the name ‘Tubeway Army,’ but the Album, and this song were all written and produced by Numan, who would work under the name of Gary Numan on his next, and subsequent releases, although he continued to work with some of the musicians that had made up Tubeway Army.
At the time of recording ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric,’ Gary Numan was a big fan of science fiction, and the song is heavily influenced by the writers Philip K. Dick, (1928-1982) and William S. Burroughs (1914-1997.) Numan let his imagination run wild, he would write short stories and then set them to music.’Are ‘Friends’ Electric’ is about a robot prostitute, it is set in a future world, and is about man living with robots, and how you can lock yourself away in a dark room away from any other humans. As a teenager Numan had been diagnosed with ‘Asperger’s Syndrome,’ and many of his songs deal with themes of technology and isolation. Gary Numan has spoken about the song,’It was a futurist version of getting pornography in the post, what comes in a brown envelope so your neighbours don’t know what it is. These machines that look human are doing various services in these grey coats, and they all look the same. If the BBC had known what it was about they would never have played it, they would never have let me go on Top of the Pops, thumbs up for obscure lyrics.’
Gary Numan and Tubeway Army had started out life as a ‘Punk Rock’ group, and the debut Album written by Numan can be filed under the genre of ‘Post-punk.’ It was quite by chance that Numan completely changed his musical path for his second and subsequent Albums, on discovering the ‘Moog Synthesizer,’ he has said, ‘I remember it clearly, I had been sent to a studio by (my label) Beggars to record my first Album., it was going to be a Punk Album, and we were going to play the songs live, But as soon as I walked into the control room, there was a mini Moog. I had never seen one before, I just thought it was the coolest looking thing, just fantastic, quite, quite small. Apparently, a company was going to come pick it up but the man said I could try it out until they came to collect it but they never turned up. I had this thing for the whole day and it was the most amazing experience. Very luckily, it had been left on that sound which had become famous, a huge big bottom bass roar. It was just huge, I didn’t know how to set it up. All I did was press a key and the room shook, and I just thought, “F–k me! That’s the most amazing thing I’d ever heard! The power!’ Imagine, if the sound had been something that went ping, I would’ve thought, ‘This is rubbish,’ and none of this success would’ve ever happened to me, so much of this was luck.”
‘It’s cold outside, and the paint’s peeling off of my walls. There’s a man outside, in a long coat, grey hat, smoking a cigarette.’