Having parted with his backing band (who went on to form the group Dramatis), Numan returned to the studio in mid ‘81, this time with some well known ‘session’ players in support, including Mick Karn (guitar - Japan), and Roger Taylor (drums - Queen). The single ‘She’s Got Claws’ clawed its way to #6 on the British charts, and helped push the source album, ‘Dance’, to #3 (OZ#85). Temporarily unrestrained by the need to record music he could reproduce on stage, Numan took time to experiment in studio. The album featured a slant on electronic dance beats around varied percussive styles, but received poor reviews from the critics.
In November of ‘81, Numan rejoined his ‘Telekon’ era backing band, now known as Dramatis, and released the single ‘Love Needs No Disguise’ (UK#33 - credited to Gary Numan and Dramatis). Numan then returned to studio work by himself, with augmentation from session players. The resultant 1982 album, ‘I, Assassin’ (UK#8/OZ#95), explored a more fluid funk style, not altogether immediately accessible to the listener. The album was preceded by three British top twenty singles - ‘Music For Chameleons’ (UK#19); ‘We Take Mystery To Bed’ (UK#9); and ‘White Boys And Heroes’ (UK#20).
Following his short lived ‘retirement’ from concert work, during which he became a virtual recluse, in early ’85, Numan released the Live EP ‘Gary Numan - The Live (EP)’ - UK#27 - recorded during December of ’84 at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. In February of ‘85, Numan teamed up with Shakatak’s Bill Sharpe on the UK#17 single ‘Change Your Mind’. Soon after a full album of live material surfaced as ‘White Noise’ (UK#29/OZ#64), proving Numan still had some considerable appeal for the public at large.
1985 saw the release of the album ‘The Fury’ (UK#24), a critically lambasted effort, that failed to yield any top forty singles - ‘Your Fascination’ (UK#46); ‘Call Out The Dogs’ (UK#49); and ‘Miracles’ (UK#49). Some may have thought that Numan needed a miracle to bounce back from such a critical and commercial calamity, and no such miracle was forthcoming on the late ‘86 album ‘Strange Charm’ (UK#59), though it did spawn two top thirty singles with ‘This Is Love’ (UK#28), and ‘I Can’t Stop’ (UK#27). The album proved to be the final release on Numan’s Numa label which folded soon thereafter.
During 1987, Numan hooked up with the band Radio Heart on their eponymous debut album, yielding the hits ‘Radio Heart’ (UK#35), and ‘London Times’ (UK#48). In early ‘88 he teamed up with Bill Sharpe once more on the UK#34 single ‘No More Lies’. Numan then signed with the I.R.S. label, still a fledgling operation at that time, for the release of his 1988 album ‘Metal Rhythm’ (UK#48). The new label failed to yield a resurgence in Numan’s commercial fortunes, with the associated singles, ‘New Anger’ (UK#46), and ‘America’ (UK#49) falling well short of expectations.
The 90s kicked off for Numan with a hook up with several of his ‘Pleasure Principle’ backing players on the March ‘91 album release ‘Outland’ (UK#39), featuring the single ‘Heart’ (UK#43). If there were any lingering doubts, 1992’s ‘Machine +Soul’ album (UK#42), proved that Gary Numan’s commercial profile had all but faded from view. The 1994 live album release ‘Dream Corrosion’ became the first of Numan’s album releases to miss the British charts completely, whilst the subsequent 1995 live set ‘Dark Light’ followed suit. In late ‘95, Numan collaborated with Michael R. Smith on the album ‘Human’, and rounded out the decade with the 1997 solo effort ‘Exile’ (UK#48).
Despite critical derision and dwindling commercial returns over the length of the journey, Gary Numan has been cited as a precursor to, and major player in, the synth/electro-pop scene that burst to prominence in the early 1980s - think Human League, Mi-Sex, Flowers, Visage, Real Life, Soft Cell, the Buggles - see separate posts - and early Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, and Duran Duran. It’s fair to say that the success of ‘Cars’ Stateside also opened the door for the early 80s British invasion of U.S. charts. Numan has also been a major influence to many artists including Nine Inch Nails, Midnight Juggernauts, and Iva Davies from Icehouse (see previous posts). Much of his work has been sampled on other artists’ hit singles, including in 2002 by Basement Jaxx.
Following the release of his latest album, Gary Numan undertook a major world tour from late 2013, and extending well into 2014, in the process taking him closer to a music career spanning forty years, a feat deserving of respect in anyone’s book.