The Story Behind Gary Numan’s New Wave Classic “Cars”

The iconic artist discusses the song that almost single-handedly set the stage for '80s synth-pop

story behind the song gary numan cars
The Story Behind the Song: Gary Numan’s “Cars’

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    Iconic UK new wave artist Gary Numan ushered in an entirely new form of electronic synth music with 1979’s “Cars.” While the sound would go on to define much of the next decade, the breakout smash came to Numan in mere minutes — after nearly being attacked by thugs in his own vehicle.

    Prior to his “Cars”-driven hit The Pleasure Principle, Numan had recorded two highly successful precursor albums with his Tubeway Army project. (The album Replicas yielded the enduring hit “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”) And since the massive success of the 1979 single, Numan has never stopped recording and touring, constantly reinventing himself, his persona, and his sound. In so doing, he’s heavily influenced generations of shapeshifting musicians from the likes of Trent Reznor to Kanye West. Even today, his songs continue to blaze new trails in contemporary pop culture — setting an ominous tone for Netflix’s smash serial killer series Minderhunter, for example.


    Yet Numan’s artistic and personal journey has not been for the faint of heart, characterized by massive highs (his immediate superstardom with “Cars”) and equally massive lows (struggles with not only recalibrating his music over server decades, but also his personal demons).

    In this second episode of The Story Behind the Song podcast, host Peter Csathy interviews Gary Numan about all of this as the pair discuss the hypnotic classic “Cars.” As always on TSBTS, the guest musician also reveals the story behind one of their personal favorite tracks from their own catalog; Numan chooses “The Gift,” a song off his most recent album, Intruder, which was released earlier this year to largely effusive reviews.

    Listen to the podcast above, or check out the full video of the chat below. Then, make sure you’re subscribed to The Story Behind the Song to catch each episode of the monthly series. You can also keep an eye on the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our podcasts.


    Also, follow Peter Csathy on Twitter @pcsathy and check out his company CREATV Media.

    Theme music courtesy of Juan Pieczanski.