The Thatcher Crisis Years

1980s politics blog from TV historian Tony McMahon

Thumbing through my old copies of the NME – and by the way, I found out the NME itself has no copies of its old issues pre-1983 – I couldn’t help noticing that Gary Numan was not a performer held in the highest affection.  Even though his material has been sampled since and I think history has been kinder to him.  But the savaging he got at his career peak was ceaseless.

Nick Kent of the NME had resolved to destroy him by April 1981 – thirty years ago.  I’ve got the article in front of me and it’s cruelly hilarious.  “…Ground control is evidently calling your number as I write in the same harsh, hollow cadence you yourself have utilised for your sound…”     Ouch.

Numan was frequently accused of having snaffled David Bowie’s mantle while the great man took a break for various reasons before bouncing back with Let’s Dance.  Nick Kent said Numan must have been feeling the heat by 1980 when Steve Strange and John Foxx were taking the limelight but the return of the thin white duke himself meant the end.

“…David Jones from Beckenham (Bowie in case you didn’t know) had returned from his sojourns out in left-field to claim his throne, the very chair your bum has been keeping warm in his Nib’s absence for – how long is it now? Two years, at least, eh?”

Kent said that Steve Harley had kept Bowie’s seat warm in 1974, Numan had done so for a while and Steve Strange was performing that task as he wrote.  It was time, Kent felt, for Numan to go away.  Which as it goes, is pretty much what he did.



5 thoughts on “The hatred of Gary Numan

  1. KGR says:


    1. Numan wasn’t just influenced by Bowie, he ripped him off. The moves, persona and everything else. As well as Kraftwerk and early Ultravox.

    2. Numan became famous for blatantly copying Bowies “Low” period long after Bowie had re-invented himself again.

    3. Numan bragged about being rich and famous despite having no musical talent. His words not mine. That’s not modesty, it’s being a …..

    4. How on earth did he manage two number one singles and albums simultaneously in such a short space of time? Even by today’s standards that’s fast. Umm!!.

    5. After Bowie saying he didn’t like Numan’s style Numan threw his toys out of the pram and told the press that Bowie was threatened by his success and that he was bigger than Bowie. A definite no no in music.

    6. His fellow pop stars and the press labelled him a fascist. He probably was.

    7. He collected guns. Enough said.

    8. He worshipped the royals and Thatcher and avoided paying tax by running off to America in 1982. He stated that paying tax is demoralising.

    9. BBC Radio 1 wiped his records from the playlist. Well his songs weren’t exactly radio friendly were they?. Strangely Top Of The Pops still had him on though as did children’s shows.

    10. After 1980, his albums and singles would come in to the chart in the first week of release then fall out the top 40 the week or two after. This was down to his small hardcore obsessive fans called ‘Numanoids’ rushing out to buy his records on the first day of release. They didn’t just buy one copy each they bought three or more just to get him in the chart.

    11. His records always got terrible reviews despite some of them being mediocre anyway. The press eventually ignored him and stopped the reviews until 1994.

    12. After ripping off Robert Palmer and Prince in the early 90’s he went all gothic and ripped off all the people he’s meant to have inspired like Nine Inch Nails and Manson….and he’s still doing that today.

    13. In 2010, he slagged off Bowie again for his lack of output. He probably did this to get some attention.

    14. He’s held in the same regard as Bowie by some pop revisionists. They label anybody a legend these days don’t they?

    15. He uses a range of excuses for his rants in the past. Some people over a certain age don’t forget.

    Verdict: Pretentious Bowie cloned novelty act. I used to be a fan but found out his phoney ways. 🙂

    1. Think a lot of people ended up viewing him the same way. His later singles were truly awful.

  2. epocsos says:

    The NME went after bands who weren’t left wing, it was pathetic. Gary Numan today is a legend in pop music, and the NME, no one buys it anymore and it scrapes a living as a website.

    1. That is true. Also, some of the NME journalists from that era have turned into horrible reactionaries, way worse than Gary Numan. Won’t mention any names but I’m sure you know who I mean.

    2. Karel says:

      Legend based on what?. A brief period of mainstream success 42 years ago? Because if it’s inspiration you’re referring to then it’s third-rate cult obscurities and those trying to be cool who give him false praises.

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