Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle

I’m almost through with my 80’s kick. One more item and I’ll jump back into this century…

Q: What’s the difference between a great 80’s album and a shitty 80’s album?

A: A live drummer.

That may be generalizing a little, and there certainly are exceptions to this rule (Pet Shop Boys, Art Of Noise, Thomas Dolby, etc.), but on the whole I think the theory holds water.

For definitive proof one need look no further than Gary Numan’s early 80’s masterpiece The Pleasure Principle.

Until recently rediscovering this beauty of an album I, like many others, didn’t look beyond his one Stateside hit “Cars”. In his native England, however, he remained a superstar and is revered as a true original. Some bands that have cited Numan as a major influence are: New Order, Simple Minds (early stuff), Pete Shelley, AIR, Nine Inch Nails and…ugh…Marilyn Manson and Billy “don’t call me a bald twat” Corgan. The PP sounded unlike anything out at the time and like everything before. The irony is that Numan’s followers were extremely successful (Blue Monday, anyone? Tainted Love?), which had the effect of relegating this magnificent album to the bargain bin and Numan himself to one hit wonder status. Allmusic has this to say about the Pleasure Principle:

“The most popular of all the Gary Numan albums is undeniably 1979’s The Pleasure Principle. The reasons are simple — there is not a single weak moment on the disc, it contains his sole U.S. (number one worldwide) hit, “Cars,” and new drummer Cedric Sharpley adds a whole new dimension with his powerful percussion work. The Pleasure Principle is also one of the first Gary Numan albums to feature true ensemble playing, especially heard within the airtight, killer groove of “Metal” (one of Numan’s all-time best tracks). Starting things off with the atmospheric instrumental “Airlane,” the quality of the songs gets stronger and stronger as the album progresses — “Films,” “M.E.,” “Observer,” “Conversation,” the aforementioned “Cars,” and the U.K. Top Ten hit “Complex” all show Numan in top form. If you had to own just one Gary Numan album, The Pleasure Principle would be it.”

The album before PP, the one he originally did as leader of Tubeway Army (Replicas) is almost as good and contains one of his best songs in the dramatic Down In The Park”. Both albums are highly recommended.