Gary Numan: This Gun For Hire

Gary Numan’s career had taken some strange turns by the time that he was dropped from his UK label Beggar’s Banquet in the early 80s. His sales had diminished, ironically, as sales of Ultravox, the band he often cited as his inspiration began to actually sell records in the wake of Numan’s success! Ultravox’s star seemed to rise as Numan’s ebbed during 1981. His ambient jazzfunk album, “Dance” had just one single pulled from it and though it’s an amazing record, it didn’t trouble the top ten chart for too long. Meanwhile, Ultravox were a consistent top ten singles band that entire year following their breakthrough with “Vienna” and they managed to secure their winning streak for a good four years straight.

Numan’s next move was to pick himself, dust himself off, and start his own label, Numa Records. Numa released three studio albums and a brace of live albums during this period. None of these albums managed a showing high in the charts, though they are beloved by me. In fact, it was these three albums that brought my ears back to Numan after jumping ship for the like of Ultravox and John Foxx for the first half of the 80s. When Ultravox subsequently imploded in 1986 and with Foxx having vanished from the face of the earth, the time seemed right to check out what the former prodigal son was doing in the [shudder] mid-80s.

Having liked what I heard when sampling albums like “The Fury” and “Strange Charm,” I started to keep up with Numan again. None of his releases were hugely successful in the charts, so he began to collaborate with others on strange one-off projects in an attempt to shoot the spaghetti gun at the wall and see what stuck. Some, like the Sharpe + Numan “Change My Mind” single are fairly well known. Others, like the “Radio Heart” single are fascinating footnotes in Numan’s long career.

I was watching Night Flight in the [gags] mid-late eighties, a rough time for music if there ever was one, and I chanced to see a clip that made me think “what th…??!!” The video was credited to “Radio Heart with Gary Numan” and the song was the eponymous “Radio Heart.” The clip featured musicians and a pair of backing singers on risers on a large stage and Numan front and center with slick poses throughout the clip. The music was the standard, freeze-dried digital synthpop of the day with a bit of conventional instrumentation. Numan just sang the track, which didn’t sound like a song he wrote.

The end result was the closest thing to a pure pop song Numan ever committed to wax. The song had somewhat cliché lyrical content but the arrangement was a killer pop tune; something Numan really had never managed in the nine or ten years of his career by this point. In fact, one of the best things about this tune were the backing vocals by uncredited females. They are, in fact, a rare example of mathematic perfection in their execution and design. Every “woah woah” and counterpuntal melody is spot on perfect. The net result is that I can listen to this song all day long. I was sold! Next came buying a copy. That was a bit harder.

Critique | USP | 12" | 1987 | DMD 1068

Radio Heart [featuring Gary Numan]: Radio Heart USP 12″ [1987]

  1. Radio Heart [extended mix]
  2. Radio Heart [vocal]
  3. Mistasax Version #2

I eventually found a copy at a record show some time by the early 90s. I found a US promo 12″ on the Critique label that had the extended mix as well as a Non-LP B-side, which was actually written by Numan himself! The 12″ mix is a classic “extended version” with the song aired out to give it a few minutes more running time. More of a good thing always works for me, so I wasn’t missing a radical remix that lost what I liked about the song in the first place. “Mistasax version #2” is, as the name implies, a sax driven instrumental with Dick Morrissey [probably] playing a track that sounds like it could date from was early as the “I, Assassin” sessions. It was appended to “Strange Charm” and it appeared in the 1998 RM version of that album as a bonus track, which was probably as concurrent as one could get with those releases.

Critique | USP | 7" | 1987 | 7-99454

Radio Heart [featuring Gary Numan]: Radio Heart USP 7″ [1987]

  1. Radio Heart [edit]
  2. Radio Heart [edit]

I’m not sure where I happened to run across the US Promo 7″ of this tune many years later. In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago when reviewing my 7″ archives, that I discovered that this record was on my racks! I must have bought it on principle, since it’s just a 3:35 edit of the four minute LP tracks as on the 12″ I bought earlier. Of course, the pic sleeve is reason enough to buy if you’re The Monk! Investigation reveals that there was an album, with two other singles also sporting Gary Numan vocals. Who knows who’s singing on the rest of the album! I see that it’s available on iTunes so I can always cherry pick the other two tracks, though if you know me, those vintage 12″ers will be calling my name! If the other two singles [“London Times” and “All Across The Nation”] are as good at this number, I should definitely add them to the Record Cell!  The Radio Heart project is a head-scratcher; how and why did this record happen? But I can’t argue with results like these.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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5 Responses to Gary Numan: This Gun For Hire

  1. Echorich says:

    I would say that it’s worth cherry picking for All Across the Nation and London Times…They aren’t as immediate as Radio Heart, which I agree is very much not Numan but at the same time a very good Numan release! Odd how that works…
    I am a HUGE fan of the Shape + Numan album and own the vinyl and UK cd. Although it came out in 88/89 I believe it too has its roots in about 85 when Numan was gearing up to record Strange Charm. In fact Change Your Mind’s video has Numan in Berserker era gear and blue hair! There’s a lot of similarity in the two records. But Automatic did muddle things for Numan a bit because it was released and competed with Numan’s own IRS release Metal Rhythm. Because it ended up being the better seller, which still wasn’t saying much, I think Outland and Machine + Soul are both overly influenced by it.
    Finally on the mid period Numan, I think Berserker, The Fury and Strange Charm and the IRS released Metal Rhythm were a great move on Numan’s part. They redefined him and he showed his ability to make influences his own. Live he was brilliant in those days…the stage sets were fantastic and Numan was in great voice and energetic on stage… He had swagger!

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  2. Gavin says:

    Amazingly enough,with a huge Numan collection,I still don’t have any of the Radio Heart stuff-it just seemed to completely pass me by.
    Sharpe & Numan,yes-bought all the singles and the LP and more recently the cd.Numan was pretty much reviled and ignored simultaneously in that era in the UK and being a fan was a bit like running the gauntlet.Echorich is correct about live shows-I saw the Fury Tour as an 18 year old in Liverpool and it was incredible.Still have my programme.
    Fast forward to a few years ago and saw him live again for the first time since those heady days,in a double bill with Sir Jonathan of Foxx no less,at Troxy in London.I was blown away,even though I don’t like anything Gazza has released since Pure his live show was immaculate and thrilling.Being on Foxxy’s guest list also helped in my decision to attend,so glad I did!
    I must make an effort this weekend to explore the Radio Heart stuff.I have so much Numan vinyl it hurts,so I’m sure a few more won’t hurt any more…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – I just have the “Radio Heart” singles, but they are pure pop given a strange twist by having Numan sing them. I never got the Radio Heart album, but there was more Numan material on that. File these next to the Sharpe + Numan album as some intriguing side steps that in today’s climate, I vastly prefer to his aggro-metal output. I only saw him on the US tour for “Exile” and it was as exactly the last minute of his career that would have enjoyed him. Echorich was big on his last album, but that cover was so off putting. I should give it a sample at my DL store of choice. I may also like it. But watching the “Machine Music” DVDs was very difficult in the final third of disc 1. I simply fast forwarded through everything past the Fear Factory remake of “Cars.”

      You saw The Fury tour?! Serious envy. That and “Strange Charm” are in my top 5 Numan albums list.

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    • Echorich says:

      I had the opportunity to see Numan 3 times in the very early years in NYC and The Telekon Tour ranks as one of my favorite concerts of all time. I go back to Numan live for the 3 tours that followed Strange Charm and the release of Metal Rhythm in the late 80’s – yes, I planned vacations to London around Numan tours for a few years…The Dominion show in Tottenham Court Rd was really special and two nights at Hammersmith Odeon and then The Astoria were brilliant as well.

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