Being a big Numaoid in the early days when I saw there were archive recordings of ‘Replicas’ and ‘the Pleasure Principle’ hitting the shelves there was no point ignoring it I just had to get my hands on the set. Coming in an Ampex sort of slipcase and pressed on heavyweight double coloured vinyl ‘Replicas’ Sessions was on.
In late 1978, Gary Numan was booked into a small studio in London’s Chinatown with the same musicians that had played on Tubeway Army’s debut album, released a month earlier. Two stereo master tapes were compiled of eleven tracks. A month later they again went to Gooseberry Studio and recorded an additional three tracks, including “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and “Replicas”. At the same time, the band recorded a session for the BBC’s John Peel show, taping alternate versions of three songs from the December recordings. Finally, Numan returned to an upgraded studio, Marthus Music, in February to overdub and remix the Gooseberry recordings into their released versions. Only one alternative outtake still exists (“Down In The Park”) which is included in this release.
Spread out over two discs most of this release has been issued before on CD in the Replicas Redux set but that’s a minor quibble if your one of the uber-nerds who are picky about that sort of thing. Me, I’m not so fussy and to hear the original mixes of these songs gives me goosebumps. I loved the Tubeway Army post-punk synth fallout and remember it like it was yesterday. the synth stabs on ‘Down In The Park’ are exceptional and that tinny hi-hat on ‘Do You Need The Service’ with the treated electric guitar. The crispness of these recordings is amazing. Numan was a pioneer and should be well proud of these recordings mixing the synths with more conventional musical instruments is brilliant.
I can remember my father sticking his head around the bedroom door wondering what the fuck we were listening to and knowing the lyrics to ‘The Crazies’ within the first couple of days of hearing it is still funny. Wondering how they managed to create the sounds on ‘Me I Disconnect From You’ is kinda funny looking back but even now its a real rush hearing it back. listening to how ‘Are Friends Electric’ grew into the beast it became on the proper release is interesting. The Peel versions on the second LP show how bloody good those engineers working at the Beeb really were and they always managed to turn even the most primitive punk rock into some inspiring wall of sound.
If there is to be a complaint about this collection is the lack of some written booklet about the process we are listening to. It would have been great to have a song by song memoir if such a thing exists. but that’s just the uber nerd in me again. Oh and don’t be put off by the repetitive song titles because these are very different in many ways even to the casual listener.
The Pleasure Principle.
Pretty much as you are. Numan was no longer a weird post punk outsider he’d had hits and ‘Cars’ put him front and centre on TOTP as well as swap shop where kids would back off and parents would wonder what was going on. As for the early recordings on offer, over the hour and a bit of music again spread out over two coloured records kicks off with a great guitar, Bass and drum led ‘Cars’.
Before the single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” came out, Numan had a band consisting of a drummer and keyboard player and had demoed an album’s worth of songs and this was in 1979. They also recorded a session for John Peel the day after the single hit #1 on the UK charts. Rather than calling it Tubeway Army, the session was credited to just Gary Numan and the group name abandoned at the peak of its success. As before, rather than promote the current album, Numan chose to record four new songs. While the album Replicas hit #1, Numan was busy recording the follow-up.
From the surviving tapes, there were six separate out-takes and these have been included. The discs have been sequenced with the stronger, second demo but all tracks are in the order of the tapes. ‘Complex’ sounds like it could have been written and recorded yesterday so fresh sounding it is. I loved this album when it came out but there were some songs that didn’t stand the test of time so well even though I haven’t played them in ten years at least so playing ‘M.E’ here with fresh ears as it was had me wondering why I wasn’t so keen to play this album. ‘Tracks’ is the sound of a worn tape at play much like a spooled C90 you used to splice with sellotape when it got jammed not that I ever indulged in home taping because that was killing music!
‘Cars’ Demo 1 is weird and must be a buzz for Numan to playback knowing what it morphed into. there are a bunch of the remastered in ’09 tracks that sound like 80s B movie soundtrack songs and have little interest to me I’ll be honest. the second record is wrapped up as ‘Replicas’ with some Peel session tracks that just sizzle. ‘Cars’ is brilliant from the wobbling synth to the punchy snare to the “da da da da boom boom!” and the splash of the cymbal makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up remembering what it was like travelling to Hammersmith Odeon to see Numan and wondering what the fuck I was watching.
If you were ever a Numanoid or played any of those singles then you really do need these records – trust me just get em!
Buy Replicas Here
Author: Dom Daley