The S&G’s ears are still ringing after catching Gary Numan on his ‘intimate’ tour of the UK – playing a succession of small venues to stay fresh ahead of his appearances at some of the major rock festivals of the summer.
Quite apart from the evening entertainment was the opportunity for the S&G to sit down for a natter with the man himself. After chatting with the dedicated Numan fans (Numanoids no longer!) he very graciously signed the latest addition to the office aircraft collection – a model of the AT-6 Harvard that Gary flew so spectacularly at airshows in the 1980s-1990s.
“It’s really lovely – but you’ve got something wrong,” beamed the synthesiser pioneer. “You need to put a dummy gun barrel on the port wing to match the real one on the starboard wing… I wanted my Harvard to look as much like a Japanese Zero as it could!”
It might perhaps seem a trifle odd to sit down with a rock star with a model aeroplane and proceed to talk about little else but flying – but not Numan. It’s a subject he loves. He was particularly tickled to hear that Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson had bought a replica Fokker Dr.I triplane and intended to fly it over the Sonisphere festival at Knebworth – where Numan and his band were also due to play.
“I was the first person that Bruce flew aerobatics with – in the back seat of the Harvard,” Gary remembered. “He’s always been very businesslike about flying, he’s a respected charter pilot and even flew the band and their equipment around the world. But I flew him upside down for the first time!”
The artist formerly known as Gary Webb has given many interviews in almost 40 years since he entered the music business. Looking back few some of them one clipping stood out in particular. Dating back to 1979, just after his career went stratospheric with the synth-anthem Are ‘Friends’ Electric, the journalist Paul Morley revealed that flying and vintage aircraft were at the forefront of Numan’s mind, even as a 21-year-old pop sensation:
“I want to start my own airplane business. I’m going to buy two Dakotas, paint them up in war colours and do, er, nostalgia trips to Arnhem – you know, where the old paratroopers used to go – and charge them about 20 quid a time. I’d go on the same route as they used during the war. I’m more interested in this than keeping the music going. I don’t want to stay in music for too many years.”
Many pop stars have found the first flush of fame to be troublesome – and the shy, retiring Numan was one such. Back in 1979, Paul Morley asked him if he was worried about falling out of fashion and not being a pop star any longer – and after 35 years his insouciant answer can still raise a smile:
“No, I’d find it easy to stop because I’m so interested in flying, I’d have another complete love to go into. It’s like giving up Raquel Welch and going into Brigitte Bardot, innit?”
It’s now almost two decades now since Gary Numan flew at air shows. “I still really miss it,” he conceded to the S&G, holding the little plastic version of his Harvard. He talked proudly (and not a little jealously), about his brother, John – a former band member who went on to become a commercial pilot and now instructs EasyJet captains. Apparently they both still fantasise about living a free-wheeling life flying cargo around the world. Possibly in a pair of Dakotas.
Meanwhile back in the world of rock and pop, Numan is still the consumate showman and delivered a two hour set with relish – leaving the S&G among the rest of the deaf, dazed and happy punters. On July 7 he released a new single, I Am Dust, available for 99p on Amazon, iTunes and wherever else singles are sold these days – and his loyal fanbase is doing its utmost to celebrate 35 years since his debut Number 1 with a return to the top of the charts – so feel free to join in.
Buy your copy before July 13 and let’s see where it gets to. After all, Gary Numan is one of the world’s good guys.