Classic Albums No. 3 – White Noise (Gary Numan)

The 3rd of my Classic albums is a live one! I set my rules specifying no compilations, but as this is a live album of a tour I think that I’m okay. And it’s my series, so I can break the rules if I want! So – number 3 is White Noise, by Gary Numan – a record of his Beserker tour. Good live albums are hard to come by, but Gary Numan is one of those rare artists whose live recordings are much better than his studio albums, – of course this is only my opinion (and I have 3 of those albums!).

I bought White Noise in 1985 when it came out and I can remember putting on the cassette as I settled down to do some homework (well I was only 16). Right from the moody instrumental intro to Beserker I was hooked. The man knows how to be dramatic with his music. You know there is something about to happen and you just have wait to find out what comes next. I didn’t get any work done, then again I rarely did, but this was different. It was like being at the concert.

There are 17 tracks plus the intro, so I won’t go into all of them, but it is an excellent live album that shows Gary Numan’s ability. My Dying Machine  thumps out an relentless beat with Cedric Sharpley on drums pushing the song along with the rhythm of a steam engine. This is a precursor to industrial rock. Then there is the hint of early 80s jazzfunk  with saxophone and funky rhythms on This Prison Moon and This is New Love. There is the middle-eastern tinged violin on Cold Warning and the ever present synthesiser on I Die: You Die. The bass guitar on Remind Me To Smile also has the funk sound to it. And all the while Gary Numan’s distinctive voice is pushed along by that industrial strength drumming and the backing vocals of Karen Taylor. Songs such as Cars and Down in the Park keep the pace up with dark edge. The album finished with Are Friends Electric which is really the pinnacle of the performance as the crowd joins in.

This album, like all good live albums, has high quality musicianship. It can’t be successful without that. John Webb, RRussell Bell, Chris Payne, Andy  Coughlan, and Karen Taylor do great work. And this album shows why Gary Numan was the first person to really succeed with synthesiser –based music. His early life in the punk era meant that guitars were used to good effect, the drumming was real – not synthesised, and he took in other influences. Some songs are really stripped back, some more complex, but they all work; they all get the feet tapping. He is an adaptive artist that knows how to meld it all together with great stage presence. It works best live – White Noise is a classic live album. There is drama in this album, changes of pace. It’s dark, it’s moody, and it’s magnificent.

You can listen to it here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63ULqxnQprQ&list=PLDF3ACE8470A66C77

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon)

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