Enjoy the Surreal Minimalism of Gary Numan’s, “Cars”

Enjoy the Surreal Minimalism of Gary Numan’s, “Cars”

When discussing the 80’s one thing will always creep up…the subject of excess. Things were big in the 80’s, and this was reflected in the music videos of the time. In order to stand out, videos became bigger and bigger until they were Hollywood films in miniature. But not every video adhered to this formula, some stood out due to their lack of such extravagant trappings, and the best of those was Gary Numan‘s video for his hit song “Cars”.


“Cars” features a few fluorescent lights, a black drop cloth background, and…well, that’s it actually. And that’s all it needs. The starkness only enhances the other worldliness of Numan and his electronics drenched sound.

When I first caught a glimpse of Numan in the video, he might as well have been an alien or an android. There was no one that looked anything like him in the small rural town that I grew up in, but because of that fact, he became a revelation to my friends and I in much the same Bowie must have been when he debuted his Ziggy Stardust character nearly a decade before.

You can check out the surreal minimalism of “Cars” right here:


Stay Spooky!

Daniel XIII

Daniel XIII: equally at home at a seance as he is behind the keyboard! Raised on a steady diet of Son of Satan comics, Kaiju flicks and Count Chocula, ol' XIII is a screenwriter, actor, and reviewer of fright flicks! What arcane knowledge lurks behind the preternatural eyes of the Ouija Board Kid?

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Love Numan and this song in particular often is on any playlist I might make. A great artist to cover here on the site.

  2. Thanks Retroist, I’m glad you liked the article!

  3. If only that one had an iconic video Professor…

  4. Numan and Kraftwerk made me a convert to electronic sounds.

    This sparse video reminds me of how music genres got parsed out and appreciated in my town, with its rocker gen-pop and New Wave eyeliner-subculture.

    We were generally surrounded by rocker personas – with older kids and older cousins adapting the Metal-On-Metal lifestyle. And the gaudy playful videos, by the ozzies, sisters, motleys and the like, were part of the vernacular (such as…you couldn’t mention a metal hit without agreably laughing about the vid)
    Made metalheads a bit like kids, throughout their early twenties.

    But then, the synth-gen were the club-goers, the ‘adults’, and never spoke of videos though the music played as pop hit in bars as often as car radios (where Cars was an unsurprising hit).

    My favorite sounds for music back then was synth and musicians like Numan, Deodato, Giorgio Moroder and – especially – W. Carlos.
    Midnight Express’ theme music and ‘Chase’, from its soundtrack, played every day on my 45 turntable.

    Of these keyboard pieces, this Numan video is the only one I remember seeing. But it didn’t matter, because there is an ethereal quality to synthesizer waves that doesn’t translate to visualized medium (or didn’t back in the day of non-CGI animation).

    But I gotta say (again), Daniel, how your great illustration up top matches that quality.
    If Numan’s vid would’ve used this as an animation choice (a bit like A-Ha’s Take On Me) instead of live minimalism, it might’ve struck a visual chord with even the most hardcore metalites.

  5. Thank you so much for the kind words about my art and article! Once again Atari Adventure Square, we seem to draw from a similar past. My town was strongly divided between metal heads (I liked your Anvil reference btw), and Top 40 loving kids. There was little appreciation for those that fell outside of those categories. While Numan and his peers were outre enough, I can only imagine how folks in my hometown would have reacted to a Klaus Nomi…

  6. It’s kind of a drag most people only know him for Cars. I mean it’s a great song and all but I’d say his first 6 albums are mostly brilliant throughout. There is animation in a Numan video by the way, check out “Complex”

    It’s too bad he’s a middle aged NIN goth wannabe now. He was doing truly something unique back in the late 70s/early 80s even if he was following the lead by Ultravox. Bowie hated him back in those days and talked trash about him. I’d love to hear his opinion now.

  7. So much about Numan that I do not know, but I have to say I have really been enjoying his early albums.

  8. Great song, great vid. I agree with the poster regarding the Numan of today, I saw him at Sonisphere (quite by chance) it was clear to me that Numan’s best days are well behind him.

  9. @Jon I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I haven’t seen any of Numan’s recent output, and I kind of want to keep it that way. With the older material, it was a product of a certain era and attitude, and could never be replicated…

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