Perfect Record #7 – The Pleasure Principle

Music has always been my salvation. Some recordings strike me as “perfect” from beginning to end. Even were I to go deaf, I would still be able to listen to these on the turntable of my mind, so ingrained into my consciousness are these albums. In this ongoing series, I’ll take a quick peek at some of the perfect records that have shaped my life.

Gary Numan The Pleasure Principle

I’m feeling a bit nerdy this morning. Reading the section in NeuroTribes about how the rise of science fiction magazines and books, and ham radio and home electronics projects, provided places for undiagnosed Aspie/Autists to hang out, meet, share their passions, and utilize their gifts. Thinking back on my own history of “nerdy special interests,” my own outlier obsessions with sci-fi, dystopia, UFOs and space science, anomalies and fringes and all that.

So of course I’m listening to Gary Numan this morning as I edit. And of course I started with The Pleasure Principle, the album with which I first “met” him. Spacey synth-lines, repetitive, stilted, robotic 80’s dance grooves, Numan’s plaintive voice, his alienated, lonely, sci-fi lyrics… it’s the whole outlier package, and to me, it is perfect. From the opening synth notes of Airplane, sounding as though they’d been ripped straight from a 50’s science fiction move, to the proto-industrial buzz-notes and hammering beat of Metal, from the sad, apocalyptic vibe of M.E. to the soft reaching-out of Tracks, these songs move me in mind, heart, and body. They soothe my aching soul on days when I find myself wishing I’d read the fine print a little more closely before accepting this assignment on planet Earth.

The Pleasure Principle came with Numan’s biggest hit, of course. Cars ends up on pretty much every compilation from that era, and has been widely covered (Here’s a fun one!) mostly because it’s just a really good song, but also because the lyric captures something essential about the modern experience, IMO.

Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It’s the only way to live
In cars

Man, there are days when that feels exactly right.

My favorite tune on the album has always been Conversation. It captures something about the Asperger’s experience, I think. Something lonely and angry, something that refuses and resists, something that yearns. And it put words to things I couldn’t find words for myself for the longest time.

You are not strong
You are not force
You are not regular
You are just wrong

It was exciting and gratifying for me to learn, a couple of years ago, that Numan himself identifies as Asperger’s. It helped me better understand and appreciate my connection to his music, and not feel like I had to hide it as a “guilty pleasure.” I’ve been glad to see that his career has continued to this day, and has actually experienced new levels of popularity, as old fans and fellow musicians have heralded his contributions to music, and new fans have found him. He’s all over YouTube, where you can find pretty much all of his studio material, a huge number of remixes and covers, and tons of live concert material. If you haven’t checked out his work, he’s easy to find.

As for me, I’ve got more editing to do, and more listening. And I have a small, red pyramid that I need to stare at warily for a while. Pax-T

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