Another one of those records I bought only as a single – we’re talking the 45 RPM record – was Cars by Gary Numan.
The song was a single from an album called The Pleasure Principle. “It reached the top of the charts in several countries, and today is considered a new wave staple.” It was #1 in the UK in 1979 and in Canada in 1980. It spent 17 weeks on the US charts, getting to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980, his only big hit song in this country.
“Musically, the new song was somewhat lighter and more pop-oriented than its predecessors.” Numan later conceding that he had chart success in mind: “This was the first time I had written a song with the intention of ‘maybe it could be a hit single.'”
I’ve tried to ascertain WHY it was instantly infectious. My working theory is that the very first sound one hears is reminiscent of a didgeridoo.
You know the didgeridoo, that wind instrument developed by indigenous people of northern Australia “within the last 1,500 years and still in widespread use today both in Australia and around the world. It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or “drone pipe'”.
The didgeridoo was featured on the very first season of the “reality show” Survivor, which took place in the Australian outback. My ABC Wednesday buddy Reader Wil wrote a post on the instrument, which explained, via a couple of videos, how one plays the instrument.
I’ve discovered that when I tried to replicate the sound of the instrument, humming with my mouth open while quickly covering and uncovering my mouth, I could approximate the sound of the first notes of Numan’s Cars.
ABC Wednesday, D for Didgeridoo.
Cars by Fear Factory, featuring Gary Numan (1998).