Gary Numan identified the moment he had destroyed his own career, but laughed that it took longer than he expected to recover from the injury.
He had struggled with an undiagnosed developmental disorder since his early teens, and by his own admission it took him years to learn “how to be a famous person.” Looking back, he said he had reached a point in 1981 where he felt he just couldn’t go on, and announced a series of farewell shows.
“There’s a glossy front cover version where everything looks very glamorous,” Numan shared Guardian when he discussed a new documentary Gary Numan resurrection. “But reality can be damaging and destructive. Making music stops being this thing you love and starts being about devices and strategies. The stress and pressure of it all was incredibly difficult, especially for someone like me.” He added: “I felt like I was being pushed towards the edge of a cliff. And I didn’t want to fall off.”
He had felt that pressure since his early days as a musician, when his difficulties with interaction led to his first band effectively canceling him. “[E]very lonely person in or around the band stopped talking to me or walked away,” he recalled. “I had always tried to be kind, so I couldn’t understand it. In the end, one of their girlfriends said, ‘Nobody wants to know you anymore.'” He confirmed that it had been “traumatic,” adding: “you accepting that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re trying to be kind but are inherently different, and then you’re withdrawn. Then you write songs about it.”
Numan later realized that staging the farewell shows had been a mistake – especially since he returned to performing live some two years later. “I wanted to get back to making music and to who I was before it all started,” he explained. “The mistake was made public. I should have just quietly stopped touring and no one would have noticed. Instead, I upset everyone and ruined my career.”
But he has put all that behind him in recent years, with his last two albums reaching No.2 in the UK charts and a triumphant return to London’s Wembley Arena – scene of the farewell shows – in May. He described the site as a “symbolic goal” of his recovery, noting: “I thought it might take four years, not 41.”
Despite suffering panic attacks just before the show (detailed in the documentary), Numan reported: “It was actually brilliant. The power of all the people making all that noise. Some of them had been to the first Wembley gigs or held stuck with me from the beginning. I think they were even more emotional than I was.”
Gary Numan resurrection broadcast in the UK on Sky Arts and NU on Aug. 13. He begins a North American tour on Aug. 31.
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