My Record Collection: #1 Tubeway Army – Replicas

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I don’t think a lot of people have any idea what a barren wasteland of music Iowa was in the 80’s. All you had was what was on the radio (top 40, oldies or country) or at the few record shops that were around, most of them being chain shops in the malls. There were a couple of independent record shops but they were more geared to the older audiophile set and focused on classic rock.

So finding out about new music was a matter of meeting people road trips to the likes of Minneapolis or Chicago for record shopping. There was no iTunes, no internet, no Spotify, no Pirate Bay. And at least when I was really getting into music, no CD’s. ¬†Finding cool music was difficult and took work, which is why most just fell into one of the normal genres, the top 40 kids, the metal dudes, the Deadheads and a small contingent of punks (where I resided for a lot of high school as well).

I came to this album a bit late. It was released in Britain in 1979 and was a giant smash there. It was nothing here. The first, and last, we heard from Gary Numan in the States was Cars, which is where I first heard him. I liked that song but I think was at that point too young and musically immature to really get it. I got it years later when I was reintroduced to him through a friend Numan became my big collection band (it seemed like we all, at least all the cool kids I knew, had that one band that we had to have everything. You had the one into Kraftwerk or Devo. Further afield you had the Deadheads and their tape trading and the few Zappa afficionados.)

This was groundbreaking stuff at the time. The use of synthesizers in a pop context (pop for Britain; US pop is en entirely different beast) was largely unknown then and this song was an absolute smash in the UK. From my perspective in the US this sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. To me, it was punk with synths.

And though I had heard Depeche Mode and Human League and such, hearing this was the first time it actually changed what I wanted to listen to. I had gone from the childhood adoration of KISS and metal, like I think all boys do. I had already done the punk thing, which flowed easily from metal. But this was new and it changed the way I looked at and appreciated music from then on. This is the thing that made me look for music that pushes the boundaries and every weird thing I listen to, from Coil to Nurse With Wound and Zappa to Jazz extends from that epiphany.

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