[5] Gary Numan, ‘Cars’

Look, everyone – techno! Kraftwerk had laid meaty foundations, of course, but Gary Numan really made them rock. This is synth as instrument of dance, not evocation of stark futuristic landscape and death of tangible human emotion. Ok, a bit of that too.

Numan had dispensed with his Tubeway Army and was ready to step into the limelight as glamorous, pouting, ladies-love solo star. Granted, he may have missed that mark, but he was a beguiling artist in a cold, otherworldly kind of way – an object of fascination who gave little away, and perhaps there was little to give. ‘Cars’ was the sound of tomorrow, hi-tech and dispassionate, and may still be. From the comfortable safety of his human-shunning machine, Numan croaks a few cyborg lines before buggering off barely halfway through the song, allowing the less-credited Army to unleash a vast, layered synthscape that should by rights extend forever. Monumental.

No-nonsense Junior cut to the chase: “Why’s he singing about his car? He’s silly, isn’t he?”

[9] Tubeway Army, ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’

Hear that? Those are new gods marching over the pop scene to Prokofievian synth chords, punkbots on rollerblades gliding to a lipsticked new world order. You get the drift. Gary Numan may well have been a figure of fun – a slightly freakish, unsettling one, yeah – but what the hell did that matter to him when he was splicing Kraftwerk and Bowie templates to take his android aria to the top of the charts?

This sounds like the future, and it’s a lonely, terrifying one. In Numan’s high concept, “friends” are automatons, here to leaven the solitude and provide for, well, other needs. “Mine broke down,” he croaks and the flimsy tissue of solace rips apart around it. But the synth cycle transcends its forbidding tones and raises the song to epic status, delivering Queen-like rock in pure electronica. It’s stunning and still dominant even as Adina Howard, Richard X and Sugababes hijack it for their own saucy needs.

Back here in 2008, Junior performed all sorts of unlikely twists and turns to the music. It would’ve put my back out, but then, I’m not three. As we left the house 10 minutes later, she said “It’s cold outside.” Whoa.