Gary Numan

Cars

Song Review by

Perhaps the most iconic intro of the entire synth-pop era (in 2003, an auto manufacturer set a commercial to the instrumental opening of "Cars," knowing that its target audience would get the reference immediately), the throbbing, repetitive synths of "Cars" are all most listeners know of Gary Numan, especially in the US, where it was the musician's only Top 40 hit. Taken in the context of the album The Pleasure Principle, the deliberate isolation of Numan's lyrics fits in perfectly with Numan's overarching obsession with alienation and depersonalization. In the context of a four-minute pop single, however, "Cars" is a novelty about on a par with the five-minute edit of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" that was a minor hit in 1975; in other words, only about one step above Hot Butter's "Popcorn." That said, it was arguably the first true new wave hit single in the United States, and the song's slightly odd structure (the song proper is over in about 90 seconds, with the rest of its running time devoted entirely to an extremely long fade-out) and crisply modern electronic sound set the stage for the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" a couple years later, and the early MTV cavalcade of new wave smashes that followed.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Pleasure Principle 1979 Beggars Banquet 3:58
No Image 1979 Intercord Klassische Diskothek
Warriors 1983 Beggars Banquet 0:00
The Pleasure Principle/Warriors 1987 Beggars Banquet 3:51
Collection 1989 Castle Music Ltd. 0:00
Asylum 1 1990 Alfa 3:53
No Image 1990 Alfa
No Image 1990 Alfa
Club for Heroes 1992
Various Artists
3:33
Document Series Presents Gary Numan 1992 Connoisseur 3:45
Pop & Wave, Vol. 1 1993
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:02
25 Years of Radio 1993
Various Artists
Dutch East 3:17
'78-'83: The Best of Gary Numan 1994 Beggars Banquet 3:49
Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's, Vol. 3 1994
Various Artists
Rhino 3:58
The 80's Video Stars 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:57
Sounds of the Eighties: 1980 1995
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 4:00
VH1: The Big 80's 1996
Various Artists
Rhino 3:59
18 Modern Rock Classics from the 80's 1996
Various Artists
Essex 3:57
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Rhino
Cars 1996 Phantom 6:14
Disco Rock Classics, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
ZYX Music 3:49
Only Rock 'N Roll 1980-1984: #1 Radio Hits 1996
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 3:56
Premier Hits 1997 Beggars Banquet 3:55
No Image 1997
Various Artists
Rhino Flashback
No Image 1997
Various Artists
Rhino Flashback
Hard Rock Cafe: New Wave 1997
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image 1997 Beggars Banquet 4:30
In to the Mix, Vol. 2: The Second Coming 1998
Various Artists
Cleopatra 4:51
The Mix 1998 Cleopatra 4:53
Chart Toppers: Rock Hits of the 80s 1998 Priority Records 3:58
Eighties Mix [Import] 1998
Various Artists
Import 3:31
Remodulate: The Numa Chronicles 1998 Cleopatra 3:36
Maximum 80's 1998
Various Artists
Elektra 3:58
World's Greatest Club Collection 1998
Various Artists
Alpha Wave 4:00
CMJ the Year in Alternative Music 1980 1998
Various Artists
Chronicles / Polygram 3:57
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Electronic Eighties, Vol. 2 1999
Various Artists
Polygram 3:47
80's New Wave, Vol. 2: Electronic 80's 1999
Various Artists
Universal Special Products / Polymedia 3:59
Poptronica: Sci-Fi 1999
Various Artists
Buddha Records 3:56
Break Dance: Return of B-Boy 1999
Various Artists
Cold Front Records / K-Tel Distribution 3:58
Ultimate 80's Box 1999
Various Artists
Hypnotic 4:00
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:59
Millennium: 80's New Wave Party 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:59
MTV the First 1000 Years: New Wave 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:54
Down in the Park: The Alternative Anthology 1999 Castle Music Ltd. 3:39
Rock on 1980 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:59
New Dreams for Old: 1984-1998 2000 Spitfire Records 3:41
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1980 2000
Various Artists
Buddha Records 3:57
Machine Soul: An Odyssey Into Electronic Dance Music 2000
Various Artists
Rhino 3:56
Fetenkult Wave to 80s 2000
Various Artists
BMG International 3:47
Millennium Synthpop Madness 2000
Various Artists
Hypnotic / Cleopatra 3:50
Classic Alternatives, Vol. 4 2000
Various Artists
SPG 3:46
17 New Wave Classix 2001
Various Artists
Big Eye Music 3:50
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1980-1984 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 3:57
Sedated in the Eighties, Vol. 6 2002
Various Artists
The Right Stuff / Capitol 3:58
Exposure: The Best of Gary Numan 1977-2002 2002 Universal International 3:57
Electric: The Very Best Early Electronic, New Wave & Synth 2002
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records 3:41
Like, Omigod! The '80s Pop Culture Box (Totally) 2002
Various Artists
Rhino 3:57
Anthology 2002 Silverline Records 0:00
Ultra '80s Vs. Electro, Vol. 1 2002
Various Artists
Ultra Records 3:26
Disconnection 2002 Sanctuary 3:37
Alternative Hits of the 80's 2002
Various Artists
Masters / Intercontinental Records 3:42
Best 80s Modern Rock Album 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:55
Comprehensive School Classics 2002
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 3:37
Hybrid 2003 Artful Records 4:33
Then: Totally Oldies '80s, Vol. 5 2003
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande 4:00
Mutate 2003 Psychobaby Records / Jagged Halo 4:33
Resonator: Pioneer of Sound 2004 Artful Records 4:33
Here in My Car: The Best of 1984-1998 2004 Cleopatra 3:39
Moog [Original Soundtrack] 2004
Various Artists
Hollywood 3:57
'80s New Wave Hits 2006
Various Artists
Big Eye Music / Big Eye / Fantastic Price 3:38
Ultimate 16: Lite FM 80s 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 3:58
The Informers [Original Motion Picture Score] 2009 Lakeshore Records
Anthems: Electronic '80s 2009
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:34
Tracks from the Track, Vol. 1 2010 Switch 17 Music Group 3:54
Ministry of Sound: Anthems Collection 2011
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:52
The New Romantics [EMI 2009]
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution