"Are 'Friends' Electric?" is a song by English New Wave band Tubeway Army from their 1979 album Replicas. It was released as a single in May 1979 and reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart, staying there for four weeks. It was written and produced by Gary Numan, the band's frontman and lead vocalist.

Production[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Despite being over five minutes long and possessing, in the words of its composer, "no recognisable hook-line whatsoever",[1] the single topped the UK charts. Whilst the track's distinctive sound stood out at the time, sales also benefited from the record company's use of a picture disc and Numan's striking, "robotic" performance on the TV shows The Old Grey Whistle Testand Top of the Pops.[2] "Are 'Friends' Electric?" has been a mainstay of Numan's concerts since its release and appears on all ten of his official live recordings to date. A semi-acoustic version appeared on the 2006 Jagged tour setlist. "Are 'Friends' Electric?" was featured in the video game Need for Speed: Carbon. It was also covered by Information Society on their 1997 album Don't Be Afraid.

Music[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Are 'Friends' Electric?" features three different sections: a recurring "verse" with a synth riff in C and B flat, a recurring section with spoken word over slow arpeggiated seventh chords, and an instrumental break in F. The instrumentation is quite minimalistic: there is a conventional drum and bass guitar backing track, some additional heavily flanged guitar (particularly in the instrumental break), subdued vocals and, most prominently, a Minimoog synthesizer. These synth parts include a slow-paced sawtooth bass riff, and some soaring portamento background lines.

Numan stumbled upon synthesizers by accident. While intending to record a punk album, he noticed a Minimoog synthesizer that had been left in the studio.[3] The keyboard’s massive sound became the inspiration for the Replicas album, and is the dominant sound for this song.

B-side[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The B-side of the single was a more rock-oriented number, "We Are So Fragile". It was performed on Numan's 1979 "Touring Principle" series of concerts and appears on the album Living Ornaments '79.

Track listing[edit source | editbeta]Edit

All songs written and composed by Gary Numan. 

No. Title Length
1. "Are 'Friends' Electric?"   5:18
2. "We Are So Fragile"   2:46

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Tubeway Army
  • Gary Numan – production
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