The song “Cars” by Gary Numan changed everything for me. At least, that’s how I tell it in my head, looking back over the years. Like everything stopped, looked up, and gasped, and then nothing was quite the same as before, and never would be again. The first time I heard it was a pivotal moment, akin to the first time I walked up the steps at Penn Station and stepped out into the filtered sunlight of 7th Avenue, where the air felt charged with life and possibility to such an overwhelming degree, I needed to stop on the sidewalk to gulp it in and let it begin to settle over my skin.
Okay, to be fair, when I got home later, I did feel I needed to shower away the light filmy grime of the city, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to go back and experience it all over again, as soon as possible. I was a slightly different person forever after that, or just a little more of who I already was, perhaps.
The song gripped me cleanly, but otherwise much the same way. Still after all these years, I hear it each time as though I’m opening a gift. I can’t describe the gift in concrete terms, though. It just somehow made a lot of things okay, made me know I was okay, and as my son so eloquently puts it, “This song sounds like the theme to a 1980’s Chinese movie action montage, and that is a wonderful thing.”
On the more linear track briefly, it’s funny how many young people don’t even bother to drive cars now. We cloistered ourselves in them for decades, for good and for ill, and now they are cloistered in their bedrooms with a phone or a tablet, instead, the world at their fingertips, to both experience and to shun. Me, I still like to drive, my car is still my tiny kingdom. I’m no more or less alone than I ever was, wherever I am.
The movie Blade Runner 2049 addresses that to a degree. One thing that struck me about it was the profound loneliness of every character. And the replicants who were inadvertently made to feel special through true memory enhancement were a great parallel to a growing segment of our current society, and our increasingly internal natures.
I’ve always been alone, even in tiny crowds of my own delightful offspring, and so I’ve rarely thought about loneliness. I think maybe it requires a desire for something on the outside that could repair something on the inside. But I’ve never really liked having other people meddle with my design.
Anyway, it’s not as deep as all that. It was just new music, for my new generation, and the electronic tune and rhythm runs through my blood like fuel created specifically for my operating system. It’s not a complex composition; I just feel more alive when I hear it.
Have you ever heard this particular remix? It's sort of my favorite, though my brain tends to not let me have those, and Numan himself has recorded it a dozen different ways. It's perfect driving music.
PS: in case anyone reads this who feels like a deep sort of person. I like pretty much everything he's ever recorded for release. But part of me will always be 14, and I hope the same is true for you.