Are 'Friends' Electric? (sometimes printed as Are "Friends" Electric?) is the title of a song written and produced by Gary Numan, recorded and issued under the name of his group Tubeway Army. The song features on the second Tubeway Army album Replicas and was issued as the second single from the album in May 1979. It became the breakthrough track for Numan reaching no.1 in the UK charts for four weeks in June and July.
Although Numan would go on to pursue a successful solo career, as the only chart single under the Tubeway Army name, Are 'Friends' Electric? effectively made the group 'one-hit wonders'.
The song follows the science-fiction dystopian theme of the Replicas album which was based on the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In Numan's re-interpretation, the titular 'friends' refer to androids who are engaged by humans for company, friendship, and even as sexual partners. "Mine's broken down" laments Numan, "..and now I've no-one to love". The song also features lines spoken by Numan.
Although the track was recorded using conventional drums, electric guitar and bass guitar the song carries several strong Moog synthesizer riffs which would become typical of Numan's musical output over the coming years. His follow up album The Pleasure Principle, released just a few months after the success of Are 'Friends' Electric?, abandons electric guitars altogether (while still maintaining drums and bass guitar).
The single was released on 04 May 1979 and initially made slow progress in the lower reaches of the UK charts. After the TOTP appearance on 24 May 1979 when the single was at no.48, it finally entered the Top 30 at no.25 although shot up from no.20 to no.7 after opening the week's TOTP on 07 June 1979, albeit only as backing track for the chart countdown. A repeat of the TOTP perfomance was broadcast on 14 June 1979, edging the single up to no.2 and finally reaching the no.1 spot on 26 June 1979 (ousting Anita Ward's Ring My Bell) where it stayed for four weeks. John Peel had broadcast Tubeway Army's second session the night before, famously predicting that Are 'Friends' Electric would not make the no.1 spot. It was eventually replaced at the top by Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays.
- 7" Beggars Banquet BEG 18, 1979
A. Are 'Friends' Electric?
B. We Are So Fragile
- Cassette single Beggars Banquet SPC 4, 1981
1A. Are 'Friends' Electric?
2A. Down in the Park
Double A side cassette single housed in "Flip Top" cigarette style box.
- certain issues omit the '?' on the cover title, and include a '?' on the label for the 7" B side.
- B sides vary in certain non-UK releases, eg. I Nearly Married a Human (Canada), You Are In My Vision (USA)
- there is only one version of the A side, identical to the album version, with a duration of approx 5:19, . Some promo copies of the single carry an edited version.
Although Numan was appearing to promote the song and the album with a fleshed out group still under the name of Tubeway Army, his plans were already set on going solo. Demos for what would eventually become The Pleasure Principle were recorded as early as 9-12 April, just a short time after completing Replicas. A BBC session, recorded for John Peel the week after Are 'Friends' Electric? had been performed both on OGWT and TOTP, featured four brand new tracks which would later appear in finished form on The Pleasure Principle in September, including one called Cars as a single in August.