Dance is the fifth studio album, and third under his own name, by the British musician Gary Numan, released in 1981. It is his first release after announcing his retirement from touring in April 1981 (about which he would soon change his mind). The album reached #3 on the UK charts, breaking his chain of three consecutive #1 albums.
Dance’s title is somewhat ironic, as virtually none of its tracks is typically dance orientated; it is probably the least danceable album Numan has ever recorded. With synth pop music in the mainstream by 1981, Numan made a conscious effort to craft a more sombre, personal and musically experimental album, in a jazzier vein than its predecessors.
The album's sound constitutes a significant change in style from the heavy analogue synth arrangements of Numan's earlier hit releases. Side One of the album consists of four long, sparse, slow-tempo minimalist songs, with the rhythm tracks based largely around muted drum machine patterns. The style is not dissimilar to some of the more ambient work by Brian Eno, particularly his solo album Another Green World and collaborations with David Bowie on Low and"Heroes", and tracks by the band Japan such as '"The Tenant" and "Despair". Side Two of the album contains shorter, more conventional songs. One of these, "Moral", adapted the tune from Numan's 1979 song "Metal", changing its lyrics into an attack on the New Romantic movement.
Numan's commercial success by this period enabled him to enlist several guest musicians to perform on the album, including guitarist Rob Dean and (fretless) bassist/saxophonist Mick Karn of Japan, drummer Roger Taylor of Queen, keyboardist Roger Mason of Australian band Models, and Canadianalternative musician Nash the Slash (who had performed live with Numan in 1980 and 1981).
The songs' lyrics deal largely with tragic sexual relationships, examined in a manner similar to the often bleak and alienating relationships between people andtechnology that informed earlier songs such as "Down in the Park" and "Are 'Friends' Electric?". The opening track "Slowcar to China" is a nine-minute opus about a prostitute. "Night Talk" is about a man dealing with a lover who is a drug addict (aptly co-written with close friend and former bass-player, Paul Gardiner, himself a heroin addict). "Cry the Clock Said" is a nearly ten-minute ballad about a breakup. The salsa-flavoured "She's Got Claws" is about a predatory woman, written as an embittered response to an ex-girlfriend who sold the story of their relationship to the tabloids. The melancholic "Stories" describes an accidental café reunion between a woman and her son by a failed relationship.
Reaction to the album was mixed, some critics applauding what they saw as a less commercial career move and others viewing the change of pace with cynicism. A few years after Dance's release Numan conceded, "if I was supposed to be a pop star doing music for the masses, it probably wasn't the right thing to do", but he praised the standard of playing on it. "She's Got Claws" was the album's sole single release, making number 6 in the UK charts, whilst the album itself peaked at number 3. It was Numan's first album to miss the number 1 spot since Tubeway Army's debut album in 1978, dropping out of the charts after 8 weeks. The song titled "Dance" does not appear on the album, and was only released years later as a CD bonus track. The cover shows Numan wearing a Trilby hat pulled low over his brow.
Numan very rarely performs any music from the album in concert. However live recordings and visual footage of "She's Got Claws", "Cry the Clock Said" and "Moral" ("Metal") appear on Numan's video/DVDMicromusic and album Living Ornaments '81, taken when they were previewed prior to the release of Dance at his Wembley 'farewell' concerts in April 1981. An early live recording of "Stories" also came to light in 2005 when Beggars Banquet released the expanded Living Ornaments '80 album on CD. Numan performed "Crash" and "Boys Like Me" during club dates in the US in 1982 but they have not been officially released, while "Night Talk" was performed live in 2004 to mark the 20th anniversary of Paul Gardiner's death, Numan's longtime bassist and co-writer of the track.
On his website on 30 March 2010, Numan mentioned that "Crash" was one of the songs rehearsed for his set at the Manchester and London "Back to the Phuture" shows.
All songs are written by Gary Numan except for "Night Talk" and "Stormtrooper in Drag", which are co-written with Paul Gardiner.
- "Slowcar to China" – 9:05
- "Night Talk" – 4:26
- "A Subway Called "You"" – 4:38
- "Cry, the Clock Said" – 9:56
- "She's Got Claws" – 4:58
- "Crash" – 3:39
- "Boys Like Me" – 4:16
- "Stories" – 3:11
- "My Brother's Time" – 4:38
- "You Are, You Are" – 4:03
- "Moral" – 4:33
- "Stormtrooper in Drag"* (with Paul Gardiner) – 4:59
- "Face to Face"* (with Dramatis, the members of Numan's former backing band) – 3:46
- "Dance"* – 2:45
- "Exhibition" (B-side of "She's Got Claws" 12" single)* – 4:24
- "I Sing Rain" (B-side of "She's Got Claws" 12" single)* – 2:29
- CD bonus tracks marked with asterisk (*).
- Previous CD releases of Dance (Japan in 1990, and the UK in 1993) included "Love Needs No Disguise", Numan's 1981 single with Dramatis, as a bonus track. The track was subsequently replaced by its B-side, "Face to Face", for the subsequent edition of Dance, although it would be included on the 1996 Numan compilation, Premier Hits.
- Gary Numan - Vocals, Polymoog, SCI Prophet-5, Roland Jupiter-4, Yamaha CP-30, ARP Odyssey, Roland CR-78, Linn LM-1, Claptrap, Guitar, Bass, Piano, Percussion, Claves, Handclaps
- Paul Gardiner - Bass, Guitar, ARP Odyssey
- Cedric Sharpley - drums
- Chris Payne - Viola
- John Webb - Roland Jupiter-4, Linn LM1, Handclaps
- Jess Lidyard - Drums
- Mick Karn - Bass, saxophone
- Nash the Slash - Violin
- Roger Taylor - Drums, tom-toms
- Rob Dean - Guitar
- Tim Steggles - Percussion
- Sean Lynch - Linn LM1
- Connie Filapello - Vocals
- Roger Mason - SCI Prophet-5, Yamaha CP-30
- Mick Prague - Bass