Numan rose to prominence at the end of the 1970s as front man, writer and producer for Tubeway Army. After recording an album's worth of punk-influenced demo tapes (released in 1984 asThe Plan), he was signed by Beggars Banquet Records in 1978 and quickly released two singles, "That's Too Bad" and "Bombers", neither of which charted.
A self-titled, New Wave-oriented debut album later that same year sold out its limited run and introduced Numan's fascination with dystopian science fiction and synthesisers. Tubeway Army's third single, the dark-themed and slow-paced "Down in the Park" (1979) also failed to chart but it would prove to be one of Numan's most enduring and oft-covered songs; it was featured with other contemporary hits on the soundtrack for the movie Times Square, and a live version of the song can be seen in the movie Urgh! A Music War. Following exposure in a television advertisement for Lee Cooper jeans with the jingle "Don't be a Dummy",Tubeway Army released the single "Are 'Friends' Electric?" in May 1979. The single took seven weeks before finally reaching No. 1 at the end of June; the parent album Replicas simultaneously reached No. 1.