The 80s-Era Gary Numan 7-Up Commercial That Died in a Plane Crash

By on July 13, 2015

Back when 7-Up was very much a thing in the soft drink world, the company approached their agency in the UK with an idea.

“We want to try something new for the British market! Get us a hot, new happening artist to write us a 30-second song that we can use in a new series of commercials!”

Keep in mind that unlike today, this sort of selling out was frowned upon and met with much tsk-tsking and throwing of bottles and rocks. This was radical.

The people at the agency looked at each other and said “How about Gary Numan? He’s kinda like an electronic Bowie. Sort of. Very New Wave. All the cool kids love him.”

“Set it up!” said the soft drink boffins. “Let’s see what he can do!”

And so it came to pass that the agency offered Gary £10,000–a non-trivial sum for 1982–for three 30-second pieces of music. The catch was the lyrics for each would be written by someone at the agency. That was a bit dodgy, but Gary still agreed to go through with it.

When the music arrived, the Americans at 7-Up were appalled–not because they didn’t like the music (although that was rumored to be true in some tellings of this tale) but because Mr. Numan failed to show up to the meeting as requested to present his new, er, pop masterpieces. Feeling snubbed, 7-Up declared that they would never, ever work with Numan again and stalked out.

Was this a case of rock star buffoonery? Actually, no. It was something quite serious.

The day Gary was supposed to present his vision for the future of 7-Up in the UK, he was on his way back from a music industry meeting in Cannes.  On final approach to Southampton Airport, his single-engine Cessna 210 Centurion–one of the aircraft in his newly-founded airline, Numanair–ran out of gas and had to make an emergency crash-landing on a road in Hampshire. (Contrary to the legend, Gary was not at the controls but a passenger on this flight.) Everyone walked away from the incident but the airframe was destroyed.

All this happened as 7-Up and the agency waited for Mr. Numan to show up. Even after the crash became the lead item on the news across Britain that night, 7-Up wouldn’t revisit the situation. That’s why we never got a chance to see this commercial.

The crash certainly did nothing to ruin Gary’s love of aviation. He’s still an avid pilot with many thousands of flying hours on his record.

About Geeks & Beats

Geeks & Beats is The World's Most Popular Podcast™ from radio legend Alan Cross and TV's Michael Hainsworth. Just ask them.
  • Tony Boies

    I think he has actually given up flying due to becoming a father.

  • Tony Roberts

    Get it right his aircraft never ran out of gas it lost hydrolics and he had to pump them manually.I use to look after Gary’s havard at north weald in the early ninties. T Roberts.