Jarre biography 1977-1987

As I told you in the previous part of the biography, Jean Michel Jarre had climbed at the speed of light the ladders of fame and success in France, and yet his album Oxygène was about to become a giant tide all over the world. Over 14 million of albums were sold to-this-date.

After Oxygène, Jarre made another album, Équinoxe, which is still today the fans’ favorite. Jarre had built a high tech studio with the money he earned with Oxygène, behind his mansion in Croissy-sur-Seine (near Paris). Michel Geiss conceived a machine names the matrisequencer, through which he could triggered different synth. Equinoxe was another great popular success, based upon the water, when Oxygène was based on air elements. Equinoxe sold up to 8 million copies.

concord2In 1979, Jean Michel Jarre was chosen by Paris mayor to give a free outdoor concert on Place de La Concorde for the 14th of July, which is National Day in France. Instead of thehundred thousand people the authorities were excepting (there was no reference point), a million of parisians came around their biggest square. Jarre made a superb light show, using buildings and fountains as backdrops. In the audience was Mick Jagger who immediately after the show, ran to see Jean Michel, and offered him to work with thr Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead for both men. Jarre had great advertising after the show, that was a bash to everything in the music world. He told the press eventually he needed a complete year to realize what he had done that day of July.

Jarre was succeeding in France, but his eyes were turned towards the east and particularly towards China. He’s been in tough discussions with communist authorities to make a tour there. Meanwhile, Jarre spent lots of money into new equipment, especially the Fairlight CM-I, the first sampler they were few to purchase. He used it on the Magnetic Fields album (1981), which was a departure from the two previous albums, less “spacy” music and more clinical. However, the album managed to get number 6 in the UK.


In 1982, Jarre, his wife Charlotte Rampling and his crew flew away to Beijing and Shanghai for a series of 5 concerts that were the first an occidental musician ever did in post-Mao years (and the Cultural Revolution). The chinese people discovered, puzzled, an in-door madness of keyboards, strobe lights and above everything, the laser harp, an invention especially made for Jarre. The unreal atmosphere of these shows was transcribed into the double-LP, The Concerts in China, a year later.

One of Jarre’s most spectacular moves in the music industry was to occur in 1983, when he decided to put on auction the unique model of his next studio album, Music for Supermarkets. He did it to protest against the sales of discs in supermarkets, which, to him, should not neighbor with barrels of lye. The album was played once on the french radio RTL, cheering auditors to “pirate [him]”, as no release was made of the disc.

Parts of Music for supermarkets were recycled into Jarre’s most daring project, called Zoolook. Jarre wanted to name the album in order for it to be pronouncable anywhere on the planet. This album was recorded partly in New York live sessions (with Yogi Horton, Andrew Belew and Laurie Anderson) and in Paris by cable (Marcus Miller) for the rest of it. Xavier Bellenger, an anthropologist, provided Jarre with hours of voices from dozens of countries which he could blend to his music, using the Fairlight CM-II to create a musical texture out of human voices. The name of the tracks reflected the multicultural inspiration of this album, with eery tracks like Wooloomooloo, named after a bay in the Sydney area. The album won the first “Victoire de la Musique” reward for an instrumental album in France, and the counterpart reward in the U.S. The album was very far from all that Jarre had been producing, and it resulted into logically less album sold. But Jarre was on a commitment to his art rather than his bank account. Jarre made his own gesture to world music.


In 1985, the city of Houston and the NASA are planning to celebrate together 150 years of Texas and the 25th birthday of the space agency. They contact Jean michel who, once on the spot, falls in love with the skyline of Houston and accepts the idea of an outdoor concert. This concert proves to be very expensive (5 million dollars) and Jarre himself spends lots of his own money to make it possible, working night and day. The frenchman greets the astronauts from the Challenger shuttle and especially Ron Mc Nair, who his sax player and willing to perform live from space for the April concert. Unfortunately, on January 1986, Challenger exploses shortly after the liftoff and all astronauts are killed. Jarre and the producers are willing to cancel the concert, but NASA convinces them to transform it into a tribute to the astronauts.

Jarre records Rendez-Vous, his seventh album, in less than two months in order to be set to the schedule. Last Rendez-vous will be undernamed Ron’s piece in tribute to Ron Mc Nair.

The 5th of April 1986, Jean Michel gives an unforgettable concert of lights, lasers, fireworks and music named Rendez-vous Houston. Jarre plays on a circular keyboard that is retro-lighted, alike the Encounters of the Third kind did with a Moog. He succeeds to himself in the Guiness Book of records with an audience of 1.5 million. It’s the only time Jarre did perform in the American continent.

In October 1986, Jarre brings the experience of Houston to his birth place in Lyons for a show called Rendez-vous Lyon. The concert is under the blessing of his Holiness Pope John Paul II, who is visiting Lyons. 800.000 people attend the show, which was even a bigger cost than the Houston one. Both “Rendez-vous” album and “concert” win “Victoire de la musique” rewards in 1986. A live version of Houston/Lyons concert is done, called Cities in concert, in 1987.
Continued here.


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