Jean Michel Jarre is a French electronic musician and multimedia performer. He was born in Lyons in 1948 as the son of the film score composer Maurice Jarre (Doctor Zhivago) and a former Résistance member.His musical career began in the late 1960s with two bands, one of which covered the Shadows and the Spotnicks with Jarre as as Strat-toting Hank Marvin stand-in and appeared in a nowadays obscure French movie. His first release was the single La Cage in 1971 which is so rare that it has grown more expensive than many synthesizers. It was followed by the not less rare album Deserted Palace (1972) and the movie soundtrack Les Granges Brûlées (1973). Over the 70s, Jarre did a couple of jobs in the music industry including TV and advertising music and composing the music and/or writing the lyrics (!) of French chansons/pop songs, partly in the wake of the disco era.These jobs seem to have paid him enough to gather together a decent home studio—in a time when there were practically no home studios at all as opposed to today, and when all equipment including the synthesizers was hardware—and record his 1976 breakthrough album, Oxygène. This album, together with its 1978 successor Equinoxe, defined Jarre's Signature Style of electronic music that sounded nothing like it had been made with machines (as opposed to Kraftwerk, for example). The major labels saw no chance in instrumental electronic music being commercially successful, though, so Jarre released Oxygène at a small jazz label where it reached gold status within no time. Since Jarre's music didn't fit into any established musical genre, the hit single "Oxygène 4" managed to top the U.S. pop, jazz, classical music, and country charts all at once; not bad for a French musician.The people who bought Oxygène and Equinoxe have never gotten over Jarre leaving his Signature Style in The Eighties, moving on with the development of electronic instruments, and trying new styles. Zoolook (1984, featuring Laurie Anderson, Marcus Miller, and Adrian Belew, just to name a few guest musicians) was heavily based on vocal samples from dozens of languages, Revolutions (1988) had more Roland D-50 written over it than anything ever made by Enya, Waiting For Cousteau (1990) was Jarre meetssteel drums.The 1993 album Chronologie saw Jarre on his way back to the roots with the dance styles of The Nineties combined with some analog synths and sounds used by Jarre in his more popular albums from The Seventies; besides, it was Jarre's first album with all tracks given the album title and the track number as titles since Magnetic Fields (1981). Oxygène 7-13, released in 1997 (intended to be a 20-years-on-Oxygène anniversary album but delayed by several months) was thoroughly analog and an almost complete return to Jarre's Signature Style, weren't it for some more contemporary dance beats in some parts.Metamorphoses (2000) was Jarre's first and only album with the majority of tracks having vocals and lyrics and being sung for a change, only two out of twelve tracks are Instrumentals. Once again, though, it didn't sound like anything Jarre had made before. Sessions 2000 (2002) was made of recorded electronic jazz-like jam sessions which Jarre put on a CD because he had to fulfill his album quota before he could get out of his record deal. His subsequent original releases (Geometry Of Love, 2003, Téo & Téa, 2007) turned out so weird that Jarre hardly ever played anything out of them at his concerts. Instead, he revived older material twice (he had to because his old recordings remained property of the jazz label). In 2004, Aero was released, a sort of Greatest Hits Album with three new tracks and the rest having been partly re-recorded and remixed in surround sound, and in 2007, Jarre and three of his co-musicians remade all of Oxygène live in one sitting, enabling the whole album to be performed live on stage.Jarre probably keeps a negative record sales record with his 1983 album Music For Supermarkets, of which only one was produced and then sold at an auction.A description of Jean Michel Jarre wouldn't be complete without mentioning his concerts. Jarre took both lightshows and audience sizes Up to Eleven. His 1979 premiere concert with only him and some electronic instruments on a stage on the Place de la Concorde in Paris already gave him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest concert audience ever—one million. What they saw wasn't just a synth nerd in a keyboard castle but a show of lights and projections of previously unseen dimensions. In 1981, the British Embassy in the People's Republic of China got him to play five indoor concerts in Beijing and Shanghai as the first pop musician ever. Jarre's next live show in Houston, Texas, in 1986 was blown out of any proportions imaginable when he used just about all of downtown Houston's skyline as the backdrop (as in he had lights, laser projections, still images, and even movies shot onto the facades of several-100-feet-tall skyscrapers with skytrackers on their roofs and gigantic fireworks even above these) for a concert with which he beat his own record (more than 1.5 million spectators). He played a similar outdoor concert for Pope John Paul II in his hometown Lyons half a year later, he gave a show on a stage floating on the River Thames inmidst the ruins of the Queen Victoria Docks in London in 1988 during a phase of downright extremely bad weather, and he improved his own record a second time on a pyramid-shaped stage in front of Paris' brand-spanking-new skyscraper quarter La Défense in 1990 (for some 2.5 million people).It took him until 1993 to actually tour for the first time, and even then, he only played a couple of shows throughout Europe because each of the huge custom-made open-air stages took several days to weld together. And it wasn't before 1997—two years after his third big show in Paris, this time under the Eiffel Tower—that he had a tour concept that fit onto existing stages in locations with a solid roof. Jarre's last giant show in a city was part of Moscow's 850th anniversary, played in front of the State University (the biggest building in all of Moscow, and the architecture of the Stalin era was impressively huge) and watched by at least 3.5 million people as the university can be seen all over the city. The millennium celebrations led him to the pyramids of Gizeh which of course were used as projection screens again. The 21st century saw him play a number of smaller single shows in places such as the Akropolis in Athens, a Danish windmill park, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a legendary shipyard in Gdańsk, and the Moroccan desert; on the other hand, he has been playing one tour per year since 2008 where he keeps shamelessly showcasing unbelievable amounts of mostly highly valuable vintage synthesizers. Discography:
La Cage (Single, 1971)
Deserted Palace (1972)
Les Granges Brûlées (soundtrack, 1973, re-released on CD 2003)
Oxygène (1976 in France, 1977 worldwide)
Magnetic Fields/Les Chants Magnétiques (1981)
The Concerts In China/Les Concerts En Chine (1982)
Music For Supermarkets/Musique Pour Supermarché (1983, only one made)
In Concert Houston-Lyon/Cities In Concert (1987)
Jarre Live/Destination Docklands (1989)
Waiting For Cousteau/En Attendant Cousteau (1990)
Images – The Best Of Jean Michel Jarre (1991)
Hong Kong (1994)
Oxygène 7-13 (1997)
Sessions 2000 (2002)
Geometry Of Love (2003)
Jarre In China (2004)
Téo & Téa (2007)
Oxygène – New Master Recording (2007)
Essentials & Rarities (2011)
Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: "Hey Gagarin" with vocoded vocals from Jarre himself. Unlike the correct Russian pronunciation, Jarre puts the emphasis in "Gagarin" on the last syllable. Justified in that the whole song is sung vocoded with a strong French accent, and in French, it's always the last syllable that's emphasized, and this happens to other words in it as well.
All Guitars Are Stratocasters: At least up to 1993. Jarre used to play a Fiesta red Strat Hank Marvin-style in his youth. Later on, he had several encounters with the real Hank Marvin and his Fiesta red Strat, first by the Shadows covering him back, then by Hank Marvin joining him. The combo breaker was Patrick Rondat who did not play a Strat when he played for Jarre from 1993 on.
Audience Participation: "Revolution, Revolutions" when played at a gig in the United Kingdom, Manchester in particular.
Big Rock Ending: Used to be pulled off with certain songs at live shows, especially "Fourth Rendez-vous" at Rendez-vous Houston.
Bizarre Instrument: Subverted in a sense by many instruments designed for Jarre. The Laser Harp is a perfect example—even today, many people don't believe it is actually playable.
M. Jarre has had more than one laser harp since he started using them - they have been upgraded and replaced as technology has improved (for instance, earlier models were built into a podium with an overhead truss to intercept the beams). The current models may well function as implied, but some of the older ones plainly didn't (c.f. the London Docklands concert, where one of his hands drifted out of its beam without affecting the sustained note he was trying to hold).
Also, there are the Theremin (see below) and the Cristal Baschet, but all of these are playable, too.
Cover Version: Yes, Jarre has been not only remixed, but also covered a lot over the time, and not only by Ed Starink.
The best example would be The Shadows. One of Jarre's school-time bands covered the Shadows in the late 1960s with Jarre as Hank Marvin. The Shadows covered Jarre's "Equinoxe 5" (actually parts "5" through "7") in 1980. In 1988, Jarre got Hank Marvin to collaborate on the track "London Kid" from Revolutions. In 1993, Hank Marvin took his Fiesta red Stratocaster and covered "Oxygène 4".
Even after Oxygène, Jarre himself isn't beyond covering, although the few examples have been parts of concerts. "Fishing Junks at Sunset", played at most of Jarre's shows in what is China today, is a reworked piece of classical Chinese music, something even some die-hard fans don't know. "Salma Ya Salama" from the millennium The Twelve Dreams of the Sun is a covered Dalida song. And several songs from the Gdańsk show Space of Freedom aren't composed by Jarre either.
Jarre's son David played some pieces from Rendez-vous on a small Korg arranger keyboard which his father then mixed into "Rendez-vous 5 Part 2".
Jarre was covered a lot in the Commodore64 music scene, probably moreso than any other artist.
Cut Song: "Moon Machine" was intended to be part of Rendez-vous but never released before the Images compilation five years later. Also, the many songs left out of most of Jarre's official live albums and videos.
Dedication: Jarre loves to dedicate pieces of music, albums, even whole concerts to people. Revolutions, however, takes it to the extreme.
This record is dedicated to all the children of the revolution, to the children of the Industrial Revolution, to those of the 1960's and the computer age, to the children of emigrants and to those of Dulcie September.
Epic Rocking: Jarre recorded many oversized pieces of music in his career, some of them being longer than 10 minutes (and epic, all right). "Waiting for Cousteau" takes the cake, though: 46:53 (albeit with no apparent rhythm or composed melody). Originally, it was even longer than one hour, but it had to be shortened.
Everything Is an Instrument: Magnetic Fields and Zoolook, the albums made in the early days of sampling. And Jarre used to be a member of Pierre Schaeffer's Groupe de Recherches Musicales which influenced his earliest works. And let's not forget the Nikon camera shutter and motor winder of "Souvenir of China".
Everything Is Big in Texas: Rendez-vous Houston was just about the biggest concert in the history of music back then and broke a whole number of records.
Evolving Music: Lots of examples, only a few of which are listed here.
"Oxygène 4" had parts of it replaced with a kind of bridge following the same chords from 1990 on.
On the same occasion, "Equinoxe 4" got a new intro.
"Equinoxe 7" has been cut off before the long ambient ending ever since 1986. From 1995 to the mid-2000s, another chunk was cut out (it came back with reinforcement a few years ago), and a filter modulation was added to the bass.
The first half of "Equinoxe 8", also known as "Band In The Rain", has been played on a barrel organ ever since 1993.
"Magnetic Fields 2", for example, got a long solo section in 1981, a modified melody in 1988, and an additional bridge in 1990 (the latter two changes were reverted in 2009 for the In>Doors tour).
"Souvenir of China" got several solos at the end over the time.
Both "Souvenir of China" and "Second Rendez-vous" were accompanied by an orchestra for several years, starting at the millennium night.
"Revolutions" had its Turkish flute intro replaced by an Arabian string orchestra playing an entirely different melody and its title changed to "Revolution, Revolutions" in 1990.
As for evolution in the studio, "Orient Express" was entirely re-recorded for the Greatest Hits AlbumImages in 1991, and hardly anything was left as-is for Aero in 2004.
The most common live change in the 1980s and 1990s were drums played live, and they were played differently at each concert or tour since the drummer didn't always follow the original drum machine beats. The most extreme changes were probably applied at the Twelve Dreams Of The Sun, not only because the music had to fit a mostly Egyptian audience, but also because this was the only time that Gary Wallis played the drums for Jarre, and he gave them a not-quite-slight The Police touch. Most concerts of those times also had a bass guitar player.
Some songs from Metamorphoses were not only reworked, but also renamed. "Light My Sky" used to be "Tout Est Bleu", "Give Me A Sign" was slowed down a lot and became "Hymn To Acropolis" (which in turn had several other titles over the times), and "Aero" can barely still be identified as what used to be "Je Me Souviens".
Fading into the Next Song: Jarre is famous for this. "Oxygène 1" and "2" are barely separated, the arpeggio of "Equinoxe 3" leads into "Equinoxe 4" - a trick repeated throughout Equinoxe, with the bassline of "Equinoxe 5" continuing throughout parts six and seven - and a similar connection exists between "Magnetic Fields 3" and "4". Several of his longer songs, such as "Ethnicolor" and "Blah Blah Cafe", from Zoolook, are constructed from shorter pieces of music sequed into each other.
Averted with the third section of "Magnetic Fields 1", which begins abruptly in the middle of a sound effect.
Frank's 2000 Inch TV: In the 1980s and 1990s, Jarre played huge outdoor concerts in front of huge buildings such as the skyscraper skylines of Houston, TX, and La Défense (Paris), the Moscow State University (the biggest building in Moscow), or the Pyramids of Gizeh. Most of the buildings served as gigantic projection screens.
Gratuitous Panning: An old Jarre trick is to divide a delayed sequence by panning the original fully to one side and the delay hard to the other. Examples include "Magnetic Fields 1" and "Arpegiator", both of which came out as late as 1981.
Greatest Hits Album: The Essential (1983), Musik aus Zeit und Raum (1983), The Essential (1985), Images (1991), The Essential (again) (2003), Aero (2004), the "Essentials" half of Essentials & Rarities (2011)
At Oxygen In Moscow 1997, "Souvenir of China" was dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales, who had died earlier the same year.
"September" is another case of In Memoriam, it is dedicated to the Apartheid victim Dulcie September.
Heartbeat Soundtrack: "Ron's Piece" has a sampled human heartbeat instead of drums. The piece basically begins when the heartbeat sets in, and a heartbeat sample is the very last note. Also, the album Chronologie starts and ends with synthesized heartbeats.
Heavy Metal: The young French metal guitarist Patrick Rondat joined Jarre in 1993 and again in 2005. Rondat went as far as playing a metal rendition of a part of Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons at some of Jarre's concerts in addition to accompanying some of Jarre's own music.
Improv: Sessions 2000, period. Also happens a lot at certain points of certain pieces when played live. Recent examples include Theremin or breath controller intros.
In Name Only: As far as the actual music is concerned, the Hong Kong live album contains exactly nothing from the corresponding concert. "Souvenir Of China" and "Fishing Junks At Sunset" (or what remained of it after the remastering and reduction to one CD) are from the rehearsals, the whole rest has been pieced together from the Europe In Concert tour.
Incredibly Lame Pun: The literal French translation of Magnetic Fields would be Champs Magnétiques. The French album title (actually printed on album covers, by the way) was Les Chants Magnétiques (The Magnetic Chants) which is pronounced exactly the same. Face it, it's impossible for a Jarre-related pun to be lamer than this.
List Song: "Millions of Stars", both versions (musical chords and celestial bodies, respectively), and "Revolutions"/"Revolution, Revolutions".
"Sale of the Century" isn't really a song of itself but an interlude from the 1993 Europe In Concert tour based on the end of "Chronologie 5", but otherwise it counts.
A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": The China concerts 1981. The people in the post-Mao People's Republic of China didn't know any contemporary Western music, let alone electronic music, until shortly before, and they had never attended concerts with electronically amplified and thus considerably loud music. Nevertheless, they went absolutely wild.
Minimalistic Cover Art: Jarre Live before it was renamed Destination Docklands, Waiting For Cousteau with a yellow ear on a blue background, and Aero with the title and Jarre's eyes on a white background.
Modulation: "Second Rendez-vous", for example, changes among F minor (parts 1, 2, 4), D minor (parts 1, 2), and C minor (part 3, which is entirely different from the rest of the work).
My Nayme Is: Jarre dropped the dash that would usually belong between his forenames. It's "Jean Michel" instead of "Jean-Michel".
New Sound Album: Anything released after Equinoxe, to the degree that no post-Equinoxe album sounds like its respective predecessor. Waiting For Cousteau and Metamorphoses probably took the cake. Goes together with They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
The Not Remix: Aero mostly contains a mixture of original studio footage and newly recorded elements mixed in 5.1 surround sound. But they're not declared "remixes"—in contrast to late 1990s' habits when fans found themselves speaking of electronic cover versions of Jarre's music as remixes due to a flood of actual remixes.
In fact, this already applies to "Equinoxe 5", which was remixed and apparently partly re-recorded prior to Equinoxe's CD release. The latter is more well-known today, and people are often puzzled when they stumble upon the original version.
Subverted by the beginning of "Chronologie 8" which is almost wedding compatible.
Organ Grinder: At concerts, "Band in the Rain" (actually the first half of "Equinoxe 8") is usually played by Jarre on a barrel organ.
Orient Express: An actual track on The Concerts In China, later re-recorded for Images.
Playing the Heart Stringmachines: "Souvenir Of China", "Oxygène 13", "Statistics Adagio" (which is played on a sample-based arranger keyboard), just to mention a few. Many more Jarre songs feature moving string lines less dominantly.
Pun-Based Title: Les Chants Magnétiques is the French title of Magnetic Fields but translates to "the magnetic chants". The correct translation of (The) Magnetic Fields would be Les Champs Magnétiques which is pronounced exactly the same as Les Chants Magnétiques.
Rearrange the Song: Several Jarre classics got partly new accompaniments and especially drum parts for the Twelve Dreams of the Sun, some of them to sound more Arabic. Also, the dance-pop/trance version of "Magnetic Fields 2" from the 1997 Oxygène Arena Tour.
"The Overture" from The Concerts in China is a re-arranged version of "Magnetic Fields 1" with the main sequence played back at half speed.
A Turkish Ney ("Revolutions") and an Arab string ensemble ("Revolution, Revolutions") respectively plus matching chants; also sampled synth strings (a real ensemble when played live) and Natacha Atlas' trilingual Arabesque singing ("C'est La Vie")
Flamenco guitars (the Europe In Concert version of "Digisequencer" in Barcelona)
A Chinese orchestra ("Fishing Junks At Sunset")
A French accordion ("Chronologie 6", the instrument in question is actually an Italian Cavagnolo accordion)
England is represented by Hank Marvin's 60s-style Strat ("London Kid")
Repurposed Pop Song: Jarre's music has been used as themes of several TV shows, and parts of the album Oxygène went into the soundtrack of Gallipoli.
Rerelease the Song: "Oxygène 4", the original studio single recording from 1976, was re-released at about the same time as Jarre Live (a live album) in 1989 with a brand-new video.
Retraux: Oxygène 7-13, the 2007 Oxygène remake, and to a certain degree Chronologie.
Scenery Porn: Jarre's mega-concerts made a lot of use of the surrounding architecture and were tailor-made for the location, no matter how huge the structures behind the stage were. Beginning with 2007's Oxygène – Live In Your Living-Room and the 2008 Oxygène Tour, the Scenery Porn concentrated on the stage, on the vintage synthesizers, to be more precise, up to and including rectangular, color-changing spotlights to illuminate them separately. The Oxygène Tour even had a tiltable mirror hanging above the synth castles so that the audience could see them from above.
Song Style Shift: Happens in several of Jarre's works, for example "Night In Shanghai", "Ethnicolor", "Calypso 2", "Digisequencer". Some of them are divided into subparts by fans to tell the sections from one another, especially if only one of them is played live (for example "Oxygène 5", "Equinoxe 8", "Magnetic Fields 1", "Oxygène 7", "Chronologie 1").
Spoken Word In Music: The weather forecast verses of "Tout Est Bleu", the original verses of "Millions Of Stars", "Je Me Souviens" and "Love Love Love" as a whole, parts of "C'est La Vie", the "project explanation" bits from "Téo & Téa", and understandable samples of Chinese in "Souvenir Of China" (the voice samples on Zoolook might or might not count). The lyrics of "Revolution, Revolutions" have always been spoken into the vocoder at concerts after 1990. And then there are the spoken interludes from the Europe In Concert tour.
Technology Porn: The 2008 Oxygène Tour seemed to focus on gear. Loads of vintage gear. He even used special rectangular spotlights to illuminate synthesizers individually or in groups for a while. Tour merch included T-shirts with synth close-up images. The two following tours toned this down only slightly without reducing the quantity of instruments involved.
Many of Jarre's albums include lists of the gear used to record them. Rendez-vous goes as far as listing who of the musicians involved used what on which track.
Theremin: Claimed to have been played on Oxygène 7-13. This instrument did in fact appear at the Oxygène Arena Tour the same year and at every Jarre concert ever since. Jarre has actually learned to play it meanwhile.
Tick Tock Tune: Most of Chronologie uses the ticking of clocks as either ambient noise or part of the rhythm. Bonus points for the use of an alarm sequence Jarre composed for Swatch the previous year, sampled from an actual wristwatch.
Unusual User Interface: The Laser Harp. Instead of strings, it has laser beams which, meanwhile, are powerful enough to slice your hand if you put it in them with no protective gloves on. And yes, the laser harpist does insert his hands into the beams. The maximum number of 10 beams used by Jarre isn't much of an obstacle since different notes can be assigned to the beams.
Word Salad Lyrics: "Millions of Stars" seems to have these, at least it had them before the verses were rewritten with stars and planets. If you're a musician, though, you will find out that they're chords. The first line in the first verse (see below) is actually even played at that time during the song.