Tonight seems to have turned into a review of some of my personal music history, in the form of rare albums from my childhood.
First up, Jean Michel Jarre. When I was younger Jean-Michel Jarre, the ‘godfather of techno’ and then proud owner of a dash in his name, was one of the regular artists played by my dad as we drove off on family holidays (along with Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Joan Armatrading – oh and the Imaginations and/or Reflections compilations). Oxygene, Equinoxe and Magnetic Fields formed most of my childhood soundscape and along with the amazing Concerts in China I still listen to them regularly today.
Recently I recalled the ‘lost’ Jarre album, ‘Music for Supermarkets/Musique pour Supermarche‘, a single pressing of an album Jarre created that was sold at auction for a large sum of money. This album, created and sold in 1983, was at the peak of Jarre’s powers, as his later albums never quite seemed as strong as the earlier ones before this time. Of course noone would ever hear this album, except for the unknown person who bought it at the auction. A shame indeed. Or at least it would have been a shame except for the fact that Jarre played the album once and once only on Radio Luxembourg, with the introduction ‘Pirate it!’. Back then this simple cry meant that a few people would whip out their 8-tracks and record the AM broadcast for personal use, nowawdays it means something very different indeed.
So it was with great joy that some web searching turned up this missing album as a low quality mp3. Finally, after almost 25 years, I got to listen to an album I’d never heard, that was never part of my childhood even though it kind of was. And how is it? Wonderful. Even with the hisses and bad quality, the music is from Jarre at the top of his powers. Simple, catchy, organic. Using the analogue ‘digital’ instruments he excelled at, rather than their newer digital replacements. If you didn’t know how old it was you could easily believe it was from a modern band.
Flush with this success I decided to track down a later piece of my musical development. In my mid teens myself and a group of friends got heavily into The Stranglers, creators of the classic track ‘Golden Brown’. As well as good solid rocky songs there was a connection that the bass player had gone to our school, expelled for reason that were the stuff of legend (‘he’d ridden his bike through the corridors!’, ‘he’d hit a teacher!’ and so on – after a gig at Guildford civic hall Burnel said to my friends it was because he’d burnt a pile of school caps on the headmaster’s lawn). This apparent connection meant that all of us were avid Stranglers fanatics, collecting piles of their old vinyl at every opportunity until Hugh Cornwell left the band and they were never quite the same.
I still have my vinyl – a pretty complete collection of UK singles and first pressing albums – but one single I don’t have. In 1980, just before fellow Frenchman Jarre would create Music for Supermarkets, JJ Burnel pulled the release of a single from his upcoming solo career. This single, Girl From the Snow Country, then became one of the rarest singles in the UK as only a few copies had been saved from destruction. With this in mind I just did a quick search, and found that a copy of the single just sold for Â£580.00. Wow. Not sure I want it that much, but still. Just goes to show that my vinyl might still be worth something (assuming my cat hasn’t gotten too friendly with the pile of plastic).
You gotta love the internet sometimes.