Music was my first love: Oxygene: Jean Michel Jarre
What is it about Oxygene that still draws me to it 40 years after its release?
There is something otherworldly about this monumental, atmospheric opus that has stayed with me for all of my adult life. Launched in 1977, in the midst of punk madness, it was absolutely out on a limb in the musical time zone. Punk was about short sharp bursts of aggressive statement making rebellion… and Oxygene was about long, sequed, atmospheric moments that transported you to a different world, but, it got me hooked!
I was yet to become a hairdresser, it happened this year but it was a couple of months after JMJ came along and introduced me to electronica. He wasn’t the first to create this type of music but in my books he was the best because he fitted my life exactly. I would finish work, go home and lock myself in my bedroom reading pretentious literature for no other reason than the fact that I wanted to be pretentious (seriously). The ambient swell of the music allowed me to immerse myself in Nabokov, Mishima, Forster, Marquez and many more story tellers who enchanted and fascinated me in equal measure.
of course punk was embraced too, and my musical heroes Marc and Kate were still part of the playlist of my youth but JMJ and Oxygene transfixed me.
From the opening key on part 1 to the absolute genuine genius of part 4:
…and on to the final slow drawn out closure of part 6 this really was an album that changed how I listened to [and reacted to] music.
JMJ has stayed with me for the last 40 years and other albums have come along that have been, more or less consistently fantastic. Equinoxe and Zoolook being two standouts for me.
And then, 20 years after Oxygene along came part 2 , it is as good as its predecessor and it is almost as fantastic.
Track 7, the lead single (as still happened back then) knocked me for six, it was and still is haunting, with a slight nod to the initial album it took the meandering melodies to a different place, more in tune with the moment and with more than a nod to the inevitable dance and rave craze whilst still being slow(ish) and haunting.
One of my biggest regrets is never getting to see JMJ live, tickets for Docklands went to waste because of a family situation, but never say never is my motto, one day I will witness a spectacle such as is a Jean Michel Jarre concert. Hopefully he will play Oxygene 1 – 20 and make me a very happy man indeed.
Oxygene 3 (parts 14 -20) was released to an unsuspecting public in Dec 2016 and was a surprise because it was his 3rd release in less than 12 months. For me it outshines part 2 because it is more in synch with the original and has elements that directly link to it that part 2 didn’t really have. Aside from the obvious cover work there is also a more atmospheric 1970’s feel to the final (??) piece of the Oxygene jigsaw.
Contemporary, edgy and most definitely current, the lead single (yes, he did release a single) has a quality about it that makes me feel a like a moody teenager again. Slightly upbeat, it nonetheless would suit perfectly a darkened bedroom, a pretentious novel, perhaps this time it would be Jean Paul Sartre, with a bottle of wine and some deep introspective thoughts, all the things that made those teenage angst years so special; I can see myself in my bedroom back home right now!
40 years …. it’s hard to believe that Oxygene has been with me for that amount of time. As a 17 year old still in the throes of building a mental library of music that would stay with me forever I never thought JMJ would do me the honour of releasing a follow up 20 years after 77 and a follow up another 20 years later. Of course he released them just to keep me happy, why wouldn’t he?
What JMJ did do of course is create a musical behemoth that carried me (snd many others) on through the good and bad days, and the music always always transports me back to my bedroom, festooned with musical posters, postcards, record sleeves and a small Russian made hi-fi that my dad had won at the local social club (different days indeed), a pile of records, lots of books and a life-size David Bowie cardboard cut out on the wall (not sure why as he wasn’t my hero, well maybe just for one day….) and floral curtains????
Music was my first love, and it will be my last, and Jean Michel Jarre, Oxygene parts 1 – 20 , but especially part 4 will stay with me for ever.
I wonder if I will ever learn who requested part 4 as a dedication to me on Valentines day 1978?