Friday, October 21, 2011

Jarre in China

It is exactly 30 years ago that Jean-Michel Jarre played his famous concerts in China, the first Western 'pop' musician to do so. I'm not a big fan, though he was 'interesting' in the 70s and Oxygene and Equinoxe were and remain guilty pleasures. He was one of the first users of a Fairlight, clumsily, like most people, and was also using a Laser Harp, though as much for visual effect as anything else (I saw it in inventor Bernard Szajner's studio in Paris at the time). And then, as the 80s progressed, his music took a back seat to overblown spectacle, as we all know.

Nevertheless, the concerts in China were major affairs, if not for the music, then certainly as a cultural event. Two years of preparation, endless red-tape, major technical problems, and all the major cultural differences you'd expect from a country that hadn't even seen a rock band, let alone an electronic one with lasers & all. Apparently it was the British Embassy (eh?) who gave Radio Beijing copies of Oxygene and Equinoxe which set the thing in motion. The concerts took place in Beijing and Shanghai between 21-28 October 1981. They must have made an exotic couple: the suave Jarre and his glam wife Charlotte Rampling.

A rather dull double album of the shows was released a few months later. Far more interesting, though, was a documentary made by British TV (Director Andrew Piddington who went on to make The Killing of John Lennon). It never got a DVD release but you can see it in 5 parts on YouTube here.

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