What I’ve Been Listening to: Jean-Michel Jarre/Oxygène

In general, I’m not much into electronic music. One of the exceptions is Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre, an album I loved right away when got it on vinyl as a teenager. This must have been around 1980. I own that copy to this day and it’s still in reasonable condition.

Jarre’s third studio album, released in December 1976, first entered my radar screen when I heard the single Oxygène (Part IV) on the radio back in Germany. It became quite popular, which is remarkable for an instrumental. On the other hand, I guess I’m not surprised. The track has a memorable melody, and that spacy sound is just cool, especially if you listen to it with headphones.

Jean-Michel Jarre, who was 28 when Oxygène came out

According to Wikipedia, Jarre recorded Oxygène in a makeshift home recording studio, using various analogue synthesizers, a digital synthesizer, and other electronic instruments and effects. You can see some of the gear in the below clip of Oxygène (Part IV).

Let’s take a closer look at the music, which was all composed by Jarre. Each of the six tracks is fairly long. Here’s the opener Oxygène (Part I).

Oxygène (Part III), the third and final track on side one (in vinyl speak), is the shortest. There isn’t really much to say about the individual tracks. I find this music perfect to relax. In fact, I’ve listened to it many times over the decades in bed to fall asleep.

This brings me to Side two and the tune that started my fascination with this record that makes you feel like you’re floating in space: Oxygène (Part IV).

And finally, here’s the last track Oxygène (Part VI). The sound effects are just amazing, which is why I highly recommend using headphones when listening to the album.

Even though many music critics were lukewarm about Oxygène, it enjoyed substantial mainstream chart success, hitting no. 1 in Jarre’s native France, no. 2 in the UK, no. 3 in Sweden, no. 4 in The Netherlands and no. 8 in Germany, among others. Except for Australia where it reached no. 10, the album’s success beyond Europe was more moderate: No. 29 in Australia and no. 78 in the U.S.

I also own Équinoxe on vinyl, the follow-on to Oxygène, which appeared in December 1978. Once again, it took Jarre to no. 1 in France, though overall, the album wasn’t as successful as Oxygène. While it’s not a bad record, for some reason, I like it much less than Oxygène – not exactly sure why. Perhaps, it no longer had the novelty factor.

Jean-Michel Jarre, who is now 73 years old, is still active. Since Équinoxe he has released 20 additional albums. His most recent, Amazônia, appeared in April this year. Other than Oxygène and Équinoxe, I haven’t explored his music.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube