A few weeks ago we celebrated the breathtaking fortieth anniversary of one of Jean Michel Jarre‘s earliest albums, and this week it’s the turn of one of his most illustrious. Thirty years ago this week saw the release of Musique pour Supermarché, or Music for Supermarkets, an album of which only one copy exists, and which was only broadcast once on the radio.
Fortunately, it is thanks to that one broadcast, that bootleg copies exist, complete with Jarre and the Radio Luxembourg DJ at the start of each side wittering on about what the event. The downside is that digital radio didn’t exist thirty years ago, and even FM radio was half a decade away from being the norm, so the quality, sadly, is pretty lousy.
History, if I remember correctly, says that Jarre was a little irritated by the state of the music industry at the time, and he even says at the beginning of the broadcast version that he’d like you to pirate it. Whether true or not, the album was recorded as a one-off piece of conceptual art to accompany an exhibition, and is so unique that Jarre even destroyed the master tapes.
Once the DJ finally shuts up, the album launches in traditional Jean Michel Jarre style with Overture, which is a very good track indeed. Not unlike the style of his previous studio album Les Chants Magnétiques (1981), particularly Part 4, it really opens the album rather promisingly.
Unfortunately, it’s downhill all the way from there, and I really do hope it’s just the audio quality that lets it down. Part I opens with an almost Zoolook (1984) like segue, but is frankly pretty awful, consisting mostly a couple of minutes of crunchy and cheesy noises.
The saving grace of the album is that it really is very tiny, and in no time Part II is fading in – another experimental piece, but one which would later be recycled as the third part of the fifth part of Rendez-Vous (1986). Part III is another pretty awful experimental piece, but Part IV, closing Side A of the album, would subsequently experience something of a reshuffle and appear on Jarre’s next album Zoolook as Blah Blah Café.
Side B has just three pieces, opening with the longest track on the album, Part V. Altogether, it’s one of the gentlest pieces that Jarre would release for many years, and is really quite a pleasant listen. You do have to wonder slightly what sort of supermarkets Jean Michel was shopping in to get inspiration for this piece though – certainly not one that I’ve ever been to. The occasional slightly liquid sounds that drift in and out make me wonder if this is an ode to the wine and spirits section.
Part VI is another track which would reappear again on his next album Zoolook, this time as Diva. On Musique pour Supermarché it is a more raw, less polished offering, and is clearly not entirely finished, but as with much of this bootleg it serves as an interesting demonstration of Jarre’s transition between the more synth-driven albums up to Les Chants Magnétiques and the more challenging listen of Zoolook.
The closing track Part VII is another less inspired piece, built mainly around actual samples which were recorded in supermarkets. Again, this perhaps drifts slightly from the theme of the album as stated by the title – it would have to be a pretty avant garde supermarket to play a piece built from supermarket samples to its customers. But, daft though it is, it makes for quite a fun closing track to a pretty fun little album. And I won’t deny, the concept of a one-copy album is a pretty ingenious one.
You’ll need a good chunk of money if you actually want to buy the one copy; or you could completely legally and justifiably go out and find a bootleg copy, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure that one out.