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Jean Michel Jarre - Music For Supermarkets - Musique Pour Supermarché (1983)

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The story behind Music For Supermarkets

"The idea was to point the finger at what was becoming the music industry, which had decided to sell records in supermarkets, like pots of yoghurt or toothpaste.” This is the point ,  the record sold for next to nothing will never appear on shop shelves."

- Jean Michel Jarre

We are in 1983 when Jarre meets a group of young artists with the intention of organizing an exhibition dedicated to supermarkets, called Orrimbe Show. Basically, in the light of the obvious and fast affirmation of the supermarkets, the exhibition would exhibit works of art representing objects normally on sale there, obviously presented in a more artistic form, to then be sold at an auction.

What was missing, however, was a sonic accompaniment to this exhibition, and it was then proposed to Jarre to take care of it, and he accepted.

During the recording process, between February and May 1983, Jarre realized that the music that would accompany the show would in essence be an exhibit object itself, just like everything else that's part of this exhibition. He therefore had the idea of ​​realizing his work as an actual piece of unique art, like a painting, which would then be sold to a single person, also through an auction. Obviously, the record company had rather negative reactions, but eventually accepted the idea. The album, about half an hour in length, ended up being called simply "Music For Supermarkets" or "Musique Pour Supermarché".

“In a time when everything is standardized, overbroadcast, a time when we are endlessly overinformed, saturated with sounds and images, it seemed to me worthwhile to demonstrate that a record is not only a piece of merchandise without value, infinitely multipliable, but it can be, like a painter’s picture or a sculptor’s bronze, an integral part of a musician’s creation. Francis Dreyfus, President of my recording company, has accepted the challenge of introducing a single album outside the usual channels, and in this way he shows that a business can be creative, can recognise the artist’s identity and even be humouristic about it. Hurray for supermarkets! Our environment is a supermarket: crossbreeding of merchandise, blending of consumer and cashier, everything is for sale, everything is commonplace, everything fades, everything is altering — our food, our language, our roots. The supermarkets may well be the galleries and the museums of tomorrow. The music for everybody can also be be the music for each of us individually.”

- Jean Michel Jarre

The exhibition took place between the 2nd and the 30th of June 1983 at the Jean-Claude Riedel gallery, and the auction was on the 6th of July, where all the exhibited works were sold. That same day the master copy of Jarre's album was burned, and the only copy was sold at 69000 Francs (about 9000 Dollars) to an old man, recently awakened from a long coma caused by a car accident. This man, M. Gerard, said that when he woke up the radio was broadcasting Souvenir De Chine by Jarre, and that he wanted to show his gratitude to him in some way. Rumors say that the record has been sold and purchased twice more since then.

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The music

Given the insistent requests, Jarre decided to broadcast the album on the radio only once, to give everyone the opportunity to listen to it. That same evening, after the auction, he went to the offices of Radio Luxembourg in Paris, and the album was broadcast. This obviously allowed his work to be spread around as a bootleg, encouraged by Jarre himself as he said "pirate me!" on radio just before the broadcast. Unfortunately, the existing bootlegs are not of an excellent quality, partly because of the choice, conscious or not, to transmit the album on an AM radio, resulting in a rather distorted sound.

The tracklist, not 100% sure but probable, is as follows:

Side one

1. "Musique pour Supermarché Overture" 4:09

2. "Musique pour Supermarché Part I" 2:18

3. "Musique pour Supermarché Part II" 3:29

4. "Musique pour Supermarché Part III" 2:17

5. "Musique pour Supermarché Part IV" 3:52

Side two

1. "Musique pour Supermarché Part V" 5:54

2. "Musique pour Supermarché Part VI" 3:59

3. "Musique pour Supermarché Part VII" 3:51

Interestingly, although the master tape was actually destroyed, sessions tapes still exist. Some sections were in fact used in the following albums:

  • "Musique pour Supermarché Part II" (not part III as erroneously reported by Wikipedia) became the last section of Fifth Rendez-Vous, from Rendez-Vous of 1986.
  • "Musique pour Supermarché Part IV" became Blah Blah Café, on the 1984 Zoolook album.
  • "Musique pour Supermarché Part VI" became the second and last section of Diva, again in Zoolook. In this case, however, there were differences: such as the presence of Laurie Anderson on vocals in Diva, different bass lines and some sampled parts of Fairlight removed.
  • "Musique pour Supermarché Part VII": used as the beginning and end of Ethnicolor II, again in Zoolook.

A further proof of the tapes' existence is in the recent announcement about the presence, within the collection divided into "themes" called Planet Jarre (out in September 2018), of a track called Music For Supermarkets (Demo Excerpt), in the Explorations & Early Works volume. Surely it will be a track taken from the pre-master tapes, and it will be interesting to see how long it will be.

The cover of the record was designed by Bernard Beaugendre, and the inside contained 11 polaroid photos that testified the various phases of the album, leaving a last space for the twelfth photo that should have been of the lucky owner of the album, taken by the Jarre himself.

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Jean Michel Jarre - MTV interview about Music For Supermarkets

Music For Supermarkets - radio broadcast

© 2018 Simone Ercole