I first got into Jean-Michel Jarre when I was in my early teens back in the mid 1980s. If my memory is reliable–ahem–I believe it was after watching “Rendez-vous Houston: A City in Concert” on BBC2 in 1986. This was a life-changing experience for me. I had never seen or heard anything like it. Watching a musician combine music and visuals to create a spectacular display on the skyscrapers of a modern city, in fact using that city as a stage, transported me to another place.
You can find the concert on YouTube now. Unfortunately the picture quality isn’t great but it’s better than nothing. I checked if there was a dvd release but it isn’t currently available. That’s a shame, as I would love to see a cleaned-up HD version.
Rendez-vous is the eighth studio album by Jarre. It was released in April 1986. Not as well known as his more famous albums, notably Oxygene (1976) and Equinox (1978), it’s a tremendously atmospheric piece of music which would be the perfect soundtrack to any of the great movies set in space. Listen to it on headphones and let the music create the best science fiction movie never made–only in your head!
The last track on the album, “Last Rendez-Vous (Ron’s Piece),” was originally going to include a saxophone part recorded by American astronaut Ron McNair on the Space Shuttle Challenger. At the time, it would’ve been the first piece of music recorded in space. Tragically, Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off killing the entire crew. Jarre dedicated the track to Ron McNair and the other astronauts on board Challenger. On the album, the saxophone part is played by French saxophonist Pierre Gossez.
‘In April 1986, Jarre performed the large-scale outdoor concert Rendez-vous Houston in Houston, Texas, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of Texas. The show attracted a then-world-record live audience of 1.3 million people. The concert was originally to have included a video projection of Ron McNair’s performance, recorded in space.’