Sweet Sixteen

New releases in New Zealand, 5 March 1989


This is the chart week when I had my birthday.  My “sweet” sixteen?

You will note, I hope, that an LP is proudly on display in the back of the shot.  The album in question is Revolutions by Jean-Michel Jarre.  This is the last album by Jarre I owned.  Before that I had accumulated: Oxygène, Équinoxe, Concerts in China, Magnetic Fields, Zoolook, and Rendez-Vous.  In other words: big fan.

I can stand by Jarre’s music to a point, but Revolutions is the point where I can’t.  It’s just dumb (except – at a stretch – Tokyo Kid).  I once listened to his albums after Revolutions out of curiousity, but for me it was after Rendez-Vous that his inspiration ran completely dry.  For some people he never had any inspiration at all and was always just a synth twiddling French twit.  There’s a part of me that agrees.  Another part disagrees though.  It’s to do with New Caledonia for me.

I went there with my mum in 1984 when I was 11.  It was an amazing holiday and one (small) part of that amazing-ness was discovering Jarre.  I’m not sure if Noumea was in a time warp, but it in 1984 it was playing the 1976 album Oxygène when we went shopping one day in a little mall.  On our last night there I sat up in my room in the hotel and watched Gallipoli directed by Peter Weir which also features music from Oxygène.  I think that Gallipoli is one of my favourite movies.  Still.  Partly because of the music.  Not just Jarre but Bizet, and Albinoni.  Weir’s early movies showed a wonderful gift for marrying music with image.

Oxygène is still his best album.  ZoolookConcerts in China too.  In all of them it’s the escape they offer: the call to the imagination.  That’s really the reason I liked Jarre so much.  In some ways it is similar to how I respond to some classical music.  I don’t understand all the technique with classical music; I respond to how it makes me feel.  Jarre is a lot less sophisticated technically but more accessible for the same reason. The opening of Oxygène is a great example.  What’s happening?  Fuck knows, but it all seems very mysterious and then very grand.  Like Jarre was asked to score Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a decade late.

What would you do at a Jarre concert?  Take drugs I suppose.

I am strongly attracted to albums that are coherent and fantastical.  Welcome to the Pleasuredome and Purple Rain are like this.

The first photo is from Christmas 1988.  While it looks like a permed muppet sitting by fake Christmas tree contemplating existence, it is in fact a significant moment in my life for it was the Christmas of 1988 when I got a practice amp (pictured at my feet on the left) for my guitar.  This amp was purchased from Strings ‘n’ Things in Kāpiti which was run by a German dude with long hair and a beard who had once been in a band (in Germany) that recorded minor hit (in Germany).  He was a friendly chap who sold guitars and amps in his shop out front, and ran guitar lessons in groups out the back.  I took some of his lessons and think it is true to say that he taught me the 12 bar blues.

At the end of each year he had a concert where we would all perform in our lesson groups.  I can’t remember what my group performed – something like The House of the Rising Sun I think – but I do remember discovering I had no anxiety or nerves about performing on stage.  Which I still regard as odd.  You’d think a shy, only child would not be super comfy either playing guitar in public or public speaking but it turns out it causes me no issues.  An analyst somewhere could probably tell me why.  I’d guess my massive self regard is the key to it.

Anyway, I suppose that the guitar and amp I got at the end of 1988 really signalled the demise of my interest in Jarre.  I was beginning the switch to hard rock and metal, and it was in 1989 that I went into Year 11 and met the dude with all the metal cassettes I’ve talked about before.  So long French twit with synthesiser, hello American twits with guitars.


Obviously the Bobby Brown is laughable and shit, but better than Debbie Gibson.  Travelling Wilburys?  Yeah, it’s fine.  R.E.M. and The Pogues?  I have very mixed feelings about R.E.M.  I love some of their songs and dislike others.  Stand is a song I dislike.  From the same album Orange Crush is a song I love.  The Pogues are the same.  I do like Dirty Old Town.  Everyone likes (or should) Fairytale of New York.  On the other hand I find anything related to traditional Irish music irritating (my aversion to fiddles and Enya trauma come into play here).  Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah is a good song, but it’s (deliberately?) derivative sounding.  Not such a great week really, but I’d give it to The Pogues (in this imaginary competition).

  • Bobby Brown – My Prerogative (2/10)
  • Travelling Wilburys – End of the Line (5/10)
  • R.E.M. – Stand (4/10)
  • The Pogues – Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (6/10)
  • Debbie Gibson – Lost In Your Eyes (1/10)

Published by


I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō