Jean-Jacques Perrey is considered a living pioneer of electronic music. Before Perrey, electronic music was basically experimental, avant-garde, and was hardly listenable. Perrey was on a mission to create electronic music that would be popular, and that the average person could appreciate. But before he was an innovator in this then-new music field, he was a French accordion player and medical student. However, Perrey abandoned his medical studies after meeting inventor Georges Jenny in Paris in 1952. Jenny was the inventor of the Ondioline, a vacuum tube-powered keyboard instrument that was a forerunner of today's synthesizers, and this new instrument was capable of creating an amazing variety of sounds. Jenny hired Perrey as a salesman and demonstrator of the new invention. As a result, Perrey came to the attention of French singer Édith Piaf who sponsored him to record a demo tape that later allowed him to work and live in the United States between 1960 and 1970.
Perrey met Gershon Kingsley during Kingsley's stint as a staff arranger at Vanguard Records. At that time, Perrey was experimenting with tape loops, which he had been introduced to by the French avant-garde musician Pierre Schaeffer. Each loop was a laboriously hand-spliced assemblage of filtered sounds, pitch-manipulated sounds and sometimes even animal calls. The end result was The In Sound From Way Out!, their first collaborative effort in 1966, mixing Perrey's tape loops, and his inventive melodies with Kingsley's complementary arrangements and instrumentation. The resulting album was filled with tunes that sounded like music from an animated cartoon from outer space. Since this was decades before the advent of widespread digital editing technology, each tune took weeks of painstaking editing and splicing to produce.
The twelve rather whimsical tracks bore names like "Unidentified Flying Object" and "The Little Man From Mars" in an attempt to make electronic music more accessible to the general public. The offbeat titles and happy, upbeat melodies added a genuine sense of humor to popular music years before another notable musician, Frank Zappa, would do likewise. In fact, "Unidentified Flying Object" and another of the album's cuts, "Electronic Can-Can" eventually became theme music for "Wonderama," a Metromedia Television children's program of the early 1970s.
Their second and final collaborative effort came in 1967 with the release of Spotlight On The Moog (Kaleidoscopic Vibrations). This was a similar sounding effort, but instead of all original compositions, the album was mostly versions of popular songs of the day. In this album, Perrey's tape loops and effects were added in post-production after Kingsley's orchestrations were recorded, a technique now commonly used by electronic artists to this day.
The album was one of the first to use the new Moog synthesizer, invented by Robert Moog. The Moog was a massive, complicated electronic instrument resembling an old-style telephone switchboard. The album also bore two notable singles. In fact, P & K's Moog album was released a year and a half before the release of Wendy Carlos' immensely successful, Switched-On Bach. A track from Spotlight On The Moog , "The Savers" would go on to fame in 1968 as the Clio Award-winning music for a television ad for No-Cal diet drinks, and in 1972 it was also used as the theme to the American television game show "The Joker's Wild".
About the time "The Savers"
was being used on television, engineers with the Walt Disney Company were at work on a new parade at Disneyland Park, the "Main Street Electrical
Parade." The idea was to cover floats with thousands of
electronically-controlled colored lights and to set the show
to music. Paul Beaver and then later Disney musician Don Dorsey
helped rework a Perrey-Kingsley composition called "Baroque
Hoedown," an upbeat, almost sparkling number best described
as "harpsichord gone country." It would become the
underlying theme song of the parade for the next three decades
at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris,
and is still in use today at its new home, Disney's California
Adventure Park. Several segments of Sesame Street produced
in the 1970s also made use of music from The In Sound from
Way Out, as did other television programs, such as "The Red Skelton
Though Perrey and Kingsley never
enjoyed tremendous commercial success, their music inspired a
generation of musicians and was used (and still is used) extensively
in advertising. Perrey and Kingsley split up in 1968, and Perrey
kept recording for Vanguard. Moog Indigo, a Jean-Jacques
Perrey solo album from 1970 featured a cut called "E.V.A."
This slow, funky track is
one of the most sampled in hip hop and rap music history, with
over 70 artists using samples from Perrey's original recording.
These include Dr.
Dre, Ice T, Gangstarr, and
Slim, to name just a few...
In the U.S., it was recently used in a TV ad for Zelnorm, a prescription medication for, of all things, female irritable bowel syndrome. The same album produced "The Elephant Never Forgets" which is still being used as the theme of the Mexican Televisa comedy, "El Chavo Del Ocho." Even the Beastie Boys (who asked permission from Perrey and Kingsley) used both the title and the cover art of P & K's first album for their own The In Sound From Way Out! album in 1996, while Smashmouth (who didn't ask for permission) borrowed the opening riff from "Swan's Splashdown" for their 1997 hit, "Walkin' On the Sun".
After over 20 years in obscurity, Perrey came out of retirement in the early '90s, much to the delight of his many fans. Perrey has recorded two fairly recent CDs, "Eclektronics" - recorded in 1997 with musician David Chazam (Basta, 2000), and "Circus of Life" - recorded in 1999, with musician Gilbert Sigrist (PHMP, 2000). Perrey has recently recorded and released a brand new CD entitled "The Happy Electropop Music Machine" with musician and arranger Dana Countryman.
Currently, Perrey lives in Switzerland, but travels often, as he is in high demand for lectures and concerts all over the world. In 2006, he completed a concert tour with Countryman, of Seattle, San Francisco and Hollywood, to support the release of Oglio Records' "The Happy Electropop Music Machine" CD. The duo also performed at Norway's Numusic Festival in September of 2007, and AV08, a festival in Newcastle, England. Other shows with David Chazam followed in Russia, France, and Romania.
In 2008, Perrey released "Destination Space", his second CD with Dana Countryman, and his 22nd album overall. The duo performed celebratory concerts in New York City and Montreal, upon its release.