Space - Biography
By Eric Brightwell
Space are a French band best remembered for launching the short-lived space disco subgenre in the late 1970s. Didier Marouani, the band’s driving force, continues to perform synthesizer music as Space even today, albeit almost exclusively in Eastern Europe, where they maintain a strong following.
Didier Marouani is a French musician of Algerian Berber ancestry, as evinced by his family name. As a five year old in Monaco, Didier Marouani began studying piano. He began composing a few years later when he was ten. In 1964, at twelve, he recorded his first song, “Andantino.” At fifteen he was enrolled at the prestigious Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. He released his first album in 1974, in the chanson style, Didier Marouani (Barclay). As a young chansonnier, he toured with Johnny Hallyday, Joe Dassin and Claude Francois and, in addition, released five more singles over the next couple years.
In 1977, Marouani (now mysteriously referring to himself as “Ecama”) founded Space in Marseille with fellow musicians Rolan Romanelli and Jannick Top. Their first single was composed in 1976, Jean Michel Jarre’s apartment while he was away promoting the just-released Oxygène. Space’s song, “Magic Fly,” was absolutely massive instrumental with a stomping drumbeat paired with futuristic synthesizer sounds. It topped the charts in several countries and – along with Cerrone’s “Supernature” – launched the sci-fi themed space disco subgenre into orbit. They followed it up with a full-length debut, recorded at Studio Sydney Bechet in Paris. Magic Fly (1977- Disques Vogue) produced another hit, the more conventional but still futuristic disco number, “Carry On, Turn Me On,” with Madeline Bell on vocals, a singer Space would work with several times over their career.
After the release of another quintessential number, “Running in the City,” Space signed a deal with Casablanca. The Jean-Philippe Iliesco-produced follow-up, Deliverance (1977-Casablanca), was again recorded at Sydney Bechet as well as at Pye Studios in London. Their next single, “Deliverance,” again featured Madeline Bell but was altogether more bizarre than their previous collaboration. Before Space got around to recording another album, Marouani composed the two disc score for Le Rêve de Mai (Phonogram), a musical marking the ten year anniversary of the famous events of May, 1968. The recording featured his bandmates from Space as well as Patrice Tison, Jo Hammer, Andre Ceccarelli, Jean-Pierre Sabar, Marc Chantereau and Emile Kacman.
Just Blue (1978) saw Space return to Disques Vogue, who cleverly released the album on blue vinyl. It yielded a couple of singles; “My Love is Music” was another stab at more conventional disco and “Save Your Love for Me” was upbeat, airy and inspiringly soulful. However, despite their merits, neither induced lightning to strike twice. As gamely as the group tried, nothing they’d released since “Magic Fly” had come close to matching its popularity. Marouani, although the ban’s leader, jettisoned from the group, leaving Romanelli and Top to record Deeper Zone (1980-Disques Vogues) on their own. Hardly a radical departure from previous efforts (although occasionally sullied by hideous electric guitar) it showed them to be continuing on autopilot. Not only did It fail to gain significant attention, it also confirmed that Marouani’s importance. Afterward, Romanelli went on to compose primarily for television movies. Top went on to perform session work for a variety of musicians, as well as created music for film and advertising.
Once again solo, Marouani composed the score to 1979’s Le Gagnant (Disques Souplet) and released a single, “Temps X,” which was composed as the theme song for the French science-themed television program of the same name – and sounded very in-line with the work of his former group. In 1980, Marouani formed Doctor Fantasm with Tracy Scoggins, Rasheeda Moore, Susan Scanell, Cynthia Lane and Liza Moberg. They released one album, Fantasm (1980-Charles Talar Records). Another Marouani solo record, Seul dans la ville (1981-Trema), followed. Marouani next co-wrote and produced chansonniers Christian Eclimont and Easy Brothers, as well as releasing a solo single, “Sangria.” In 1982, Morouani collaborated with Daniel Levi on his album, Coctail.
In 1983, Marouani joined Titanic vocalist Janny Loseth as Didier Marouani & Paris-France-Transit (aka PFT). They released one studio album, Paris-France Transit (1982-Disques Vogue). The following year, PFT parted the iron curtain, behind which (due to his time in Space) Marouani a considerable draw (having to date sold about 12 million records in Russia and the republics of the former USSR). They performed 21 shows in Kiev, Leningrad and Moscow in front of thousands of Soviet fans. The live album, Concerts en URSS (1983-Disques Vogue), was taken from the shows. Marouani afterward resumed his solo career, releasing “Rue Miodova” in 1983 followed by another full-length chanson album (with lyrics by Eclimont), Années Laser (1984-Trema).
After co-writing and producing a single with Philip Sand; in 1987, Marouani paired the Harvard University Choir and the Red Army Choir of the USSR for his opera for choir and synthesizer, Space Opera (1987-Trema). The music was relayed to the MIR Space station, making it the first album listened to in space (at least by humans). Back on Earth, a segment of the first movement of the opera was used to sell Thomson television sets. Marouani followed with yet another chanson collaboration, this time in 1989 with Jean-Pierre Viale.
A year later, at the request of the European Space Agency, Marouani and crew put on a concert in Cayenne, Guyana as part of the ten year anniversary celebration of the launch of the first Ariane rocket from the Centre Spatial Guyanais Spaceport in Kourou. In the spring of ’91, now billed as Didier Marouani & Space, the group returned to the USSR for another series of extravagant performances. In 1992, after the subsequent fall of the country, Didier Marouani & Space returned and were the first act to perform in Moscow’s Red Square. The free show drew around 360,000 attendants. An album drawn from Didier Marouani & Space’s enormous concert, Space Magic Concerts (1995), was released in France, Taiwan, Thailand and the former republics of the Soviet Union.
Throughout the 2000s, Marouani & Space’s concerts continued to primarily take place in far Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The first took place in May 2001 in Almaty, Kazakhstan and was followed by a July concert at the Tavaria Games Festival in Ukraine. Symphonic Space Dream (Space Records) followed in 2001, a mix of synthesizer music recorded in New York and symphonic music recorded in Russia by the St Petersburg Symphonic Orchestra. Its debut performance took place in Kiev with the National Symphonic Orchestra of Ukraine. The following year Marouani performed in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk in Siberia. The group’s most recent tour was of Ukraine and Belorussia, in 2008.
In addition to their massive popularity amongst citizens of the former Soviet Union, Space have also inspired a diverse mix of artists, having been covered by the likes of Denim and Gloria Gaynor, sampled by acts as diverse as De La Soul and S Club Juniors, and remixed by Minimalistix. Additionally, their music and aesthetics are the obvious blueprint and possibly even sole influence for much more massively successful Daft Punk. For all interplanetary fans of space disco, Space are simply the best.