MUSIC FROM THE DARKNESS
by Peter Evans.
THE EARLY YEARS
To the Manor Born : 1953 to 1972
For many, Mike Oldfield's career began with the astonishing success of his debut album Tubular Bells. this success, however, owed much to those who had influenced him in the preceding years.
Michael Gordon Oldfield was born on the 15th May 1953. His father was a practising GP in Reading whilst his mother, who suffered from a mental illness and was frequently in and out of hospital, had been employed as a nurse. In 1966 the family moved to Hornchurch in Essex where Mike attended a local grammar school which, after an argument with the headmaster over the length of his hair, he left in 1968. Before this, at the age of ten, his father had bought him a six string Eko guitar and taught him a few chords.
From that moment onwards Mike would return from school, retire to his bedroom and become totally immersed in this new instrument. By the age of eleven he had purchased a Futura II electric guitar and he and his sister were playing at local folk clubs. then after visiting a studio to see Mick Jagger, they recorded under the name The Sallyangie the LP Children of the Sun (TRA 176) on the transatlantic label. This LP consisted of mainly folk and acoustic songs, which although were all the fashion at the time, did not satisfy Mike musically. He decided to split from his sister to forge his own path forward.
After experiencing a hard year of living with his father, he failed in an attempt to front, with his brother Terry and a member of the popular Long John Baldry, his own electric group called Barefeet. After about 6 months unsuccessfully persuing this project, he auditioned and was invited to join the eccentric Kevin Ayers Whole World Band. Ayers, who had been a member of Soft Machine, had assembled together several musicians of a radically different musical nature. Primarily with Oldfield on bass and guitar, Lol Coxhill on saxophone, innovative avante gard composer David Bedford on organ, Mike Fincher on drums and Ayers on vocals and occasional lead guitar, the Whole World Band was to produce an eccentric blend of music and occasional drunken mayhem. One of the most important parts of this strange collaboration was Mike's meeting with David Bedford and a friendship of which Mike was later to comment:
"He's the only musician I know personally and respect."
Over the years to come, this friendship would lead to Mike collaborating, in one way or another, on all Bedford's solo LP's. This would also be true for other prominent members of the Whole World, as Oldfield was also to appear on a couple of tracks on Lol Coxhill's innovative Ear of The Beholder LP, (DSD8008) released in 1971 on the Dandelion label.
An early picture of Mike, along with Kevin Ayers playing the Dordrecht Verblifa Hall, Holland on December 15th 1970. This session was to produce the track Vorblifa/Exit which was to be included on Lol Coxhill's LP Ear of The Beholder in 1971. ©Ron De-Bruyn
Mike's association with Ayers produced two studio LP's which included Mike playing solely on bass. The first was 1970's Shooting at the Moon whilst the second, in 1972, was titled Whatevershebringswesing. On this second LP, Ayers allowed Oldfield more scope to express himself, letting him play lead guitar. Of this Ayers was to comment on the sleeve notes in the thanks section:
"Thanks to Mike Oldfield for beautiful bass and guitar."
Despite this praise, on a personal level Kevin and Mike had grown further and further apart, especially as Mike wanted to pursue more of his own ideas. he had grown weary of travelling around from gig to gig, with members of the group constantly drunk, and as a result the music had become abysmal.
The reputation as a guitarist and the split of the Whole World Band in 1971 led mike to much session work. This was most evident onEdgar Broughton band's self titled LP in June 1971 on which Mike played mandolin on a single track Thinking of You, and on David Bedford's first solo project Nurses Songs with Elephants released on the dandelion label in February 1972.
Whilst all this was going on, Oldfield was putting together ideas for a recording that would change his life for ever and take the world by storm.
THE FIRST DECADE
Taking The World By Storm: 1973
Ever since the days of the Sallyangie and the fruitful pastures of The Kevin Ayers Whole World Band, Mike had been constructing, in his head, a piece of music of a size and scale that even he did not know what was to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. It was towards the end of the Whole World that whilst living in North London, Mike borrowed a tape recorder and organ from Kevin Ayers and began to construct the basis for what was then called Opus One. Finally, with this demo in hand he toured the various record companies, including Harvest, CBS and WEA, looking for a deal to help him record. All liked what they heard but felt it was too much of a risk to invest money in an as yet unknown artist and un-determined form of music. The only record company to show any interest was Mercury records from America who would only record if vocals were added. At this point Mike gave up all hope and was relegated to working as reserve guitars on the West End musical "Hair", and played a couple of gigs with Alex Harvey.
Fortunately, though, Mike's luck was about to change. On a visit to a newly built 16 track studio in The Manor, Oxfordshire with is latest band, he played the demo to the resident studio engineer Tom Newman. He was so impressed by what he heard that he brough it to the attention of the then up and coming head of Virgin Mail Order, a certain Richard Branson. At this point Virgin themselves were in dire fanancial straits but Branson decided to take the risk of becoming Mike's manager and provide the initial sum of money so that recording could begin. Formal recording began in September 1972 with Mike utilising the recording facilities of the Manor when nobody else had booked them. This, as he was now a permanent resident of the Manor, proved ideal to his needs. Oldfield and his mentor Newman would spend hours in the studio well into the early hours of the morning, only taking breaks to take part in drunken frenzies. One such of these occasions spawned the idea of recording The Sailors Hornpipe during one of their early morning staggers around the Manor. With microphones strategically placed and with a drunken Vivian Stanshall commenting, they toured the Manor inspecting items of interest while Oldfield and Newman followed. Unfortunately, the end result was thought too surreal to be included on Tubular Bells, so it was replaced by a standard version at the end of side two. Luckily though, the original was later to re-appear at the end of side two on the re-mixed Boxed reissue in 1976.
On 25th May, 1973, Virgin Records launched their label by releasing Tubular Bells (V2001) on an unsuspecting world and were greeted by unprecendented acclaim. One interesting fact to arise from this release was the use of V2001 as the catalogue number to Virgin's first record. This was explained by the fact that Mike's favourite film of the time happened to be Stanley Kubrick's science fiction masterpiece "2001, A Space Oddysey". Mike's liking for space and flying was to resurface at various points throughout his career. More of interest was the response of the press to this new form of music. Many compared it to the classical output of Sibelius or Debussy. Melody Makers Geoff Brown commented:
"An enjoyable, evocative album which bodes well for the future of both the country's newest label, and of Mike Oldfield".
Steve Peacock of Sounds stated that he was
"knocked sideways when I first heard it" and added that "I ended up convinced that it really is a remarkable album - and that isn't an adjective I'm using lightly".
A certain John Peel wrote in The Listener that
"Without borrowing anything from establisged classics or descending into the discords, squeals and burps of the determinedly avant-garde, Mike Oldfield has produced music which combines logic with surprise, sunshine with rain".
At this point Virgin decided to organise a live performance of Bells at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall to promote the LP. The only problem facing Mike was assembling musicians of sufficient calibre to perform the piece to a standard as set by the LP. One such quality artist who was recording at the Manor around the time as Mike was Steve Winwood. He had listened to the complete track and offered to play although due to pre-arranged commitments he had to eventually pull out.
Mike then got together a large and capable, if not totally famous cast, which included Henry Cow, a group which Mike was to engineer a couple of tracks on their albums Legend and Unrest at the Manor; Mick Taylor, then of the Rolling Stones; Steve Hillage, Robert Wyatt and long time friend David Bedford. All that remained for Mike to do was teach the individual artists their parts before finally assembling them for rehearsals. At this point Mike was heard to comment: "There's no doubt about whether they could do it, the only question was whether we'd be able to create any atmosphere."
On the 25th June the assembled masses gathered at the Queen Elizabeth Hall to witness Tubular Bells first "live" rendition. Mike's preconceived ideas about the project not working were totally unfounded, as, with the final note still ringing around the hall, the audience rose, in, as one witness was to comment:
"One of those rare spontaneous bursts of appreciation."
At a later date Mike was to comment that he was unhappy at the way the performance went adding,
"I stood on the stage at the end of the concert and looked at the audience, and they looked at me. And do you know what they did? They actually applauded. I was amazed. I hated that concert".
These feelings of insecurity especially with what he had produced were again highlighted when he commented;
"I'll tell you something. I always though that once I had made my own album, held the cover in my hands and read my name, I'd think it was wonderful. But, you know, it's not like this at all."
Despite these misgivings, from that moment onwards the rest was history. The album went straight to the top of the charts in the UK and throughout Europe, and stayed there for an unprecedented period. This was despite the fact that, apart from from the QE hall rendition, the only other live set was to be the first part, on BBC TV's Second House programme.
After all the exposure that ensued, Mik retired to Kington, a remote part of Herefordshire on the Welsh borders, apparently unable to put up with the pressure his success had brought. He spent the time pursuing his favourite hobby, walkinh on Hergest Ridge and flying model gliders, whilst gathering his thoughts and ideas for his next musical offering. Meanwhile the record company, and most importantly of all, the world, waited with baited breath for the follow up.
|1974 View From The Beacon||
With the success of Tubular Bells continuing well into 1974, prominent film director William Friedkin decided he wanted to use part of the album as the musical score to his horror film "The Exorcist". This, more than anything, gave Mike the all too important foothold in the American market. With Mike's permission, but with no say in what section was used, Virgin's US distributor, Atlantic Records, edited the piece and the single Mike Oldfield's Theme to the Exorcist was released. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on February 23rd 1974 eventually peaking at No. 7. This, for a short period, anyway, established Mike as a major artist in America, helping to sell nearly 8 million copies of the LP Stateside. On being informed of Friedkin's use of Tubular Bells, Roy Carr of NME was first to note that; A look of fear replaced the tranquility of his placid blue eyes; his frail body trembled ever so slightly as he mumbled, "I wish you hadn't told me that". This American single was then countered by Oldfield himself, who edited the piece the way he wanted, with the final product being released in the UK under the title Mike Oldfield's Single (VS101) on the 28th June. The B side was the strange and humorous Froggy Went a-courting in which Mike and Bridget St. John sang a quaint child like traditional song with Mike also playing guitar and mandolin. This single eventually peaked at a disappointing No.31 in the charts which, after the intial success of the LP, was rather disappointing.
June and July were to prove a very busy couple of months for Mike as firstly he appeared on the track "Little Red Robin Hood Hits the Road" on Robert Wyatt's album Rock Bottom (V2017). He then, on 1st June, made a guest appearanceat the Rainbow Theatre in London with Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Brian Eno and Nico. Mike guested on two tracks, "Two goes into Four" and "Everybody's Sometimes and Some Peoples all Time Blues". This concert was then released by Island records, entitled June 1st 1974, and included both the above mentioned tracks.
Whilst all this was happening, Phil Newell was re-mixing Tubular Bells in Quadrophonic. This process enabled the record to be heard through a four speaker system instead of the usual two in stereo as, at the time, Quad was seen as the next step forward in music reproduction. In the meantime the Quad re-mix (QV2001) was released in June and sold poorly, mainly due to the limited amount of Quad players in circulation.
Back in the autumn of 1973 Mike had moved to Kington in Herefordshire to escape from the pressures of Tubular Bells and to compose a follow up. After leaving The Manor he briefly stayed in Richard Branson's house boat in London. His new home, which was known as the Beacon, had a custom made 24 track recording studio built within it that enabled him to do most of his recording without returning to the Manor. He now put all his effort into his new recording, moving forward with great caution, often eliminating parts that, before Tubular Bells, he would have used. At one point he scrapped a complete section saying that; "Nothing is turning out the way that I want and at the moment I'm not sure how to go about rectifying it. Everything keeps going right out of tune so I've had to re-string just about everything". In his spare time he would walk the hills on which the Beacon sat and fly his remote controlled gliders from their edge. One of these particular hills was called Hergest Ridge, of which he would use to title his next album.
Hergest Ridge (V2013) was released on 28th August to almost critical hostility from the music press. This was due mainly to Mike refusing to promote, let alone talk with the press about his new work. This would, in turn lead to him being christened a "Rock and Roll Hermit Millionaire". The main problem was that everbody expected this new offering to be better than its predecessor. However, probably due to his return to nature, this piece was more peaceful and melodic than Tubular Bells. One reviewer was to comment; "Hergest Ridge is perfect background music for mooning poetically around to - but it won't stand up to much close listening". Despite this lack of enthusiasm, the album shot straight to the top of the chart, being the first record to dislodge it's predecessor Tubular Bells from the number one position and earn Mike and instant gold disc. Before this release it was rumoured that on July 7th, Virgin produced a promotional single titles Spanish Tune (VS112) which was backed by an excerpt from Hergest Ridge. If it was released there are so very few copies in existence that even Virgin themselves cannot confirm it ever existed. Nevertheless, it is still the most sought after Oldfield recording despite its controversial nature.
On September 8th, Mike appeared at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane with Robert Wyatt, who was making his first appearance since an accident had paralysed him from the waist downwards. Apart from Mike, Robert also employed the services of Dave Stewart, Nick Mason, Laurie Allen and Fred Frith, amongst others. In the concert itself, Mike played synthesizer and guitar with one reviewer commenting; "The set, which eventually climaxed with a thoroughly beserk version of "I'm a Believer" with some singularly dirty rhythm guitar from Oldfield".
In September, Mike appeared on and co-produced David Bedford's Stars End (V2020) LP which was released by Virgin. This also featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and was recorded by the Manor Mobile at, of all places, Barking Town Hall! This collaboration between Mike, Bedford and the RPO would continue later in the year when the decision was taken to orchestrate Tubular Bells. This task was mainly undertaken by Bedford, the culmination being a live performance on the 5th November of the orchestral piece with Mike playing guitar at the Royal Festival Hall. However, due to the sudden death of his mother, Mike pulled out and was replaced by Fred Frith.
David Bedford had the unenviable task of arranging Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge to be performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Both pieces were to be played live at the Royal Albert Hall on December 9th but because Mike still had not recovered from his mothers death, his place was taken by Steve Hillage.
However, for a man of such diverse shyness, the prospect of live appearances was to prove quite remarkable. He now settled back to write his next piece, determined to show the critics and public alike that he was not a spent force.
|1975 Music From the Soul||
After the release of Tubular Bells, the music critics had waited with knives sharpened for its successor. Hergest Ridge, despite its complicated layers and melodies, had been cut down in full flight, so many waited to see and almost expected the next release to meet the same fate.
Before this on the 17th January, Virgin released the Orchestral Tubular Bells (V2020) which had been performed at the Royal Albert Hall towards the latter end of 1974. This version of the Bells would eventually peak at No 17 in the LP charts, which, for a classical recording of the great tune, was quite a success. Virgin then released a retrospective of the labels early work. Titled V (VD2502) it included a long version of Don Alfonso plus a track by Tom Newman. This track Sad Sing, was to feature Mike and also be included on Newman's own LP released later in the year.
Within a month of the V release on February 21st, Mike released his second single. Titled Don Alfonso (VS117) it was on the same lines as Froggy went a-courting and showed that, despite his lack of communicative skills, Oldfield still had a sense of humour. Perhaps the two most interesting features about this record were that firstly, the B-side on all copies contained a different version of In Dulci Jubilo (for Maureen) which was dedicated to his mother who had died the year before. Secondly a German version had lyrics sung in German by the anonymous Paul, to which even Oldfield only learned of its existence recently.
In July, Harvest records reissued Kevin Ayers' Joy of a Toy and Shooting at the Moon as a special double LP set (SHOW 407). As you will recall Shooting at the Moon was the first LP that featured Mike as part of the Whole World Band back in 1970.
In January, Mike had returned to the Beacon to start the recording of his third studio LP. For the first time all the recording was to be done at the Beacon and involve artists such as Paddy Moloney, from the Irish band The Chieftains, African drumming group Jabula, his sister Sally and brother Terry; Clodagh Simmonds and Bridget St. John on vocals; Leslie Penning on recorders, and Gong's percussionist Pierre Moerlen. Recording continued from January until September with Mike producing the entire album. Released on the 28th October, Ommadawn (V2043) (which was a nonsense word resembling the Gaelic for idiot) was greeted much more favourably by the music press than it's predecessor. The album itself began quietly enough but increased in tempo throughout with beating African drums forming the basic rhythm and texture before finally exploding into a crescendo of guitars and voices. Ommadawn also contained an additional track called On Horseback, which expressed the simple virtues and pleasures of horse riding. To most this additional track seemed laughable, but on close inspection it was seen that as much care had gone into its construction as that of the main LP. Many said that this was an album produced straight from Mike's soul, with all its different moods and melodies most evident, while among the fans it was, and still is, one of the finest LP's that Mike has recorded. Later in his life Mike was to comment that "Ommadawn was done really in a vacuum on my own and it was very emotional, In fact the end of side one is probably the piece I'm most satisfied with, what I wanted to do I did it as well as I have done anything. I'm not saying it's the best thing I've done, but as far as my intention in a certain direction it was the most efficient realisation of what I wanted." The album peaked at No 4 in the UK charts and in the words of one critic...
"For a man still in his early twenties, the possibilities now seem almost limitless." An interesting promotional record also exists which was one of the first 12" formatted records released. Titled An Extract from Ommadawn - Part 1 (VDJ 9) with An Extract from Ommadawn - Part 2 as the B Side it is a rare and collectable item, despite the fact that the extracts included are taken direct from the LP.
On November 14th, Virgin released Mike's third single. This consisted of a different, re-mixed version of In Dulci Jubilo (VS131) from that on the B side of Don Alfonso, whilst On Horseback featured on the flip side. The success of Ommadawn seemed to help the sales of this single although the nature of the A-side, with Mike playing all the instruments included, made it an interesting track. A promotional video, recorded at his new home at Througham, highlighted this multi-instrumental track even more by showing Mike playing each of the instruments as the screen was split to show each. This single was a success and eventually reached the heady heights of No 4 in the UK singles chart.
The release of Ommadawn was to prove his last studio LP for three years and he was to become more involved in collaborations with other artists. One of the more interesting partnerships to involve Mike was that of the recording and release of Tom Newman's debut solo release Fine Old Tom (V2022). As you will remember it was Newman that first brought Oldfield's demo of Tubular Bells to the attention of Richard Branson, and before meeting Mike, he had been a member of many groups and a recording artist in his own right. Fine Old Tom consisted of 12 tracks recorded between 1972 and 1974, with Mike, as the sleeve notes detailed, being involved in the following:
Suzie "Little twiddly bit after 1st and 2nd verse and Pretty Gaelic tune over end"
Ma Song "Keith Richards type guitar solo"
Sad Sing "Two acoustic guitars Electric twiddles 3rd & 4th verse"
This album also featured an unusual and amusing sleeve design with a hole cut out on the front, revealing Newman with a bottle of Fine Old Tom gin. The reverse included a photo of Newman surrounded by all the supporting musicians, including Mike, Fred Frith, Chris Cutler and Mick Taylor all dressed as members of the Salvation Army!
His association with David Bedford had continued throughout 1975 with Mike firstly, on 31st April, appearing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the live performance of Stars End and secondly playing guitar on Bedford's adaptation of Coleridge's 1817 poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner (V2038). Although most of this album was recorded at the Manor or on the Manor Mobile, Oldfield preferred to record his guitar at his Beacon studio. Virgin then released the recording in the autumn. His last collaboration of 1975 was on The Edgar Broughton Band's second LP called Bandages. He featured on three tracks, Speak Down the Wires, The Whale and Fruhling Flowers (For Claudia).
1975 was also to be the year that Mike was to win his first award for a music sound-track. At the US Grammy awards, Tubular Bells was named "Best Instrumental Composition of 1974." The fact was, that even after two years Tubular Bells was still selling well and picking up awards. If ever there was a testament to the staying power of Mike's music then this was it.
Below: An advert for the Boxed double LP set released in October 1976. New Musical Express (click to enlarge)
|1976 Chart Success Highlights Busy Year||
Towards the end of 1975, Mike was to move from the Beacon in Herefordshire to a remote 14th century farmhouse in Througham-Slad, Gloucestershire. As with his previous home, Mike was to convert an old barn into a 24 track quadrophonic recording studio where many of the next few years' recordings and collaborations were to take place.
The year started with the release of the Quadrophonic remix of Ommadawn (QV2043) in February. This time Mike helped Phil Newell with this task at the Manor studio. During the same month Harvest Records released a retrospective of the work of Kevin Ayers titled Odd Ditties (SHSM 2005). This was basically made up of singles releases, both A and B-sides, plus rare material not previously released. Of the 14 tracks present Mike appeared playing bass and guitar on:
Gemini Child -Recorded in June 1970
To fill in the hiatus between Ommadawn and the next LP release Mike remixed and reworked in Quad all the first three studio albums. This was done primarily to bring out the details that he felt had been obscured during the original recording and mixing. Especially interesting is the remix of Hergest Ridge, which altered it in quite a dramatic way. Strangely enough when Hergest Ridge was to be released on CD in the early eighties, the remixed version would be used in preference to the original. In this case if you only have a CD version you are missing out on the original mix.
All these remixed versions were then packaged and released on 29th October as part of a retrospective Boxed set (VBOX1). The fourth side, called "Collaborations" consisted of work with other artists, mainly David Bedford plus many of the singles and B-sides released previously. The full track listing for this Collaboration disc was:
PHAEACIAN GAMES (Bedford)
Recorded in London and Througham, June 1976 and taken from Bedford's LP The Odyssey (V2070).
EXTRACT FROM STARS END (Bedford)
Recorded at the Manor and on the Manor Mobile at Barking Town Hall in August 1974. Featuring Chris Cutler on Drums and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Taken from Bedford's LP Stars End (V2020).
THE RIO GRANDE (Bedford)
Recorded at the Manor, the Beacon and on the Manor mobile in June 1975. Taken from Bedford's LP The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (V2038).
FIRST EXCURSION (Oldfield, Bedford) Recorded at Througham in August 1976. Included as the B-side of The William Tell Overture, which was only released outside the UK.
ARGIERS (Trad., arr Oldfield)
Recorded at Througham in January 1976 with Leslie Penning on recorders. Appeared as the B-side to The William Tell Overture (VS167) in the UK.
PORTSMOUTH (Trad., arr. Oldfield)
Recorded at Througham in January 1976 featuring Leslie Penning on recorders. Released as A side single (VS163) later in 1976.
IN DULCI JUBILO (R.L. Pearsall, arr. Oldfield)
Recorded at the Beacon in November 1974 and at the Manor in October 1975 featuring Leslie Penning and William Murray. Released as an A-side single (VS131) in November 1975.
SPEAK (THO' YOU ONLY SAY FAREWELL) (R Morello / H Nicholls)
Recorded at the Beacon in November 1974 with Mike on vocals and David Bedford on piano. Released as a B side to Portsmouth (VS163)
A booklet was also supplied and gave an insight into each album.
To coincide with the release of the Boxed set, which peaked at No 22 in the LP charts, Virgin released Mike's arrangement of the popular instrumental Portsmouth (VS163), which on the B side, had Mike and Leslie Penning singing painfully, but deliberately out of tune on Speak (Tho' you only say Farewell). Despite this Portsmouth gave Mike his best ever chart position by eventually reaching No 3 in the UK singles chart. There was also a video shot at his Througham studio to coincide with this release that featured Mike playing each of the instruments on the track whilst several women dressed in white danced around him.
In September we again saw Mike collaborating on David Bedford's The Odyssey (V2070) which was billed as a musical journey through the Greek Mycenaean Age. Of the eleven tracks featured, Mike appeared, playing guitar, on The Phaeacian Games and The Sirens.
One of the stranger episodes of Mike's career took place this year when he was asked by Alan Hacker, the father of his then girlfriend, to write and produce the soundtrack for an Arts Council film. Entitled Reflections, it dealt with the way circles and shapes had influenced architecture throughout the ages. Although the subject matter proved slightly too heavy for most, the musical score was most interesting as it contained early versions of his next LP Incantations plus a track which was later to be called The Path and appear as a B side to Shine in 1986. Even more interesting is the rumour that the man sitting in the entrance to a cave, in one shot, could well have been Mike!
1976 was to prove the last really busy year for Mike as he settled down to write and produce his next LP. Little did we know of the changes to befall him during this transitional period, or that the innocence displayed on previous albums was to have almost been eliminated.
|1977 Mysterious Air Display||
If there is one subject likely to fuel the imagination of Oldfield fans, then the major talking point of the year was the release of an LP that, even today, is still really quite puzzling. In the UK this LP was titledMathematicians Air Display(V2084) and credited to Pekka Pohjola. Pekka is best remembered as the Finnish bassist used during the early live renditions of Tubular Bells and at first glance it appears that Mike was involved in its recording and production at his Througham studio. The doubt begins when you see the titles used on the overseas releases. Listed below are the various disguises used.
MIKE OLDFIELD, SALLY OLDFIELD / PEKKA POHJOLA
MIKE & SALLY OLDFIELD / PEKKA POHJOLA
MIKE & SALLY OLDFIELD / PEKKA POHJOLA
There were even rumours that a CD recording was released by Bellaphon in 1982 although there seems little truth in this as the CD didn't become widely available until 1983. The original releases between 1977 and 1982 are, apart from the titles, exactly the same. Mike appears on all the tracks except the first, playing a multitude of instruments which even included a whistle! Musically, the LP bears all the hallmarks of an Oldfield recording and is treasured by all fans who own a copy.
The year had begun on the 25th January with Mike appearing at the World premier performance of David Bedford'sThe Odysseyat Londons Royal Albert Hall. Along with Vangelis and Mike Ratledge, this performance received a mixed reception from the music press. Then on the llth February, Virgin released Mike's version of G.A Rossini's traditional tuneWilliam Tell Overture(VS167) (better know as the theme to the Lone Ranger). This was backed by the trackArgierswhich had previously appeared on European versions ofFirst Excursionreleased the year before. Unfortunately this track failed to make any impact on the UK charts.
The second single release of the year was on November 25th and titledCuckoo Song(VS198). Written by Praetorius and arranged by Mike with Les Penning on recorder, the B side consisted ofPipe Tune. As with the William Tell Overture this release failed to chart. Mike's association with Les Penning surfaced later in this year when Mike appeared on his Grenadiers single release on the Polydor label.
The year had started and finished with Mike collaborating with David Bedford. To finish the year Mike played on the title track on Bedford's 5th studio LPInstructions for Angels(V2090). Surprisingly, the track on which Mike appeared was recorded live at Worcester Cathedral on the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio. This track is quite breathtaking, with Bedford playing the cathedrals organ and Mike playing guitar, the natural acoustics of the cathedral make it sound quite awesome. Finally, the complete LP was mixed at Mike's Througham studio in BBC Matrix H Quad which was also stereo compatible.
|1978 Short Hair and Sports Jacket||
Not many people could imagine the difference in appearance that greeted them when, towards the end of the year, Mike appeared to launch his latest studio LP. Gone was the long hair and unshaven appearance, to be replaced by short hair, sports jackets and even a willingness to talk with the media. The reason for this dramatic change came to light when it was revealed that in June of the year, Mike had attended a course designed to improve self confidence. This unique training, called Erhardt Seminar Training (or Exegesis), consisted of a four day course which tried to eliminate all the problems and hang-ups that the patient had. In Mike's own words some years later, he described it like being taken back to the point of birth to start again. It was this point that Mike felt had shaped the most part of his life and this course allowed him to start again without the fear that childbirth in the fifties had brought upon him. Both physically and in a certain way musically, the difference that this training had on Mike was visible for all to see. One of the most astonishing things to occur on the back of this treatment was his short lived two week marriage, in Kensington, to Diana Fuller, the daughter of the Exegesis teacher!
As a new man, Mike launched, on the 24th November, his 4th studio and first double LP titled Incantations. Utilising pieces of Longfellow's "Hiawatha" and Ben Jonson's "Hymn to Diana", plus the talents of African drum group Jabula, Pierre Moerlen, David Bedford and also brother and sister Terry and Sally. Incantations was a album of epic proportions that went platinum before it was even available in the shops, although it eventually only reached No 14 in the UK album charts. The mixed response from the critics came as no real surprise considering the length of the piece. For collectors, early versions are available of the LP with an alternative take of Hiawatha at the end of side 2.
The Christmas period brought two new releases. The first being a special picture disc edition of Tubular Bells(VP2001). The second release was a four track retrospective titled Take Four(VS238). Released on the 1st December, this record was unique in two ways, the first being that it was Mike's first single to be released on a 12" format (VS238-12), and a second being one of the first to be pressed on white vinyl. There was even a sticker on the cover proclaiming that "Virgin Records is dreaming of a white vinyl Christmas!" Unfortunately, as with many of his single releases around this period, the record flopped, only reaching no. 71 in the UK charts. Strangely enough, both the 7" and 12" contained the same material, the tracks being Portsmouth, In Dulci Jubilo, Wrekorder Wrondo and the Sailors Hornpipe. Apart from the quaint Wrekorder Wrondo all the other tracks had been available on previous releases and for some reason this EP was only available in the UK.
There were to be only two collaboration releases in this year when Mike appeared, but not credited, on Tom Newman's LP Faerie Symphonyreleased on the Decca label (TSX123). The two tracks that Mike appeared on Dance on Daone Sidhe and Unseelie Court were also to be released as a single, also on the same label (Decca F13735).
Mike's almost legendary shyness had meant that the fans had little chance to see him play any live dates. Fortunately one of the by-products of the Exegesis programme was that Mike had conquered these inhibitions and was now able to take all his great works out on the road. Virgin announced plans for a major European tour with almost 50 other musicians which would, in London alone, take in three of the largest and most historic venues. These were the Royal Festival Hall, for two shows in one day, on April 21st, Wembley Conference Centre on the 25th / 26th April and finally Wembley Arena on 28th / 29th April.
Below: A jacket clad Mike performing at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1979. Gus Stewart
However, before this tour commenced Mike appeared in concert with two of his old friends. On the 14th February he appeared at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and played guitar on David BedfordsRime of the Ancient Marinerwhich had originally been released in September 1975. The second appearance was at The Venue in London on llth March, again playing guitar on the trackDownwindfor Pierre Moerlen's Gong.
Mike could then concentrate on the tour that would introduce him to an audience starved of seeing him play any of his most famous pieces. On the 31st March, Mike opened this long awaited tour with four nights in Barcelona, Spain before visiting France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and finally his native England. Each concert set mainly consisted of Tubular Bells, Incantations and Guilty, with the occasional Sailors Hornpipe thrown in for good measure. The venture may well have been emotionally rewarding for Mike but it almost left him bankrupt. It later came out that both he and Virgin had lost half a million pounds, which inevitably led to stories that Mike was flat broke. Fortunately for both Mike and Virgin, there were several hours of live recordings from all over Europe available. This enabled Virgin to cull the best and release it asExposed(V2511). This recording contained an edited version of Incantations as well as Tubular Bells and Guilty and received some acclaim from the critics.
Released on the 27th July it was originally only planned as a Limited Edition 100000 copy run, but due to public demand, Virgin finally succumbed and decided to increase production. This then enabled the LP to reach No 16 in the UK album charts. At the same time Virgin released the up-tempo, almost disco like,Guilty(VS245) which had taken the concerts by storm. This peaked at No. 22 in the UK singles chart with the Limited Edition 12" version (VS245-12) being produced on blue vinyl.
Meanwhile, the year had begun with Mike guesting on the title track of Pierre Moerlen's Gong LPDownwind, which was recorded at Mike's Througham studio. Mike was then to appear with Pierre and his Gong at The Venue, London on llth March where Mike would again play guitar on the Downwind track. Arista would release both the studio version in February and the live version in early 1980. He then made a guest appearance onGirl of My Dreams, a recording by Bram Tchaikovsky. The same track would also appear on Tchaikovsky'sStrange Man, Changed ManLP, which was released in April.
In October, the independent mail order record company Tellydisc produced a retrospective double LP set calledImpressions(Tel 4). This is a fairly sought after set as it was only released via mail order in the UK, and despite most of the material being already available on previous LP's and singles, it had a different, almost rough mix, of George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm.
A more refined version of this track would appear on Mike's new LPPlatinum(V2142), which was released in November. This LP was also to produce a rare track as the first 30.000 copies included the track Sally, which was written for his then companion Sally Cooper. Virgin, and especially Branson himself, decided at the twelfth hour that the track was not suitable for release and replaced it with Into Wonderland. Unfortunately, due to Virgin wanting to release the LP for Christmas they released records with printed covers and labels crediting the original Sally track, whilst utilising the new Into Wonderland. It therefore became impossible, when only looking at the cover, to tell which version was which. Luckily it was then discovered that by looking at the matrix number scratched on the record surface you could determine that the original Sally version had the number V2141-B-1 whilst the Into Wonderland version carried the matrix V2141-B-3. Today the original version is one of the most sought after recordings, with some fans willing to pay hundreds of pounds for a mint copy. The rest of Platinum also contained tributes to avant-garde composer Philip Glass and composer George Gershwin. It even had a track Punkadiddle which seemed to imitate the then up and coming Punk style. This so called revolution in music would distance Mike from Virgin and eventually cause irreversible damage. Despite its release during the lucrative Christmas period, Platinum eventually peak at a poor No. 22 in the UK album charts.
On the singles front, Mike was commissioned by the BBC to revamp Barnacle Bill, the signature tune for the popular children's TV programmeBlue Peter. This re-working included a film crew going to his studio and filming Mike going through the various stages of playing, dubbing and recording the track. At one point Mike had the presenter, film crew and sound recorder all joining in on the finale. The subsequent recording was released as part of the Blue Peter Appeal for Cambodia, with all proceeds going to this fund. Ironically this was to prove one of his biggest single successes, with Blue Peter (VS312) reaching No. 6 in the UK single charts. Incidentally the promotional video released must go down as one of the funniest produced by Mike. It incorporated a Keystone Cops type chase using Microlites, Hovercraft and assorted other modes of transport, shot in black and white, whilst the Blue Peter theme accompanied them. There were two different versions of the single released after complaints by various DJ's that the record finished too abruptly. The ending on later copies was therefore altered from that of the original batch. Again there are no clues on the cover to which version you bought. The only way, apart from listening to each version, is to look at the matrix number scratched on the record. Copies with the matrix A4 are the original sudden ending version, whilst if you had the matrix A7, you had the version with the new refined ending. Mike was also asked to record a signature tune for a pop programme on Tyne Tees TV. Eventually he chose to coverAlright Now, originally recorded by Free, which was a track Mike particularly liked. Not much more was heard of this track until it was semi-released as a flexi-disc on a national music magazine.
Mike's love for space and flight would again resurface when, on the 20th July, Virgin premiered on British TVThe Space Movie. This spotlighted America's early attempts and final success at putting a man on the moon. The sound-track featured different unheard versions and mixes of amongst others Incantations, Tubular Bells and Ommadawn. This televised programme was later to be released on video in 1983.
The decade had ended with Mike feeling threatened by the different musical forms appearing and what seemed to be Virgin's lack of interest and promotion in what he was doing. Nobody knew, however, that these differences would eventually cause Mike to leave Virgin to seek pastures anew.
|1980 Ocean Liners and Flying Machines||
1980 was, by the standards set during the last couple of years, to be relatively quiet. It started with him producing both sides of a 7"Judy's Gone Down / Jungle Loversrelease by James Vane on the Island label. The only other collaboration of this year was to be with Lea Nicholson on a single track,Kopyafrom the LP The Concertina Record.
Late in 1979 Mike and Virgin had decided to tour again. For this new tour Mike put together a much smaller group of musicians consisting mainly of Pierre Moerlen on drums, Nico Ramsden on guitar, Benoit Moerlen on vibraphone, Hansford Rowe on bass, Tim Cross and Pete Lemer played keyboards, Mike Frye on percussion and Wendy Roberts on vocals. This time the tour would take in most of Europe and include 20 dates throughout the UK. He began in Denmark on 12th April and then moved onto Holland, Germany, Austria before returning back to Germany. The 20 UK dates started in Ipswich on April 4th and also took in Portsmouth, Croydon, Preston, Sheffield and Newcastle, as well as Dublin in Ireland. Most concerts consisted of nearly all Platinum tracks as well as Portsmouth, Ommadawn, Blue Peter, Sheba and Taurus 1. Mike had also asked animator Ian Emes to produce five film sequences which would be played as a backdrop to each concert. Incidentally the later two tracks would appear on his new LP due later in the year. Most of the UK dates were featured in the music press reviews with comments ranging from the title "Ommayawn" for the Sheffield gig to under the title of "What a load of old Bells" for Portsmouth, the reviewer commented; "After a 20 minute break he resumed a tour de force of musicianship with a splendidly sensitive and moving Ommadawn; Mike on acoustic guitar is always at his best when procuring such strength and feeling from the simpler movements".
During all this Mike had been putting the final touches on his next studio LP. Originally to be called Carnival, both Mike and Virgin opted at the last moment to re-title itQE2(V2181), which was released on October 31. QE2 was largely regarded by the music press as a poor LP, in their mind only released to take advantage of the Christmas market. Boasting Phil Collins playing drums on Taurus 1 and Sheba, it consisted of nine distinctly different tracks which included a track dedicated to his recently newborn daughter Molly. More surprising was the fact that, for the first time on an Oldfield LP, QE2 did not contain a full one side instrumental, instead relying on smaller instrumental pieces. Some critics even called QE2 an album of Platinum out-takes. The most disappointing aspect of QE2 was Mike performing cover versions.
The LP eventually peaked at No. 27 in the UK album charts. Early copies were different from later by both having a porthole cut in the cover and an inner sleeve with track details and a deck plan of the QE2 ocean liner.
There were to be two single releases from this LP.Arrival(VS374), released in September, had been written by the highly successful ABBA duo Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus whilst the B-Side consisted ofPolka, which had been recorded live, in April, in Vienna. Unfortunately this single failed to chart in the UK and the same fate was waiting for the next single release, a double A side consisting ofWonderful LandandSheba(VS387) which was released in November.
On the 21st June, after the Dublin date, Mike appeared live at the Knebworth Festival. In front of nearly 60000 people he performed versions of Tubular Bells, Ommadawn, and the hit single Guilty. A video of this event was later to appear in 1984 which also contained footage of Mike being interviewed at his home recording studio and Ian Emes animated footage which was used at the concerts.
Not much else happened during this year, apart from Mike moving to Denham in Buckinghamshire where he spent a staggering £160000 on a purpose built studio (which was later to be destroyed by flooding!). Virgin USA then tried to re-launch his career Stateside by releasing a double LP set in a single sleeve titledAirborn(VA13143). The first LP of the set consisted purely of the Platinum LP but was unique because it had Guilty replacing Woodhenge. The second LP of the set was more interesting and makes this US / Canadian release most collectable. The first side had a live version of Tubular Bells recorded on his European tour in March / April 1979, whilst the second side had a shorter and quite excellent edited version of Incantations. What made this track most interesting was the fact that this mix consisted of both studio and live versions re-mixed together to make one shorter 19 minutes 26 second track.
The decade had begun with few people expecting or knowing the path that Mike's music was to take. If the last seven years were anything to go by the air of expectation that greeted every project undertaken by Mike was never to diminish.
|1981 Freeman of London||
For the first time in over 7 years Mike's output was considerably below that experienced in previous years. Towards the end of 1980, Mike had again decided to tour, mainly to promote QE2. Most of the concerts were in Europe, taking in Greece, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Belgium and France. Mike then appeared on the 28th July to give a free concert on the lawn outside the Guildhall, London on the eve of the wedding of Prince Charles and the then Lady Diana. This free concert along with his world-wide LP sales and charity work led to Mike being made a "Freeman of the City of London", which would enable him, if he so required, to drive his sheep across the River Thames!
On the record front, Mike's only contribution to the charts this year was a guest appearance playing a Fairlight CMI keyboard on the punk band the Skids B side Iona onBlood and Soil(VS449). This track would also appear on the same bands LP Joy (V2117), which was also released in November.
Funnily enough this was not to be the only punk record to utilise Mike, as the Sex Pistols LP Some Product contained a section from Tubular Bells during one of the numbers.
Two notable overseas recordings were released this year. The first a Dutch compilation titled Mike Oldfield'sWonderland(203.550), was released on LP and cassette. Apart from the usual favourites, like In Dulci Jubilo, excerpt from Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Incantations and Platinum, it also featured a different and rare 2 minute 6 second version of Blue Peter, which on closer inspection must have been an initial version not used in favour of the final release. The second titledEpisodes(30025) was released on LP, cassette, and later on CD in France. Like the Dutch compilation it contained only excerpts of the first 6 studio LP's plus a standard version of Portsmouth.
It seems that Mike spent most of this year writing and recording his next studio LP which was to rekindle his flame as a serious composer and, more surprisingly, as a song writer.
|1982 Continued Success throughout Europe||
All the hard work put into the next LP enabled Mike to firmly establish himself as one of Europe's most successful artists. With the release ofFive Miles Out(V2222) in March, Mike was able to strengthen his grip on the European charts where the LP reached No 1 in Germany and entertained high positions elsewhere. The success in Germany owed much to the fact that Five Miles Out was Virgin's Deutschlands first release. Meanwhile, in his native UK, the LP reached as high as No 7, whilst the same titled single, release in February (VS464), only reached a poor No 43 in the UK charts. Mike later explained that this single was a musical expression of a terrifying and almost fatal experience whilst travelling between concert venues in Spain. The light aircraft that he and his crew were travelling in was suddenly engulfed by a storm so horrendous that, at one point, Mike and those on board though they would not live to tell the tale. Fortunately they did and this track was a testament to this terrifying trip. A picture disc (VSY464) also appeared and marked the beginning of a short period when this type of release was normal.
This release, along with the next titledFamily Man(VS489) was recorded under the guise of the Mike Oldfield Group. This consisted of Mike, Rick Fenn (Bass and Guitar), Maggie Reilly (Vocals), Tim Cross (Keyboards), Morris Pert and Mike Frye (Drums and Percussion). Family Man, backed by the instrumental Mount Teidi, was released in May but was then withdrawn after Mike expressed a dislike for the cover employed by Virgin. Therefore it was quite a surprise that, with limited sales, the track reached No 45 in the UK charts. As like the previous single release, a picture disc (VSY489) was also released. However, when the same track was covered by the American duo Hall and Oates in 1983, it was a huge success reaching No 6 in America and No 15 in the UK singles chart.
Also in March, Mike set off for his first and only world tour which for the first time took in America, Canada and Japan before finally concluding in the UK in the autumn. The final single to be released was a non-album trackMistake(VS541) backed by an instrumental (Walberg) The Peak in August. This failed to chart in the UK and turned out to be the final release of the year to be released on picture disc (VSY541).
Below: Mike performing in Kassel, Germany complete with Five Miles Out T-Shirt. Thomas Rosenthal
The problems arising from Mike's unhappiness at Virgin's treatment of him had surfaced to such a degree that after threatened court action in 1981, Mike had re-negotiated his contact to take in an additional three LP's as well as monies owed since 1973. Mike then settled down to produce his next LP on what was to be the tenth anniversary of Tubular Bells.
1983: 10th Anniversary Year
It was difficult to imagine that with all that had gone before, Mike, at the age of 30, had only been successful as a solo composer for only 10 of those years. Little did we, or even, I suppose, did Mike know that this was to be one of his most successful years to date.
The year started with Virgin re-releasing Tubular Bells at the 1973 prices as part of Mike's 10th Jubilee celebrations. This was quickly followed up in March by his eighth studio LP Crises(V2262), which although similar in format to Five Miles Out and QE2, contained a couple of possible chart singles. Notable additions to the cast were drummer Simon Phillips who was to prove quite an influence on Mike, Jon Anderson, lead singer with the group Yes and Maggie Reilly. There was also a European concert tour to coincide with this release and was to be the last time, for many years, that Mike was to appear live in the UK. This included a spectacular concert at London's Wembley Arena on the 22nd July, performing Tubular Bells, Incantations and nearly all of Crises. It was originally thought that this concert would appear on record and video but due to the poor quality of the final recording this idea was scrapped.
Below: Mike performing in Darmstadt, Germany during the European leg of the Crises Tour. Thomas Rosenthal
One of the possible chart contenders was released in May and gave Mike his highest chart position in the UK since Portsmouth in 1976. Moonlight Shadow(VS586), featuring the beautiful vocals of Maggie Reilly, was an instant success throughout Europe reaching No 1 in Germany and No 4 in the UK. This track was also, for the first time since Guilty in 1979, to be released as a 12" with an extended version of the tide track. The B side to the single, Rite of Manalso came with two different endings. The first faded out as would a normal record while the second suddenly stopped with a tambourine being dropped and a voice exclaiming "Oh!". The success of this track meant the obligatory Top of the Pops appearance which Mike had always said he would refuse to do, was required.
On the back of this success, Virgin were quick to release a second single Shadow on the Wall(VS625) in August. This utilised the gravel voice of Roger Chapman on a song which depicted the plight of the Polish people during the early days of political reform. The B-Side had a standard album version of Taurus 3and for some strange reason this single failed to chart in the UK, which after the success of its predecessor was extraordinary. Meanwhile the LP was making steady progress also reaching No 4 in the UK charts, his best chart position since Ommadawn in 1975.
1983 was also to prove a busy year on the collaboration front. In June the See for Miles label released the retrospective Kevin Ayers CollectionLP (CM117). This included old tracks May I?, Puis Je? and Star which included Mike playing on either Bass or lead Guitar.
Virgin also released The Space Movie(WA016) which had been premiered on British TV back in 1979. This contained many examples of Mike's early work and even versions and mixes that had not previously been released.
1983 was also the year that saw Tubular Bells (CDV2001), Five Miles Out (CDV2222) and Crises (CDV2262) released on the then revolutionary Compact Disc format. This was to prove an ideal format for Oldfield's music, although it is known that he disliked it, even though it meant that many of his old albums would again sell in large numbers.
Later during this year Mike launched his own recording label Oldfield Music from the money paid up by Virgin after his threat of court action. The first, and as of today the only release on this new label, was to be the LP Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse(OM1) by his great friend David Bedford, having been originally recorded in 1978. Not happy to just aid with the release, Mike had produced and engineered this complete LP at his then home in Througham.
1983 had been a truly successful year, especially as the fuse of interest had been ignited again as it had 10 years before.
|1984 Voices from the Darkness||
After the success of the vocal tracks on Crises, Mike moved to the relative tranquillity of Villars in the Swiss Alps within sight of Lake Geneva, and began work on his next studio LP. Utilising the newest musical techniques, primarily with the Fairlight computer, Mike, again as with Crises, worked in collaboration with Simon Phillips on what was to prove a very successful LP, especially in Europe.
However, in January, Virgin released Crime of Passion(VS648) which included Barry Palmer on lead vocals. The the B side of both the 7" and 12" contained the instrumental Jungle Gardeniaand the 12" (VS648-12) had an extended version of Crime of Passion as an extra track. Both releases had a picture of Mike's mother on the sleeve, although this is not mentioned on either formats. There was also an interesting promo video to accompany this track which consisted of Mike and Barry performing the track in a children's nursery. Most surprising of all was that both had performed the piece in mock slow motion only for the speed to be increased to real time, and the action reversed in places, during the final editing stage.
In June we saw the release of the first track to be taken from the forthcoming DiscoveryLP. Titled To France(VS686), with Maggie Reilly in her usual excellent form, the track told of the struggle by Mary Queen of Scots making the journey to France to escape the tyranny of King Edward VI. Despite the track being a huge commercial success throughout Europe, it failed miserably in the UK only reaching No. 48 in the singles chart. The 7" and 12" both contained the fascinating guitar-laden instrumental In the Pool, whilst the 12" (VS686-12) had an interesting extended version of the title track and a haunting tribal inspired instrumental Bones.
Discovery(V2308 & CDV2308) was also released in June to coincide with the single release and consisted of a complete side of songs that were nearly all interconnected. At release, with Maggie Reilly and Barry Palmer figuring prominently, many saw much hope for single success. The B side was an instrumental track inspired by Lake Geneva which, according to the sleeve notes, could be seen on a clear day from the recording studio. This instrumental track consisted of Oldfield's intricate guitar patterns and rhythms in constant collaboration with Simon Phillips' dynamic drumming. In fact many think that Phillips' drumming and co-production aided Oldfield's musical development, much the same way that Bedford and Ayers had done in previous years.
After a period of three months, a follow up single Tricks of the light(VS707) was released. The 7" and 12" both had the instrumental Afghan as B side whilst the 12" (VS707-12) also contained an instrumental version of the A side. Unfortunately Tricks of the Light failed to catch the public's imagination and thus didn't chart at all in the UK.
Towards the middle to end of the year, Mike had gone to Munich to put the final touches to his first major sound-track. David Puttnam's hugely successful film The Killing Fields(V2328), which centred on the lives of those affected by the military struggle for Cambodia, with Oldfield's compelling and moving sound-track adding much to its realism, emotion and horror. The film not only won several Oscars, but the album sound-track also received a nomination at the British Film Awards for Best Film Sound-track. Unfortunately it was beaten by Ennio Morricone's "Days of Heaven" sound-track. The LP also brought David Bedford back to Oldfield's side which was most evident in some of the impressive orchestral and vocal pieces included. The rest of the LP contained many elements of East Asian music and along with Bedford's complex orchestrations, certainly went a long way to making Oldfield well known internationally amongst a much wider audience. As for any chart success, The Killing Fields only just managed to break through the Top 100, peaking at No 97. To promote the film, the haunting Etude(VS731) was released as a single to coincide with the release of the LP. Contrary to public misconception, this was one of only two tracks on the album that Oldfield did not compose himself. Instead he had re-worked Francisco Tarrega's original to produce an instrumental masterpiece that epitomised the complete Killing Fields work. The B side of both the 7" and 12" (VS731-12) contained the highly charged and emotional Evacuation, whilst the title track on the 12" was extended.
Mike had finished off the year by taking Discovery out onto the road. Unfortunately, due to extortionate taxes in the UK, Mike decided, to the great disappointment of his fans, not to tour the UK. The European Discovery Tour took in nine countries and lasted from August until November. After the rigours of this tour, Oldfield retired to his home exhausted by the amount of work undertaken, and took a well earned break.
Below: Mike performing live in Kassel, Germany during his Discovery Tour in 1984. Thomas Rosenthal
|1985 The Best Of...||
Many had been looking forward to the possible release of a "Best of..." compilation and it came as a surprise when Virgin did just that in October. TitledThe Complete Mike Oldfield(MOC1 & CDMOC1) it chronicled most of his important work undertaken over the last 12 years. This was to be split into four sections The Instrumental Section, The Vocal Section, The Complex Section and The Live Section.
The compact disc version included, in The Instrumental Section, The William Tell Overture and Cuckoo Song which, for some reason, were omitted from the cassette version. Of most interest for fans and collectors were the tracks used on the Live Section which had not been commercially available before and included versions of Platinum, Sheba, Mirage and Mount Teide taken from various concerts between 1981 and 1984. A booklet included gave a description of each album released plus a brief biography. It's release prior to Christmas provided good sales, and it reached a respectable No 36 in the UK charts. There were no singles released to promote The Complete although a most collectable and well packaged 4 track promotional EP appeared with the catalogue number SWALLOW 1. Tracks included were Etude, Moonlight Shadow, Portsmouth and In Dulci Jubilo.
The only other commercial release of this year was to prove the start of a more adventurous and visually creative phase. Released in November,Pictures in the Dark(VS836) was a collaboration between Mike, his latest girlfriend Anita Hegerland and the then well known Welsh choirboy Aled Jones.
What set this recording apart from those previously released was that Mike had spent £2 million on fitting the latest video studio suite in his Denham house. This was to be the first video created by Mike utilising the system and the fact that this made it possibly the world's first £1 million video did very little to boost sales, only reaching No 50 in the UK charts. The only difference on the 12" (VS836-12) was the addition of an excellent extended version of the title track and a B Side containing the medieval sounding Legend, plus an almost experimental instrumental track titled Bones. There was also a limited edition double pack (VSD836) released which included the 7" Pictures in the Dark, plus a free standard 7" copy of Moonlight Shadow.
It was also in this year that Mike was commissioned to write and record the sound-track to the TV seriesSutton Hoowhich was broadcast in the late summer of this year. This was not the first or last time that Mike's music was to be used on television, and only went to prove the respect which those in the media had for Mike's talent.
"The Complete Mike Oldfield is a celebration of the label's earliest champion. And although far from complete, this neatly packaged double album does seem to cover most of Mike's magical moments."
|1986 Visually Stunning Images||
If 1985 was to prove a quiet year, then 1986 was to prove no more busy. Having bought a video studio to explore visual expression, Mike spent more time learning, with the help of producer Pete Claridge how to utilise the system to it's full potential.
Meanwhile, in May he collaborated with Yes singer Jon Anderson when they recorded and releasedShine(VS863). Again, as with Pictures in the Dark, a video was produced on his new system, using all the latest tricks and gadgets. But, as with the previous single, it failed to make any impression on the UK charts. The 12" (VS863-12) included an extended version of the title track with an excellent guitar break, whilst the B side trackThe Path, remained the same as the 7". There was also a strange shaped picture disc (VSS863) released which has become one of the most interesting, if not most collectable recordings released. The most interesting thing about the B side of all versions is that The Path was based on a piece of music first heard in 1976 on the Arts Council filmReflections. Hence this track had a very dated feel to it, if very reminiscent of his early work. It's good to know that Mike keeps an idea in his head for such a long period of time, eventually releasing it when he, and not the charts or a record company, feel it's correct.
Mike was to appear at three concerts this year. On the 2nd and 6th February he appeared at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, as a guest to the rock group Marillion. Bootleg LP copies of this concert have appeared which both include tracks featuring Mike. The first recorded on the 2nd was titledMarillion and Friends, Double O Charity(Gema NJ1903/SE) whilst the second gig was titledMarillion, Fish out of Water(Normlake Records). The third live appearance was to be at the Royal Albert Hall for a charity concert in aid of theColumbian Volcano Appeal, where Mike played an excellent acoustic version of Moonlight Shadow with Maggie Reilly and Simon Phillips. Luckily this unique event was captured on film and released in 1988 as part of the whole charity event.
Virgin also continued to reissue the back catalogue of Oldfield's previous works with Exposed (CDVD2511), QE2 (CDV2181), Platinum (CDV2141), Ommadawn (CDV2043) and Hergest Ridge (CDV2013) all appearing on compact disc.
"I think musicians have begun to realise just how much they can contribute by rasing money and how much audience care about world events and if they can come and support a charity then there very happy to do so"
|1987 Back to Basics||
Hopes were high that another new studio album was well on the way to release, especially since it had been nearly two years since Oldfield's last offering. The relative quiet was put down to the fact that much time and effort was being put into this new recording as well as moving to a new house, Roughwood Croft, in Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire.
Before that however, Virgin felt fit to releaseIn High Places(VS955), a cut from 1983's Crises LP. Featuring Jon Anderson of Yes on vocals. It was released in May to coincide with Virgin boss Richard Branson's plans to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon. The 12" (VS995-12) contained Discovery's 1984 trackPoison Arrowswhich was also on the B side of the 7" andJungle Gardeniawhich had previously featured on the B side to 1984's single Crime of Passion. Strangely, this was only released in Oldfield's native UK and like many of his singles released before, failed to chart.
In September, the first single to be taken from the forthcoming new LP was released. TitledIslands(VS990) it featured the gravel voice of Bonnie Tyler on lead vocals and was produced by both Mike and Tom Newman. The B side of the 7" featured The Wind Chimes,(Part 1) whilst the 12" (VS990-12) had an additional track When the Night's on Fire. This track was strangely missing from the LP and cassette versions of the album. Incidentally, for the first time, there was also a cassette single released (VSC990-12) which contained the same tracks as featured on the 12". Contrary to popular belief there was not a CD single released, although an Islands CD Promo Single (CDEP6) does exist in enough numbers to make it widely available to collectors. This promo contained 4 tracks, three the same as the 12" and cassette single plus an extended 5 minute 35 second version of the title track.
With the appetite truly wetted, Islands (V2466 & CDV2466) was released in early October. Surprisingly, Oldfield had returned to the one sided instrumental format, so evident in his earlier recordings, while producing 6 vocal and what seemed highly commercial tracks. The instrumental side, titled The Wind Chimes consisted of ethnic and popular musical textures intertwined with Simon Phillips drumming and co-production evident throughout. The real difference between this and previous full length instrumental tracks, was the use of computer generated sounds produced either through synthesizers or samplers. There was a distinct lack of guitars, the Oldfield trademark, whilst chants and vocal melodies won the day.
The B side seemed more interesting with the likes of Jim Price, and old friend Kevin Ayers making guest appearances. Maggie Reilly had been replaced by his long time girlfriend Anita, who's voice, if not of the same high standards, was an ideal replacement. Strangely though, on overseas versions of Magic Touch the vocals were sung by Max Bacon, formerly with US band GTO, and not Jim Price as seen on UK versions. Why this was done is still a mystery, although it is thought that there may well have been a contractual reason not allowing any material featuring Jim to be released outside the UK. The Max Bacon version can also be found on the fairly rare US samplerA Virgin Compilation(PRCD2113). This CD contains the following 11 tracks. Magic Touch, Magic Touch (Edit), Tubular Bells (Edit), Family Man, Flying Start, Moonlight Shadow, Shadow on the Wall (12"), Five Miles Out, Etude, Jungle Gardenia and North Point.
Unfortunately, Islands was slaughtered by the press and critics alike and it came as no surprise to find that it was to be Mike's first studio LP not to chart in the UK. After all the hard work and time put into it, the whole experience must have dealt a shattering blow to Mike's confidence.
However, in November Virgin chose to releaseThe Time has Come(VS1013) as the second single from Islands. The B side on the 7" was Final Extract from The Wind Chimes, whilst the 12" (VS1013-12) also had a shorter Original Mix of the title cut. It, like the LP, failed to make any impression on the charts.
Virgin then decided to add to the CD back catalogue by releasing Incantations (CDVD101) in February, The Orchestral Tubular Bells (CDV2026) in July and Boxed (CDBOX1) in October. Incidentally, the CD version of Incantations was originally reduced in length so that it could be fitted onto a single disc. That meant the opening segment of Side 3 on the LP was missing from the CD, reducing in length from 16.57 to 13.49. Fortunately the full length Part 3 is now available on CD and can be distinguished by the track length on the reverse. Meanwhile, the CD Boxed proved fairly successful as it reached No 25 in the UK album charts, only 3 positions lower than the original had charted in 1975!
|1988 Essential Re-issues||
With nearly half of the year already gone and with Mike working on his next LP, Virgin released the third track from the Islands LP in May. Titled Flying Start (VS1047) it was to fail as miserably as did the rest of the tracks already released from this LP. This was a shame as the track reunited Mike with his former mentor and friend Kevin Ayers for the first time since the early seventies. Kevin was to record his own version of this track, which was included on his Falling Up LP also released this year. Mike's version was backed by an edit from of The Wind Chimes (Part 2) on both the 7" and 12" formats. The title track on the 12" had been extended by 1 minute 13 seconds.
All the time and effort put into learning how to use his newly acquired video suite was to pay limited dividends in June whenThe Wind Chimes(WD353), from the Islands LP, was released as a video album. The instrumental track from the album had been translated into a unusual and entertaining picture show utilising, what was then the latest and most sophisticated video techniques and sound available. Added to this Mike had produced, with the aid of several quality producers, promotional videos for all of the Islands vocal tracks. Of the five included, Magic Touch was, by general consensus, the best and most marketable. However, by far the most interesting addition to this video was a light pen message from the maestro himself, plus the inclusion of several promotional videos from older work. These included the hits Moonlight Shadow and Shadow on the Wall from Crises, Five Miles Out from the LP of the same name, Shine and Pictures in the Dark which had been released in 1987. For many, the inclusion of the additional tracks added to their value for money, although there was a feeling that a chance had been missed, especially by not including other rarer videos.
In June, Virgin re-released Moonlight Shadow as part of a larger multi-artist promotion. What set this out from previous campaigns was the interesting format used.
Moonlight Shadow(CDT7) was re-issued on 3" CD and apart from containing the extended, 5 minute 18 second version, it also included Mike singing on Rite of Man, 1984's To France and popular B side Jungle Gardenia. The only problem the 3" format experienced was that on most CD players a special adapter was needed to increase the disc size to 5".
The only other developments of this year were Virgin budget re-issues of The Killing Fields (OVED183), Ommadawn (OVED208) and The Orchestral Tubular Bells (OVED97). There were also airings for Mike's collaborations with David Bedford on Rime of the Ancient Mariner (OVED152), The Odyssey (OVED153) and Pekka Pohjola on Mathematicians Air Display (OVED201. All the OVED re-issues were released on LP whilst code OVEC was used on the cassette versions.
Finally, as already mentioned in 1986, the Columbian Volcano Concert featuring Mike and Maggie Reilly performing an acoustic version of Moonlight Shadow was released in July by Hendring Video (HEN 2086).
The urge to do video came in part from Oldfield's obsession with film music. "I'm still inspired by 2001, my favourite film" Oldfield said. With the video for his own album, Oldfield could achieve artistic control, but first he had to master the technology. The key figure here was video director Pete Claridge who, according to Mike, came and edited a couple of videos. "He helped me with Wind Chimes." Computer generated graphics are all the fare in The Wind Chimes (note the wit of the endless loop of wine bottles tumbling away from Kevin Ayers on Flying Start), "because I love the machines, especially computers that make pictures".
|1989 Earth Moving Experience||
From the latter end of 1988 to mid 1989, Mike had spent time writing and recording his next studio LP. Titled Earth Moving (V2610), it was released in July and caused quite a stir amongst fans and critics as it was the first Oldfield LP not to have an instrumental, being solely made up of nine quality vocal tracks. Of these tracks, Mike was to utilise the vocal talents of Nikkie "B" Bentley, Carol Kenyon, Max Bacon, girlfriend Anita and a welcome return of Maggie Reilly on the Moonlight Shadow-ish Blue Night. Many were surprised by the almost religious nature of the lyrics which were amongst the best ever written by Mike. The LP was fairly successful, reaching No 30 in the UK album charts.
To coincide with the release of the album, the title track was released as a single (VS1189) in all formats including 3" CD. All 3 formats included Bridge to Paradise as the B side, although the 12" (VST1189) and the 3" CD (VSCD1189) included a "Disco Mix" version of Earth Moving. This re-mix, or Disco version, was certainly slightly more "heavier and funkier" than the final product with distorted electric guitar evident throughout. Unfortunately, like most single releases that had gone before, it failed to chart.
In OctoberInnocent(VS1214) was released with Anita on lead vocals. All three formats included Earth Moving (Club Version) as the B side. Strangely though this was exactly the same as the Disco Version included on the Earth Moving release.
The 12" (VST1214) and the 3" CD (VSCD1214) both included a splendid 5 minute 35 second 12" remix of the title track by German producer Bob Kraushaar. Again, this single failed to make any impression on the UK charts. Strangely there were two versions of the video to accompany Innocent. The first was a pure mix of animation and real life, with a guest appearance by Greta, Mike's first child by Anita whilst the second featured Mike, Anita, a nurse and a scientist! This was to prove the last Earth Moving release in the UK, although in Germany the track Holy was released as One Glance is Holy. This featured four very different re-mixed versions including a Hard and Holy Mix, Single Remix, Single Edit and a Holy Groove Instrumental.
The only other Oldfield related releases this year were a budget re-issue of The Orchestral Tubular Bells (WIP101) on the Pickwick label and re-issue LP's and cassette's of Platinum (OVED223) and QE2 (OVED235). As previously explained, all the cassette versions used the catalogue numbers with OVEC as the prefix. There was also to be yet another attempt at a The Best of Kevin Ayers (CM2032) released by the See for Miles label. Mike was included on the following tracks, Butterfly Dance, Rheinhardt & Geraldine, Colures Para Dolures and Stars.
It was at this point that Mike decided that a return to the tried and tested formula of instrumental music was in order, so he set about putting his ideas of what was then looking like an Ommadawn Part 2 down on paper.
|1990 Contents of an Aero-Modeller's Toolbox...||
The start of a new decade was to mark another distinct change in direction. For those who had followed his progress since the early days, his next LP was to prove the most stimulating and satisfying release since Incantations in 1978.
Amarok(V2640) was released in May and showed a World that thought he had forgotten how to produce innovative instrumental music, how wrong they all were. Lasting over 60 minutes, Amarok was a wonderful collage of guitars, all interwoven with small catchy themes and tunes performed on amongst other things as a Referee's whistle, toy dog and toothbrush as well as more standard musical instruments. More importantly, Amarok didn't rely on a central theme or repetition evident in many of his other instrumental. For many, this was a return to the Oldfield of old, and seemed like he was rediscovering his musical roots. With old friends Paddy Maloney, Bridget St.John, Clodagh Simmonds and Tom Newman involved again, it even included impressionist Janet Brown as Maggie Thatcher on the final section. Some, including Mike himself, called it Ommadawn II, as the African essences and flavours so evident in the original were again present throughout. Even the usually fickle press greeted it with a small amount of optimism comparing its originality to Tubular Bells. The only thing that stopped it being the
There were two budget re-issues of Five Miles Out this year. The first, in April, was by Virgin, on both LP (OVED293) and cassette (OVEDC293). The second was on the Pickwick label (WIP106) and released in September. A couple of special Limited Edition Box Sets then became available in December. The first (TPAK15) included standard picture disc versions of Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and The Orchestral Tubular Bells packaged in a special presentation box. Incidentally, the single CD's are packaged as per a standard CD, but the catalogue number on the CD itself start CDVP instead of CDV. The second (TPAK16) contained standard versions of Platinum, QE2, and Five Miles Out. The same catalogue system employed on the first box set is again evidence.
It was also in December that Mike renewed his acquaintance with sister Sally by playing guitar on her singleBreak Through the Rock(COL 656857 7). This track was then released as part of her LP titled Natasha (CBS467409/2). The only other Oldfield related release of the year came in December after 1984's Killing Field trackEtudewas used as part of an advertising campaign for Nurofen pain killers. The track was then released by Virgin on 7" (VS1328) and cassette single (VSC1328) with unrelated track, Gakkaen by the Ono Gagakn Kai Society Orchestra, as the B side.
Nobody knew that these were to prove the last years of Mike's association with Virgin. Of course, the rumbling of discontent since the early eighties were well documented, but it seems that Virgin's lack of commitment and enthusiasm for Amarok nearly proved the final straw. With this in mind, Mike set about writing what would then prove his final album for Virgin.
|1991 End of the Virgin Years||
If ever a year was to prove a turning point, then this year would prove so in many different ways.
A rumour had circulated that Mike was taking singing lessons which, after such efforts as 1974's Speak., and 1984's Rite of Man, did not fill those in the know with much enthusiasm.Heavens Open(VS1314) was released in January onto an unsuspecting world not aware that Mike had added yet another feather to his already overflowing cap. Many knew of his ability to write a catchy and tuneful song but to supply a voice that, if a little insecure in places, was quite pleasant and refreshing, came as quite a shock. Interestingly enough the single was credited to Michael Oldfield and produced by old friend Thom Newman. Tom (or Thom!) was later to reveal that they had altered their Christian names as a "tongue in cheek" gesture to Mike's sister Sally, who had changed her name to Natasha on her last LP! The 12" (VST1341) and 5" CD versions (VSD1314) both contained 12" versions of the title track, as well as a shorter and slightly different radio cut. A couple of excerpts from Amarok, which had been included on the Amarok promos, were also included. The 12" version was also to prove exactly the same as the album version, although this shorter and different version had been tailored to suit radio air-play. A promotional video was also shot featuring Mike performing in unison with an animated backdrop whilst the all too familiar facial and bodily expressions were scattered throughout!
The album Heavens Open (V2653) was released in February, again being credited to Michael Oldfield. The record consisted of 5 vocal tracks, all sung by Mike, whilst the 6th, Music from the Balcony, was a 20 minute Amarok style instrumental. All the vocal tracks gave the impression of being totally "live", one off recordings with voices audible on the outro to the title track. However, the music press had a field day slating Mike's attempts at singing, despite the fact that many fans, who at first were surprised, found the album interesting and at times highly enjoyable. The lyrics, filled with anger and resentment also proved a pointer to what was then to happen. Towards the end of the year, after countless albums and singles, Mike decided to split from Virgin. Things had not been right for Mike since the boom of punk in the late seventies. In his eyes, Virgin had not been interested in promoting him in a way that the longest serving member of the label was entitled to. He therefore felt, especially with a possible Tubular Bells II on the horizon, that a fresh start with a record company that appreciated him was required. A new manager was then hired, and the search for a suitable record company began.
|1992 Tubular Bells Revisited||
Mike's search for a new record company was to prove slightly less difficult than it had been 20 years before. The only problem to be encountered this time was finding a company that did not solely want to cash in on the success of any new material. He brought in a new manager, Clive Banks, who had been involved in the likes of Simple Minds and Billy Connolly. Mike finally signed with the famous and highly reputable WEA records and to coincide with the signing of this agreement it was announced that Tubular Bells II was to released in late August, with a World Premiere performance to take place at Edinburgh Castle. Mike had been planningTubular Bells II since the late eighties and had decided not to pursue this venture until he had finally left Virgin, not giving them the chance to cash in on its success. Apart from linking up with Tom Newman, Mike also became involved with Trevor Horn, a renowned producer and artist who was able to help Mike considerably, if alienating Newman in the process.
On the 31st August, Tubular Bells II (WEA4509-90618-2) finally hit the shops. Prerelease sales had already propelled the new release straight to the top of the UK album charts, despite the critics' scorn and derision. Many commented that the new rendition was a 1992 copy of the original and saw it as Mike trying to make a "fast buck". The fans though viewed it from a slightly different point of view. Many noted that there were indeed similarities between the two, especially in arrangement and instrumentation used. However, the new piece had a mature and "up to date" feel, being played, produced, and recorded by a man who had grown up over the years via his music. Mike likened it more to a movie sequel, with the same characters, but in a different environment. If it had been identical to the original then he would be accused of not being adventurous enough. However if it was too different how could it be Tubular Bells II? The main difference between the two was the use of giving each section a name, rather than just two separate sections. Those who viewed Tubular Bells a rip-off felt that this vindicated them, especially as it gave WEA an excellent chance to release certain sections as singles.
The live World Premier of Tubular Bells was performed on a cold clear night at the historic and highly charged atmosphere of Edinburgh Castle on the 4th September. Eight thousand people had completely sold out the concert for the right to see Mike performing in the UK for the first time in over nine years, show-casing his new piece. Many travelled from all parts of the World to witness this unique event. The concert was to prove a resounding success with Mike, and his 20 strong band, pulling out all the stops to perform the complete album to a standard almost matching that of the record. The smile on his face told the watching World that Mike Oldfield was well and truly back!
Sensing success, a single track from the LP was released at the end of September.Sentinelwas to become the most successful single release since Moonlight Shadow, eventually reaching No 10 in the UK charts. As with Moonlight Shadow, Mike made a rare appearance on BBC TV's Top of the Pops but even he was happy at the introduction that "the music is back!" The B side to the 7" (YZ 608) and the cassette single (YZ 608C) consisted of a very strange re-mix of the title track by the ambient house group "the Orb". The CD single (YZ608CD) had an additional bonus track entitled Early Stages, which was an interesting early mix of Sentinel. This more than anything sounded like the original 1973 version and proved a great hit, especially amongst the fans. The promotional video was one of the best employed on an Oldfield release, utilising the best animation and real life photography available. WEA were certainly doing all that they could to make Tubular Bells the success it deserved.
It then emerged that the Orb had re-mixed another two versions of Sentinel as well as the shorter version already incorporated on the single. It was originally thought that Mike disliked these versions, and that they would not be released commercially.
However these versions were then released in the UK only, asOldfield vs the Orb, Sentinel Total Overhaul(YZ698CDX) with each of the mixes titled Nobel Prize mix, Orbular Bells and Seven inch mix. The general consensus amongst fans was that these re mixes were a complete waste of time and money, especially as none of the tracks sounded anything like the original.
The continued success that the album was enjoying throughout Europe, was enhanced with the release of the complete Edinburgh concert on video. TitledTubular Bells II, The Performance Live at Edinburgh Castle(4509-90686-3) it captured the concert faithfully, although there were visible signs of the audio re-mix that Mike had performed to the video sound-track. The final releases of the year from Tubular Bells wereTattoo, released in December. This contained Mike's seasonal rendition of Silent Night on the 7" (YZ708), cassette single (YZ708C) and CD (YZ708CD) whilst the CD had an additional "live" 8 minute version culled from the Edinburgh concert. A limited edition CD titled Live at Edinburgh Castle EP (YZ708CDX) was also available. It contained live versions of Tattoo, Maya Gold, Moonshine, and the final Reprise whilst the cover had a holographic Tubular Bell image. Both these Tattoo releases were only available in the UK and propelled the single to No 30 in the UK charts. The promotional video used clips from both the concert and the Military Tattoo whilst imitation snow fell, eventually settling on a huge flying red Tubular Bell.
Other related releases during this year included a new LP with his old friend and colleague, Kevin Ayers. This was Ayers first recording since his collaboration with Mike on Islands and the subsequent Falling Up LP releases in February 1988.Still life with Guitar(PERMCD05) was to feature Mike playing limited guitar on a single track, I Don't Depend on You. The Ayers revival was to continue when Windsong International released a BBC recorded 1972 concert, featuring Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, which at this juncture, featured a youthful Mike Oldfield. Of all the tracks included,Why are we Sleepingwas to be the most interesting as it included a pre-Tubular Bell style guitar solo. This was to prove an early example of Mike experimenting with melodies that would finally come together on his first great opus. The final Ayers release of the year was the Document Series' attempt at producing aBest Of..(CSAP CD 110) compilation. Of the 14 tracks available Mike was involved in three playing bass on Clarence in Wonderland and Lady Rachel whilst playing lead guitar on Stars which was in fact the 1971 version, not the 1976 Star, as indicated in the sleeve notes. The final re-issue of the year was to appear when Repertoire re-released the Edgar Broughton Band'sBandages(REP4201-WY) LP on compact disc. As with the original release in 1975, Mike was featured on three of the eleven tracks. (See 1975 for details).
|1993 20 Years of Magic||
After the repeated success of Tubular Bells II and the Edinburgh Castle premier in the autumn of 1992, it was decided to take the concert out onto the road on a European Tour. This time, with a smaller cast than used in Edinburgh, Mike's first gig played to a packed Carnegie Hall in New York on the 1st March. After this single US date, the tour rolled into Europe with several dates from the 22nd March in Germany to single dates in Belgium, France and Austria. The finale was four successive nights at the prestigious London Royal Albert Hall in April. Despite a smaller group of musicians aiding Mike, the London concerts proved a huge success, even allowing Mike more scope to elaborate on the guitar breaks and a breathtaking encore, nicknamed "Orgasmidoo" by the fans.
To coincide with the first UK concert date, a third single from Tubular Bells II was released. Titled The Bell, the 7" (YZ737) and the cassette single (YZ737C) contained an excellent reworking of The Bell, with Vivian Stanshall making a most welcome return as the MC, and a single Sentinel Trance restructure. There were also to be a staggered two CD release. The first (YZ737CD) contained both the above plus another two almost unrecognisable Sentinel restructures that vainly attempted to cross over into the popular UK dance scene. The UK release also included three unique Tubular Bell logo photocards which were not available anywhere else in the world. The second CD (YZ737CDX), attractively packaged in a foil CD sleeve, was released 7 days later and contained 5 different versions of the title track including Management Works stable-mate Billy Connolly as MC. This version, as with the first, was only available to fans in the UK. Unfortunately, due to lack of radio airplay, and despite having an excellent promo video, this track failed to make the Top 30 UK singles chart.
On the re-release front, Voiceprint Records re-launched in March, two David Bedford LP's on CD. Nurses Song with Elephants(VP116CD) originally dated from 1972 whilst the second The Song of the White Horse / Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon(VP110CD) had been originally released on Oldfield Music back in 1983. The excellent Bedford / Oldfield collaboration back-catalogue has taken far too long to appear on CD, so it is pleasing to note there are plans at Virgin to release several more CD re-issues including Stars End and Instructions for Angels. Whilst on the subject of re-releases it has also been good to see Virgin release two 20th anniversary retrospective sets towards the end of the year. The first, a single CD titled Elements(VT18) contained much of his more well known material. The second was a lavish 4 CD set with an 60 page booklet all included in a superb presentation box. The only disappointing feature was the lack of rarer material with only the Vivaldi Concerto in Cnot having been heard before. To coincide with these releases, a video, also titled Elements, contained a small selection of the visual history as well as an exclusive interview slotted between each clip.
After 20 years of mainly solo success, it is fitting that there is still a place within the UK music scene for this highly underrated but hugely popular musician. Always a true ambassador of his special brand of music and with his huge success throughout Europe, there have been few musicians to push back the boundaries of music and succeed in the way Mike has done. At the tender age of 40 we can still look forward to another 30 years of music pioneering up to and beyond the limit set by others. I am just grateful to have been able to enjoy all that he has done thus far and I, along with legions of fans worldwide wait with baited breath and high expectation for all that is still to come...