Mike Oldfield Biography
Oldfield's most famous work is Tubular Bells, an instrumental composition recorded in 1972 and launched on May 25, 1973 as the inaugural album of Richard Branson's Virgin Records label. The album was groundbreaking, as Oldfield played more than twenty different instruments in the multi-layered recording, and its style progressed continuously, covering many diverse musical genres. The album quickly reached the top 10 in UK album sales and stayed on the chart for 247 weeks. In the US, it got attention chiefly by appearing on the soundtrack to The Exorcist. In autumn 1974, the follow-up LP, Hergest Ridge, was No 1 in the UK for three weeks and was then dethroned by Tubular Bells.
Like Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge took the form of a two-movement instrumental piece, this time evoking scenes from Oldfield's Herefordshire country retreat. This was followed in 1975 with the pioneering world music piece Ommadawn, and 1978's Incantations which introduced more diverse choral performances from Sally Oldfield, Maddy Prior and the Queen's College Girls Choir.
Around the time of Incantations, Oldfield underwent a controversial self-assertiveness therapy course known as Exegesis; no doubt as a result of this, the formerly reclusive musician staged a major European tour to promote the album, chronicled in his live album Exposed, much of which was recorded at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham, the first ever concert at that venue.
The early 1980s saw Oldfield make a transition to 'mainstream' popular music, beginning with the inclusion of shorter instrumental tracks and contemporary cover versions on Platinum and QE2 (the latter named after the ship). Soon afterwards he turned his attention to songwriting, with a string of collaborations featuring various lead vocalists alongside Oldfield's trademark searing guitar solos. The best known of these is 'Moonlight Shadow', his 1983 hit with Maggie Reilly which took John Lennon's death as one of its themes. This hit has been covered by various other artists, including Aselin Debison (Canadian folk singer) and DJ Mystic (electronic/techno). In 2002 it was a huge hit in central Europe for the German dance act Groove Coverage.
Oldfield later turned to film and video, writing the score for Roland Joffé's acclaimed film The Killing Fields and producing substantial video footage for his album Islands. This was however a time of much friction with his record label, Virgin Records reportedly insisting that any future instrumental album should be billed as Tubular Bells 2. Oldfield's rebellious response was Amarok, an hour-long work featuring rapidly changing themes (supposedly devised to make cutting a single from the album impossible), unpredictable bursts of noise, and a very cleverly-hidden Morse code insult directed at Richard Branson. Although regarded by many fans as his greatest work, it was not a commercial success. His parting shot from the Virgin label was Heaven's Open, which continued the veiled attacks on Branson but was notable for being the first time Oldfield had contributed all the lead vocals himself. Some say this was due to his anxiety to quit Virgin as soon as possible (he had previously stated that his voice did not belong on his recordings). His relationship with Richard Branson was never good, even in the beginning.
On the Warner label Oldfield continued to embrace new musical styles, with Tubular Bells II (a re-interpretation of Tubular Bells, the album that originally shot him to fame), which was premiered at a live concert at Edinburgh Castle, The Songs of Distant Earth (the latter based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name) exhibiting a softer 'New Age' sound, and Tubular Bells III (also premiered at a concert, this time in Horse Guards Parade, London), drawing from the dance music scene at his new home on the island of Ibiza.
Most recently he has added to his repertoire the Music VR project, combining his music with a virtual reality-based computer game. His first work on this project is Tres Lunas launched in 2002, a virtual game where the player can interact with a whole world full of new music specially composed for this occasion. This project appeared as a double CD, one with some part of the music, and the other with the game.
In 2003 he released Tubular Bells 2003, a re-recording of the original Tubular Bells, on CD and DVD-audio. This was done to fix many imperfections in the original that existed due to limitations of the recording technologies of the time and limitations in time that he could spend in the recording studio. This celebrated the 30th anniversary of Tubular Bells, and the fact that Oldfield had recently celebrated his 50th birthday.
On 12 April, 2004 Oldfield launched his next virtual reality project called Maestro which contains music from the Tubular Bells 2003 album and also some new chillout melodies.
The demo versions of the games can be found on the official Mike Oldfield homepage.
This biography is published under the GNU Licence
Items to buy by Mike Oldfield