Mike Oldfield


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Mike Oldfield was born in Reading on the 15th May, 1953, where he also went to school and where he played in local folk clubs as a teenager.

Mike was 15 when he and sister Sally started the folk duo The Sallyangie - releasing two singles and an album "Children of The Sun".

Almost immediately after, Mike formed the folk group, Barefeet with his brother Terry. It was during this time that the first embryonic ideas for Tubular Bells started to come together - a piece which later become the Piltdown Man section.

In 1969, Mike joined Kevin Ayers and the Whole World as guitarist. The band also featured David Bedford, who Mike was to often to work with in the following years. The Whole World split in 1971.

Mike was thinking about Tubular Bells in 1970, whilst still with the Whole World and a rough demo was ready by 1972, after many antisocial hours at the Abbey Road studios. Mike was so pleased with the result that he sent copies to all the major record companies, all of which rejected it as uncommercial... until he came upon Richard Branson, who ran a chain of budget price record stores. Richard was impressed, but didn't have the resources to fund its release A year later, he decided to launch the record label and rang Mike, expecting him to have sold "Tubular Bells" to another record company. Instead, Mike was second reserve guitarist in the musical "Hair" and thoroughly depressed. Richard immediately drew up a contract with Mike. It was Tom Newman who suggested to Richard that they build a recording studio, for which they borrowed £25,000 and bought The Manor near Oxford. The studio was built in a converted squash court. Mike moved into the Manor for the next year, learning how to engineer and produce, whilst making "Tubular Bells".

1978 saw a dramatic change in Mikes public persona. He surprised the music press by changing his image and starting to talk with the media. The change was due to Mike's participation in the radical and controversial "Exegesis" or EST programme.

As a result of the EST, Mike organised his first tour in 1979, together with an entourage of almost 100! In spite of all the concerts selling out, the tour ended with heavy debt.

Platinum, which presented a new concept for Oldfield, alongside one long piece on side one were 4 songs on the B-side, put the debt behind him. What also stands out is Mike's covers of Philip Glass' "North Star" and Gershwin's "I Got Rythm", featuring Wendy Roberts. A tour naturally followed - this time with an eleven piece band!

In the following year, QE2 was released, which again broke new ground for Oldfield - no long instrumental piece filling a whole side. The longest piece "Taurus 1" was a mere ten minutes. Once again, two cover versions are apparent: Abba's "Arrival" and The Shadows' "Wonderful Land". A few months later, in March 1981, Mike set off on another European tour, with a further reduced offering of five musicians.

"Five Miles Out" came out in spring. This work again included longer pieces "Taurus 2" filling side 1 and "Orabidoo", a thirteen minute track, taking half of the second side. To complement these longer pieces were the 3 tracks "Five Miles Out", "Mount Teide" and "Family Man". The album was inspired by a near tragic flight on his preceding tour, where a small aircraft piloted by Mike hit a terrible storm. Many fans claim this is the best production in the period following "Incantations".

"Crises" was a more commercial work, although the short instrumental "Taurus 3" earns Mike his due, whilst Moonlight Shadow and Shadow on the Wall were hit singles all over the world. The following tour, featuring just over ten European destinations, culminated in the widely acclaimed 10th Anniversary concert at Wembley Arena in the UK.

Mike then moved to Villars in the Swiss Alps to record "Discovery". The result was seven songs, which hardly made the most of his talent, although the instrumental "The Lake" hinted that Mike was still capable of greater things.

At the same time as working on "Discovery", Mike was completing the film score for David Puttnam's The Killing Fields, which appeared in December, 1984. The musical style, helped by old friend David Bedford, bordered on the avant garde, mysterious yet thrilling.

Two years later, Mike's "The Songs of Distant Earth" broke the mould for a musical release - it was the first commercial album to feature computer CD-Rom material on it. The files which can be viewed on a Mac feature a short interactive journey and game to amuse the viewer. The album was loosely based on the book of the same name by Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer. Arthur was so impressed by Mike's interpretation that he wrote sleeve notes for the CD. The sales of the album were disappointing considering its appeal to a wide audience. The video for "Let There Be Light" was most impressive, and the producers of the video went on to win an award for the ground-breaking technique used to create it.

In 1996, Mike's 'Voyager' was released at a time when Mike was setting up a new home in Ibiza, building himself a fantastic new home in a plateau carved from a cliff face. "Voyager" is a collection of ten instrumental songs, three written by Mike himself, all with Celtic roots. The seven cover versions are Scottish, Irish and Spanish folk songs reworked into Mike's unmistakable style.

Last year, Mike celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Tubular Bells by releasing Tubular Bells 3. The album reflects his two year stay in a home he built in the side of a cliff in Ibiza. The highs and lows of island life are what inspired the album to include dance, flamenco, heavy rock and pop music, all in the space of 45 minutes! Premiered live 6 years to the day after it's predecessor, but this time at Horse Guard's Parade, London, this was the first concert ever held at this prestigious venue.

Mike's latest project, The Millennium Bell is a celebration of the last 2000 years of music, and was released on 29 November. A huge scale light show will accompany the premiere concert of the album in Berlin on New Year's Eve.