Famous Like Me > Composer > O > Mike Oldfield
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Profile of Mike Oldfield
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||15th May 1953
|Place of Birth:
||Reading, Berkshire, England, UK
Michael Gordon Oldfield (born May 15, 1953 in Reading, England) is a multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, working a style that blends rock or progressive rock, ethnic or world music, and classical music.
Oldfield's parents were Maureen and Raymond Oldfield. His sister Sally and brother Terry are successful musicians in their own right and have appeared on several of his albums.
(1973-1991) Virgin years
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 in the chart for 247 weeks. In the US, it received attention chiefly by appearing in the soundtrack to The Exorcist. In the autumn of 1974, the follow-up LP, Hergest Ridge, was No 1 in the UK for three weeks before being 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 cruise ship). Soon afterwards he turned his attention to songwriting, with a string of collaborations featuring various lead vocalists alongside his 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.
The most successful Oldfield composition on the US pop charts during this period was actually a cover version -- Hall & Oates's remake of "Family Man" for the duo's 1982 album H20.
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.
(1992-2003) Warner years
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.
During 1999 Oldfield released two albums, the first being Guitars which used guitars as the source for all the sounds on the album, including percussion. The second, The Millennium Bell, consisted of pastiches of a number of styles of music that represented various stages in history over the past millennium, and the work was performed live in Berlin for the city's millennium celebrations in 1999-2000.
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 Tr3s 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. The DVD-Audio version has not only the same content as the CD version in surround, but it also has some demos of the original Tubular Bells. In the 2003 version, the original voice of the 'Master of Ceremonies' was replaced by the voice of John Cleese.
(2004- . . . .) Recent years
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.
A double album, Light & Shade is released on Mercury Records, with whom Mike recently signed a three album deal. The two discs contain music of contrasting moods, one relaxed ("Light") and the other more edgy and moody ("Shade"). The album was released on 26 September 2005.
- 1973 – Tubular Bells
- 1974 – Hergest Ridge
- 1975 – Ommadawn
- 1978 – Incantations
- 1979 – Platinum (also named Airborn for the US release)
- 1980 – QE2
- 1982 – Five Miles Out
- 1983 – Crises
- 1984 – Discovery
- 1987 – Islands
- 1989 – Earth Moving
- 1990 – Amarok
- 1991 – Heaven's Open
- 1992 – Tubular Bells II
- 1994 – The Songs of Distant Earth
- 1996 – Voyager
- 1998 – Tubular Bells III
- 1999 – Guitars
- 1999 – The Millennium Bell
- 2002 – Tr3s Lunas aka Tres Lunas
- 2003 – Tubular Bells 2003
- 2005 – Light & Shade
- 1984 – The Killing Fields - soundtrack for the movie of the same name, The Killing Fields
- 2002 – Tr3s Lunas (II) aka Tres Lunas (II) - computer game soundtrack (never officially released, but extracted from the game "Tr3s Lunas" by fans.
- Note: Although used in The Exorcist, Tubular Bells (1973) was not a soundtrack album.
Compilations, remixes, etc.
- 1975 – The Orchestral Tubular Bells
- 1976 – The Orchestral Hergest Ridge (Never officially released)
- 1976 – Boxed
- 1979 – Impressions
- 1980 – Music Wonderland
- 1981 – Episodes
- 1985 – The Complete Mike Oldfield
- 1987 – A Virgin Compilation
- 1990 – Collector's Edition Box I & II
- 1993 – Elements - The Best of Mike Oldfield
- 1993 – Elements - The Best of Mike Oldfield 1973-1991 (4CD)
- 1997 – XXV: The Essential
- 2001 – The Best of Tubular Bells
- 2002 – Collection
- 1967 – The Sallyangie by Sallyangie (with his sister Sally Oldfield)
- 1972 – Shooting at the moon by Kevin Ayers and the Whole World
- 1973 – Whatevershebringswesing by Kevin Ayers and the Whole World
- 1974 – Rock Bottom by Robert Wyatt
- 1974 – June 1, 1974 by Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Nico and Brian Eno (live album)
- 1976 – Odd ditties by Kevin Ayers (compilation of singles and unreleased tracks)
- 1977 – Mathematicians Air Display (extremely rare, also known as a collaboration with Pekka Pohjola or The Consequences of Indecisions album)
- 1992 – Still life with guitar by Kevin Ayers
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