20 Junio 2006

BBC Artist Biography - Mike Oldfield

(Enviado por WorldX)

Mike Oldfield

Michael Gordon Oldfield, 15 May 1953, Reading, Berkshire, England. Multi-instrumentalist Oldfield will forever be associated with a piece of symphonic-length music he wrote before his 20th birthday. Tubular Bells, released in 1973, topped the UK album chart and went on to become a worldwide bestseller. Oldfield began his career providing acoustic guitar accompaniment to folk songs sung by his older sister, Sally Oldfield, who would often appear in Reading's pubs and clubs with Marianne Faithfull. Mike and Sally recorded together as the Sallyangie, releasing a solitary album for the Transatlantic Records label in 1968, before he left to join Kevin Ayers And The Whole World, with whom he played bass and guitar for a short period. He continued working on his own material and produced a demo of instrumental music which later became Tubular Bells. Several record companies rejected the piece but entrepreneur Richard Branson, the head of Virgin stores, recognized its marketing potential. He asked Oldfield to re-record the demo in the recently acquired Manor Studios and it became one of Virgin Records' first releases. The 49-minute piece was a series of basic melodies from folk, rock and classical sources that featured an array of different instruments, all played by Oldfield, and was introduced by guest master of ceremonies, Vivian Stanshall.

Excerpts from it were used in the horror film, The Exorcist, and a shortened version was released as a single, reaching number 7 on the Billboard chart in February 1974 (the album reached number 3 in America the previous November).
On the follow-up, Hergest Ridge, Oldfield attempted to capture Berkshire's pastoral beauty and largely succeeded, although matching the impact of Tubular Bells was clearly impossible and many critics dubbed the album "Son of Tubular Bells" because of the similarity. It reached the top of the UK chart but, like all his subsequent album releases, it did not chart in the USA. Along with arranger David Bedford, a former collaborator of Kevin Ayers, he scored Tubular Bells and a version recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was released in 1975. Ommadawn featured the uillean pipe-playing of the Chieftains' Paddy Moloney and a team of African drummers. It sold well, reaching number 4 in the UK album chart, but the critical response was that his introspective music had become over-formularized over the three albums. Virgin also saw the records as complementary works and packaged them together in 1976 as Boxed.
Although seen as an album artist, Oldfield had two consecutive UK Christmas hits in 1975 and 1976 with the traditional "In Dulce Jubilo" (number 4) and "Portsmouth" (number 3).

Around 1977/8, the shy, withdrawn Oldfield underwent a programme of self-assertiveness with the Exegesis method. The result was a complete reversal of personality and Oldfield took the opportunity in music press interviews to retaliate, almost to the point of parody, to accusations of limp, neo-hippie blandness and strongly defended himself against pillorying by the nascent punk movement. Incantations drew strongly on disco influences and Exposed was recorded at various concerts where Oldfield played with up to 50 other musicians. In 1979 Oldfield also recorded a version of the theme tune to the popular BBC Television show, Blue Peter. Entitled "Barnacle Bill", it was released as a charity single and was subsequently adopted by the programme as a revamped signature tune. It was retained as such up to the late 80s. Platinum, QE2 and Five Miles Out caught Oldfield slightly out of step with his contemporaries as he tried to hone his songwriting and avoid repeating himself. Hall And Oates recorded a version of "Family Man', which had missed out as a single for Oldfield, and it became a UK Top 20 hit in April 1983. By now Oldfield was working with soprano Maggie Reilly, who sang on May 1983"s number 4 hit "Moonlight Shadow' from the Top 10 album Crises.

After Discovery he wrote the music for the award-winning film The Killing Fields. On Islands he was joined by further guest vocalists Bonnie Tyler and Kevin Ayers. Even though he was now writing to a more standard pop structure, Oldfield found himself no longer in vogue and his music was largely portrayed in the music press as anachronistic. Earth Moving, with contributions from Maggie Reilly, Anita Hegerland and Chris Thompson (ex-Manfred Mann), and 1990"s Amarok (his lowest-charting solo album in the UK) failed to challenge the prevailing modern view.
Accepting that Tubular Bells will always overshadow most of his other work, certainly in terms of commercial acceptance, Oldfield was drawn back to his debut in 1992, working with Trevor Horn on Tubular Bells II to mark the 20th anniversary of the original album. The album topped the UK album chart, and its success resulted in increased sales for the original Tubular Bells and a spectacular live concert of the new version. Oldfield's subsequent albums predictably failed to make the same commercial impact, and in 1998 he returned to Tubular Bells with a third instalment which introduced dance rhythms into the mix. The album debuted at number 4 in the UK in September, premiered by a live concert from Horseguards Parade in London.

The insipid The Millennium Bell was premiered with a typically grandiose live show in Berlin on New Year's Eve 1999.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Tubular Bells, Oldfield chose to re-record and remaster the album in 2003 using the voice of UK actor/comedian John Cleese to replace Stanshall as master of ceremonies. And begged the question, why?.

DISCOGRAPHY: Tubular Bells (Virgin 1973)****, Hergest Ridge (Virgin 1974)***, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra The Orchestral Tubular Bells (Virgin 1975)***, Ommadawn (Virgin 1975)***, Incantations (Virgin 1978)**, Exposed (Virgin 1979)**, Platinum (Virgin 1979)**, QE2 (Virgin 1980)**, Five Miles Out (Virgin 1982)**, Crises (Virgin 1983)**, Discovery (Virgin 1984)**, The Killing Fields film soundtrack (Virgin 1984)**, Islands (Virgin 1987)**, Earth Moving (Virgin 1989)**, Amarok (Virgin 1990)**, Heaven's Open (Virgin 1991)**, Tubular Bells II (Warners 1992)***, The Songs Of Distant Earth (Warners 1994)**, Voyager (Warners 1996)**, Tubular Bells III (Warners 1998)***, Guitars (Warners 1999)**, The Millennium Bell (Warners 1999)**, Tr3s Lunas (Warners 2002)***, Tubular Bells 2003 (Warners 2003)**, Light & Shade (Universal 2005)***.

COMPILATIONS: Boxed (Virgin 1976)***, The Complete Mike Oldfield (Virgin 1985)***, Elements: The Best Of Mike Oldfield (Virgin 1993)***, XXV (Virgin 1997)***, The Best Of Tubular Bells (Virgin 2001)***, The Platinum Collection (Virgin 2006)***.

VIDEOGRAPHY: The Wind Chimes (Virgin Vision 1988), Essential Mike Oldfield (Virgin Vision 1988), Elements (Virgin Vision 1993), Tubular Bells III Live (Warner Music Vision 1998), The Millennium Bell: Live In Berlin (Warner Music Vision 2001), The Best Of Mike Oldfield: Elements (Virgin 2004), Exposed (EMI 2005), Live At Montreux 1981 (Eagle Rock Entertainment Ltd 2006).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: True Story Of The Making Of Tubular Bells, Richard Newman. Mike Oldfield: A Man And His Music, Sean Moraghan.

Source : bbc.co.uk & Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Updates to audio and videographies by me :)

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