Mike Old­field

Fol­low­ing his quest for odd time sig­na­tures, clas­si­cal and fan­tas­ti­cal in­flu­ences, Paul Biela­tow­icz meets the in­stru­men­tal ge­nius com­poser, Mike Old­field.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Prog -

Michael Gor­don Old­field was born on May 15, 1953 in Read­ing, the son of a doc­tor and a nurse. Old­field’s mu­sic ca­reer be­gan while he was still at school, play­ing solo acous­tic gui­tar pieces at lo­cal folk clubs, and then later with a band play­ing Shad­ows-style mu­sic (Hank Marvin was a big in­flu­ence). And by the time he left school, Mike was al­ready fo­cus­ing on a ca­reer in mu­sic.

In 1967 he formed a folk duo called The Sallyangie with his sis­ter Sally, and they man­aged to se­cure a record deal. They re­leased the al­bum Chil­dren Of The Sun (1968), be­fore dis­band­ing and Mike turned more to­wards rock mu­sic. He joined Kevin Ayers’ band in 1970, play­ing bass and var­i­ous gui­tars on the al­bums Shoot­ing At The Moon (1970) and What­ev­er­she­bringswesing (1971).

Mike be­came friends with Ayers’ key­boardist, David Bed­ford, who en­cour­aged him to de­velop his com­po­si­tion, which even­tu­ally led to Tubu­lar Bells. Mike recorded a num­ber of demos and tried to se­cure a record deal, with­out suc­cess. In 1971 he was hired to record bass gui­tar for a record be­ing made at Manor Stu­dios – a stu­dio owned by a young en­tre­pre­neur called Richard Bran­son. Bran­son al­ready had a num­ber of busi­ness ven­tures and was about to start his own record la­bel, Vir­gin Records. Old­field played the stu­dio en­gi­neers his Tubu­lar Bells demos; they were im­pressed and passed them on to Bran­son. The demos se­cured Old­field a week in Manor Stu­dios, dur­ing which time he recorded the leg­endary Part 1 (or side 1) of Tubu­lar Bells. Part 2 was com­pleted over the fol­low­ing few months. Tubu­lar Bells was the in­au­gu­ral re­lease of Richard Bran­son’s Vir­gin Records, and it proved to be a mas­sive suc­cess. The al­bum was ground­break­ing in many ways, see­ing Old­field play­ing more than 20 in­stru­ments and mov­ing through dif­fer­ent and di­verse mu­si­cal styles.

Tubu­lar Bells’ suc­cess was boosted when its open­ing theme was used to great ef­fect in Wil­liam Fried­kin’s block­buster hor­ror movie, The Ex­or­cist. Old­field fol­lowed Tubu­lar Bells with a string of other suc­cess­ful in­stru­men­tal al­bums re­leased on Vir­gin, in­clud­ing Om­madawn, Hergest Ridge and var­i­ous Tubu­lar Bells sequels, as well as hit sin­gles such as Moon­light Shadow with Mag­gie Ri­ley on vo­cals and his trade­mark fin­ger­picked 'bag­pipe-like' gui­tar tone.

In 1979 Mike recorded a new ver­sion of the theme tune to the chil­dren’s TV show Blue Peter, which was used for the next 10 years. In 1981 he was also com­mis­sioned to write mu­sic for the Royal Wed­ding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, re­sult­ing in his Royal Wed­ding An­them. To­wards the end of the 1980s fric­tion arose be­tween Old­field and Vir­gin. His re­bel­lious re­sponse came in the form of Amarok, an hour-long work con­sist­ing of rapidly chang­ing themes, sup­pos­edly in an at­tempt to make cut­ting a sin­gle from the al­bum im­pos­si­ble. The con­flict in­evitably led to Mike’s de­par­ture in 1991, since which time he has con­tin­ued to re­lease al­bums on var­i­ous la­bels.

Al­though never com­fort­able with the fame as­pect of suc­cess, Old­field's name as a world-renowned multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist and com­poser is nev­er­the­less as­sured.

His demos se­cured a week in Richard Bran­son's Manor Stu­dios, dur­ing which time he recorded the leg­endary Part 1 (or Side 1) of Tubu­lar Bells.

Mike Old­field with a tasty Gibson SG Jnr

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