Friday, 4 April 2014

The Archivist Volume 2: Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn - 40 Years Old Today - Reposted (21/10/15)

The first 'REAL' LP I bought was in 1973. It was Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.

To say it changed my life was an understatement. 

I first heard TB when a friend's brother had played it - he was several years older than us - and I was enchanted. Up until then I had been listening to my brother's records of Beatles & Beach Boys etc - brilliant but 1960s. I had then bought the pop singles by the likes of T Rex, Slade and all of the other early 70s hit makers.

I had managed to get a few albums on tape by recording other friends brothers/sisters lps such as Yes, Caravan & The Moody Blues (couldn't afford my own then) but Tubular Bells was my first proper LP.

It opened up so many possibilities of what music could be. Only later did I find out how it had been 'assembled' by Mike.

When the follow up album, Hergest Ridge was released in 1974 - I had saved enough to buy it. I wallowed in it's pastoral beauty and played it to death. Literally wore it out.
Although it had a real slating on it's release, I've always loved it.

Then came news that Mike Oldfield was working on his next album and this one was rumoured by some people who had heard working sections as being as good, if not better than Tubular Bells. By God I was SO excited.

Mike by now had a home and recording studio near Hergest Ridge and recorded the album there in this countryside hideaway.

Ommadawn had its official UK release on October 21st 1975 - I made my mother buy me the album for my birthday in early December, as soon as it was released. She wrapped it up and placed it in her wardrobe ready for my birthday. But the temptation became too much and I used to unwrap the album on regular occasions and play it on my headphones so she couldn't hear it. I'm sure she knew. But she never let on.

 On his previous two albums, Mike had played most of the instruments himself but with Ommadawn, Mike had introduced quite a few additional musicians including his brother Terry on Flute, Paddy Maloney and the drummers Jabula to help him realise his vision. 

Ommadawn is often described as being one of the first mainstream albums to introduce a version of  what went on to become 'World Music'.

Whatever you call it, I call it sublime. It is by far my favourite Mike Oldfield album.

Unfortunately I cannot share it on here due to Youtube copyright agreements but I have tried to include some live versions and excerpts to show you what a majestic and moving piece of music it is. 

It has a certain Celtic sound and the African drumming at the end of side one fits in perfectly with the Celtic sounds of woodwind and guitars.

There is even a single - On Horseback - a twee sounding affair that is tagged on to the end of side two with Mike on vocals - very odd but spookily kind of charming.

The album was re-released in 2010 and included an outstanding 5.1 remix of the album as well as various outtakes of material recorded in preparation of the album which gives a great insight into how the finished music appears from the bare bones of the demos.
Like a lot of Mike's music, Ommadawn has been remixed and reinterpreted by other musicians.

And in this year where Ommdawn reaches 40 - Mike is planning an Ommadawn 2 - or, as he puts it A New Ommadawn.

And I, among many, can't wait to hear it


  1. Mike used to be a member at my squash club. I shared many a shower with him but we hardly exchanged a word. A very private man it seems.
    I did dress my sweaty body in his bodyguard/manager's clothes once, thinking that I was stinking up a mate's clothes. I recognized my error just in time; removed the XXXL vest just as Mike and (huge) manager came off court. He did seem confused that is collar and cuffs were a little soggy…
    There's no denying the beauty of 'Ommadawn'.
    Half as iconic as TB but twice as good.

  2. When he was living in Beaconsfield? Cool. Should've got a picture with him :) - and you're right Ommadawn is a lot better than TB :)