Mike loved fly in gliders and enjoy the countryside, hang out at the Penrhos Court, drink, and smoke his cigarettes. In this pub he would also enjoy the wonderful Celtic/folk music that was played there, as Mike would sometimes bring his acoustic guitar and play alongside a local musician Leslie Penning.
Within his new home, Mike built his own studio. He gave a list of things he needed to Richard Branson, and Richard went out to by what he needed. Branson was still pressuring Mike to write and record a follow-up to "Tubular Bells" and also to do interviews. This is where Mike began to use his studio to start working on a new album called he simply titled "Hergest Ridge". This studio was for rehearsing new material he was working on, but when it came time to actually record Mike went back to Manor Studios (with the assistance of Tom Newman).
Mike’s recording used different methods of his instruments and made for wonderful mood changes. This was similar to "Tubular Bells" but was considered more of a prominent album (in my opinion). The way he recorded superimposing guitar sounds then decreasing the volume using equipment at the Manor made his early albums a listening journey. It felt like riding a wave of musical emotion.
For this new album Mike had assistance from his friend David Bedford, who came in to conduct the strings and do some arrangements. David also brought in a choir from London called the Sinfonietta Voices in which he conducted them. David was now a solo artist and was teaching at the Queen’s College where he taught (of course) music. Mike also was introduced to an Irish vocalist Clodagh Simmonds, who was part of a group called Mellow Candle. Personal friend of Mike named William Murray introduced Oldfield to Clodagh. William was a percussionist who worked with Kevin Ayers when Oldfield was in the band. William played some percussion on the new album, along with a jazz percussionist Chili Charles. Mike's sister Sally provided vocals with Clodagh. Mike recorded almost 15 instruments this time around including guitars, bass and organs.
"Hergest Ridge" was released on August 28th, 1974 and entered the British charts at #1. The album was soon beat out by "Tubular Bells" which makes Mike Oldfield one of the few artists that have had an album knocked out of #1 spot (on the British charts) by another album of the same artist. "Tubular Bells" was still gaining mass amounts of popularity even though Virgin Records was promoting his second album release. Many critics still wanted another "Tubular Bells" like album and so did Virgin Records in a way, but Mike just wanted to write and record what he felt at the time.
It was said by Mike, during an interview about re-recreating "Hergest Ridge" live, he said there was a piece of music [on part two] where he played about 30 guitars. Each of those he recorded double tracked, so that was now 60 guitars! Even the bass guitars were double tracked, so you needed around 95 guitarists with fuzz boxes to create the sound live. This shows the complexity of how Mike recorded music.
Though Mike still refused to perform "Hergest Ridge" live, this did not stop Mike from performing with other artists. Mike did play with other artists live including a Kevin Ayers, and Robert Wyatt. During this time Virgin Records wanted Mike to record an orchestral album performing "Tubular Bells" with the famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Mike once again refused, but later came around to changing his mind. This was no doubt due to continued pressure from Richard Branson. Mike wanted David Bedford to work on the orchestral arrangements and even conduct the orchestra. Mike only played classical guitar on small section of Part Two. David did end up recording with the orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London in September, 1974. The album was produced by Mike and David Bedford collectively.
Mike had already worked with David Bedford and his solo records; playing guitar on some of his albums during this time. One album was the amazing "Stars End", followed by the fantastic "Instructions for Angels" album. Bedford was to perform "Stars End" at the Royal Albert Hall in November of 1974 and Mike was to appear to play guitar. Unfortunately Mike’s mother passed away and was unable perform.
(Dave and Mike working in the studio)
Mike was set to to perform the Orchestral Tubular Bells live in December of 1974 alongside Bedford and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Due to the loss of his mother still fresh in his head, Mike was still grieving and did not perform. Instead, guitarist Steve Hillage (of Gong) played guitar that night. Bedford worked with the Orchestra again to do an orchestral version of "Hergest Ridge", which Mike was not featured, so Virgin Records brought in Steve Hillage to play guitar throughout the album. Virgin Records were also set to release this album but changed their minds at the eleventh hour. “Orchestral Tubular Bells” was finally released in August of 1975.
Mike had now started 1975 starting to record his third album. This time Mike was to record away from the Manor and start recording at his home studio, which the home was known as The Beacon. Mike recorded from January to September, and bringing in musicians to the Beacon to record and stay with him. This album, Mike wanted to blend his usual rock sound, with celtic/folk plus even African sounds as well. Mike was really experimenting more with sounds, still playing and recording many instruments and multi-layering the instruments. For this album Mike used vocals from his sister Sally and Clodagh Simmonds again. He also used William Murray again, plus his brother Terry. Mike also brought in the local musician Leslie Penning, to do some recorders. And then brought in a brass band from Herford City. To bring in the Celtic element, Mike wanted an Irish piper to play the Uilleann Pipes, and he found one of the great ones in Paddy Maloney from the great Irish Celtic bands The Chieftains.
Mike wanted African drummers for parts that were rooted in African culture and sound. Branson found a group by the name of Jabula which had four African drummers, that were recording artists, and were travelling Britain. Mike brought Jabula into the studio for tracking drums. Other people on the album included another vocalist in folk singer Bridget St. John and Gong percussionist Pierre Moerlen.
The new album was called "Ommadawn" which was a Gaelic name for ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’. It's interesting to note that Mike recorded a vocal song, which was featured at the end of part two of this album. This was the first time Mike actually recorded a vocal song, with his own vocals. He wrote the lyrics with William Murray and it was influenced by the horses of Hergest Ridge. The song was called "On Horseback" (of course). "Ommadawn" was released on October 21st, 1975 with the single being released in November. The single featured a new song called "In Dulci Jubilo" which was the highest charted single for Mike (which reached #3). The B-side of the single featured "On Horseback". "In Dulci Jubilo" was an instrumental of a famous Christmas carol. See the video below:
After "Ommadawn" had ran it's course Mike disappeared again from the limelight and decided not to record any new albums. During the period of 1976, Mike did release a few new instrumental singles, including the single "Blue Peter" which was a song he recorded for a children’s British TV show (under the same name). Mike continued to work on other artist’s records, including David Bedford and Tom Newman’s solo records. Mike and his sister Sally performed on an album by a bassist/songwriter Pekka Pohjola from Finland. The album was not released until 1977 but the album was produced with the assistance from Mike at his new studio in Througham. At the end of 1975, Mike had moved from Kington and moved to a new home in Througham Slad in Gloucestershire, England.
Mike was enjoying his solitude and would not bow down to pressure to write and record a new album. He was happy to record singles and work with other artists at the time. All the while, Mike continued to suffer from anxiety attacks which prompted him to attend a seminar that changed his outlook on life and his outlook on music in 1977.
Be sure to check back next week for part four of the series. Craig has conducted many interviews with many notable musicians. His interviews, comments and articles can be found throughout AFGM, and two Mike Oldfield fan groups (which he also moderates):
You can contact Craig for any further information/questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org