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Michael Gordon "Mike" Oldfield (born 15 May 1953, Readingmarker, Berkshire) is an Englishmarker multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, working a style that blends progressive rock, folk, ethnic or world music, classical music, electronic music, New Age and more recently dance. His music is often elaborate and complex in nature. He is best known for his hit 1973 album Tubular Bells, which broke new ground as an instrumental album and launched Virgin Records, and for his 1983 hit single "Moonlight Shadow". He is also well known for his hit rendition of the Christmas piece, "In Dulci Jubilo".


Oldfield's parents are Maureen and Raymond Oldfield, a nurse and general practitioner. His sister Sally and brother Terry are successful musicians in their own right and have appeared on several of his albums. Mike Oldfield was born in the Battle Hospitalmarker, Reading, Berkshiremarker and he attended St Joseph's Convent Schoolmarker, Highlands Junior School in Tilehurstmarker, St Edward's Preparatory School and Presentation Collegemarker in Reading. When he was 13 he moved with his parents to Harold Woodmarker where he attended Hornchurchmarker Grammar School. He only stayed there long enough to take one GCE examination, in English, as he had already begun his music career.

Early career

Oldfield's career began fairly early, playing acoustic guitar in local folk clubs. At this time, he already had two fifteen-minute instrumental pieces in which he would "go through all sorts of moods", a precursor to his landmark 1970s compositions. In his early teens, Oldfield was involved in a 'beat group' playing Shadows-style music (he has often cited Hank Marvin as a major influence, and would later cover The Shadows' song "Wonderful Land"). In 1967 he and his sister Sally formed the folk duo The Sallyangie and were signed to Transatlantic Records after exposure in the local folk scene. An album, Children of the Sun, was issued in 1968. After Sallyangie disbanded, he formed another duo with his brother Terry, called Barefoot, which took him back to rock music.

In 1970 he joined ex-Soft Machine vocalist Kevin Ayers' backing group The Whole World playing bass guitar. The band also included keyboard and composer David Bedford, who quickly befriended Oldfield and encouraged him in his composition of an early version of Tubular Bells. Bedford would later arrange and conduct an orchestral version of that album. Oldfield is featured on two Ayers albums, Whatevershebringswesing and Shooting at the Moon. Both albums featured early versions of what would become Oldfield's trademark sound.

Having recorded a demo version of Tubular Bells, Oldfield attempted to convince someone in the music industry to take the project on, but was told it was unmarketable. However, in 1972 he met the young Richard Branson who was setting up his own record label, Virgin Records, and after playing the demo to engineers Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth, he began recording the 1973 version of the album.

1973 to 1991: Virgin years

Tubular Bells became Oldfield's most famous work. The instrumental composition was recorded in 1972 and launched on 25 May 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 made in Branson's Manor studiosmarker, and its style moved through many diverse musical genres. The album quickly reached the Top 10 of the UK album chart and has spent 279 weeks on the chart to date, a figure bettered by only ten other albums. Its 2,630,000 UK sales put it at No.34 on the list of the best selling albums in the UK. In the USmarker, it received attention chiefly by appearing in the soundtrack to The Exorcist. The title track subsequently became a Top 10 hit single in the US as well and is today considered to be a forerunner of the New Age movement. 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. Although Hergest Ridge was released over a year after Tubular Bells, it reached No.1 first. Tubular Bells spent 11 weeks (10 of them consecutive) at No.2 before its one week at the top. In 1979, Oldfield's music was used as the musical score for The Space Movie, a Virgin movie that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Like Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge is a two-movement instrumental piece, this time evoking scenes from Oldfield's Herefordshiremarker country retreat. It was followed in 1975 by 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. In 1975 Oldfield recorded a version of the Christmas piece "In Dulci Jubilo" which charted at number four in the UK. Oldfield's 1976 rendition of "Portsmouth" remains his highest charting single on the UK Singles Chart, reaching number three.

In 1976 Oldfield and Sally Oldfield joined his friend and band member Pekka Pohjola to play on his album Mathematician's Air Display which was released in 1977. The album was recorded and edited at Oldfield's Througham Slad Manor in Gloucestershiremarker by Oldfield and Paul Lindsay.

Around the time of Incantations, Oldfield underwent a controversial self-assertiveness therapy course known as Exegesis. Possibly as a result, 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 Centremarker near Birmingham, the first-ever concert there.

In 1975, Oldfield received a Grammy award for Best Instrumental Composition in "Tubular Bells – Theme from The Exorcist". In 1979, he recorded a version of the signature tune of the popular British Children's Television programme, Blue Petermarker, which was used by the show for 10 years.

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 to songwriting, with a string of collaborations featuring various lead vocalists alongside his characteristic searing guitar solos. The best known of these is "Moonlight Shadow", his 1983 hit with Maggie Reilly. This song has been covered by various other artists, including Aselin Debison (Canadianmarker folk singer) and German duo Groove Coverage (electronic/techno). In 2002 it was a number one 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 Oldfield's "Family Man" for their 1982 album H2O. Released as the album's third single, it hit the Top 10 during the spring of 1983 and was a hugely popular MTV music video.

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. Islands continued what Oldfield had been doing on the past couple of albums, with an instrumental piece on one side and rock/pop singles on the other. Of these, "Islands", sung by Bonnie Tyler and "Magic Touch", with vocals by Max Bacon (US version) and Southside Jimmy, a vocalist from Glasgowmarker (under his real name - Jim Price), (UK/rest of the World) were the major hits. In the USA, Virgin America promoted the song "Magic Touch" to a large extent, making it a success, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard album rock charts. During the 1980s Oldfield's then partner, Norwegian singer Anita Hegerland, appeared his album and contributed vocals to many songs including "Pictures in the Dark".

Earth Moving was released in July 1989, and was a moderate success. The album was the first to feature rock/pop songs on both sides. Several were released as singles: "Innocent" and "Holy" in Europe, and "Hostage" in the USA for album rock stations. This was, however, a time of much friction with his record label. Virgin Records reportedly insisted 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. It was the only album he released under the name 'Michael Oldfield'.

1992 to 2003: Warner years

The very first thing Oldfield did when arriving at his new label, Warner Bros., was to write and release Tubular Bells II, the sequel to his first record on Virgin, as his final insult to his former label. It was premiered at a live concert at Edinburgh Castlemarker. He then continued to embrace new musical styles, with The Songs of Distant Earth (based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name) exhibiting a softer "New Age" sound. In 1994 he also had an asteroid named after him, 5656 Oldfield.

In 1995 Oldfield further continued to embrace new musical styles by producing a Celtic-themed album, Voyager. In 1992 Oldfield met Luar na Lubre, a Galician Celtic-folk band (from A Coruñamarker, Spainmarker). The band's popularity grew after Oldfield covered their song "O son do ar" ("The sound of the air") on his Voyager album.

In 1998 he produced the third Tubular Bells album, Tubular Bells III (also premiered at a concert, this time in Horse Guards Parademarker, Londonmarker), drawing from the dance music scene at his then new home on the island of Ibizamarker. This album was still inspired by themes from Tubular Bells, but differed in lacking a clear two-part layout.

During 1999 Oldfield released two albums. The first, Guitars, 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 historical periods over the past millennium. The work was performed live in Berlinmarker for the city's millennium celebrations in 1999–2000.

He added to his repertoire the MusicVR 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 world full of new music. This project appeared as a double CD, one with 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 due to the recording technologies of the early 1970s and limitations in time that he could spend in the recording studio. It celebrated the 30th anniversary of Tubular Bells, Oldfield's 50th birthday and his marriage to Fanny in the same year. The DVD-Audio version has the same content as the CD version in surround, and some demos of the original Tubular Bells. At around the same time Virgin released an SACD version containing both the original stereo album and the 1975 quadraphonic mix by Phil Newell. In the 2003 version, the original voice of the 'Master of Ceremonies' (Viv Stanshall) was replaced by the voice of John Cleese, Stanshall having died in the interim.

2004 to present: Mercury years

On 12 April 2004 Oldfield launched his next virtual reality project, Maestro, which contains music from the Tubular Bells 2003 album and also some new chillout melodies. The games have since been made available free of charge on Oldfield's website. A double album, Light + Shade, was released on Mercury Records, with whom Mike had 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. Light includes a selection of tracks from the album in U-MYX format, which allows listeners to create their own remixes. Oldfield headlined the Germanmarker Night of the Proms tour, consisting of 18 concerts in December 2006.

His autobiography Changeling was published in May 2007 by Virgin Books. In March 2008 Oldfield released his first classical album, Music of the Spheres; Karl Jenkins assisted with the orchestration. In the first week of release the album topped the UK Classical chart and reached number 9 on the main UK Album Chart. A single, "Spheres", featuring a demo version of pieces from the album was released digitally. The album was nominated for a Classical Brit Award, the NS&I Best Album of 2009.

In mid-2008 to accompany the BBC2 television series Amazon, an album was released in support of the Survival International charity, called Songs for Survival, on which Oldfield recorded an exclusive song. Oldfield's daughter, Molly, played a large part in the project and Oldfield's track "Song for Survival" features the Anutamarker tribe.

In 2008 when Oldfield's original 35-year deal with Virgin Records ended, the rights to Tubular Bells and his other Virgin releases were returned to him, and then they were transferred to Mercury Records. Mercury issued a press release on 15 April 2009, noting that Oldfield's Virgin albums would be re-released, starting 8 June 2009. These releases include special features from the archives. In April 2009 a new official website was unveiled, and on 6 June 2009, an International Bell Ringing day took place, to promote the reissue of his first album, Tubular Bells.

Personal life

Oldfield and his siblings were raised Roman Catholic, the faith of their Irish mother. In the late 1970s, Oldfield briefly married Diana D'Aubigny (the sister of the Exegesis group leader), but this lasted just a few weeks.

Mike Oldfield has seven children. In the early 1980s, he had three children with Sally Cooper (Molly, Dougal and Luke). In the late 1980s, he had two children (Greta and Noah) with Norwegianmarker singer Anita Hegerland. In the 2000s, he married Fanny Vandekerckhove (born 1977), whom he met during his time in Ibiza; they have two sons together (Jake and Eugene).

Oldfield is a motorcycle fan, and has five bikes. These include a BMW R1200GS, a Suzuki GSX-R750, a Suzuki GSX-R1000 and a Yamaha R1. He also says that some of his inspiration for composing comes from riding them. Throughout his life Oldfield has also had a passion for aircraft and building model aircraft. He is also a licensed pilot and has flown fixed wing aircraft, the first of which was a Beechcraft Sierra and helicopters including the Agusta Bell 47G which featured on the sleeve of his cover version of the ABBA song "Arrival" as a parody of their album artwork. He is also interested in cars and has owned a Ferrarimarker and a Bentley which was a gift from Richard Branson as an incentive for him to give his first live performance of Tubular Bells. He has endorsed the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the Mercedes UK magazine. Oldfield also considers himself to be a Trekkie (fan of the popular science fiction television series Star Trek). He also noted in an interview in 2008 that he had two boats.

In November 2006, fellow musician Noel Gallagher won a Spanishmarker court case against Oldfield. Gallagher had bought an Ibizamarker villa for £2.5 million from Oldfield in 1999, but quickly discovered that part of the cliff-top property was falling into the sea. The resulting court case awarded Gallagher a six-figure sum in compensation. Suspicion abounds in the music industry that the law-suit was initiated because of embarrassment that Gallagher brought on himself by not having a proper survey done on the property before buying it. This included making an immediate and noisy complaint about someone's yacht tied up at the villa's jetty before it was pointed out that the yacht came with the villa and was, in fact, his.

In 2007 Oldfield caused a minor stir in the British press by criticizing Britain for being too controlling and protective, specifically concentrating on the smoking ban, which England and Wales had introduced that year. Oldfield then moved from his Gloucestershiremarker home to Palma de Mallorcamarker, Spainmarker. He has lived outside the UK in the past, including living in Los Angelesmarker and Ibizamarker in the 1990s and Switzerlandmarker in the mid-1980s, for tax reasons. He also currently has a home in Monacomarker. In 2009 he decided to move to the Bahamasmarker, and put his home in Mallorca up for sale; the asking price is around €3.5 million.


Oldfield has had more than 30 charting albums and 25 charting singles on the British charts, and many more around the world.

Main albums

Year Title UK Album Chart

1973 Tubular Bells 1
1974 Hergest Ridge 1
1975 The Orchestral Tubular Bells 17
1975 Ommadawn 4
1978 Incantations 14
1979 Exposed 16
1979 Platinum 24
1980 QE2 27
1982 Five Miles Out 7
1983 Crises 6
1984 Discovery 15
1984 The Killing Fields 97
1987 Islands 29
1989 Earth Moving 30
1990 Amarok 49
1991 Heaven's Open
1992 Tubular Bells II 1
1994 The Songs of Distant Earth 24
1996 Voyager 12
1998 Tubular Bells III 4
1999 Guitars 40
1999 The Millennium Bell 133
2002 Tr3s Lunas
2003 Tubular Bells 2003 51
2005 Light + Shade 175
2008 Music of the Spheres 9


Oldfield is a multi-instrumentalist; however he considers himself to be predominantly a guitarist. For a large list of Oldfield's instruments, past and present, see the Instruments section at


Over the years Oldfield has used a various selection of guitars, some of the most noted being:
  • A 1963 (also quoted as 1961 and 1962) salmon pink (fiesta red) Fender Stratocaster serial no.L08044 – used by Oldfield from 1984 (Discovery album) until 2006 (Night of the Proms, rehearsals in Antwerp) – Sold for £30,000 at Chandler Guitars.
  • A 1989 amber PRS Artist Custom 24 – used by Oldfield from the late 1980s to the present day.
  • A 1966 blonde Fender Telecaster serial no. 180728 – the only electric guitar used on Tubular Bells and also previously owned by Marc Bolan – went up for auction at Bonhams in June 2007, with the money going to the SANE charity.
  • Various Gibson Les Paul and SG – used by Oldfield extensively in the 1970s and 80s.

Oldfield used a modified Roland GP8 effects processor in conjunction with his PRS Artist to get many of his heavily overdriven guitar sounds from the Earth Moving album onwards.Oldfield has also been using Guitar synthesizers since the mid-1980s, using a 1980s Roland GR-300/G-808 type system, then a 1990s Roland GK2 equipped red PRS Custom 24 (sold in 2006) with a Roland VG8, and most recently a Line 6 Variax.

Oldfield has an unusual playing style, using both fingers and fingernails and several ways of creating vibrato: a "very fast side-to-side vibrato" or "violinist's vibrato". Oldfield has also stated that his playing style originates from his musical roots playing folk music and the bass guitar.


Oldfield has self-recorded and produced many of his albums, and played the majority of the instruments that feature on them, largely at his home studios. In the 1990s and 2000s he has been mainly using DAWs such as Applemarker Logic, Digidesign Pro Tools and Steinberg Nuendo as recording suites. For composing classical music Oldfield has been quoted as using the software notation program, Sibelius, combined with Apple Macintoshes. He also used the FL Studio DAW on his 2005 double album Light + Shade. Among the mixing consoles Oldfield has owned are an AMS Neve Capricorn 33238 and a Euphonix System 5-MC.


Over the years Oldfield has owned and used a vast number of synthesizers and other keyboard instruments. In the 1980s he composed the score for the film The Killing Fields on a Fairlight CMI. Some examples of keyboard and synthesized instruments which Oldfield has made use of includes Sequential Circuits Prophets (notably on Platinum), Roland 1080/2080 units (in the 1990s), a Korg M1 (as seen in the "Innocent" video), a Clavia Nord Lead and Steinwaymarker pianos among an almost endless list of others. In recent years Oldfield has also made use of software synthesis, such as Native Instruments products, notably on his Light + Shade album.

See also



External links

Official sites

Fan-based sites

  • –, the largest and most well-established Mike Oldfield website, for news and information.
  • –, the biggest Spanish fan community. Nine different languages are available.
Other sites

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