Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 15 May 1953, Reading, England) Composer, multi-instrumentalist. A precocious guitarist at 14, he made a folk album Sallyangie '68 with his sister Sally; he worked with Kevin Ayers on his Shooting At The Moon, Whatevershebringswesing, and Confessions Of Dr Dream '71-4, meeting arranger David Bedford, who had studied at the Royal Academy of Music. He wrote, arranged, produced and recorded his own Tubular Bells '73, which inaugurated the Virgin label, made Oldfield's fortune (and started Richard Branson's): he played a large number of stringed instruments and keyboards, the 49- minute solo instrumental requiring more than 1,000 overdubs; it was a no. 1 LP UK/3 USA, global success assured when it was used as the theme of film The Exorcist '73. It seemed an impressive achievement at the time, now thought to have been an antecedent of New Age music and the apogee of progressive rock, also signalling its dead end.
Following it was predictably a problem; Hergest Ridge '74 was similar, also no. 1 UK, top 100 USA; Ommadawn '75 was no. 4 UK, 176 USA; The Orchestral Tubular Bells '75 was made with Bedford conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: top 20 UK, did not chart USA. Boxed '76 had his first three albums, with the first two remixed, and a fourth Collaborations of new material, some of it involving Bedford. He played guitar when Bedford's Star's End '74 was played by the RPO, who commissioned it.
(David Vickerman Bedford [b 4 August 1937, Hendon, North London; d 1 October 2011] was a composer and arranger equally at home with rock bands, childrens' choirs and symphony orchestras. His brother is the well-known opera conductor Steuart Bedford.)
An EP Take Four '78 included top four UK singles 'Portsmouth', 'In Dulce Jubilo'; among other singles was top 20 theme from UK kiddie TV show Blue Peter. He broke further from long thematic concepts on Incantations '78, QE2 '80 (featured Phil Collins) and Five Miles Out '82. Exposed '79 was a two-disc live set made on European tour; he had a platinum album by naming an album Platinum '79. Crises '83 was a commercial album, helped by UK no. 4 'Moonlight Shadow', with vocalist Maggie Reilly; Islands '87 included a vocal on the title track by Bonnie Tyler. His score for the film Killing Fields '84 was highly praised.
Music of the Spheres 2008 was out-and-out classical, working with the cosmology of Musica Universalis, arguing that all heavenly bodies posses unique inner musics; the 14-part orchestral piece was arranged and conducted by crossover composer Karl Jenkins (see his entry) with a 78-member Sinfonia Sfera Orchestra, vocalist Hayley Westenra and a female chorus on two tracks; pianist Lang Lang was also recruited for one track.
Among compilations, Elements '94 was a four-CD set, an abridged version issued '95. The Songs Of Distant Earth '95 on Reprise (based on Arthur C. Clarke's book and with notes by him) was followed by Voyager '96, describing him as 'one of the most influential artists of all time'. Sally made LPs Water Bearer '78, Easy '79, Celebration '80, Strange Day In Berlin '83; Bedford's LPs included Nurses Song With Elephants '72 (with Ayers and Oldfield), The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner '75, The Odyssey '76.