Follow TV Tropes


Music / Mike Oldfield

Go To
One slightly distorted guitarist.
"I'm just so grateful and astonished that I'm still respected and listened to."

Michael Gordon Oldfield (born 15 May 1953) is an eclectic English musician who has, in the span of a career going into its fifth decade, explored various musical genres. Mostly known for his 1973 debut album Tubular Bells, his Signature Style is the use of overdubbing in studio recordings, which allows him to play most or all of the instruments on a given piece – a practice that was much less widespread when he began using it. He's done several radio-friendly pop singles, but his better-known works are long instrumentals, occasionally clocking in at a hour of continuous music.



  • Tubular Bells (1973)
    • The Orchestral Tubular Bells (1975)
  • Hergest Ridge (1974)
    • The Orchestral Hergest Ridge (1976) (will never be released for many reasons) note 
  • Ommadawn (1975)
  • Incantations (1978)
  • Exposed (1979) (His only live album)
  • Platinum (1979)
  • QE2 (1980)
  • Five Miles Out (1982)
  • Crises (1983)
  • Discovery (1984)
  • The Killing Fields (1984)
  • Islands (1987)
  • Earth Moving (1989)
  • Amarok (1990)
  • Heaven's Open (1991)
  • Tubular Bells II (1992)
  • The Songs of Distant Earth (1994)
  • Voyager (1996)
  • Tubular Bells III (1998)
  • Guitars (1999)
  • The Millennium Bell (1999)
  • Tr3s Lunas (2002)
  • Tubular Bells 2003 (2003)
  • Light + Shade (2005)
  • Music of the Spheres (2008)
  • Advertisement:
  • Tubular Beats (2013) (Remix Album)
  • Man on the Rocks (2014)
  • Return to Ommadawn (2017)
  • Tubular Bells IV (TBA)

Tubular Tropes:

  • Band of Relatives: Both types.
    • Type 1: Occasionally recorded with his sister Sally (vocals) and brother Terry (winds) on solo albums, and his son Luke (guitar) played with him at the Olympics (see below).
    • Type 2: Mike and Sally were a folk duo, The Sallyangie, years before Tubular Bells and released one album as said duo.
  • Distinct Double Album: A single-LP variant occurs with Platinum, Five Miles Out, Crises, and Islands: side one consists of a side-long suite in the vein of Oldfield's first four albums, while side two consists of radio-friendly pop rock songs. Heaven's Open pulls a similar stunt, but places the side-long suite on side two rather than side one (as did the original North American release of Crises).
  • Epic Rocking: As noted above, his songs have been known to reach an hour in length or more. Incantations consists mainly of a single song divided over four record sides, which reaches almost seventy-five minutes. His best-known work, Tubular Bells, is a forty-nine-minute-long song divided over two record sides. There's also the case of Amarok, which spans for exactly one uninterrupted hour on CD.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Amarok uses, among many other things, shoes, a glass of water, teeth being brushed, and the "contents of an aeromodeler's toolbox."
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The line "4 AM in the morning", from "Moonlight Shadow".
  • Glory Days: Oldfield released his greatest hit within his debut album. While he has released several other respectable hits, none have really matched it in terms of critical success or musical influence.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Any of his worldlier pieces will contain this.
  • I Am the Band: He played most of the instruments on many of his earlier albums, and then went back to this method for Return to Ommadawn
  • Instrumentals: Many of his albums and other side-long suites are either instrumental or contain brief vocals or chants (relative to the total length of the piece):
    • His first four albums were all instrumental, save for a few minutes of Ommadawn in Part 1 and its epilogue, "On Horseback", Incantations in Parts 2 and 4, and though not sung, the instrument intros in Tubular Bells. Then there's the Platinum title track, QE2, 90% of "Taurus 2", the Tubular Bells sequels... The list goes on.
  • Leitmotif: In addition to the aforementioned re-recordings, the Tubular Bells intro was recycled in some of his later works, such as "Taurus 2", which itself has riffs recycled in other songs of Five Miles Out.
  • Live Album: Exposed, the only one in his official discography.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Moonlight Shadow" and "Crime of Passion".
  • Mythology Gag: The vocal parts on Light + Shade are entirely performed with Vocaloid software (before it became known for its massive Japanese fan-following), specifically using the "Miriam" soundfont. Said soundfont was based on the voice of Miriam Stockley, who previously sang vocals on a live performance of "Moonlight Shadow" documented on the 2000 Concert Film The Art in Heaven Concert.
  • New Sound Album: There's a pretty good chance one Oldfield album is quite different than the one right before it. His first four albums, despite all being record-long pieces, had some remarkable diversity to them: Tubular Bells was mostly of rock instrumentation (minus drums save for 5 minutes in part two), Hergest Ridge was much more pastoral and laid-back, Ommadawn added synthesizers and folk percussion to his arrangements, and Incantations used full string and brass ensembles, and was generally a slower-paced work, most influenced by minimalism of all his albums. Later albums featured full-on experiments in different styles, such as the electronic Light and Shade and the orchestral Music of the Spheres, his first project focused entirely on the orchestra. And that's not even going into the pop rock on Earth Moving.
  • Not Christian Rock: Although he uses various religious themes in his music and was raised Roman Catholic, when asked, he'll describe himself as "spiritual", rather than religious.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: While Oldfield is known to vary his sound a lot between albums, he still tends to leave them with a progressive rock base. Earth Moving, meanwhile, is a full-on pop rock album with zero traces of prog; it's also a huge fan-unfavorite as a result.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Wrote the soundtrack to The Killing Fields.
  • Progressive Instrumentation: "In Dulce Jubilo" opens with a guitar, then a recorder melody backed by guitar and piano, with additional instruments being introduced each time the melody repeats.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "In Dulci Jubilo" was originally a folk carol before Mike turned it into an instrumental showcase. Repurposed a second time when he used it the aforementioned Olympics segment honoring England's National Health Service, featuring Mary Poppins and Voldemort of all characters.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: His 1991 album Heaven's Open is the only album where Oldfield performs all the vocal parts on his own. He reportedly took singing lessons before recording it, and was pleasantly surprised by his own voice, as he used to think of himself as a bad singer.
    • Before that, On Horseback from Ommadawn in 1975 had the song On Horseback, which was sung/spoken by him; later the title tracks of Five Miles Out and Crises.
  • Take That!:
    • Amarok is one huge one directed to Richard Branson, whose relationship to Mike became very icy by the late '80s.
      • Branson demanded Oldfield write a Tubular Bells sequel and Oldfield gave him about the farthest thing from it possible.
      • Tubular bells were played on the album, but Mike called them "long, thin metallic hanging tubes."
      • The real Tubular Bells II wasn't written and released until directly after Oldfield's split from Virgin Records.
      • For 60 minutes of music, it was divided into 48 sections and was arranged so that it was almost impossible to market any parts of it on the radio.
      • "This record could be hazardous to the health of cloth-eared nincompoops. If you suffer from this condition, consult your Doctor immediately."
      • "FUCK OFF RB" in Morse Code.
      • The Margaret Thatcher impersonator talking about "fresh beginnings" and how "nothing much is happening at the moment" could be considered a light jab at her administration, depending upon your politics and how you read it.
    • The oft-forgotten Heaven's Open (the only album Mike did all the lead vocals for) also has quite a few at Branson:
      • It's the only album to be credited to "Michael Oldfield".
      • The first song, "Make Make" has the lines "We're on the make make / Don't mind, it's fake fake / We're on the make make / We're making heartbreak" and "Don't you know we're not Virgin?"
      • The third song, "Mr. Shame", asks the titular character to "embrace love", most likely referring to Branson.
      • "Gimme Back" has Mike asking for various body parts back.
      • The last song, "Music from the Balcony" ends with someone laughing and saying "Now fuck off!" It's also about a one-third scale spiritual sequel to Amarok—try finding an excerpt of this one to put on radio.
  • Teen Genius: Oldfield was 19 when he recorded Tubular Bells. The album was released 10 days after his 20th birthday.
  • Uncommon Time: But of course, he's a Progressive Rock musician.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Pick any album or tour from the '80s. Sometimes Mike was on the team, sometimes he wasn't.
  • We Used to Be Friends: As noted in Take That! above, Mike's friendship with Richard Branson had gone downhill quite a bit by the late '80s. Now, they've apparently patched things up, if this video is any indication.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: