70’s Instrumentals…more Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield made a huge but slow burning impression with Tubular Bells and was to follow this up with more of the same (but possibly better) Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn. But, like any right thinking person, Oldfield couldn’t resister a cheeky stab or two at the singles charts.

After Tubular Bells Oldfield had retreated to his parents home apparently to build a duck pond but in reality to escape the pressures of being a performer which makes his singles career more bizarre. The formula was simple, take a fairly straightforward folky tune, play it on something fluty, bung in a bit of trademark Oldfield  guitar hopefully turn 2 ½ minutes of tunefulness into a hit single.

First out was In Dulci Jubilo a medieval sounding tune which for some reason evokes a Christmas spirit without actually being a Christmas song.That was just as well as Bohemian Rhapsody was dominating the charts, there was no room for a proper Christmas no 1 but Oldfield’s effort made it to No 4 by January and unlike Bohemian Rhapsody we weren’t all sick of it. 

The thing I really like about In Dulce Jubilo is how Oldfield’s guitar takes of half way through, he’s such a lyrical player that the solo is an integral part of the tune and lifts a fairly routineperformance into something far better than the sum of its parts.


He followed this up with Portsmouth, a fairly straight forward run through of a traditional tune where the melody was carried on the recorder and built up in layers in the traditional Oldfield way. No guitar though, the tune doesn’t really go anywhere which is probably why its only 2 minutes long


Oldfield had a huge potential fanbase, there were the hard core rock fans attracted to the new stuff on the virgin record label but he was an intriguing character with his ability to overdub himself on a variety of instruments and he was at the forefront of what would soon be called ambient music. He had the potential to be represented on Radio’s 1,2,3,or 4 . Symptomatic to that was a request to provide the new theme music to long running children’s TV show Blue Peter. The show was tremendously popular but also quite conservative so asking any ‘pop’ musician to be involved was quite a big step. Oldfield gave the tune his traditional treatment but with a synthesiser instead of a recorder as the main instrument. It’s a slippery tune so Oldfield had to record the melody at half speed. Here is the inevitable Top of the Pops appearance with the almost equally inevitable dance routine from Legs and Co, apparently put together in 20 mins.

He was now in the consciousness of millions of children who would hear this twice a week.

As an unwanted bonus feature here is Oldfield playing the William Tell Overture. Its an impressive but fairly pointlessexercise which I’ve never seen before but is unmistakably Oldfield. The strange this is that post Covid the internet is full of people choosing to produce videos of themselves playing all sorts of tunes and looking an awful like Oldfield 40 years ago

. Perhaps the future really is past

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6 Responses to 70’s Instrumentals…more Mike Oldfield

  1. Some points :
    – My wife likes Hergest Ridge (the album) so much that I proposed to her there (the place in Herefordshire)

    – I was one of only two boys to be picked for a country dancing display at primary school. The tune us and two girls danced to? Portsmouth. It used to get played regularly on Junior Choice far a while after it was a hit and would always be referred to in da house as ‘Rick’s tune’. I would often give a little reprise of the dance routine for my, no doubt delighted, family.

    – The film on Blue Peter gives me such a massive Proustian rush. One of the first things I did when I discovered YouTube was look for it. My older sister find it hilarious that Oldfield shouted at Simon Groom (one of very few likeable Derby County fans) for not making the drum roll longer. I was fascinated by the way everything was built from the ground up…and I’m not saying that as an 8 year-old I fully understood multi-track recording techniques.

    Ever seen Tubular Bells For Two?


    • moulty58 says:

      Hergest Ridge is on my go to list, won’t propose though.

      Portsmouth sounds very junior choice, it’s quite a dull tune though in my opinion. N the video there are attractive young women Morris dancing which has never ever happened in real life.

      Simon Groom’s drum roll was a bit pants wasn’t it?


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Moulty old son, I watched the Blue Peter clip from beginning to end. One of the longest two minutes of my life, I think. Wasn’t a big fan of Portsmouth either.
    The ‘bonus’ LP in the Mike Oldfield Boxed has some good stuff, though.
    Thanks for supporting a Mike Oldfield revisit. Think my next stop might be the live Exposed, where Pierre Moelen (Gong) adds some percussive muscle.

    Liked by 1 person

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