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Mike Oldfield: "I used to think 'What's gone wrong with the world?'"

On the verge of his Return To Ommadawn album, Mike Oldfield talks to Prog about the importance of location, surviving hurricanes and how to avoid pop porridge

Mike Oldfield has quietly created a catalogue so distinctive and discrete that it stands shining, alone, not just within the realms of prog, but in the world of popular music.

His 1973 debut album, Tubular Bells, the first released on Virgin Records, remains one of the most iconic in rock’s canon. Played largely just by himself, it contained two 20-minute-plus pieces of music, and was influenced more by Sibelius and John Cage than Sabbath and John Cale (whose actual tubular bells he had borrowed for the recording). Its melding of folk, classical and rock single-handedly invented several new genres of music. It made Oldfield a reluctant superstar, a role he has now played for over 40 years.

Oldfield’s story is forever entwined with that of Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson, with whom he has enjoyed a sometimes fraught but ultimately friendly relationship throughout the years. The Virgin empire expanded on the success of Oldfield.


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