Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield is an English composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist with a career in music dating back to the late 1960s. Musically, his output is comprised of lengthy (often side-length or album-length) instrumental works with the occasional vocal track. Stylistically, his music has evolved from the classical/Celt-tinged angle of his early recordings to the broadened, modernized framework of his later chart successes.

He first emerged at age 15 as half of the folk duo The Sallyangie with his older sister Sally Oldfield. In 1973, he signed with then-fledgling Virgin Records and released the two-sided instrumental suite Tubular Bells, which would go on to become one of the highest selling albums ever in the UK. Three albums followed in a similar vein over the next half-decade, culminating with 1978’s four-sided Incantations.

Starting with 1979’s Platinum, he began splitting his albums between side-long instrumentals and vocal sides, a trend continued across most of his ’80s-era longplayers. Ex-Cado Belle front-woman Maggie Reilly was his primary vocalist during this period, most notably on the UK hits “Family Man,” “Five Miles Out,” and “Moonlight Shadow.”

Mike Oldfield was born on May 15, 1953, in Reading, Berkshire, to an English father (Dr. Raymond Oldfield) and an Irish mother (nurse Maureen née Liston). He was the youngest of three surviving children; a fourth succumbed to SIDS when Mike was seven. He took up guitar as a tween and swiftly self-learned songs by his folk idols Bert Jansch and John Renbourn.

When Mike was 15, his older sister Sally (b. 1947) suggested they form a duo. After demoing tracks under the scrutiny of Mick Jagger, they named their act Sallyangie, a portmanteau of Sally’s name and the title to Mike’s favorite Jansch song, “Angie.”

Sallyangie gigged on both sides of the English Channel and scored a deal with Transatlantic Records, which issued their singular album Children of the Sun in 1969. It features 10 proper songs, all penned by the pair, including “A Lover for All Seasons,” “Lady Mary,” “Midsummer Night’s Happening,” and “Chameleon.” The album also features two short interludes and the prelude/postlude “Strangers.” The 43-minute set was produced by label-head Nathan Joseph.

After Sallyangie folded, Mike auditioned for the bass slot in Family, recently vacated by Ric Grech (now in Blind Faith). He then formed the short-lived folk combo Barefoot with his flautist brother Terry (b. 1949).

In 1970, Oldfield successfully auditioned for The Whole World, the backing band of ex-Soft Machine singer/guitarist Kevin Ayers. Mike played bass on Ayers’ second and third solo albums, Shooting at the Moon (1970) and Whatevershebringswesing (1971). Both albums were recorded at Abbey Road Studios, where Oldfield took time to learn as many instruments as possible, including harpsichord and Mellotron. On the eponymous 1971 third album by the Edgar Broughton Band, Oldfield plays mandolin on the track “Thinking of You.” Also that year, he did a 10-week stint as the pit-band guitarist for the Shaftesbury Theatre staging of Hair.

In the summer of 1971, Oldfield conceived a long-form piece with the working title “Opus One.” He shopped it around to various labels to no avail. Ultimately, his demo was heard by ex-July singer Tom Newman, the engineer at Manor Studios, owned by the young businessman Richard Branson. After Newman passed Branson the tapes, Branson gave Oldfield a free week of studio time, which Oldfield used to complete the first half of what became Tubular Bells.

Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield released his debut album, Tubular Bells, on May 25, 1973, on Virgin.

Side One: “Tubular Bells, Part One” (26:01)
Side Two: “Tubular Bells, Part Two” (23:17)


“Mike Oldfield’s Single”

On June 28, 1974, Mike Oldfield released “Mike Oldfield’s Single” “Froggy Went a-Courting”

Hergest Ridge

Mike Oldfield released his second album, Hergest Ridge, on August 28, 1974, on Virgin.

The Orchestral Tubular Bells

On February 8, 1975, Virgin released The Orchestral Tubular Bells, an orchestral version of the 1973 album, conducted by David Bedford.

“Don Alfonso”

On February 21, 1975, Mike Oldfield released “Don Alfonso” “In Dulci Jubilo (For Maureen)”


Mike Oldfield released his third album, Ommadawn, on October 25, 1975, on Virgin.

“In Dulci Jubilo” / “On Horseback”

On November 14, 1975, Mike Oldfield released “In Dulci Jubilo” / “On Horseback”



On October 29, 1976, Mike Oldfield released “Portsmouth” “Speak (Tho’ You Only Say Farewell)” “Argiers” 

“William Tell Overture”

On February 11, 1977, Mike Oldfield released “William Tell Overture” “Argiers”

“Cuckoo Song”

On November 25, 1977, Mike Oldfield released “Cuckoo Song” “Pipe Tune”



Mike Oldfield released his fourth album, Incantations, on December 1, 1978, on Virgin.

Take 4

“Wrekorder Wrondo”


On April 21, 1979, Mike Oldfield released “Guilty” “Excerpt from Incantations


Mike Oldfield released his fifth album, Platinum, on November 23, 1979, on Virgin.

“Blue Peter”

On November 30, 1979, Mike Oldfield released “Blue Peter” “Woodhenge”



Mike Oldfield released his sixth album, QE2, on October 31, 1980, on Virgin.

Released: 12 September 1980 backed with the non-album “Polka”
“Sheba/Wonderful Land”
Released: 28 November 1980


Five Miles Out

Mike Oldfield his seventh album, Five Miles Out, on February 19, 1982, on Virgin.

“Five Miles Out”
Released: 18 February 1982 backed with “Live Punkadiddle”

“Family Man”
Released: 28 May 1982 backed with “Mount Teide”


Mike Oldfield released his eighth album, Crises, on May 27, 1983, on Virgin.

Released: 20 August 1982 backed with “Waldberg (The Peak)”

“Moonlight Shadow”
Released: 6 May 1983 backed with “Rite of Man”
“Shadow on the Wall”
Released: September 1983 backed with “Taurus 3”


“Crime of Passion”

On January 3, 1984, Mike Oldfield released “Crime of Passion,” a standalone single backed with “Jungle Gardenia”


Mike Oldfield released his ninth album, Discovery, on June 25, 1984, on Virgin.

“To France”
Released: 16 June 1984 backed with “In the Pool” “Bones”

“Tricks of the Light”
Released: 1 September 1984 backed with “Afghan”

The Killing Fields

Mike Oldfield released his tenth album, The Killing Fields, on November 26, 1984, on Virgin.

Released: 26 November 1984 backed with “Evacuation”


“Pictures in the Dark”

On November 15, 1985, Mike Oldfield released “Pictures in the Dark,” backed with “Legend.” The 12″ has a third track, “The Trap.”


On May 2, 1986, Mike Oldfield released “Shine,” a song with Jon Anderson, backed with “The Path.”



Mike Oldfield released his eleventh album, Islands, on September 28, 1987, on Virgin.

Released: 14 September 1987
“The Time Has Come”
Released: 9 November 1987
“Flying Start”
Released: 1 February 1988
“Magic Touch”
Released: 22 February 1988


Earth Moving

Mike Oldfield released his twelfth album, Earth Moving, on July 10, 1989, on Virgin.

“Earth Moving”
Released: 1989
Released: 1989
“(One Glance Is) Holy”
Released: 30 October 1989


Mike Oldfield released his thirteenth album, Amarok, on June 14, 1990, on Virgin.

Discography (1973–92):


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