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A Most Tubular Guy
July 27, 2012 7:53 PM   Subscribe

You might have heard Mike Oldfield playing during the Olympic opening and wondered, "What! Why the heck would Danny Boyle want the Exorcist theme playing at the start of such a grand event!" Oldfield's kept a low profile for years, so you may not remember him as the man who literally launched Virgin Records, one of only three artists to ever knock his #1 record off the charts with another #1 record (the other two being Bob Dylan and the Beatles). But those teenage successes were merely the start of an astonishing career, one full of pop music and prog rock, sci-fi and New Age, film scores and classical orchestrations — not to mention a spot at the start of Kanye West's recent album. His magnum opus, Amarok, is an hour of astonishing sounds and shifting genres which must be heard to be believed. Too overwhelming? Well, there're

a plethora of places you might start listening to Mike Oldfield, depending largely on what you're in the mood to hear.


I - EARLY PROGRESSIVE COMPOSITIONS

The classic Tubular Bells (part 2) was also Oldfield's first album, recorded when he was a teenager and released just after his twentieth birthday. It's sometimes labeled progressive rock, but it's more patchwork than that, a mixture of Oldfield's youthful folk origins (check the neckbeard!) and his classical interests. Nearly every instrument was played by Oldfield himself. Its haunting, melancholy opening gives way to a playful, silly piece of music, including caveman grunting and a famous sequence wherein Viv Stanshall reads the names of all instruments involved in a dry British voice. (Of interest to Monty Python fans will be the 2003 rerecording, in which Stanshall was replaced with John Cleese.

After Bells' unexpected success, Oldfield recorded Hergest Ridge (part 2), named after the English countryside where he retreated to work on his music. Hergest Ridge is a calmer piece of music, with the exception of the "storm movement" in part two, created by multitracking 90 electric guitars into a loud, crackling wave of sound. (Skip to 9:28 on this 2010 remastering. It's glorious to behold.)

Fans of his early work sometimes cite Ommadawn (part 2) as his masterpiece. Celtic-influenced, dark, and uncertain, the song is a reflection of the frustration and pain Oldfield felt after his early success. The climactic guitar solo at the end of the first half was meant to be, in Oldfield's own words, "the sound of me exploding from my mother's vagina." An excellent analysis of Ommadawn, both historically and musically.

These three form Oldfield's early progressive trilogy. A fourth, Incantations (2 3 4), is sometimes counted, but it's more a minimalist-influenced classical work, featuring strings, choir, and flute. After that, Oldfield shifted to songwriting and pop, though many of his pop albums would feature a lengthier progressive piece on one side.

II - POP PHASE

Oldfield's pop work spanned somewhere between five and seven albums, which aren't interesting enough to get into at length, so to make this output parseable let's split this all into three general categories:

First, you have his pop hits. Most notably, Moonlight Shadow, which made its way onto Dance Dance Revolution, and To France. We'll round out this selection with In High Places, featuring vocals by Yes's Jon Anderson, because that's the one Kanye sampled.

Next comes the pop that was utterly, gloriously 80s cheese. Songs like Poison Arrows, Saved by a Bell, and Holy, combine Oldfield's knack for honest, simple composition with cornball lyrics and overdosed synths, and are therefore basically wonderful. That is all.

Finally you have the progressive pieces which were included on each of these albums. Songs like Crises, The Wind Chimes, and Taurus II continued the style Oldfield had developed on his earliest albums. The Lake is a particular favorite of mine.

III - AMAROK

Oldfield's relationship with Virgin Records deteriorated through this period, and toward the end of his contract, they insisted that he write a new instrumental composition, titled Tubular Bells II, so they could have one last Oldfield hit on their hands. Instead they got Amarok, a "fuck you" album through and through. (At one point, "FUCK OFF RB" is spelled in Morse code, "RB" referring to Virgin's founder Richard Branson.)

Amarok was deliberately made to be so shifting and chaotic that Virgin wouldn't be able to cull a 3-minute single from any part of the mix. At one point early on, an EXTREMELY loud blast of music plays, supposedly Oldfield's revenge on a Virgin executive who was fond of headphones. If you're looking for a way to make sense of the piece on your first listen, the entire piece is broken down here – there are several themes which repeat through out the various segments of music, which include major flamenco, celtic, and african influences, among others.

Oldfield never played it live – he claimed he could never find enough guitarists to properly recreate the sound. It was played live for the first time in April 2012, by a piano-and-bass duo, which is kind of wonderful.

IV - POST-AMAROK

His first release after leaving Virgin was, in fact, a Tubular Bells II. The piece follows the same pattern as the first Tubular Bells, including an instrument reading by Alan Rickman (!!) and yet another spot of caveman grunting. He later released a third Tubular Bells which was less loyal to the original structure and more rooted in electronic music (link is to the over-the-top and awesome finale).

The Songs of Distant Earth, based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name, is a beautiful and powerful foray into space music, quite different from the rest of Oldfield's oeuvre.

I have less familiarity with later albums like the Celtic-themed The Voyager (though this particular song is a traditional one also found in the video game Braid) or the guitars-only album, erm, Guitars, though his end-of-the-millennium concept album The Millennium Bell is a pretty wonderful piece of kitsch. It tries to encapsulate two thousand years of musical history. It fails, but, hey!, it's still pretty fun.

In the mid-2000s, Oldfield tried his hand at designing and developing video games. His virtual reality project MusicVR was intended to create non-violent games driven by music and imagery. Sadly, I've never been able to play either of the two games he created, Tres Lunas or Maestro, but I'm desperately curious as to what they're like. Free downloads for Windows are available here and here.

His most recent work is the orchestral Music of the Spheres, parts of the premiere of which are available on YouTube.

I'm not familiar with Mike Oldfield's every last album and song, and there are extensive gaps in this cover, but nonetheless, hopefully this sparks interest for some of you in one of my all-time favorite composers after he made that surprise appearance at the London opening. Enjoy!
posted by Rory Marinich (62 comments total) 100 users marked this as a favorite

 
You might have heard Mike Oldfield playing during the Olympic opening

No, it only just started airing in my time zone in the past half hour.

I'll be watching for Oldfield, but yeah... I'm not doing a complaint about spoilers, but am commenting about how even global events aren't consumed by everyone at once.'

Still great post. I look forward to digging through this, once they stop rolling up the grass and the smokestacks stop growing out of the floor.
posted by hippybear at 8:08 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow!
posted by blucevalo at 8:09 PM on July 27, 2012


I'm not watching the Olympics, so I had no idea he was in the opening ceremony, but I'm pleased as punch to see this post. My ex was a huge Oldfield fan but I'm not sure I've listened to anything but Tubular Bells by him in years. I'm suddenly thinking it's time to find myself a copy of Ommadawn (always my favorite of his albums).
posted by immlass at 8:10 PM on July 27, 2012


In my youth, I thought of "Tubular Bells" as the soundtrack of the Fellowship's stealthy journey through Moria. The bells echoing the fall of ancient hammers.
posted by SPrintF at 8:11 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ommadon was the evil wizard from "The Flight of Dragons." Coincidence?
posted by Nomyte at 8:23 PM on July 27, 2012


Family Man.
posted by mintcake! at 8:28 PM on July 27, 2012


As much as I love Tubular Bells, every time I hear Viv Stanshall's "dramatis instrumenta" I think of this.

Spanish guitar, and introducing... acoustic guitar! Really wild, General.
posted by erniepan at 8:34 PM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I heart Amarok.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:52 PM on July 27, 2012


Tubular Bells Part 2 basically, all on its own, made me care about music. Up until that point I had pretty much just thought of songs as spoken word poetry with accompaniment to fill in the gaps and had been confused as to why anyone would ever listen to music without lyrics.
posted by 256 at 9:11 PM on July 27, 2012


I'm not doing a complaint about spoilers, but am commenting about how even global events aren't consumed by everyone at once.

It's not a murder mystery.
posted by desjardins at 9:12 PM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Right, I'm aware of that. I wasn't complaining about spoilers.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


My friend Wes and I came up with an interpretative dance for "Moonlight Shadow" when we were in college, and we perform it whenever possible. Including at my wedding. There was no official bride/groom first dance, but there was definitely The Moonlight Shadow Dance.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:26 PM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not a murder mystery.

...

...

...

...yet.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:27 PM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


What's interesting is how the internet makes us even more aware of the lack of synchronization. Like, okay, back in the good old days, you'd all have seen it at some point over the evening, and then when you read about it in the paper on Sunday it would feel like The Whole World had been watching it All At Once. And now thanks to the miracle of telecommunications we've been brought together to... realize that we weren't ever actually all that together to begin with. Huh.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:28 PM on July 27, 2012


It's not a murder mystery.

...

...

...

...yet.


I dunno... SOMETHING was killed during the dramatic portion of the opening ceremonies. I'm still not sure just quite what.
posted by hippybear at 9:32 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mike Oldfield contributes a nice guitar solo to Robert Wyatt's "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road", too!
posted by kenko at 9:33 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man. I'd never heard Amarok before. What a brilliantly awful album! You can tell the producer was really careful and meticulous about making sure it sounded nothing like a carefuly-and-meticulously-produced album. And is that sample I keep hearing a pig grunting, or what?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:58 PM on July 27, 2012


Opinions are opinions, but yours is wrong.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:06 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I mean, I'm enjoying the hell out of it, don't get me wrong. Reminds me of good Zappa. Great musicianship, great tunes, totally silly and obnoxious and stylistically disorienting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:14 PM on July 27, 2012


It's the aggressively "you-squares-are-gonna-hate-this" element of it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:15 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]



Ooo. I taped the opening because I wasn't sure if I really wanted to watch it. I will now! Thanks for the post and the collection of links. Been awhile since I've listened to him.
posted by Jalliah at 10:17 PM on July 27, 2012


So Amarok is his Metal Machine Music? Cool.
posted by maudlin at 10:43 PM on July 27, 2012


Fans of his early work sometimes cite Ommadawn (part 2) as his masterpiece.

I definitely rate Ommadawn as my fave Oldfield album (even don't mind the horse riding song), but prefer Part 1, particularly the last few minutes which were pretty powerful live when I caught him back in around 1982 (the Five Miles Out tour). Lots of percussion.

I also fondly remember Platinum from that show -- hard not to smile.
posted by philip-random at 11:10 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


also, nice big version of Moonlight Shadow
posted by philip-random at 11:15 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly I don't understand the waffling about the opening ceremony. It's a once every four year event that is never duplicated. Try to enjoy it for chrissakes.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:15 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw Mike Oldfield in concert once. It was DYNAMIC. An outdoor concert that also featured Peter Tosh and Passion, Grace, and Fire, and nearly turned very ugly when headliner Blue Oyster Cult didn't show. Oh, and Robert Palmer was there too. Anyway, I'd owned "The Essential Mike Oldfield" for awhile so I kind of knew what to expect or at least hope for, but outdoor show and all -- they BLEW THE DAMN ROOF OFF.
posted by Infinity_8 at 12:32 AM on July 28, 2012


What Danny Boyle's Olympics opening ceremony said about Britain's cultural landscape

Serious and silly, subversive and mainstream, high and low: Danny Boyle's bonkers Olympics opening ceremony could only have been made by a British artist
posted by Artw at 12:44 AM on July 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


My SO hates In Dulce Jubilo with a passion. HATES it. And over here it's played a lot at Christmas time. (Personally I just think it's a bit twee, then there's the bit that sounds like a tribe of pixies getting drunk and rocking out.)

I tweeted at him during the opening ceremony to tell him he was missing a rage opportunity.
posted by mippy at 12:47 AM on July 28, 2012


How did Alan Moore write the opening ceremony into The ending of LoEG? It was only missing the lightning piss.
posted by benzenedream at 12:55 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


And now thanks to the miracle of telecommunications we've been brought together to... realize that we weren't ever actually all that together to begin with. Huh.
Oh I don't know, at one point last night I'm sure I heard half a billion people say in unison "What the fuck! it's the real queen!"

Danny Boyle, you magnificent magnificent bastard.
posted by fullerine at 1:15 AM on July 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh, man, total flashbacks to my teenage record collection! Every time I tracked down another Mike Oldfield album in the used record stores I knew I was in for a treat - I just never knew what kind of treat. It was a completely different experience from other music I listened to, where the sameness and predictability was part of the package - Oldfield was always different. Not just from other artists, but as Rory Marinich's brilliant post shows, the music he did himself varied wildly from album to album.

I almost miss that element of surprise - today I'd never buy an album without knowing what was on it. But with Mike Oldfield, that was part of the fun. And I ended up listening to forms of musical expression I would not have given a second chance after a quick first sample, and getting a completely new appreciation for things way out of the mainstream.

And sometimes I come back to Oldfield and I find he's done something that reminds me of what I listened to as a young teen, and it's both new and nostalgic, which is weirdly inspiring. (For example To Be Free, which has the same general flavor as some of the songs on Earth Moving, without actually sounding anything like any of the individual songs.)

If not for this post, I wouldn't have known he was in the opening ceremony, and I wouldn't spend my day digging out old CDs. Thank you, Rory Marinich! Much appreciated.
posted by harujion at 1:20 AM on July 28, 2012


I was surprised to see him, given how he's more leftfield these days and doesn't get out much, but I was more surprised to see Dizzee Rascal. I was expecting it to be all establishment figures - Clapton, Elton, The Who, Macca (well, we did get Macca) rather than a contemporary artist.
posted by mippy at 1:44 AM on July 28, 2012


I was surprised to see him, given how he's more leftfield these days...

To be fair, the entire opening ceremony was lefty in the extreme, as noted by both Billy Bragg, of protest music fame, and by Tory MP Aidan Burley, of Nazi stag party fame. Danny Boyle basically crafted a giant middle finger to the conservative government, paid for by... the conservative government.

It was genius on oh so many levels.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 AM on July 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


The best part of the opening ceremony was seeing all the rightwingers have an aneurysm on Twitter; iirc Toby Young called it a 27 million pound ad for the Labour party, some American loon was outraged! Outraged! that the ceremony would pay tribute to the victims of the 7/7 bombing but not Munich, one Tory MP saw his career down the toilet for calling it leftie multiculteralism (well duh).
posted by MartinWisse at 3:10 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


the ceremony would pay tribute to the victims of the 7/7 bombing

That section was exceptional, and incredibly beautiful. For some reason it was missed out of the American coverage.
posted by dng at 4:12 AM on July 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was completely cynical about it beforehand but I loved the music section so much. They could have done something really po-faced with choirs of children and instead they showed kids kissing and dancing and having a great time (plus GREGORY'S GIRL). Also, I have to admit I welled up when 'THIS IS FOR EVERYONE' appeared across the stadium afterward. Yes, I am a big girl.
posted by mippy at 4:36 AM on July 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


It was grand. And made up for the horrors of Mr Bean wonderfully
posted by dng at 4:47 AM on July 28, 2012


I'd like to have literally launched Virgin Records. Maybe just Richard Branson.
posted by iotic at 4:56 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also also, it had Tim Berners Lee live tweeting from the podium.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:15 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Epic FPP!

(I loved the opening ceremony. So much to enjoy including Great Ormond Street Hospital, Tim Berners-Lee, Bean, Bond, Arctic Monkeys as a young Beatles, Suffragettes, Jarrow marchers, Brunel, the cyclists with wings, Bonkers, Born Slippy, Kes, Mary Poppins... I remember after Beijing everyone doubting that we could do something as impressive, but we did, and then some)
posted by DanCall at 5:20 AM on July 28, 2012


Was this the greatest Olympics opening ceremony ever? Anyone who asks that doesn't get the question. This was the "Dark Knight," the "Blazing Saddles," the "Psycho" of opening ceremonies -- it says as much about the Olympics as the spectacular Beijing or Barcelona ceremonies, so fine, it's a four-star Olympic opener. But it says so much more about the country that's hosting them than anyone else ever has that calling it an Olympic opening ceremony does damage to it and the genre. Just like there can be good, even great, superhero movies after "The Dark Knight," there will be good Olympic opening ceremonies in the future. But there won't be many that transcend their genre so amazingly well.
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was an awesome ceremony, as someone who's been vocally opposed to the whole Olympics circus I was genuinely dabbing tears away as the night went on.

Also fantastic to see how the UK was portrayed, not the usual parade of kings, queens and military victories but as waves of popular progressive change coming from the people. Made my old Labour heart proud it did.
posted by brilliantmistake at 6:13 AM on July 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


I loved the opening ceremonies, or at least would have if Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira weren't the stupidest people on the planet. Or maybe it's just that they thought that we, the viewers, were stupid. "if you don't know who Berners-Lee is, don't worry...neither do we".

Oh, and then Bob Costas had to find a way to insult each country in turn during the parade. Painful. Too many commercials too.
posted by octothorpe at 6:35 AM on July 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thank you for this post. It makes me feel warm inside to realise I am not alone in my serious Oldfield obsession.

Well, not entirely alone....when I came home my six-year-old daughter came running: "Daddy!! Mike Oldfield was on TV at the Olympics!"

Poor girl, she'll only fit in with weirdos like you.
posted by Cobalt at 6:38 AM on July 28, 2012


Oh, and Tubular Bells 3 at full blast is a masterpiece.
posted by Cobalt at 6:46 AM on July 28, 2012


octothorpe: "I loved the opening ceremonies, or at least would have if Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira weren't the stupidest people on the planet. Or maybe it's just that they thought that we, the viewers, were stupid. "if you don't know who Berners-Lee is, don't worry...neither do we".

Oh, and then Bob Costas had to find a way to insult each country in turn during the parade. Painful. Too many commercials too
"

It was like they took some hints from Mitt and went with it. "The British love dry humor!"
posted by Big_B at 6:54 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


How odd. I spent last night seeing the new Todd Solondz movie, and while I knew the Olympics were on, I hadn't been in a place to pay them any attention just yet. But just before bed I was thinking about Tubular Bells 2 and how excited I was when it came out, because at the time I had a massive Trevor Horn obsession and wanted it to be the MOST GORGEOUSLY PRODUCED INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM EVER. I recall liking it, but unfortunately it hasn't received the same level of play as my Art of Noise and early Seal records. Perhaps the coincidence means it's time to revisit.
posted by mykescipark at 6:57 AM on July 28, 2012



Well I ended up watching it. My plan was to just get to the Mike Oldfield part but I got caught up in it and ended up watching the whole thing minus the required speeches. I was tickled, burst out laughing and then cheered that Oldfield played during a tribute to the NHS. It was bizzare a quirky thing to put in an opening ceremony.

I saw it with Canadian commentary and they had a lot of good info regarding the history and what was going on during the whole ceremony. I couldn't help but wonder what American news hosts were saying during it and other parts. Our hosts referred to the NHS as being a "scared" part of GB's culture and I couldn't help but imagine some of the brain pops occuring south of the border as well as confusion. As a Canadian I get what it was all about. lol

The whole thing wasn't at all what I expected which was great and yeah now that I think about it was very 'leftie' oriented which makes it even better.

Way to go folks! And have fun during the games. I lived vicariously through my sisters who lived in Vancouver during the winter Olympics and had a wonderful time as people just celebrated and had fun. My sister says that the atmosphere of the city was just amazing, a feeling that ended up spreading across the country. I ended up just enjoying it and letting my Olympic cynicism just melt away. Sometimes we just need stuff like this.
posted by Jalliah at 7:36 AM on July 28, 2012


Apparently as well as employing idiots to blather over it NBC dropped a tribute to the victims of 7/7 in favour of a dumb interview. Shoddy stuff.
posted by Artw at 7:36 AM on July 28, 2012


mykescipark, I was just listening to Tubular Bells II earlier this week when I was in a funk! It's not one of Oldfield's "important" albums cos it sounds like a bunch of his other work, but it's one of my favorites. So joyful. This is what I wrote about it while I was listening:

"The latter album follows the chaotic, impulsive path that the first Tubular Bells set, shifting and merging genres like nobody's business, but unlike the first Tubular Bells, which is misty and mysterious, Bells II sounds like daybreak, clear and exuberant and brilliant. It's not spiritual so much as it is actively religious, the titular bell sounding like a divine voice speaking through clouds. Yet it never gets lost in self-wonderment — we're talking music that's playful and silly and includes Oldfield grunting like a caveman towards the end. The result is catchy, cartoonish, unfailingly FUN, but with its roots in something deeper and more lasting."
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:43 AM on July 28, 2012


Our hosts referred to the NHS as being a "scared" part of GB's culture a

I think you meant "sacred", but you're right as well.
posted by Grangousier at 7:51 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you meant "sacred", but you're right as well.

Oh oops, yes. "sacred"

I plead just waking up and not finishing my coffee yet....
posted by Jalliah at 8:09 AM on July 28, 2012


I loved the ceremony, and this is a great follow-up post. Thank you guys for posting the 7/7 tribute, we did not see that here or even hear a mention of it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:40 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks Rory. Tweeted this link, and went in search of Amarok.
posted by omnidrew at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2012


A few months ago I realized that for all that despite hearing for decades about Mike Oldfield, and Tubular Bells, and knew that album cover so well from just about every used record bin I'd ever gone through, I didn't actually know what it sounded like. So, I bought it, and yeah there's that famous bit that was instantly familiar, but also a lot of weird stuff that keeps popping up on my shuffle now and I have to look at the player to figure out 'what the hell is that?!' - Pink Floyd-y found sounds, and snatches of folk music, even a bit of Blue Peter.

Anyway, I thought the opening ceremony was one of the greatest spectacles ever broadcast on television, but despite watching almost all of it twice I somehow missed Mike Oldfield, and the NHS bit. I'm currently downloading it in HD (yes I loved it that much, and I pray it's the BBC feed, not NBC) so maybe on the third viewing I will see what all the fuss is about.
posted by Flashman at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Danny Boyle basically crafted a giant middle finger to the conservative government, paid for by... the conservative government.

As a bonus, that finger would have also been pointed at a certain conservative visitor, too:

I'm told Mr Romney thought the opening ceremony was "absolutely amazing", and wanted to thank the organisers for a spectacular show. But as no cameras were allowed near Mr Romney, we don't know how he felt during the Olympics' literally all-dancing celebration of the single-payer health scheme (the NHS). This musical tribute to what he calls the "European entitlement society" can't have made him stand up and cheer.
posted by homunculus at 11:13 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


fantastic FPP - mike oldfield is a rare genius.

The Rio Grande, produced by David Bedford and Oldfield, is a lovely haunting piece.
posted by spacediver at 1:16 PM on July 28, 2012


A hat-tip from one Rory to another on a post well done. I spent my first online decade writing tens of thousands of words on the Mike Oldfield mailing list, and kind of burnt myself out on the subject in doing so, but it's great to see him highlighted here... and, of course, in a performance watched by a billion people. What a fantastic ceremony that was.

Here's Mike himself on how he became involved in the ceremony. Plus an interview at the Telegraph.

It pains me to hear Amarok being compared to Metal Machine Music, or described as any kind of awful. Don't judge it on first impressions of the first section. You have to listen to the last fifteen minutes to realize its greatness - but only after listening to the first 45. Then listen to it obsessively for a decade, and slightly less obsessively, but still with great fondness, for a decade more. Better than Ommadawn, and that's saying a lot.

Rory, I would also add that Oldfield soundtracked The Killing Fields, the David Puttnam-produced film about Cambodia that some here may remember (with screenplay by Bruce Robinson, writer of Withnail and I); that he wrote a theme for The X Files movie (not included on US versions of the soundtrack); and that his last album for Virgin contains one of his greatest short songs (even if his own vocals aren't the greatest), the title track "Heaven's Open". That's the album version, which I much prefer, but the single version is also worth a look, if only for its cheesy official video.

Here's my favourite Oldfield b-side, "Afghan".

Here's another obscurity, Mike's 1970s arrangement of a Vivaldi concerto.

Here's "Cook's Tune", an Oldfield track of recent vintage which harks back to earlier sounds.

I could go on all night, but better not.
posted by rory at 4:59 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Whoops, I should have noticed your "film scores" link re The Killing Fields. Never mind. Hope you like "Afghan".)
posted by rory at 5:38 PM on July 28, 2012


Apparently as well as employing idiots to blather over it NBC dropped a tribute to the victims of 7/7 in favour of a dumb interview.

Feckers.

That was a genuinely moving part of the ceremony. "Abide with Me" is such a haunting hymn, something that speaks to you whether or not you believe in the god it's addressed to and for me personally it was made even more moving because it was one of my wife's favourite hymns and we had talked about it (and she had sung part of it) just days before she died. So it certainly put me in tears.

What's more, its use also has a fairly subtle political meaning, as it's the hymn sung at Rugby League finals and Rugby League is the kind of rugby played by the northern working classes, who of course where shafted by Thatcher, whose heirs are currently in government....
posted by MartinWisse at 4:06 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's also sung at a lot of funerals.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
posted by Grangousier at 6:21 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


The night we saw our mad, fantastical dreams come true - great piece by the opening ceremonies writer.
posted by Artw at 6:59 AM on July 29, 2012


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