Archive for the ‘Mike Oldfield’ Category

Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Concert Sage Gateshead 16 February 2023

tub tixA night of memories, all connected, all intertwined and all came together for a special occasion at the glorious Sage Concert Hall, Gateshead. It is 50 years since Mike Oldfield released his unique ground-breaking LP Tubular Bells. To mark the occasion a tour, orchestrated by Mike Oldfield’s long-time collaborator and musical director Robin Smith has been gracing concert halls across the UK performing the work in its entirety.

But first the memories.

Filmgoers_waiting_on_line_to_see_The_ExorcistMemory 1. This first memory is a little hazy. A group of friends and I made the trip to Newcastle in 1973 to see one of the first showings of the film The Exorcist. I think, local councils had the final say as to whether this controversial horror epic could be shown in their city. Sunderland decided to ban the film, but nearby Newcastle decided to allow it to be shown. It was a Sunday afternoon showing, we had all read a lot about the movie, and how scary it was. The film was showing at the Essoldo cinema in Newcastle (see image from Wikimedia Commons of the film opening in the USA). At this stage I had not heard Tubular Bells but, from that day on, the movie and the recurring piano theme from Mike Oldfield’s classic album are linked forever in my mind. To say the film was scary is an understatement. The impact the film had upon me and my friends cannot be underestimated. We were terrified, especially by the scenes where the possessed Regan lay on the bed spewing green slime, emanating smoke and screaming expletives including “your mother sucks c***ks in hell!”. I can watch the film now and it doesn’t seem too bad, but on that Sunday afternoon as a teenager it seemed to be the most frightening thing I ever saw!

tub lpMemory 2. Having heard Tubular Bells in the above film, and read about the album in Sounds, I decide to go out and buy the LP (I still live in the land of vinyl and like to call records LPs!) I play it to death and becomes, and remains one of my favourite albums of all time. The mix of piano music, orchestral, Viv Stanshall’s announcements of the instruments including the tubular bells themselves, electronica and jazz remains an entrancing experience for the listener. I still possess a copy and play it now and then.

TUB PIC 2 2023Memory 3. Newcastle City Hall 1974 (see ticket). The progressive rock/psychedelic band Gong go out on tour along with a film of the recording of Tubular Bells. Another hazy memory. I think the film was shown last, after performances by Hatfield and the North and the aforementioned Gong who were well into their crazy pothead pixies phase. I seem to recall quite basic graphics with a projector showing the hour-long film on to a quite simple screen. The film followed the recording through the phases of the album, showing the musicians playing each part. It was the closest we would get to any sort of performance of Tubular Bells at the time and was very entertaining.

TUB PIC 2023Memory 4. Newcastle City Hall again. 1975 (see ticket). This time an orchestra is performing Tubular Bells to a very empty hall. The support act is Last Exit to feature on bass guitar, Gordon Sumner, otherwise known as Sting, who would, of course, go on to achieve international fame with his later band The Police. Interestingly, the guitarist in the orchestra performing Tubular Bells was none other than Andy Summers, who would later join Sting in The Police. Did they meet that night and forge an early friendship? Who knows. Such is the stuff of legend. An interesting evening spent with a couple of hundred other attendees.

TUB PIC 4 2023Memory 5. The City Hall yet again. The 1980s and Mike Oldfield has decided to go out on the road with a band and perform selections of his material including Tubular Bells and segments from his other albums. He had also achieved singles chart success with the lovely song “Moonlight Shadow” sung by Maggie Riley who, I think, joined him on at least one of the two performances I attended (See example ticket: there were two concerts in different years). Two great evenings with a true genius.

tub 2Now, I take the opportunity to see Tubular Bells performed once more, this time by a small orchestra/band in the Sage Gateshead. No appearance by Mike Oldfield on this occasion. The performance is advertised thus: “To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tubular Bells, the iconic masterpiece will be performed live with a full band at Sage Gateshead next Spring, conducted and arranged by Oldfield’s long term collaborator Robin Smith. Tubular Bells was the debut studio album by English multi-instrumentalist, composer and songwriter Mike Oldfield conceived in 1971 and finally released in 1973. Oldfield who was just 17 years old when he started composing the music, recorded and played almost all of the instruments on the album. It gained worldwide acclaim when the opening theme was used for the soundtrack of the horror film, The Exorcist and went on to become the highest selling instrumental album of all time. A bold and progressive fusion, Tubular Bells is a journey through classical, jazz, folk, prog rock and electronica.”

tub 1The performance is in two segments. The first short 30 minute segment comprises short sections from Mike Oldfield’s other works including the aforementioned “Moonlight Shadow” performed exquisitely by a female singer. They also perform “Family Man” which was a hit for Hall and Oates. I was not aware that Oldfield wrote that song. You learn something every day. After a short interval the ensemble returns and performs Tubular Bells in its entirety, authentically, and just like my old LP! It starts, through a fog of dry ice, with The Exorcist accompaniment piano piece, performed by Robin Smith on a grand piano. He then moves on to conduct the band through the remainder of the piece complete with excellent twin guitars, fuzz guitar, Viv Stanshall (his voice, that is) introducing the instruments and first class vocalists. An hour later and the performance concludes with “the sailors Horn Pipe” just as on the album. Mike Oldfield used to perform this when he was a member of New World, a band led by Kevin Ayres. Another hazy memory: I remember New World performing at Sunderland Top Rank around 1970 supporting someone like Quintessence. Sadly, I was too young to go along to that show. And it is all over, on time at 9:30 PM. No photography was allowed hence no images of the show on this blog entry. An excellent performance and a very pleasant evening for my carer Jackie and me.

Another memory created, each of them having a great piece of music as the common thread.

Setlist: Theme from Tubular Bells 11; Theme from Ommadawn; Theme from Return to Ommadawn; To France; Moonlight Shadow; Family Man; The Gem.

Second-half: Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield Newcastle City Hall 22nd May 1980 and 11th September 1982

Mike Oldfield Newcastle City Hall 22nd May 1980 and 11th September 1982
miketix80“Tubular Bells” was a massively popular album in the mid 70s, and a big favourite of mine. It is an important and groundbreaking album which broke new ground for progressive/classical rock music, helped to establish Virgins records, and received further recognition when the opening was used in the 1973 film The Exorcist (I still have the nightmares about Regan :)), introducing the work to a broader audience. The nearest I got to seeing a live performance of Oldfield’s magnum opus was a concert at Newcastle City Hall which featured a film of Mike and friends performing “Tubular Bells”, accompanied by live performances by Gong and Hatfield and the North; a concert which I have already blogged on. Mike Oldfield was quite reclusive at the time and didn’t tour until the late 70s. mikeprog80 By 1980, when his “In Concert” tour called at Newcastle City, Mike was moving to a more pop-oriented style and was including covers and songs on his albums. He had also hit the singles chart with “Portsmouth”. The tour was in promotion of the “Platinum” album, which is the fifth album by Oldfield, and was released in 1979 on Virgin Records. His earlier albums were, of course, “Tubular Bells” (1973), “Hergest Ridge” (1974), “Ommadawn” (1975) and “Incantations” (1978). The tour featured the whole of the “Platinum” album and selections from his previous releases, including “Tubular Bells”, which is what we all wanted to hear.
miketix82Setlist: Platinum Parts 1 to 4; I Got Rhythm; Punkadiddle; Incantations Parts 1 to 4; Tubular Bells Parts 1 and 2; Guilty; Ommadawn Part 1; Blue Peter; Portsmouth; Polka; Radetzky Marsch; Blaydon Races.
Musicians: Mike Oldfield (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Peter Naphtali Lemer (synths and keyboards), Mike Frye (percussion), Tim Cross (keyboards), Pete “Bimbo” Acock (saxes), Nico Ramsden (guitar), Hansford Rowe (bass), Benoit Moerleb (vibrophone), Wendy Robert (vocals), Pierre Moerlen (drums and percussion).
A couple of years later Mike was back on tour again, this time to promote the “Five Miles Out” album (1982). In the interim he had also released “QE2” (1981).
mikeprog82Setlist: Tubular Bells Part 1; In High Places; Etude/Recuerdos De La Alhambra; Platinum Parts 1 and 2; Conflict; Ommadawn Part 1; Incantations Part 4; Hergest Ridge Part 2; Taurus II; Five Miles Out; Mount Teidi; Orabidoo.
Mike’s band was more compact this time: Mike Oldfield (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Tim Cross (keyboards), Tim Renwick (guitars and bass), Pierre Moerlen (drums and percussion), Maggie Reilly (vocals), Devra Robitaille (keyboards, guitar and vocals).
This was before the release of the great “Moonlight Shadow” which is a classic track. Both concerts were excellent, featuring perfect renditions of Oldfield’s intricate music, much credit for which must go to his backing musicians.

Last Exit Newcastle 1975

gosforthhotel Before Sting formed the Police and started his journey on the road to mega-stardom, he could be found playing jazz-rock in a small upstairs room in a pub in Gosforth. The pub was the Gosforth Hotel, and the band was called Last Exit. Last Exit consisted on Sting on bass and vocals, drummer Ronnie Pearson, guitarists John Hedley and keyboardist Gerry Richardson. They existed for a couple of years in the mid-70s, and made quite a name for themselves playing around the Newcastle Area. They had a residency at the Gosforth Hotel, and also often played in the bar of the University Theatre (now the Playhouse). I saw them in both venues, and have strong memories of a couple of great gigs at the Gosforth Hotel. I went along with Marie, having read about Last Exit in the local press, and a write-up in Sounds. I also remember hearing a set they recorded for local radio. The room where they played was pretty small, and on the occasions we went to see them, the audience was quite small. The material was very jazzy with some great guitar work, and Sting’s vocals stood out. Their set included some early versions of songs which would later be recorded by the Police including “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”. Last Exit released a single in 1975, “Whispering Voices” and in 1977, they moved to London to look for greater success. However, after a few gigs most of the band returned to Newcastle, leaving Sting in the capital to pursue fame and fortune, which he was soon, of course, to find. I also saw Sting perform a few times as bass player in the Newcastle Big Band which was a large jazz band of around 20 musicians who played saxophones, trumpets, trombones, etc. They had a residency on Sunday lunchtimes in the bar of the University theatre, and I went through a few lunchtimes to catch their set. A very rare locally pressed lp exists of the band which was recorded in 1971 and features them playing standards such as Macarthur Park and Hey Jude. Sting was very recognisable in those days, and was always wearing his trademark striped sweater from which his name came. Marie and I would often spot him at gigs at Newcastle Poly Students Union in the mid 70s.

The Orchestral Tubular Bells and Last Exit Newcastle City Hall 1975

The Orchestral Tubular Bells with the Northern Concert Orchestra conducted by David Bedford with support from Last Exit Newcastle City Hall 26 October 1975
tubulartix This concert featured the Northern Concert Orchestra, conducted by David Bedford, performing Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. The event opened the A1(M) 1975 – 1976 season which also featured concerts by Philip Glass (wish I had gone to that one), Derek Bailey (solo guitar improvisations) and workshops in “experimental and electronic music”. The concert did not feature Mike Oldfield, but did feature Andy Summers (soon to be of the Police) on guitar. The programmes tells me: “Tonight’s guitar soloist is now a member of the Kevin Coyne band, after a very varied career in rock”. tubular The concert is of particular interest because the support act was local up and coming band Last Exit, which featured one Gordon Sumner, also know as Sting, and also soon to be of the Police. I don’t know if Andy and Sting met that night, but it is reported that Andy did watch some of Last Exit’s set. There is also a story that Stewart Copeland was playing with Curved Air at Newcastle Poly (I think I will have attended the gig; I certainly saw Curved Air at the Poly) and he went along to see Last Exit (but I think that may have been on another night, and the Last Exit gig was likely to have been at the Gosforth Hotel, but thats a story for another day. The programme tells me of Last Exit: “Formed one year ago (the birthday was celebrated with their regular audience a few weeks ago) Last Exit play electric jazz and jazz-rock; both their own material and a well chosen repertoire of other peoples’ music, not all of it well known…this is their first concert hall appearance. Last Exit are: John Hedley – guitar; Gerry Richardson – piano; Gordon Sumner – bass; Ronnie Pearson – drums”. a1m The gig was not well attended. My ticket says I has a balcony seat, but I recall going and sitting right at the front, as the hall was pretty empty. As far as I can remember the orchestra performed Tubular Bells in two parts, with Last Exit playing a set in the interval between. I went along partly to see Last Exit who I had already seen once or twice, and also to hear Tubular Bells, and to see David Bedford who was well known for his recent work with Roy Harper and others. It was very different from the rock gigs that I was used to attending at the time, and I found it a very welcome change. However, the concert goes down in history as the first time that Andy Summers and Sting were in the same hall, and performed (sort of, although not actually) together. I’ll write a little more on Last Exit and early Sting gigs (pre Police) tomorrow.