He was the shy musical genius whose 1973 album, Tubular Bells, laid the foundation of Richard Branson's Virgin empire.
Now Mike Oldfield is set to confound those who have written him off as a dinosaur of rock with a new rave version of his minimalist classic. Some of the ageing fans who attend the premiere of Tubular Bells III next month at Horseguards Parade near Buckingham Palace may be surprised by the latest supercharged version, in which the bells peel above high-energy dance rhythms.
Oldfield was inspired to make the radical changes by the "acid" club music he encountered in Ibiza, where he has lived for the past three years. But the hedonistic party culture almost destroyed him and now he says he can never again return to the Spanish Island.
Last week Oldfield put his cliffside mansion, complete with a gold-coloured Mercedes C280, Wrangler Jeep and a Sunseeker Tomahawk powerboat, up for sale for £2m. "It is a wrench, obviously, as I designed and built Es Cubells from scratch to look like an Atlantis or the Cretan ruin of Knossos, but I can't go back there," he said from a home counties retreat this weekend "Ibiza is very quiet and spiritual for nine months of the year, which is why I semi-retired there," said Oldfield, who has sold more than 40m records. "But during the summer it is complete madness and I got sucked into that."
For nearly three years, the musician once renowned for his introverted anti-social attitudes went wild with Caroline Monk, 29, a former hotel worker from Canvey Island, Essex. She introduced him to the clubs, where music is played at a frantic 136 beats per minute rather than the 40 beats per minute of the original Tubular Bells. The original recording combined pop, folk and classical music and featured a spoken narrative by the late Viv Stanshall, lead singer of the Bonzo Dog Band. It has been replaced by "techno" rhythms using a Nord Lead synthesiser beloved of (3cr-man DJs. Oldfield has also supplemented it with flamenco guitar and the voice of Spanish star Rosa Cedron to add a genuinely local sound to the club mix.
In Ibiza, Oldfield, 46, became obsessed with the club culture. At Es Cubells he recorded rhythm-driven versions of the original Tubular Bells keyboard tune, best known as the theme from The Exorcist, and persuaded DJs to play them anonymously between records made by musicians half his age.
But, he admits, he became involved in the drug scene, too. Fellow members of the 300-strong British expatriate community on the island recall nights where Oldfield was "poured" out of bars. Last March, while driving home, he was stopped by the police and found to be twice over the legal alcohol limit. He was banned from driving for a year.
Monk suspects Oldfield, whose personal fortune is estimated at £15m, will not stay in Britain long. "He hates winter" she said, "and is very restless.
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net