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Incantations

Released: November 24, 1978

Recorded: Througham Slad

Incantations cover

1. Part One 19:08
2. Part Two 19:36
3. Part Three 16:58
4. Part Four 17:01

All instruments played by Mike Oldfield except:
Trumpet - Mike Laird
Drums, and vibraphones on Side 4 - Pierre Moerlin
Vocals - Maddy Prior, Sally Oldfield and The Queens College Girls Choir
Strings and choir conducted by David Bedford
Flutes - Sebastian Bell and Terry Oldfield
African Drums - Jabula

Produced by Mike Oldfield

Recorded at Througham Dec 1977-Sept 1978
Extract from Hiawatha by Longfellow
Hymn to Diana by Ben Jonson

Cover by Trevor Key


Notes

Mike recorded Incantations in his new home, Througham, where he moved to just after the completion of Ommadawn. Mike said in an interview at the time he moved in, that there was space to record a small orchestra in there. It is clear, looking back, that he was then already shaping up the ideas for Incantations, an album which of course included a small orchestra. They were featured prominently as well - small ensembles had been used on both Hergest Ridge (strings and choir) and Ommadawn (brass band) but they had never seemed as important a feature as they are in Incantations, with them only providing chordal 'pad' parts in those earlier albums (although to be fair, these features were always more than just 'background').

Half way through the recording of the album, Mike went through a fairly new and very controversial form of therapy called Exegesis. Information on this varies, but it seems it was something like this... The course lasted for about three days, and was held in a hotel in London. The main message that the therapy put across to its subjects was that they could blame nothing that happened in their lives on somebody else - they were responsible for everything. The way the message across, however, was rather severe. The subjects were kept in one room for many hours every day. They were not allowed to leave apart from at the end of the session, not even to go to the toilet. People were often lined up in rows, while the course leaders shouted at them (often telling them they were worthless, using many expletives and other such things), or stared hard at them directly in their faces. People who met Mike after he had undertaken the therapy often found that he'd stare at them in exactly the same way, with his face only a few inches from theirs. The part which perhaps left the biggest impression on Mike was where he went through a rebirth experience. The course goers were encouraged to visualise their worst fears and problems, then confront them. Through this, it emerged that Mike's problems all stemmed from him having a distressing birth. He then went through this rebirth experience to counteract this. People who went through this course of therapy were sometimes known to display odd, extreme behaviour. Whether this was true of Mike or not doesn't seem certain to me...I'm sure Mike would tell you it's not true at all. Certainly he seemed to become much more assertive, with some people claiming he was almost too assertive... The single 'Guilty' which was released shortly after Incantations, and uses themes from the album, seems to reflect the philosophy of responsibility that Exegesis professed - the idea that Mike was guilty of causing his problems, rather than anyone else.

Mike finished the rest of Incantations after having undertaken Exegesis. People have sometimes pointed out differences in style between the parts he recorded before and the parts he recorded afterwards. Certainly Mike said after recording Incantations that he was only really happy with the new sections.

As part of his new found assertiveness, Mike did something that some people would never have expected happening - he took Incantations on tour. Recordings from that tour would later surface as 'Exposed'...

Incantations was released as a double LP and at just over 72 minutes was, until Light + Shade in 2005, the longest album Mike had ever released.

The image of Mike on the cover appears to have odd lines around the edges, as if the image has been cut out and stuck onto the background. Trevor Key certainly wasn't averse to altering photos in this way, so it seemed quite likely to me that the cover was indeed a montage. One theory amongst fans was that Mike was very busy before the album's release and wasn't able to travel to Menorca, where the beach photograph was taken. However, there are pictures different to the cover (one inside the 1979 tour brochure and another was issued as a poster, included with early pressings of the Incantations LP) which seem to clearly show Mike standing on the beach, making the situation surrounding the cover more uncertain, as it seems that Mike was present on the beach when the pictures were taken. The 'cut-out' lines around Mike's outline could have resulted from other forms of photo manipulation/retouching, or it could be that Trevor Key decided to cut and paste the image of Mike for artistic reasons.


Personnel

David Bedford (conductor)

Classically trained composer, and fellow member of Kevin Ayers's band 'The Whole World', with whom Mike played bass and guitar (David played mostly keyboards). By the end of 1974, David had arranged both Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge for orchestra. Both pieces were premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with Steve Hillage, from the group Gong, on guitar. Mike was scheduled to play, but was unable to due to 'illness' (the illness was more mental than physical - Mike couldn't cope with appearing in public). The Orchestral TB was later released as an album, with Mike Oldfield on guitar. A recording of a performance of the Orchestral HR in Scotland (also with Steve Hillage - most performances were him, although Andy Summers of the Police did a few in the North of England), made by the BBC, was bought by Virgin, although it was never released.

Bedford also taught at Queen's College, members whose choir were to appear later on Incantations and Exposed. He recorded many albums of his own, often experimental music, some of which Mike played on.

Also appears in: The Orchestral Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Exposed, QE2, The Killing Fields


Jabula (ensemble)

Meaning 'Happiness' in Zulu, Jabula was an afro jazz band formed in 1974 by musicians who'd left apartheid-era South Africa and settled in London. They signed to Virgin to make their eponymous debut album, released in 1975, and it was Virgin's Simon Draper who introduced them to Mike.

Also appears in: Ommadawn


The Queen's College Girls Choir (ensemble)

David Bedford taught and led the choir at Queen's College. David also used the choir on his own recordings, including on one where he got them to inhale helium (the lighter-than-air gas used sometimes used to inflate balloons, which also has the effect of making the vocal cords contract) so they could hit ridiculously high notes.

Also appears in: Exposed


Sebastian Bell (musician)

Also played on David Bedford's "Nurses Song with Elephants"


Mike Laird (musician)


Pierre Moerlen (musician)

Drummer with (and later leader of) the prog-rock group Gong. Mike would have met Gong while he was at The Manor recording Tubular Bells at the same time as they were recording their 'Flying Teapot' album (another of Virgin records' early releases). Mike made a guest appearance on Gong's LP 'Downwind'. He died unepectdly of natural causes in 2005.

Also appears in: Ommadawn, Exposed, Platinum, Islands


Sally Oldfield (musician)

Mike's older sister, who formed a duo named Sallyangie with him when he was 15. She went on to have a successful career as a solo artist.

Also appears in: Tubular Bells, Tres Lunas, Tubular Bells 2003


Terry Oldfield (musician)

Mike Oldfield's older brother, who had only just begun playing the flute when he was drafted in to play in the premiere concert for Tubular Bells in 1973. He has since gone on to become a well known producer of new age music, often featuring his woodwind playing.

Also appears in: Hergest Ridge


Maddy Prior (musician)

Singer with British folk-rock group Steeleye Span.

Also appears in: Exposed


Trevor Key (cover artwork)

Also appears in: Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Platinum, Tubular Bells 2003



Instruments

Headphones
Koss Pro 4AA headphones Mike can be seen wearing these in the making of Blue Peter feature, as well as pictures of him in Througham.
Miscellaneous stringed instruments
Harp
Percussion instruments
Bodhrán 18" bodhrán decorated with a St John Eagle from the Book of Kells. The bodhrán (pronounced as bough-rahn or bow-rahn) is an Irish frame drum made from goatskin, played with a beater called a tipper or cípín.
Paiste Symphonic Gong
Marimba
Musser Vibraphone Shown in pictures of Mike with David Bedford at Througham in 1976.
Electric guitars
Gibson L6-S Deluxe Mike had this guitar modified by Tony Zemaitis sometime between 1979 and 1980. He added an engraved metal scratchplate and headstock plate.
Photo Photo
This appears to have been Mike's favourite of the two L6-Ss, and likely the one used on Incantations, with the wine red L6-S Custom being acquired as a spare for touring.
1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior This guitar was modified with a 2 octave fretboard. It was bought by a Scottish fan.
Photo Photo Photo Photo
Mike told Guitar Player that this was his main instrument and that he used it the most.
Bass guitars
1960 Fender Precision Bass, blonde Mike bought this shortly after recording Tubular Bells. He played it on the BBC Second House performance in 1974. The frets were later removed from it. Sold via Chandler Guitars in February 2006.
Photo Photo Photo Photo
Tony Zemaitis acoustic bass guitar Sold via Chandler Guitars in February 2008
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Amps
Fender Twin Reverb
Vox Escort Battery powered guitar amplifier, used as part of the signal chain for Mike's mid 70s distorted guitar sound. Can be seen in the William Tell Overture video.
Pianos
Bösendorfer grand piano This piano is shown in pictures of Mike in his Througham studio, so it's likely he used it on the recordings he made there.
Organs
Farfisa Professional Organ Photo
Synthesisers
ARP 2600 Semi-modular analogue monophonic synthesiser.
ARP Solina string ensemble
Roland SH-2000 Monophonic analogue synthesiser. Mike often used the clarinet preset, recording it at half speed to create the recorder-like whistling sound which was a common feature of his albums and singles between 1978 and 1980.
Microphones
Neumann KM86 Used for recording acoustic guitars and many other instruments, from the Incantations era onwards.
Neumann U87 This was, according to Les Penning, the microphone used on the recorders (and likely many other instruments) on Ommadawn. A pair of them can be seen above a marimba in a picture of Mike at Througham
Loudspeakers
Westlake TM-1 Mike's studio at Througham had four of these, to allow him to mix in quad.
Studio effects and outboard
Allison Research Kepex Limiter, used in the 1970s (and possibly beyond) as part of Mike's guitar recording chain.
EMT 250 Digital reverb. Speaking to Guitar Player magazine in 1978, Mike said he also had a quadraphonic plate reverb, but liked the EMT250 better.
Urei 1176 Peak Limiter Mike originally borrowed some of these from the Manor Mobile, but later acquired his own.
Tape recorders
TEAC A3300 1/4" stereo tape recorder. For much of the 1970s, its input stage was used as part of the signal chain for Mike's distorted guitar sound.
Ampex MM1200 24 track, 2" multitrack tape recorder. As seen in the making of Blue Peter feature.
Mixing desks
Rebis Mixer According to Mike in Changeling, this was the first mixer built by Rebis, custom ordered by him for his Througham studio. It was designed as a quadraphonic desk, with quad panpots. After Mike had stopped using it in the studio, he had it put into flight cases and used it on his tours, as well as in many of his temporary studios.
Sequencers
EMS Universal Sequencer Related to the sequencer from EMS's Synthi KS (available both on its own and as part of the Synthi AKS suitcase synthesiser/sequencer, as used by Pink Floyd and Jean Michel Jarre, amongst others). The Universal Sequencer had control voltage and gate outputs for controlling analogue synthesisers. Mike primarily used it together with his ARP 2600. According to EMS, very few of them were made.


  Forum



Articles

Mike Oldfield: A Rare Interview With The English Guitarist, Studio Wizard, and Composer of "Tubular Bells" (1978)

Incantations Reissue Interview - Stuart Maconie (2011)

"If people go one way I instinctively go the other" - DiS meets Mike Oldfield (2011)

Embracing Change: An Interview With Mike Oldfield (2011)




Lyrics

  • Hiawatha's Departure
  • Ode To Cynthia

    Analysis of the lyrics



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