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Discography > Ommadawn

 
     


Ommadawn

Released: October 21, 1975

Recorded: The Beacon, African drums at The Manor

Ommadawn cover

1. Part One 19:14
2. Part Two 17:17

Mike Oldfield: harp, electric, acoustic, classical and twelve-string guitars, acoustic and electric basses, mandolin, bodhran, bazouki, banjo, spinet, grand piano, electric organs, synthesizers, glockenspiel, assorted percussion.

Paddy Moloney: uillean pipes.

Herbie: northumbrian bagpipes (credited, but removed from final album).

Leslie Penning: recorders.

Terry Oldfield: pan pipes.

Pierre Moerlen: timpani.

David Strange: cello.

Don Blakeson: trumpet.

William Murray: percussion.

Julian Bahula, Ernest Mothle, Lucky Ranku, Eddie Tatane (Jabula): African drums.

Clodagh Simonds, Bridget St John, Sally Oldfield, The Penrhos Kids (Jason, Abigail, Ivan and Briony Griffiths): vocals.

The Hereford City Band conducted by Leslie Penning.

Produced and Engineered by Mike Oldfield and Phil Newell
Recorded at The Beacon January - September 1975. African drums recorded at The Manor.

Cover photograph by David Bailey

Picture of the instruments

Picture of the musicians


Notes

Though Mike had recorded some demos for Hergest Ridge in The Beacon, Ommadawn was the only album which he recorded there. Equipment was brought in from the Manor Mobile, enabling him to work on the album without the pressures of fitting his schedule around studio bookings.

While recording Ommadawn, Mike began having problems with the recording tape. Changes to tape formulations in the 1970s left them prone to absorbing moisture from the atmosphere, leading to the oxide beginning to fall off and the tape losing the information recorded to it. While in most cases, it's taken years for this problem (known as sticky shed syndrome) to become apparent, it seems that Mike - possibly because of damp conditions at The Beacon, along with his use of multiple overdubs - was an early victim of it. The master tape began shedding oxide while he was still recording the album, eventually leading to him taking the decision to start again. The original recording surfaced again in 2010, as the "Ommadawn (lost version)" on Universal's Deluxe Edition re-release of the album. Fragments of it had previously only been heard in the interview with Mike in Tony Palmer's 1976 documentary series All You Need Is Love (in the episode Imagine: New Directions) and in the 1977 film Reflection.

The ending song, usually called On Horseback (though referred to on the original album merely as 'the horse song') was inspired by Mike's experience of riding horses on Hergest Ridge. He had been introduced to horseriding by Les Penning, and Les recalled in a 2013 interview how they used to borrow horses from a local resident called Harold Jones:

"I knew Harold, and we decided we’d like to borrow a couple of horses from Harold one day. So we did, they were docile old things, and Harold lived just near Hergest, ‘cause I lived, you know, half a mile from Hergest Ridge really. So, we just rode the horses up the bank, over the road, and we’d go up to the ridge. We did that quite often, and that was in the Ommadawn year. Wasn’t all plain sailing...occasionally fell off. Foot stuck in the stirrups and got dragged along the ground. Yeah, not very nice. There’s a bit of license in that song, I think, somewhere. I’d rather be with you...I’d rather be in the pub, I think!"

The inner sleeve of the Ommadawn LP featured a picture of many of the musicians featured on the album, taken in the grounds of The Manor by David Bailey. For those coming from Kington in a light aircraft owned by Martin Griffiths from Penhros Court, the journey wasn't entirely uneventful, as Les Penning recalled:

"We flew from Shobdon to Kidlington Airport for the photograph at the Manor. It was Martin flying, Michael in the front, me, and one of Martin’s daughters behind me in the plane. That was fair enough, that was quite a nice journey, until we came over Kidlington airport and Michael had the controls...never had the controls before and...having the controls amounted to sitting there with a rigid look on the face going [pulls a frightened face, hands out in front of him as if grabbing controls]. So we almost overflew Kidlington Airport, until Martin spotted it, so we immediately nosedive into Kidlington Airport, whereupon the daughter’s...breakfast left her. Urghhhh. So, we arrived there slightly out of kilter, really, bespattered. [chuckles] Poor girl."

As well as being mixed in stereo at The Beacon, the album was mixed in quad (four channel surround) a few weeks later at The Manor, both times with Mike and Phil Newell at the desk. The quad version was released both in CBS's SQ format (QV2043) and Sansui QS (QVQS2043) - the mix is the same, but the differences in the two formats lead to the two LPs sounding different when played in stereo. The SQ version was also released as part of Boxed, which also made it onto CD.

[Les Penning quotes are from an interview by Richard Carter and Tim Unwin in January 2013, with thanks to David Porter for the initital contact]


Personnel

Philip Newell (producer)

An experienced live and studio engineer, Philip joined Virgin to help set up The Manor. He became Virgin Records' technical director and was also responsible for the Manor Mobile recording truck. He now concentrates on acoustics consultancy and recording studio design.

Also appears in: Exposed


The Hereford City Band (ensemble)

According to Mike's autobiography, Changeling, he was put in touch with the Hereford City Band by Simon Draper at Virgin, after Mike had said he wanted a brass band on the album. They were, according to Les Penning, recorded in the upstairs living room of The Beacon, with Les conducting and listening to the music over headphones, while Mike sat in the control room downstairs.


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: Incantations


Herbie (musician)

A musician who lived near Hergest Ridge, whose surname was Herbert (his first name seems to have not gone down in history, though!). Herbie's playing was eventually replaced by Paddy Moloney's after Mike wasn't happy with the results.

Though Herbie's pipes mostly weren't used on the final album, Les Penning has said that a single note of Herbie's playing remains, in the section immediately preceeding the Paddy Moloney section of Part Two.


Julian Bahula (musician)

The leader of Jabula, he came to fame in the 60s in South Africa playing in 'The Molombo Jazzmen' (later to be shortened to Malombo) led by Philip Tabane. He moved to London with the band Jo'burg Hawk, a group of both black and white South Africans who weren't allowed to play together in their homeland. Though he was not keen on doing sessions for other artists, he made three exceptions - Mike Oldfield, Stevie Wonder and Dick Heckstall-Smith.

Also appears in: Amarok


Don Blakeson (musician)

A session trumpet player, Don played with the London Jazz Orchestra in 1963 when they made a recording entitled 'Stonehenge'. Also produced an arrangement of Händel's Fireworks music for brass band.


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: Incantations, Exposed, Platinum, Islands


Paddy Moloney (musician)

Leader of Irish folk group 'The Chieftains', which Paddy formed in 1963. Most famously, the group featured on the soundtrack to the Stanley Kubrick film 'Barry Lyndon'.

Also appears in: Five Miles Out, Amarok


Ernest Mothle (musician)

Jabula's bassist, Ernest also played double bass with Robert Wyatt (who was one of the members of 'The Whole World', Kevin Ayers' band that Mike Oldfield was a part of) and many other artists. He also appeared in an episode of the British sci-fi series Dr Who, in Season 25, story 154: 'Silver Nemesis' (the Doctor was being played by Sylvester McCoy at this time). He appears as part of a jazz quartet, alongside Courtney Pine, Adrian Reid and Frank Tontoh. He died in 2011.


William Murray (musician)

Drummer, who Mike would have met in 1971 while recording 'Whetevershebringswesing' with Kevin Ayers. He played with Richard and Linda Thompson's 'Sour Grapes' band, as well as with Mellow Candle. He also played drums with Kevin Ayers in 1971 on the 'Whatevershebringswesing' album and later worked with Paul Kossoff. He was a good friend of Mike's. Mike bought William Murray a camera as a present, which sparked off an interest in photography. Helater moved to Dallas, Texas, USA, where he worked as a photographer. William took the photograph of Mike that's on the cover of Amarok. He died in 1999.

Also appears in: Hergest Ridge, Amarok


Leslie Penning (musician)

A Kington resident who had studied at the Royal College of Music and specialised in playing recorders and early musical instruments. Les had met Mike after going to his home at The Beacon with a view to inviting him to play in his band, which played traditional and early music tunes in Penhros Court. A number of these tunes were later to become hit singles for Mike.


Lucky Ranku (musician)

Jabula's guitarist and percussionist. After Jabula, he went on to lead the African National Congress Choir, and later, the African Jazz All-Stars.


Clodagh Simmonds (musician)

Had previously been a member of Irish progressive folk band 'Mellow Candle' as well as having played Harpsicord and Mellotron on the song 'Sarah' on Thin Lizzy's 'Shades of a blue orphanage' in 1972. The group's drummer was Mike's friend William Murray. She also sang with the group Jade Warrior, alongside Jon Field (flute on Tubular Bells).

Also appears in: Hergest Ridge, Amarok, Tubular Bells III


Bridget St John (musician)

British folk rock singer. Made some LPs on the Dandelion record label, run by British DJ John Peel in the early 70s (albums on this label are now extremely rare and change hands for huge amounts of money). Did some vocals for Kevin Ayers' Shooting at the moon album. She put her recording career on hold in 1976 to move to New York.

Also appears in: Earth Moving, Amarok


David Strange (musician)

Classical cellist who, after studying at the Royal Academy of Music, became principal cellist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1973 - 1985 and the Royal Opera House from 1985 - 1990. He also became professor of strings at the Royal Academy of Music in 1976, and is still Professor Emeritus there.


Eddie Tatane (musician)

Not as much information is available on Eddie as there is on the others, although he was presumably a fellow South African musician. He isn't credited on either of Jabula's two Virgin albums and doesn't appear in the picture on the Ommadawn sleeve either, leaving him as a somewhat mysterious figure in Oldfield history!


David Bailey (cover artwork)

Superstar portrait photographer, who rose to fame as part of the 1960s 'Swinging London' scene.



Instruments

Miscellaneous stringed instruments
Greek Bouzouki
Harp
Gibson RB-250 Mastertone Banjo Mike appeared with this banjo at the Tubular Bells II premiere concert in Edinburgh. Its appearance is consistent with a post-1960s RB-250, so our current best guess is that it's the same banjo which Mike used on every album from Ommadawn onwards.
CF Martin Style B Mandolin Used throughout the 70s and into the 80s, when he acquired the Mike Vanden F4-style mandolin. It appears in the videos for Portsmouth and William Tell Overture.
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.
3 octave concert glockenspiel Sold at piano auctions, December 2007. Not the one used on Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge, but probably all albums after that.
Paiste Symphonic Gong
Marimba
Premier Tubular Bells Brass tubular bells, as seen in the Boxed booklet photos.
Electric guitars
Fender Lap Steel Used on Ommadawn for the sliding sounds during On Horseback.
1966 Fender Telecaster This guitar used to be owned by Marc Bolan. Mike added an extra pickup - made by Bill Lawrence - to it, with the help of his dad in their garden shed. Mike later took all the finish off the guitar, leaving it as bare wood. Video
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Mike told H & SR magazine in 1991 that this was "the main guitar on Ommadawn". He slightly contradicts himself a few sentences later, in saying that "the guitar sound on Ommadawn" was that of a Les Paul Junior through a Fender amp. Pictures of Mike at the time, as well as the 'All You Need is Love' documentary, suggest that Mike's go-to guitar was the SG/Les Paul Junior, not the Telecaster.
1962 Gibson Les Paul/SG Junior This is one of the early models of SG which still had the Les Paul logo on the headstock. Mike bought this to replace the SG that was stolen from The Beacon. It became one of his most used guitars, being used extensively on albums and concerts throughout the 70s and 80s. He sold it through Chandler Guitars in February 2006. It was bought by a Swiss fan.
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
[?] The pictures in the Boxed booklet, taken after Ommadawn was recorded, suggest that Mike had only one SG-Les Paul at the time, with a retrofitted nickel-plated adjustable bridge. As the 62 SG still had a nickel-plated adjustable bridge when Mike sold it, that would point to the 63 SG, with a brass bridge, being a later acquisition and the 62 being the guitar used on Ommadawn.
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
[?]
Nylon-string guitars
1974 Ramirez 1A Classical Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Steel-string acoustic guitars
Martin D-28-12 Serial number 335787. Sold to a German fan through Chandler Guitars in December 2007.
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Martin D-35 The exact year the guitar was built is unknown, but in the All You Need is Love documentary, it appears to be quite new. It's possible Mike bought it in 1974 after Terry sold his Dick Knight acoustic for him.
Photo
Tony Zemaitis acoustic guitar Custom-built for Mike. Can be seen at Hard Rock Café Guangzhou: "1975 custom Zemaitis 6-string acoustic guitar with mother of pearl acorns and squirrels on neck and sound hole, owned by 'Tubular Bells' composer Mike Oldfield."
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
Gibson EB3 SG-shaped electric bass.
Tony Zemaitis acoustic bass guitar Sold via Chandler Guitars in February 2008
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Amps
Fender Twin Reverb
Pianos
Steinway Model B Black Steinway baby grand, used at The Beacon.
Organs
Farfisa Professional Organ Photo
Synthesisers
ARP 2600 Semi-modular analogue monophonic synthesiser.
ARP Solina string ensemble
Other keyboards
Accordion 30 key, 32 bass piano accordion.
Wineha Spinet According to Les Penning, he and Mike travelled to Bradford in Mike's old Range Rover to buy this from Woods Early Music Shop.
Microphones
Neumann U87 This was, according to Les Penning, the microphone used on the recorders (and likely many other instruments) on Ommadawn.
Loudspeakers
Westlake TM-1
Studio effects and outboard
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 AG440C Used as a stereo mixdown machine in the Beacon.
Ampex MM1000 Multitrack tape recorder. A 16 track model was used for Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge, while a 24 track from the Manor Mobile was used for Ommadawn.
Mixing desks
Helios 10 Channel Sidecar 10 channel mixer, built by Helios for the Manor Mobile, but installed into the Beacon for the recording of Ommadawn. From the All You Need Is Love documentary, it seems that Mike used its preamps and EQs to help achieve his guitar (and no doubt other) sounds before recording to tape.
Neve Series 80 A customised Neve Series 80, built for the Manor Mobile, but lent to Mike to use at The Beacon. The exact model it was based on is unknown.


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Articles

Beyond the Ridge: Portrait of a Genius (1975)

Beyond the Ridge: Portrait of a Genius - Ommadawn Review (1975)

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

Interview with Mike Oldfield from Roland PowerOn magazine (1999)

Two Sides Sleeve Notes (2012)

     

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Mike Oldfield Tubular.net
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net