Mike Oldfield channeled his grief and frustration into the classical world music explorations of this mystical folk rebirth. The unparalled success of his debut album Tubular Bells in 1973 as the first album released on the new Virgin label had left Oldfield overwhelmed. He escaped the limelight to work on the followup Hergest Ridge, which in 1974 went to number one on the UK album chart only to be dethroned by Tubular Bells rising with the exposure garnished from its being adopted (some might say 'ruined') as the theme for the film 'The Exorcist'.
His new home, the Beacon, at Kington in Herefordshire on the rustic border between England and Wales had a custom made 24 track recording studio where he recorded his next project. The music began to incorporate African and Celtic music to create an amalgam of rock, folk, classical, world, ambient, and electronic that presaged new age music. 'Ommadawn' features Mike Oldfield on acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, bouzouki, bodhrán, classical guitar, electric bass, electric guitars, electric organs, glockenspiel, harp, mandolin, percussion, piano, spinet, steel guitar, synthesizers, twelve-string guitar, and vocals; with Don Blakeson on trumpet, "Herbie" on Northumbrian bagpipes, The Hereford City Band (conducted by Leslie Penning) on brass, Jabula (Julian Bahula, Ernest Mothle, Lucky Ranku, Eddie Tatane) on African drums, Pierre Moerlen on timpani, Paddy Moloney on Uilleann pipes, William Murrayon- percussion, Sally Oldfield on vocals, Terry Oldfield on Panpipes, Leslie Penning on ecorders, "The Penrhos Kids" (Abigail, Briony, Ivan, and Jason Griffiths) on vocals for "On Horseback", Clodagh Simmonds on vocals, Bridget St John on vocals, and David Strange on cello.
During the nine months of production, Oldfield recorded and rerecorded so many tracks that the tape began to disintegrate and he had to start over: "I think there was something wrong, probably with the tape before I got it, or it may have been just that I played it so many times, and it started shedding oxide, getting a bit worn out. Nobody knows what happened to it. But it’s a jolly good thing that it did happen, otherwise I might not have done it again and it would not have been half so good."
'Ommadawn' only charted at number one hundred and forty-six in the US, but it went to forty-two in Sweden, four in the UK, and number two in the Netherlands. The music was part of a return to infancy to deal with the grief over the loss of his mother Maureen. Oldfield considered the process "like one of those nights when you get food poisoning and you're up all night being sick…I was delving into the most miserable parts of my own...brain...It scared me to death when I did it. When I did that electric guitar, I found it really frightening. I couldn't sleep...I realised that what had been fucking me up was being born. A lot people get fucked up when they're born. So I decided that I was just going to be re-born. It was the only answer. I had to recreate the circumstances of my birth...The end of the first side of Ommadawn is the sound of me exploding from my mother's vagina."
"In Dulci Jubilo"
The Making of Ommadawn
Part One (00:00)
Part Two (19:14)
On Horseback (33:03)