1976 Chart Success Highlights Busy Year

Towards the end of 1975, Mike was to move from the Beacon in Herefordshire to a remote 14th century farmhouse in Througham-Slad, Gloucestershire. As with his previous home, Mike was to convert an old barn into a 24 track quadrophonic recording studio where many of the next few years' recordings and collaborations were to take place.

The year started with the release of the Quadrophonic remix of Ommadawn (QV2043) in February. This time Mike helped Phil Newell with this task at the Manor studio. During the same month Harvest Records released a retrospective of the work of Kevin Ayers titled Odd Ditties (SHSM 2005). This was basically made up of singles releases, both A and B-sides, plus rare material not previously released. Of the 14 tracks present Mike appeared playing bass and guitar on:

Gemini Child -Recorded in June 1970 Puis Je? -Recorded in June 1970 Butterfly Dance -A side to Puis Je? and recorded Sept 1970 Stars -Recorded in September 1970 Lady Rachel -Recorded in 1972.

To fill in the hiatus between Ommadawn and the next LP release Mike remixed and reworked in Quad all the first three studio albums. This was done primarily to bring out the details that he felt had been obscured during the original recording and mixing. Especially interesting is the remix of Hergest Ridge, which altered it in quite a dramatic way. Strangely enough when Hergest Ridge was to be released on CD in the early eighties, the remixed version would be used in preference to the original. In this case if you only have a CD version you are missing out on the original mix.

All these remixed versions were then packaged and released on 29th October as part of a retrospective Boxed set (VBOX1). The fourth side, called "Collaborations" consisted of work with other artists, mainly David Bedford plus many of the singles and B-sides released previously. The full track listing for this Collaboration disc was:

PHAEACIAN GAMES (Bedford)

Recorded in London and Througham, June 1976 and taken from Bedford's LP The Odyssey (V2070).

EXTRACT FROM STARS END (Bedford)

Recorded at the Manor and on the Manor Mobile at Barking Town Hall in August 1974. Featuring Chris Cutler on Drums and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Taken from Bedford's LP Stars End (V2020).

THE RIO GRANDE (Bedford)

Recorded at the Manor, the Beacon and on the Manor mobile in June 1975. Taken from Bedford's LP The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (V2038).

FIRST EXCURSION (Oldfield, Bedford) Recorded at Througham in August 1976. Included as the B-side of The William Tell Overture, which was only released outside the UK.

ARGIERS (Trad., arr Oldfield)

Recorded at Througham in January 1976 with Leslie Penning on recorders. Appeared as the B-side to The William Tell Overture (VS167) in the UK.

PORTSMOUTH (Trad., arr. Oldfield)

Recorded at Througham in January 1976 featuring Leslie Penning on recorders. Released as A side single (VS163) later in 1976.

IN DULCI JUBILO (R.L. Pearsall, arr. Oldfield)

Recorded at the Beacon in November 1974 and at the Manor in October 1975 featuring Leslie Penning and William Murray. Released as an A-side single (VS131) in November 1975.

SPEAK (THO' YOU ONLY SAY FAREWELL) (R Morello / H Nicholls)

Recorded at the Beacon in November 1974 with Mike on vocals and David Bedford on piano. Released as a B side to Portsmouth (VS163)

A booklet was also supplied and gave an insight into each album.

To coincide with the release of the Boxed set, which peaked at No 22 in the LP charts, Virgin released Mike's arrangement of the popular instrumental Portsmouth (VS163), which on the B side, had Mike and Leslie Penning singing painfully, but deliberately out of tune on Speak (Tho' you only say Farewell). Despite this Portsmouth gave Mike his best ever chart position by eventually reaching No 3 in the UK singles chart. There was also a video shot at his Througham studio to coincide with this release that featured Mike playing each of the instruments on the track whilst several women dressed in white danced around him.

In September we again saw Mike collaborating on David Bedford's The Odyssey (V2070) which was billed as a musical journey through the Greek Mycenaean Age. Of the eleven tracks featured, Mike appeared, playing guitar, on The Phaeacian Games and The Sirens.

One of the stranger episodes of Mike's career took place this year when he was asked by Alan Hacker, the father of his then girlfriend, to write and produce the soundtrack for an Arts Council film. Entitled Reflections, it dealt with the way circles and shapes had influenced architecture throughout the ages. Although the subject matter proved slightly too heavy for most, the musical score was most interesting as it contained early versions of his next LP Incantations plus a track which was later to be called The Path and appear as a B side to Shine in 1986. Even more interesting is the rumour that the man sitting in the entrance to a cave, in one shot, could well have been Mike!

1976 was to prove the last really busy year for Mike as he settled down to write and produce his next LP. Little did we know of the changes to befall him during this transitional period, or that the innocence displayed on previous albums was to have almost been eliminated.

┬ęPeter Evans