1984 Voices from the Darkness

After the success of the vocal tracks on Crises, Mike moved to the relative tranquillity of Villars in the Swiss Alps within sight of Lake Geneva, and began work on his next studio LP. Utilising the newest musical techniques, primarily with the Fairlight computer, Mike, again as with Crises, worked in collaboration with Simon Phillips on what was to prove a very successful LP, especially in Europe.

However, in January, Virgin released Crime of Passion (VS648) which included Barry Palmer on lead vocals. The the B side of both the 7" and 12" contained the instrumental Jungle Gardenia and the 12" (VS648-12) had an extended version of Crime of Passion as an extra track. Both releases had a picture of Mike's mother on the sleeve, although this is not mentioned on either formats. There was also an interesting promo video to accompany this track which consisted of Mike and Barry performing the track in a children's nursery. Most surprising of all was that both had performed the piece in mock slow motion only for the speed to be increased to real time, and the action reversed in places, during the final editing stage.

In June we saw the release of the first track to be taken from the forthcoming Discovery LP. Titled To France (VS686), with Maggie Reilly in her usual excellent form, the track told of the struggle by Mary Queen of Scots making the journey to France to escape the tyranny of King Edward VI. Despite the track being a huge commercial success throughout Europe, it failed miserably in the UK only reaching No. 48 in the singles chart. The 7" and 12" both contained the fascinating guitar-laden instrumental In the Pool, whilst the 12" (VS686-12) had an interesting extended version of the title track and a haunting tribal inspired instrumental Bones.

Discovery (V2308 & CDV2308) was also released in June to coincide with the single release and consisted of a complete side of songs that were nearly all interconnected. At release, with Maggie Reilly and Barry Palmer figuring prominently, many saw much hope for single success. The B side was an instrumental track inspired by Lake Geneva which, according to the sleeve notes, could be seen on a clear day from the recording studio. This instrumental track consisted of Oldfield's intricate guitar patterns and rhythms in constant collaboration with Simon Phillips' dynamic drumming. In fact many think that Phillips' drumming and co-production aided Oldfield's musical development, much the same way that Bedford and Ayers had done in previous years.

After a period of three months, a follow up single Tricks of the light (VS707) was released. The 7" and 12" both had the instrumental Afghan as B side whilst the 12" (VS707-12) also contained an instrumental version of the A side. Unfortunately Tricks of the Light failed to catch the public's imagination and thus didn't chart at all in the UK.   Towards the middle to end of the year, Mike had gone to Munich to put the final touches to his first major sound-track. David Puttnam's hugely successful film The Killing Fields (V2328), which centred on the lives of those affected by the military struggle for Cambodia, with Oldfield's compelling and moving sound-track adding much to its realism, emotion and horror. The film not only won several Oscars, but the album sound-track also received a nomination at the British Film Awards for Best Film Sound-track. Unfortunately it was beaten by Ennio Morricone's "Days of Heaven" sound-track. The LP also brought David Bedford back to Oldfield's side which was most evident in some of the impressive orchestral and vocal pieces included. The rest of the LP contained many elements of East Asian music and along with Bedford's complex orchestrations, certainly went a long way to making Oldfield well known internationally amongst a much wider audience. As for any chart success, The Killing Fields only just managed to break through the Top 100, peaking at No 97. To promote the film, the haunting Etude (VS731) was released as a single to coincide with the release of the LP. Contrary to public misconception, this was one of only two tracks on the album that Oldfield did not compose himself. Instead he had re-worked Francisco Tarrega's original to produce an instrumental masterpiece that epitomised the complete Killing Fields work. The B side of both the 7" and 12" (VS731-12) contained the highly charged and emotional Evacuation, whilst the title track on the 12" was extended.

Mike had finished off the year by taking Discovery out onto the road. Unfortunately, due to extortionate taxes in the UK, Mike decided, to the great disappointment of his fans, not to tour the UK. The European Discovery Tour took in nine countries and lasted from August until November. After the rigours of this tour, Oldfield retired to his home exhausted by the amount of work undertaken, and took a well earned break.

Mike performing live in Kassel, Germany during his Discovery Tour in 1984. Thomas Rosenthal

©Peter Evans