1992 Tubular Bells Revisited

Mike's search for a new record company was to prove slightly less difficult than it had been 20 years before. The only problem to be encountered this time was finding a company that did not solely want to cash in on the success of any new material. He brought in a new manager, Clive Banks, who had been involved in the likes of Simple Minds and Billy Connolly. Mike finally signed with the famous and highly reputable WEA records and to coincide with the signing of this agreement it was announced that Tubular Bells II was to released in late August, with a World Premiere performance to take place at Edinburgh Castle. Mike had been planning Tubular Bells II since the late eighties and had decided not to pursue this venture until he had finally left Virgin, not giving them the chance to cash in on its success. Apart from linking up with Tom Newman, Mike also became involved with Trevor Horn, a renowned producer and artist who was able to help Mike considerably, if alienating Newman in the process.

On the 31st August, Tubular Bells II (WEA4509-90618-2) finally hit the shops. Prerelease sales had already propelled the new release straight to the top of the UK album charts, despite the critics' scorn and derision. Many commented that the new rendition was a 1992 copy of the original and saw it as Mike trying to make a "fast buck". The fans though viewed it from a slightly different point of view. Many noted that there were indeed similarities between the two, especially in arrangement and instrumentation used. However, the new piece had a mature and "up to date" feel, being played, produced, and recorded by a man who had grown up over the years via his music. Mike likened it more to a movie sequel, with the same characters, but in a different environment. If it had been identical to the original then he would be accused of not being adventurous enough. However if it was too different how could it be Tubular Bells II? The main difference between the two was the use of giving each section a name, rather than just two separate sections. Those who viewed Tubular Bells a rip-off felt that this vindicated them, especially as it gave WEA an excellent chance to release certain sections as singles.

The live World Premier of Tubular Bells was performed on a cold clear night at the historic and highly charged atmosphere of Edinburgh Castle on the 4th September. Eight thousand people had completely sold out the concert for the right to see Mike performing in the UK for the first time in over nine years, show-casing his new piece. Many travelled from all parts of the World to witness this unique event. The concert was to prove a resounding success with Mike, and his 20 strong band, pulling out all the stops to perform the complete album to a standard almost matching that of the record. The smile on his face told the watching World that Mike Oldfield was well and truly back!

Sensing success, a single track from the LP was released at the end of September. Sentinel was to become the most successful single release since Moonlight Shadow, eventually reaching No 10 in the UK charts. As with Moonlight Shadow, Mike made a rare appearance on BBC TV's Top of the Pops but even he was happy at the introduction that "the music is back!" The B side to the 7" (YZ 608) and the cassette single (YZ 608C) consisted of a very strange re-mix of the title track by the ambient house group "the Orb". The CD single (YZ608CD) had an additional bonus track entitled Early Stages, which was an interesting early mix of Sentinel. This more than anything sounded like the original 1973 version and proved a great hit, especially amongst the fans. The promotional video was one of the best employed on an Oldfield release, utilising the best animation and real life photography available. WEA were certainly doing all that they could to make Tubular Bells the success it deserved.

It then emerged that the Orb had re-mixed another two versions of Sentinel as well as the shorter version already incorporated on the single. It was originally thought that Mike disliked these versions, and that they would not be released commercially.

However these versions were then released in the UK only, as Oldfield vs the Orb, Sentinel Total Overhaul (YZ698CDX) with each of the mixes titled Nobel Prize mix, Orbular Bells and Seven inch mix. The general consensus amongst fans was that these re mixes were a complete waste of time and money, especially as none of the tracks sounded anything like the original.

The continued success that the album was enjoying throughout Europe, was enhanced with the release of the complete Edinburgh concert on video. Titled Tubular Bells II, The Performance Live at Edinburgh Castle (4509-90686-3) it captured the concert faithfully, although there were visible signs of the audio re-mix that Mike had performed to the video sound-track. The final releases of the year from Tubular Bells were Tattoo, released in December. This contained Mike's seasonal rendition of Silent Night on the 7" (YZ708), cassette single (YZ708C) and CD (YZ708CD) whilst the CD had an additional "live" 8 minute version culled from the Edinburgh concert. A limited edition CD titled Live at Edinburgh Castle EP (YZ708CDX) was also available. It contained live versions of Tattoo, Maya Gold, Moonshine, and the final Reprise whilst the cover had a holographic Tubular Bell image. Both these Tattoo releases were only available in the UK and propelled the single to No 30 in the UK charts. The promotional video used clips from both the concert and the Military Tattoo whilst imitation snow fell, eventually settling on a huge flying red Tubular Bell.

"Fine Old Tom" Newman discusses the finer points of the Tubular Bells II with fans prior to the Edinburgh Castle World Premier, September 1992. Peter Evans

The mixing desk used during the Edinburgh Castle concert. Peter Evans

Other related releases during this year included a new LP with his old friend and colleague, Kevin Ayers. This was Ayers first recording since his collaboration with Mike on Islands and the subsequent Falling Up LP releases in February 1988. Still life with Guitar (PERMCD05) was to feature Mike playing limited guitar on a single track, I Don't Depend on You. The Ayers revival was to continue when Windsong International released a BBC recorded 1972 concert, featuring Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, which at this juncture, featured a youthful Mike Oldfield. Of all the tracks included, Why are we Sleeping was to be the most interesting as it included a pre-Tubular Bell style guitar solo. This was to prove an early example of Mike experimenting with melodies that would finally come together on his first great opus. The final Ayers release of the year was the Document Series' attempt at producing a Best Of.. (CSAP CD 110) compilation. Of the 14 tracks available Mike was involved in three playing bass on Clarence in Wonderland and Lady Rachel whilst playing lead guitar on Stars which was in fact the 1971 version, not the 1976 Star, as indicated in the sleeve notes. The final re-issue of the year was to appear when Repertoire re-released the Edgar Broughton Band's Bandages (REP4201-WY) LP on compact disc. As with the original release in 1975, Mike was featured on three of the eleven tracks. (See 1975 for details).

┬ęPeter Evans