1974 - Rainbow Theatre

September 8 Theatre Royal Drury Lane London In 1974 Virgin had wanted an April concert in the United States. They had planned a tour of the US too with an orchestra of 30, a string section and a choir. It is possible that the grandiose scale of this stuck in Mike's mind. Imagine what might have happened if he had toured. Faced with the possibility of US performances Mike told the NME, "I'll tell you, if I'd have started going on tour straight away, I'm quite certain that something very nasty would have happened to me., I'm positive I wouldn't have come back in one piece."

During the recording of Hergest Ridge Mike told NME's Roy Carr, "Christ how could I ever possibly hope to re-create that live?" He added: "I don't like doing gigs, and won't do any until such time as the whole concert thing is so incredibly rehearsed, well-equipped and I've got the right people to play with. If eventually I am to do gigs, I want each and every one to be a satisfying thing to go out and do. And only then will I consider it. You see, I want people who are not only musically capable but also emotionally equipped to do it."

Of Hergest Ridge (to Steve Lake at MM) "We were going to do an Albert Hall concert in May, but the way it turned out, with the second side especially, it wouldn't be possible. There's an eight minute section where I play 30 guitars and each of those is double tracked so that's sixty, and with double tracked bass guitars, it works out that you'd need ninety five guitarists all using fuzz boxes to create the same sound. To even get near the sound you'd need at least forty players and that's just not practical." It almost makes you think Mike deliberately put this section in to have an excuse not to play it live! Like a schoolboy claiming he'd created a homework too big to get through the school gate.

But his attitude to his own music did not apply to that of others. On June 1, 1974 he joined Kevin Ayers at the Rainbow Theatre together with Brian Eno, John Cale, Robert Wyatt and Nico - Mike played on Watervershebringswesing and Everybody's Sometime and ..Blues and returned to play Dr Dream Theme, Two Goes Into Four and I've Got a Hard-On for You. The session was released on album as June 1st 1974 (Island).

Nor did it frighten him from playing his own music anonymously. During mid-August he has a few sessions with Leslie Penning at Penhros Court restaurant, and his sister Sally. Penning was the flautist, harpsichordist and hurdy gurdy man who played on some of Mike's mid-70s traditional tunes. [On August 28 1974 Hergest Ridge was released.]. Penning has said it is the closest Mike Oldfield has got to busking. The idea of anonymity recurs later when Mike pulls out of some concerts in the mid-80s saying he would have done them if he had been unannounced.

On September 8 at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane Mike appeared for Robert Wyatt (Dave Stewart was also on the bill). He played synthesiser and an electric guitar solo and joined in with some of the ensembles. He was not on for long. The four tracks he played on were called Instant Pussy, Signed Curtain, Little Red Robin Hood and The Laughing Policeman.

On 5 November Mike was to appear with David Bedford doing Star's End at the Royal Festival Hall but his mother died and he pulled out. He was still grieving in December and so withdrew from Bedford's arrangements of Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra live at the Royal Albert Hall. Steve Hillage took his guitar part.

Even if Mike had experienced sober and organised times with the Whole World it seems probable that his insecurities would have stopped him playing live extensively at that time in his life.

©Mark Slattery