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Mike Oldfield (born Michael Gordon Oldfield, 15 May 1953, Reading, Berkshire, England) is largely known for Tubular Bells, his groundbreaking album from 1973, the success of which also bankrolled Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Records, for which Tubular Bells was the inaugural release. However, his musical career has spread over more than 40 years encompassing a range of styles, with varying amounts of success. According to the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, his style is labeled as Oldfield Progressive.
Before Oldfield started his solo career, he formed a band with his sister Sally Oldfield in 1967 called The Sallyangie and at the start of the 70s played bass and guitar with Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, alongside Ayers, David Bedford and saxophonist Lol Coxhill. At this time Kevin Ayers lent Oldfield a multitrack tape recorder, and it was on this that Oldfield began to put together what would become Tubular Bells, although Branson at one point suggested “Breakfast In Bed” as a title.
Tubular Bells is considered to be the first rock album to incorporate elements of classical composition, particularly the use of repetition with subtle variations in the minimalist style as pioneered by composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and LaMonte Young, although these influences were filtered through rock sensibilities. Oldfield also claimed to have been inspired by Kevin Ayers’ observation that “there was nothing wrong with repetition so long as it was something worth repeating”.
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