April 9 Loughborough Uni 11 Lancaster Uni 12 Strathclyde Uni 13 Dundee Uni 14 Bradford Uni ? Stockholm 17 Copenhagen 18 Kiel 19 Berlin 21 Dusseldorf 22 Munster 23 Frankfurt 24 Cologne 25 Bremen 26 Hanover 28 Vienna 29 Munich 30 Heidelberg May 4 Ipswich (Gaumont) 5 Croydon (Fairfield Hall) 6 Bournemouth (Winter Gardens) 8 Portsmouth (Guildhall) 9 Gloucester (Leisure Centre) 10 Oxford (New Theatre) 11 Oxford (New Theatre) 13 Brighton (Centre) 14 Stafford (Bingley Hall) 15 Manchester (Apollo) 17 & 18 Edinburgh (Usher hall) 19 & 20 Glasgow (Apollo) 22 Newcastle City Hall 23 Preston (Guildhall) 24 Sheffield (City Hall) 25 Bristol (Colston Hall) 26 Southampton (Gaumont) 27 Poole (Arts Centre) 28 & 29 London (Wembley Arena) 21 Dublin (Royal Dublin Society Hall). June 17 Carlyon Bay 21 Knebworth 28 Dundonald 29 Cork
Musicians (11) Pierre Moerlen (drums) Nico Ramsden (guitar) Benoit Moerlen (vibraphones) Hansford Rowe (bass) Tim Cross and Pete Lemer (keyboards) Pete Acock (sax and woodwind) Mike Frye (percussion) Wendy Roberts & Maggie Reilly (vocals). Set Most of Platinum, most of Tubular Bells, part of Incantations, Portsmouth, Ommadawn, Blue Peter, Sheba, Taurus I. Ian Emes produced five films to use as a backdrop.
The 1979 tour had an impact on Mike that fed into his next tour. On 5 January 1980 he told SuperPop, “I’m very frightened of making a big mistake like that again. So I’ll be much more careful this time. I might even get someone to sponsor me. Guinness perhaps. I like Guinness.” The next tour was promoted by a man called Andrew Miller, and Mike took Sally and Molly with him too for what he said was the good of his health and their relationship.
The tour came after the release of Platinum and Mike told Smash Hits that “We want to play small halls this time, appearing in about 20 towns. Then we go to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Dublin.” There was supposed to be a US summer tour in 1980. Wendy Roberts recalled getting an itinerary but for some reason it did not happen. At the Gloucester concert Mike gave £10 to the person who could dance the best to ‘Guilty’. This act was not repeated.
The second tour was undertaken with a ten piece band – “though that’s still too big”, Mike told Melody Maker – and he confessed he was still wincing at mistakes and wanting technical perfection instead of providing a show for the audience, and was pruning to a six piece band for the next tour.
At Vienna in the Stadhalle on 28 April 1980, Mike played Polka segued with the Radetzky March, recorded and released on the B-side of Arrival. The music for the concerts was Tubular Bells, Ommadawn, Incantations, and Platinum, with Guilty. At his 26 May appearance in Southampton film animations accompanied most of the show. The stage set included two giant butterflies whose wings opened up for the finale and the female singers were dressed in 1920s styles. Punkadiddle featured a giant gorilla animation whose eyes moved around the stage.
On June 29 1980 Mike played at Cork with Van Morrison, Lindisfarne and The Chieftains. The Cork Examiner wrote: “The proceedings opened in splendid fashion when Mike Oldfield and his 10 piece group took to the stage and went on to give a display that completely over-shadowed the more illustrious and more publicised Morrison. Oldfield played a new arrangement of the first part of the famous Tubular Bells instrumental, in which the xylophone was used to tremendous effect. Despite the problems of feedback, particularly with the bass guitar, this arrangement was appreciated enormously by the vast numbers who gave the group a standing ovation at its conclusion. He also performed a new arrangement of Ommadawn, and old favourite of his. The backing vocals of Maggie Reilly, formerly of Cado Belle and Staglee, stood out the most, along with some scintillating guitaring from Oldfield. Again this was well received. His encore consisted of some traditional Irish tunes played on electric guitar, earning tremendous response at the end.”
so to the well-known Knebworth concert from which was produced the “Essential” Video. Led Zeppelin topped the bill in 1979. Then, the organisers got a licence for 100,000 people and 200,000 turned up. The promoter’s loot was taken by Led Zeppelin’s manager (Peter Grant) thus forcing him into liquidation. The neighbours complained, the concerts overran and Knebworth House was sued for breach of licence.
The 1980 concerts were therefore a more cautious affair. The organisers had to place a bond with the council in case of licence breach. Topping the bill were the Beach Boys, Mike Oldfield played before them, plus Elkie Brooks, Lindisfarne. the Blues Band and Santana.
It cost £500,000 to stage, and the licence was for 100,000. But a week before the event only 25,000 tickets were sold. Capital Radio ran the event (67% of its listeners are over 25). About 43,000 turned up in the end, according to the promoters. The Beach Boys, Mike and Santana had all played Wembley within the previous few weeks. The compere was Richard Digance. Elkie Brooks played for 40 minutes and it started raining.
According to Chrissie Lytton Cobbold, Knebworth’s owner, Mike played “pieces from Tubular Bells plus many from his later albums Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and Incantations”. This does not sound wholly accurate. She concluded that, “From every point of view – except financial – the 1980 festival had been a big success. One criticism I read was that ‘the trouble was the bill seemed to have been put together by somebody who appeared to have been anaesthetised around seven years ago.” [This from “Knebworth Rock festivals” by Chrissie Lytton Cobbold pps 66-74, Omnibus Press ISBN 0-7119-0774-9].
Later that year on 20 September was the dramatic flight from Barcelona to San Sebastian when Mike’splane iced up and was buffeted by storms over the Pyrenees. Mike’s Five Miles Out was based on this experience. On 31 October QE2 was issued.
The primary consequence for Mike of the second tour was pecuniary. Post QE2, he said, “I’m not into losing money any more. You know, in that first tour I really wanted to take the whole thing on – now I’d have somebody to look after the orchestra. They’re nearly all MU members and they nearly went on strike on us about eight times. As soon as they see a TV camera they start demanding money. I’ve even thought about doing gigs completely by myself.”
Mike did a long interview with Mal Reading on Independent radio reflecting on a number of key themes for his live work.
“It’s extremely difficult music to do live because if you want to do it properly you’ve got to have at least fifty people. It might mean having four guitarists, and I’ve tried it like that, I’ve tried doing it half orchestral live and what I have since ended up with is just having very few people who are committed to this particular sort of music. And I feel it’s there in spirit even if it doesn’t sound like the record. That has been the most satisfying thing way of doing it is to get a manageable amount of people, musicians who are totally committed to the music.”
“The thought of going into London or even a town like Hereford was a bit abhorrent. The thought of going to America and doing a huge, live concert was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do.
“For QE2 what I did with the band that I took out in March was 12 people. You see the first time was 50, then it went down to 12, and I found that even twelve was too much, too many people. So its been refined down to six people including me, and it’s the strongest it has ever been. If somebody had told me two years ago that I could get by with six people I would have said no, rubbish. But it is in fact easier because there’s more communication and you’ve got more time to talk to each other. Particularly because there are so few people everybody has to give out more. If you’ve got lots of people you tend not to do so much as if there was just a few of you.
“I found it worked better on the road to have a more Socialist attitude with the people I was working with by giving them a share in the profits and things like that, making the whole show their show, our show. Rather than what I had done on a previous tour, which was – I was the boss, you’ve got to do what I say to get your wages – all I found that did was leave me a little bit out in the cold and caused bitter resentment. I want to share things in my own music, particularly live performances.”
Mike’s experience was tempering his philosophy in terms of man management, but it is clear that at this stage there is still a tension for him between reproducing to perfection the recorded music, and refreshing this with interpretative versions to fit the live mix. He seemed reconciled to moving ahead with fewer musicians mainly because it was cheaper and easier.
SEPTEMBER & DECEMBER 1980
September 19 Barcelona 20 & 21 San Sebastian December ? Edinburgh Gateway Theatre ? Sweden 20 Germany, Dortmund [tv shows]
On 20 December 1980 Maggie Reilly sang Silent Night, Holy Night for the first time at Dortmund, Westfalen Halle. This was also close to the night Lennon was shot – at the time Mike was staying with William Murray in New York.