The start of a new decade was to mark another distinct change in direction. For those who had followed his progress since the early days, his next LP was to prove the most stimulating and satisfying release since Incantations in 1978.
Amarok (V2640) was released in May and showed a World that thought he had forgotten how to produce innovative instrumental music, how wrong they all were. Lasting over 60 minutes, Amarok was a wonderful collage of guitars, all interwoven with small catchy themes and tunes performed on amongst other things as a Referee’s whistle, toy dog and toothbrush as well as more standard musical instruments. More importantly, Amarok didn’t rely on a central theme or repetition evident in many of his other instrumental. For many, this was a return to the Oldfield of old, and seemed like he was rediscovering his musical roots. With old friends Paddy Maloney, Bridget St.John, Clodagh Simmonds and Tom Newman involved again, it even included impressionist Janet Brown as Maggie Thatcher on the final section. Some, including Mike himself, called it Ommadawn II, as the African essences and flavours so evident in the original were again present throughout. Even the usually fickle press greeted it with a small amount of optimism comparing its originality to Tubular Bells. The only thing that stopped it being the success that it deserved was the painfully poor advertising campaign employed by Virgin. This was so bad that Mike put some of his own money into the albums advertising budget! It was therefore no surprise, and an absolute crime, that very few copies of this fresh and inspirational LP were sold. However, there were a couple of interesting promotional recordings released, including a 5″ five track Amarok X-Trax (AMACD 1DJ) and a 3″ three track Amarok X-Trax (AMACD1) which was given away free with Insight magazine. The latter is one of the most difficult and expensive Oldfield recordings to obtain, with copies (including the magazine) fetching up to £40!
There were two budget re-issues of Five Miles Out this year. The first, in April, was by Virgin, on both LP (OVED293) and cassette (OVEDC293). The second was on the Pickwick label (WIP106) and released in September. A couple of special Limited Edition Box Sets then became available in December. The first (TPAK15) included standard picture disc versions of Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and The Orchestral Tubular Bells packaged in a special presentation box. Incidentally, the single CD’s are packaged as per a standard CD, but the catalogue number on the CD itself start CDVP instead of CDV. The second (TPAK16) contained standard versions of Platinum, QE2, and Five Miles Out. The same catalogue system employed on the first box set is again evidence.
It was also in December that Mike renewed his acquaintance with sister Sally by playing guitar on her single Break Through the Rock (COL 656857 7). This track was then released as part of her LP titled Natasha (CBS467409/2). The only other Oldfield related release of the year came in December after 1984’s Killing Field track Etude was used as part of an advertising campaign for Nurofen pain killers. The track was then released by Virgin on 7″ (VS1328) and cassette single (VSC1328) with unrelated track, Gakkaen by the Ono Gagakn Kai Society Orchestra, as the B side.
Nobody knew that these were to prove the last years of Mike’s association with Virgin. Of course, the rumbling of discontent since the early eighties were well documented, but it seems that Virgin’s lack of commitment and enthusiasm for Amarok nearly proved the final straw. With this in mind, Mike set about writing what would then prove his final album for Virgin.