Ommadawn October 21st, 1975
Cover photograph by David Bailey
1. Part One 19:14 2. Part Two 17:17 Mike Oldfield: harp, electric, acoustic, classical and twelve-string guitars, acoustic and electric basses, mandolin, bodhran, bazouki, banjo, spinet, grand piano, electric organs, synthesizers, glockenspiel, assorted percussion. Not listed but believed to be there… Electric lap steel guitar
Paddy Moloney: uillean pipes.
Herbie: northumbrian bagpipes (credited, but removed from final album).
Leslie Penning: recorders.
Terry Oldfield: pan pipes.
Pierre Moerlen: timpani.
David Strange: cello.
Don Blakeson: trumpet:
William Murray: percussion.
Julian Bahula, Ernest Mothle, Lucky Ranku, Eddie Tatne (Jabula): African drums.
Clodagh Simonds, Bridget St John, Sally Oldfield, The Penrhos Kids (Jason, Abigail, Ivan and Briony Griffiths): vocals.
The Hereford City Band conducted by Leslie Penning.
Produced and Engineered by Mike Oldfield and Phil Newell Recorded at The Beacon January – September 1975 African drums recorded at The Manor.
Additional notes from Richard Carter
Notes On The Instruments
Electric guitars – By this time, Mike had already built up quite a collection of guitars. Two that feature heavily on Ommadawn are his Fender Telecaster (see Tubular Bells page) and a cherry red Gibson SG junior.
Electric bass – From pictures taken at the time, Mike seems to have been using both the Fender Precision bass he used on Hergest Ridge, and a Gibson EB3 bass. From the sound, it is the Gibson EB3 that is used for the heavy bass riff at the end of Part 1.
Acoustic bass – Mike used an acoustic version of a bass guitar, as opposed to a double bass (which is also called an acoustic bass by some people). The bass was hand made for Mike by Tony Zemaitis, a British guitar builder who has made instruments for many famous players.
Classical guitar – By the time of Ommadawn, Mike was using a Ramirez classical guitar.
Bodhrán – An Irish drum, played with a double ended beater held in one hand.
Spinet -Originally a small type of harpsichord, that stood on a table. The term can now refer to a small type of upright piano. Mike used the harpsichord type, it seems, which can be heard playing in the background at 9:20.
Grand piano – Probably a Bösendorfer.
Electric lap steel guitar – Pictures from the Boxed booklet, taken sometime around the release date of Ommadawn show a fender lap steel guitar. I believe that the odd sliding sounds in ‘On horseback’ are this steel guitar with a tape delay added. An example can be heard at around 0:39 in that track, and in many other places throughout the track.
To see a labelled picture of Mike with some of these instruments, click here (large image – best viewed at 1024×768 or higher).
Notes On The Musicians
Clodagh Simmonds – Once of Irish progressive folk band Mellow Candle, who also featured William Murray on drums.
Bridget St John – British folk rock singer. Made some LPs on the Dandelion record label, run by British DJ John Peel in the early 70s (albums on this label are now extremely rare and change hands for huge amounts of money). Did some vocals for Kevin Ayers’ Shooting at the moon album. She put her recording career on hold in 1976 to move to New York.
William Murray – A Glasgow-born drummer, who played with Richard and Linda Thompson’s ‘Sour Grapes’ band, as well as with Mellow Candle. He also played drums with Kevin Ayers in 1971 on the ‘Whatevershebringswesing’ album and later worked with Paul Kossoff. He was a good friend of Mike’s. Mike bought William Murray a camera as a present, which sparked off an interest in photography. Helater moved to Dallas, Texas, USA, where he worked as a photographer. William took the photograph of Mike that’s on the cover of Amarok. He died in 1999.
Don Blakeson – A session trumpet player, Don played with the London Jazz Orchestra in 1963 when they made a recording entitled ‘Stonehenge’. Also produced an arrangement of Händel’s Fireworks music for brass band.
David Strange – Classical cellist, has played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Appears now to be a member of the string staff at the Royal Academy of Music, London, England.
Paddy Moloney – Leader of Irish folk group ‘The Chieftains’, which Paddy formed in 1963. Most famously, the group featured on the soundtrack to the Stanley Kubrick film ‘Barry Lyndon’.
Jabula – The word means ‘Rejoice’ in Zulu. The government in South Africa forced many musicians into exile, also banning their music from listened to (either being played over the radio, or played privately). The musicians in Jabula had been exiled in this way and were all living in London, where they formed the group in 1974. Mike heard them and invited them down to his studio to play. He liked what he heard and ended up using them for Ommadawn, as well as Incantations and later, Amarok. They released two LPs of their own – Jabula (1975) and Thunder into our Hearts (1976). Julian Bahula – Appears to have been leader of Jabula. Came to fame in the 60s in South Africa playing in ‘The Molombo Jazzmen’ (later to be shortened to Malombo) led by Philip Tabane. Lucky Ranku – A South African guitarist, although obviously also has some knowledge of percussion. Now plays afro jazz style music. Ernest Mothle – Has a bizarre later claim to fame as having also appeared in an episode of Dr Who (the English Sci-Fi series). In Season 25, story 154: ‘Silver Nemesis’ (the Dr was being played by Sylvester McCoy at this time), Ernest appears as part of a jazz quartet, alongside Courtney Pine, Adrian Reid and Frank Tontoh. Has also played double bass with Robert Wyatt (who was one of the members of ‘The Whole World’, Kevin Ayers’ band that Mike Oldfield was a part of) and many other artists. Eddie Tatane – Not as much information is available on Eddie as there is on the others, although is obviously another exiled South African musician.
The Penrhos Kids – Children of the owners of the Penrhos Court Hotel near Kington, fairly close to Mike’s home. Mike met Leslie Penning in the hotel and later played with him there. The kids sang on ‘On Horseback’, the song at the end of the album.
Herbie – A musician who lived near Hergest Ridge, whose surname was Herbert (his first name seems to have not gone down in history, though!). Herbie’s playing was eventually replaced by Paddy Moloney’s after Mike wasn’t happy with the results.
Leslie Penning – A Kington resident who had studied at the Royal College of Music and specialised in playing recorders and early musical instruments. Les also collaborated with Mike on a string of traditional tunes, the most famous being In Dulci Jubilo.
A picture of the musicians credited on Ommadawn was printed on the inside sleeve of the LP. You can see it here.
On Horseback expressed Mike’s feelings felt while horseriding, a hobby that had been introduced to him by Leslie Penning. Looked at more broadly, it could be seen as expressing much of Mike’s life philosophy at the time…
This was the only album of Mike’s recorded at The Beacon, his own studio in his home near Hergest Ridge. The house was situated on the steep slopes of Bradnor hill, which made getting things like the grand piano in rather difficult. Shortly after recording the album, Mike moved to Througham, the home/studio where he began working on Incantations.
© Richard Carter 2001