Platinum November 23th, 1979
Cover by Trevor Key
1. Part One: Airborne 5:06 2. Part Two: Platinum 6:03 3. Part Three: Charleston 3:17 4. Part Four: North Star/Platinum Finale 4:43 5. Woodhenge 4:06 6. Sally 5:00 7. Punkadiddle 4:56 8. I Got Rhythm 4:40 Mike Oldfield – Electric & Acoustic Guitars; Piano & synthesizer; Vibraphone & Marimbas; & Vocals Pierre Moerlen – Drums (also Vibraphone) Alan Schwwartzberg & Maurice Pert – Drums Niel Jason, Hansford Rowe, Francisco Centeno – Bass Nicko Ramsden & Peter Lemer – Keyboards Sally Cooper – Tubular Bells
Horns arranged by Peter Gordon & Michael Riesman Vocals arranged by David Bedford Vocals on ‘I Got rhytmn’ by Wendy Roberts Congas: Demalza
Engineered by Kurt Munkacsi & Tom Newman Assistant Engineers – Richard Manwaring & Renate Blauel
Recorded at Electric Lady & Blue Rock USA; Througham, Denham, & The Manor U.K. Mixed at Air Studios Produced by Tom Newman
Additional notes from Richard Carter
Notes On The Instruments
Mike’s main guitar on this album seems to have been the Gibson L6-S Custom.
The synthesised whistle sound of the Roland SH-2000 makes a return here, and are joined by the sounds of newer polysynths, possibly including one of the Sequential Circuits Prophet synthesisers (with both the Prophet 5 and 10 having been released in 1978) which was later to appear on Crises.
Notes On The Musicians
Pierre Moerlen – The Gong drummer returned to make his third appearance on one of Mike’s albums. At the time, Pierre was acting as leader of Gong, and brought with him some of the other musicians who appear on Platinum.
Morris Pert – The first of many appearances by Morris on Mike’s albums. Although maybe best known as a percussionist (America’s Billboard magazine voted him as the no 4 Jazz and Rock percussionist in 1977), Morris Pert is also a composer, having written 3 symphonies. He now works from his own studio in his native Scotland, where he concentrates on composition and electronic music recording. As a percussionist, Morris has worked with names like Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and Phil Collins.
Alan Schwartzberg – One of New York’s top session drummers. His interest in drumming first came about after hearing jazz drumming, which was the genre in which he worked until he started to become interested in other musical styles, such as R&B. Among the names that Alan has worked with are John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer, Alice Cooper, Kiss and Stan Getz. Alan also overdubbed drums on two albums of Jimi Hendrix material, ‘Crash Landing’ and ‘Midnight Lightning’, put together from left over tracks after Jimi’s death.
Neil Jason – New York session bassist who’s performed on albums alongside John McLauchlin, Cyndi Lauper, Randy and Michael Brecker (on ‘Heavy Metal Be Bop’) and Mark Knopfler (on his ‘Local Hero’ soundtrack).
Hansford Rowe – An American bassist who at the time was playing in Pierre Moerlen’s Gong. He met Pierre Moerlen in 1976, while Pierre was in New York after the break up of the original Gong and soon moved to France with him to form part of the new Gong line up. In 1989, Hansford teamed up with guitarist Jon Catler, forming the band ‘Steel Blue’. Jon was experimenting with microtonal music, and between them they worked on a new system of tuning, called ‘Just Intonation’, a system designed to not have the shortfalls of the equal temperament system which forms the basis for most western musical instruments. Bass manufacturers, Warwick, make a just intonation fretless bass, designed in conjunction with Jon Catler and Hansford Rowe.
Francisco Centeno – Another New York session bassist. He was first discovered at the age of 15, when Motown songwriters Ashford and Simpson heard him playing in a New York high school band. This led to him working with Motown stars like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. He has gone on to play with Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, John Mayall, Gladys Night, Whitney Houston and many, many more.
Nico Ramsden – Another musician who was working with Gong at the time. The English born guitarist has also worked with Sally Oldfield, Linda Thompson, The Proclaimers, Steve Harley and Rick Wakeman.
Peter Lemer – Jazz keyboardist, who released an album called Local Colour with the Peter Lemer quintet in 1969 before going on to work with more rock orientated groups during the 70s. Played alongside legendary drummer Ginger Baker in the band ‘Baker-Gurvitz Army’, and also one one of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong’s albums.
Sally Cooper – Mike’s girlfriend at the time, who Mike had first met in the Virgin press office, where she worked. Sally was mother to his first three children, Molly, Dougal and Luke.
Demalza – It seems like this is a slight mis-spelling. A Demelza played percussion with Steve Winwood at the Rough Hill festival in 1978, as well as on Gong’s 1981 album ‘Leave it Open’.
Wendy Roberts – Singing on Platinum was Wendy Roberts’s first high profile singing job. She was to continue working with Mike until 1980, when Maggie Reilly became his singer of choice for the next few years. After discovering that she had a voice similar to that of the late Karen Carpenter, Wendy Roberts began giving Carpenters tribute shows across the UK (together with Phil Aldridge), which she continues to do to this day.
‘Sally’ was a song about Mike’s feelings for his girlfriend Sally Cooper. Sung by Mike and Nico Ramsden, it contained the chorus “Sally, I’m just a gorilla, I’ll say I’ll love you ever more/Even an ape from Manila couldn’t stop me knocking on your door”. On hearing this, Virgin boss Richard Branson took an instant disliking to the song and demanded that it should be removed from the album, to be replaced by ‘Into Wonderland’ sung by Wendy Roberts (although when interviewed by David Porter in 1995, Wendy Roberts said she thought that the track which she recorded was called Sally, and knew nothing of what had gone on with the replacing of the original song). Some copies had already been pressed, so the early pressings of the LP contain the song Sally. All the rest contain Into Wonderland, although the album artwork was never updated, so the labels still say Sally (as do the CDs I’ve seen). The song contains various musical links with Punkadiddle. Some people with the original album feel that ‘Sally’ fits much better into the album than its replacement. For the song, Mike asked producer and engineer Tom Newman to disguise the voices of him and Nico Ramsden. Tom applied what’s now known as ‘telephonic’ EQ (equalisation) to their voices. That is, he cut the bass and boosted the mid-range (called telephonic because it sounds a bit like it’s coming down a telephone). Mike’s ideas of disguising his voice continued through his early 80s albums, with his use of vocoders and other electronic gadgetry.
Punkadiddle was Mike’s answer to the punk movement, the emergence of which had escaped him while he’d been in retreat recording Incantations. Mike was not at all impressed with punk music, not least because it seriously dented his record sales (indeed, Virgin Records’ signing of punk bands while failing to promote Mike’s albums was to be the cause of a great rift between him and the record company). Mike said at one point that he felt that punk rock made fun of music, so perhaps Punkadiddle was Mike’s idea of having music make fun of punk rock.
Kurt Munkacsi worked as engineer on many Philip Glass albums. Mike’s choosing him perhaps came from an interest in bringing a Philip Glass influence to the album, with Mike featuring Glass’s ‘North Star’ as part of ‘Platinum’.
Renate Blauel was one of the in-house engineers at Air Studios in London. Her other claim to fame is as one time wife of Elton John.
An altered form of the album was released in the USA as ‘Airborn’, the difference being that Woodhenge was replaced by the track Guilty, a disco style tune based on the same note pattern as Incantations, which was released as a single at around the same time as that album. Similarly to parts of Platinum, Guilty was recorded in New York using session musicians.
© Richard Carter 2003