1991 End of the Virgin Years

If ever a year was to prove a turning point, then this year would prove so in many different ways.

A rumour had circulated that Mike was taking singing lessons which, after such efforts as 1974's Speak., and 1984's Rite of Man, did not fill those in the know with much enthusiasm. Heavens Open (VS1314) was released in January onto an unsuspecting world not aware that Mike had added yet another feather to his already overflowing cap. Many knew of his ability to write a catchy and tuneful song but to supply a voice that, if a little insecure in places, was quite pleasant and refreshing, came as quite a shock. Interestingly enough the single was credited to Michael Oldfield and produced by old friend Thom Newman. Tom (or Thom!) was later to reveal that they had altered their Christian names as a "tongue in cheek" gesture to Mike's sister Sally, who had changed her name to Natasha on her last LP! The 12" (VST1341) and 5" CD versions (VSD1314) both contained 12" versions of the title track, as well as a shorter and slightly different radio cut. A couple of excerpts from Amarok, which had been included on the Amarok promos, were also included. The 12" version was also to prove exactly the same as the album version, although this shorter and different version had been tailored to suit radio air-play. A promotional video was also shot featuring Mike performing in unison with an animated backdrop whilst the all too familiar facial and bodily expressions were scattered throughout!

The album Heavens Open (V2653) was released in February, again being credited to Michael Oldfield. The record consisted of 5 vocal tracks, all sung by Mike, whilst the 6th, Music from the Balcony, was a 20 minute Amarok style instrumental. All the vocal tracks gave the impression of being totally "live", one off recordings with voices audible on the outro to the title track. However, the music press had a field day slating Mike's attempts at singing, despite the fact that many fans, who at first were surprised, found the album interesting and at times highly enjoyable. The lyrics, filled with anger and resentment also proved a pointer to what was then to happen. Towards the end of the year, after countless albums and singles, Mike decided to split from Virgin. Things had not been right for Mike since the boom of punk in the late seventies. In his eyes, Virgin had not been interested in promoting him in a way that the longest serving member of the label was entitled to. He therefore felt, especially with a possible Tubular Bells II on the horizon, that a fresh start with a record company that appreciated him was required. A new manager was then hired, and the search for a suitable record company began.

©Peter Evans