Two Sides

Two Sides February 26th, 2002

1. Tubular Bells (Two Sides Excerpt) 13:29
2. Ommadawn (Two Sides Excerpt) 6:47
3. Crises (Two Sides Excerpt) 10:30
4. The Lake (Two Sides Excerpt) 5:30
5. Amarok Part 1 (Two Sides Excerpt) 5:05
6. Amarok Part 2 (Two Sides Excerpt) 11:16
7. Sentinel 8:08
8. Supernova 3:24
9. Ascension 5:50
10. The Tempest 5:48

1. Guilty 4:14
2. Family Man 3:46
3. Five Miles Out 4:18
4. Moonlight Shadow 3:38
5. Shadow On The Wall 3:09
6. To France 4:40
7. Etude 4:40
8. Magic Touch 4:16
9. Islands 4:20
10. Heaven's Open 4:29
11. Tattoo 3:36
12. The Song Of The Sun 4:33
13. Summit Day 3:46
14. Lake Constance 5:17
15. Broad Sunlit Uplands 4:03
16. The Doge's Palace 3:06
17. Amber Light 3:45
18. Angelique 4:40
19. On My Heart 2:29

There are moments in all of these pieces where I feel that I reached a musical high spot. In many cases, I reached these high spots by taking a long and sometimes tortuous route! It's a bit like climbing Mount Everest: Reaching the summit is the ultimate goal and achievement, but it takes months of effort to reach the top of the mountain and you have to steel yourself to climbing back downagain! In all of the instrumental tracks and the songs presented here, I think I got as close to perfection as I could get in my eyes, even though they may or may not have been critically or commercially successful at the time. Two Sides is essentially a collection of the pieces that best represent how I feel about my music. It is a selection of work that I think is artistically relevant and is of great personal value to me.

Tubular Bells

For me, the creation of the music of Tubular Bells was the easy part. The real effort was getting a record company to commit to recording it. I can remember the day I finally went into the Manor Studio as though it was yesterday. I stood watching a person unload a van full of the musical instruments I had ordered for the session. The only thing I didn't have was an engineer, as Tom Newman was nowhere to be seen and I was left pacing up and down the studio and the kitchen asking everyone if they knew where my engineer was. He eventually arrived looking very flustered and and looked suspiciously at me when we met that afternoon. We began work in the evening and over the next three or four days, he became as enthralled and excited as I was with the music. I can't really remember the end of the sessions, as I was exhausted with the effort of making the album. I do recall that we got a huge empty champagne bottle and took it down to The Jolly Boatman pub near the studio and filled it up with Guinness and spent the entire night swigging the Guinness from the bottle whilst we worked on the mix of [the] album until dawn. Eventually I just passed out from exhaustion.

The promotional concert that took place when the album was released and all of the bewildering success that followed is now all quite hazy to me. I couldn't relate to any of it. I do remember John Peel playing the entire album however. Nothing much changed in my life. I was still penniless and it took over a year for the money to start trickling in. I had to borrow the money from Richard Branson to buy my first house, The Beacon in Kington. Virgin pressured me into performing a promotional concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, for which Richard gave me his Bentley (which was falling to pieces). I did one interview with someone from Melody Maker and found it such an unpleasant experience that I just withdrew. Richard would get on the phone to me insisting that I agree to tour America and did promotional work, but I was living up on top of Bradnor Hill and just wanted to be left alone.


Ommadawn was really me putting my musical creativity on record and seeing what happened. I worked on lots of ideas, so much so that the original master tapes finally pell to pieces and I had to start work all over again. I just seemed to switch to efficiency mode and I recorded the entire album in in two months. When it was finished I was very happy with it. By that time I had my own studio with a Neve mixing desk and life was quite nice.

I had a number of friends in the Kington area, who as Leslie Penning who was a crazy medieval musician, and a friends at a local restaurant, Penrhos Court, called Martin Griffiths. An ex-parachute instructor, he introduced me to flying. We used to call him Le Patron. I would go to the restaurant and have a drink and a conversation at the bar with him and I could relax. The old drummer from Kevin Ayers' band, William Murray, came to live in a wing of the house and acted as a sort of personal assistant. I also started to learn to fly with Martin and enjoyed that. I think all of this contributed to the creative process of making Ommadawn. I also began to have some power at Virgin Records and could ask for anything I wanted to make a record. I remember wanting some African drums on Ommadawn and so I called up Simon Draper at Virgin who sorted this for me. He also arranged for Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains to play uillean pipes on the sessions.

Crises, Moonlight Shadow, Shadow on the Wall

My then tour manager, Alan Hornshall, mentioned a gifted drummer called Simon Phillips to me. I met Simon and he came down to see me and we got on well. He offered to assist in the production of the Crises album and we gathered together some musicians, as I had done with Guilty, and from those sessions came Moonlight Shadow and Shadow on the Wall.

In the song Moonlight Shadow we had created this fantastic backing track, but then I had the problem of deciding what should be done with it. I spent three months trying our different things. Hazel O'Connor came in to the studio to do a version, called Moment of Passion, but that didn't seem to work. After tearing my hair out for some time deciding what to do with the track, I decided to book Maggie Reilly for a session the following day and that night, I sat down with a very nice bottle of Bordeaux and my rhyming dictionary and spent the night writing the lyrics. Maggie came in and started singing the lyrics in a rock style and I asked her to sing more in the manner of a lullaby as softly as possible. It took some time to get things right and to achieve the lovely closeness of a sound of someone almost whispering in your ear. We virtually recorded the vocal track syllable by syllable and we did a great deal of drop-ins. It took a few days to mix it and it was quite a task. Looking back, I think [it] was very much worth it. It became a huge hit and was number one throughout Europe. Roger Chapman was fantastic on the track Shadow on the Wall. Back in 1969, I went for an audition with Family as their bass player. When Ric Grech had left the band to join Blind Faith, I turned up at the Country Club in Hampstead and Roger listened to my playing and saw some promise in me. The other members of the band weren't interested in me joining the band, but Roger and I had some connection. When I wrote Shadow on the Wall I thought of Roger as the singer. He was a tough, but lovely man and did a great job.

The Lake, To France

I rented a chalet in the ski resort of Villars in Switzerland and I recorded Discovery there. The track The Lake was inspired by my time in Switzerland, as I used to pass Lake Geneva on the way up the resort. It was a beautiful experience. The piece reminds me of learning to ski and going on these skiing trips over mountain passes with dark clouds above and the snow falling, or skiing downhill at night holding torches. It was absolutely magical. I think the introduction is the best music for snow that I've heard! Once more Maggie Reilly came in to the recording sessions and sang on To France, which was released as a single.


Amarok is one of my favourite albums. Richard Branson and Simon Draper at Virgin Records wanted to call the album Tubular Bells II because they thought it was so good. I felt that if anything, the album was closer to Ommadawn. It had a lot of similarities as it featured Clodagh Simmons on vocals and the bodhran (the Irish drum) was prominent. With Amarok, I decided to switch myself into creative mode. I was living in a house called Roughwood at the time and I had a lovely studio there. The atmosphere was nice and {I} decided that that I'd work every day from ten in the morning to six at night. I don't think I had a day off for three or four months, I just spent the time on the album. I approached the music by recording every idea that I thought of. I didn't spend time deliberating, I just put ideas down as I had them. I decided that I wouldn't use any sequencers or quantizing, the album would just feature me playing real live instruments.

I began recording with two bodhrans playing a pattern, I then added as I went on. I finished the process by recording 50 singers provided by the South African group Jabula at CTS Studios in Wembley. They translated my lyrics into the Xhosa language and it sounded magnificent. I also had the idea of having Margaret Thatcher speaking towards the end of the album, and Janet Brown did her magnificent Thatcher impersonation! There were other touches such as having the sound of footsteps walking around an art exhibition. In my mind I could see the paintings. All these ideas came together. The whole piece was an improvisation. I think it's as good as Tubular Bells and will continue to stand alongside that album as one of my best for many years to come.


Tubular Bells II was conceived when I left Virgin Records. I made a demo with Tom Newman and I presented it to various record companies. I managed to find a manager in Clive Banks, who used to be the boss of Island Records. He knew everyone globally, and I had every record company boss in my home studio to listen to the demo of Tubular Bells II. Clive looked for offers and the best one came from Rob Dickens at Warner Brothers. It was a fantastic experience. I had always wanted to work with Trevor Horn as a producer and the day after suggesting this, he arrived at my door. We recorded the album in Los Angeles and I rented a house and installed a portable studio and away we went. It was a lovely album to work on and I enjoyed working with Trevor.

Supernova, Ascension

The Songs of Distant Earth project was an idea of Rob Dickens. He gave me the book by Arthur C. Clarke, although I may have already read it. He thought it would be a good follow up to Tubular Bells II. I trusted Rob's judgment and thought it would be an interesting project. I was also lucky enough to be able to visit Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka and spend an afternoon with him, which was a dream come true for me, as I had been a fan of his work for many years. There are some wonderful ideas on that album.

The Tempest, On My Heart

I had wanted to write a long classical piece for an orchestra and Music of the Spheres was the result. Although there had been an orchestral version of Tubular Bells, I wasn't involved with that project and had never written an entire work specifically for an orchestra. I didn't have the musical training to write classical music and so I enlisted the help of the composer Karl Jenkins to work on the project. Karl had been amember of Soft Machine, and he reminded me when I first contacted him that we had actually met and worked together when I performed Tubular Bells for BBC TV in 1973. He played the oboe during that performance and I remember that he only had a few notes to play, and he sat patiently throughout the piece waiting for this section. I was living near Bristol and he was based in the Gower Peninsula in Wales and so he came to see me and agreed to do the orchestrations. I would make a sample version of the work, using MIDI and so on, and this would then be put into a computer programme called Sibelius which printed a score of the music. I was looking for a suitable vocalist and my record company for this album, Universal Classics and Jazz, suggested Hayley Westenra, who came to Abbey Road Studios and sang beautifully on the piece On My Heart.

The Tempest was another piece from the album that I was very pleased with. Sibelius was one of the first classical composers that really made an impression on me. He had a way of combining fast strings with very slow brass parts. It was a very odd time signature for a classic work, but it came together perfectly.

To promote the album a special concert was staged in Bilbao at the Guggenheim Museum. I had foolishly agreed to do twenty or so interviews the day of the concert and was pretty exhausted. The concert concert was the first time that I had actually played with an orchestra following a conductor, instead of playing to a click track. Conducting is an imprecise thing. One would think that the downward stroke of the baton represented the actual click, but because an orchestra actually plays behind, the beat actually looks more like the upward stroke of the baton, so I was trying to follow this wondering which baton movements I would follow. The combination of this and feeling tired from the promotional interviews led me to play the most god awful wrong note during my solo part that was a complete semi-tone out of tune. It felt as though I had made the most terrible smell and Hayley Westenra wrinkled her nose up and glanced at me - that's what happens when a rock musician enters the classical music world!


I got the idea to go to New York and seek out some of the best session musicians that I could find and write a track specifically with them in mind. My friend Clodagh Simmons was friendly with the composer Philip Glass. She introduced me to his engineer, Kurt Munkasci, who booked the musicians for the session. I wrote down a chord chart for Guilty and gave that to them and away we went. I remember bringing the tape back to England and playing it to Simon Draper in his office and he said "it's a hit". I thought he must have been wrong as it was an instrumental track, but he was correct. We had to go on Top of the Pops and Guilty was a hit single.

Family Man, Five Miles Out

Rick Fenn came up with the guitar riff to Family Man. I wrote the chorus and Maggie Reilly wrote the verses and over a few weeks we worked as a band would work. I had the idea of the chorus first and roughly sang it to Maggie who then went away and wrote the verses with Tim. We had Morris Pert on percussion and Mike Frye played drums and it was a great experience. A lot of successful things are accidents that are just the result of exploring various ideas.

The title track of Five Miles Out came from an experience I had flying from Barcelona to San Sebastian, over the Pyrenees mountains. The whole of the Pyrenees was covered in thunderstorms and our rookie pilot hadn't got the correct weather forecast so we flew right into it. All the other flights in the area were cancelled and ours was the only plane in the air. By the time I came to write Five Miles Out, I'd got my pilot's license and I went down to my local pub in Denham, lined up a few pints of Guinness and sat with my rhyming dictionary and notepad and wrote down all of the aeronautical terms I could think of and came up with the lyrics. The track was great fun to work on, althoughit took about four months to complete it, and the song went through four or five different versions before it was completed. It's one of my favourite tracks.


My soundtrack to the film The Killing Fields was a project that was partially instigated by Richard Branson, who took me to meet David Puttnam, and he secured me the role of soundtrack composer for the film. I'd made the music fit to the picture beautifully, but I was working to the rushes of the film, rather than to the final edit. When it came to final cut, they also cut up my music and put [it] with different scenes to those I had written the score for. The music was so quiet in the final film dub that it was impossible to hear most of the time. Every scene involving soldiers or warfare had to have a military snare drum going rat-a-tat-tat. It was very disappointing and it seemed they wanted clichéd film music instead of something special. The Killing Fields was my first, and to date last film soundtrack.

Magic Touch, Islands

When I lived in Gloucestershire, Steve Winwood was a fairly frequent visitor. He lived quite close to Througham where I lived. When I moved away from Gloucestershire we kept in touch and when Moonlight Shadow was a big hit he called me and asked me to write something for him. I thought it was a great idea and spent the next few months writing a song. But in the meantime he'd gone to the States and recorded Back in the High Life and had a hit with Higher Love. I presented him with my humble offering shortly after, but by that time he'd gone off into the stratosphere in terms of superstardom and didn't seem interested in recording the song I'd written. That was Magic Touch. I found a singer called Max Bacon to sing on it and he did a very good job. It's a great track, and Virgin made a great promotional video and I edited the video at my own studio.

I spent ages working on the track Islands and was having trouble thinking of a good singer who could do justice to the song. I got in contact with Bonnie Tyler and asked her if she would sing on the track and to my delight, she agreed. She came to the studio with her husband and as soon as she sang the first few notes of the song I got a huge lump in my throat and the whole song came to life. She was a lovely lady with a very special voice. Andy Mackay from Roxy Music played oboe on the track and I was very happy with it.

Heaven's Open

Heaven's Open was the title track of my final album for Virgin. I decided to sing all of the songs on the album myself. It was a challenging but rewarding experience. With the release of the album I was finally freed from my Virgin contract.


The concert at Edinburgh Castle was the idea of Clive Banks. I must admit to raising my eyebrows when it was suggested, but it turned out to be a major event with BBC Television coming along to cover it and it was screened an hour later in TV. It was incredible how easy it was to secure radio play for the album. I went from having to struggle to get any attention on TV and radio to suddenly being able to walk into daytime BBC Radio One and have plenty of attention because of Tubular Bells II. Soon after the Edinburgh concert, the album reached no. 1, which was fantastic.

The Song of the Sun

For Voyager, I had made a few trips to Galacia in Northern Spain and had got friendly with some local musicians who were in a band called Luar na Lubre. They were astonishingly good. They featured a bagpipe player called Benito Romero. I invited them to act as my support band on a later tour. The Song of the Sun was on one of Luar na Lubre's albums and it was such a lovely Celtic song, and I was writing a Celtic album, that I thought I'd record a version of it. Davy Spillane, also played on the album, and he was a great uillean pipes player.

Summit Day

This piece was inspired by my love of the mountains. Ever since I lived in Switzerland, I've loved the mountains and I've always gone backthere every few years. I had been reading a lot of books at that time, including one about climbing Mount Everest. The lengths a person has to go through to achieve the goal of climbing Everest are incredible. It takes months of acclimatization, and then in mountaineering terms there's always the "summit day", the culmination of months of preparation and training. I had the idea to write a tune on the guitar about that.

Lake Constance, Broad Sunlight Uplands, The Doge's Palace, Amber Light

The Millennium Bell was an album I had written for an event that took place on 31st December 1999 in Berlin. Prior to the millennium, everyone was talking about what a momentous event it would be heading into a new century. When it finally came about most people thought it was a damp squib. The Berlin show was a strange event. On stage it was minus four degrees centigrade and there was a biting cold wind. The on-stage heating didn't work and the audience (which numbered 200,000) were freezing too! I'm glad I made the record, as there are some beautiful pieces of music on it. Although the album was a critical and commercial failure, for me those compositions are special, hence their appearance on this collection.


The album Light + Shade was recorded after a period when I didn't have a record contract. When I finally signed a contract with Universal Music, I was overjoyed to be with a major record label and I wanted to make a record that was both creatively and commercially successful. I had the idea to make a two-CD collection that featured almost chill-out music on one disc, and more up-tempo, almost club like music on the other. I wanted to do almost all of it using software, apart from guitars, as it was something I had never done before. The album coincided with me selling all of my studio equipment to a studio company, who turned up with a huge truck, which carted off my Neve desk, tape machines, monitors, rack effects; everything went. I went from having a room that was chock a block with equipment to one that contained a table, computer, a monitor, two small speakers! It was like a snake shedding its skin, and I reinvented myself. There are a few good moments on the album, of which Angelique is perhaps the best.

All sleeve notes come from conversations with Mark Powell