|Studio album by|
|Released||28 October 1975|
The Manor Studio
|Mike Oldfield chronology|
|Singles from Ommadawn|
Ommadawn is the third studio album by English musician, songwriter, and producer Mike Oldfield, released on 28 October 1975 on Virgin Records. It peaked at No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart. The album was reissued by Mercury Records in June 2010 with additional content. A sequel album, titled Return to Ommadawn, was released on 20 January 2017.
By late 1974, Oldfield had become increasingly disappointed with the negative reaction towards his second album Hergest Ridge (1974). However, the situation sparked a creative period in his effort to deliver a follow-up that was "worthwhile and successful" that proved he was not a mere one-hit wonder following the unexpected commercial and critical success of his first, Tubular Bells (1973). When he decided to write new material, he wished to avoid working in a professional studio and instead, convinced his label Virgin Records to install a 24-track studio in his home named The Beacon in Kington, Herefordshire. By the time Ommadawn was released, Oldfield had moved out of Kington and into Througham Slad Manor close to Bisley, Gloucestershire.
Shortly after recording began in January 1975 Oldfield suffered a setback with the death of his mother. He later recalled that his new music was the only thing that provided any form of comfort from the ordeal. After several months of recording the entire first side had to be re-recorded because the original was irreparably damaged as the tape had shed its oxide layer. The African drums were recorded at The Manor Studio in Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire where Oldfield had recorded his first two albums.
The cover photograph was taken by David Bailey.
The album's title came about at the end of its production. Oldfield had spotted a collection of words that Irish musician Clodagh Simonds had made up, one of them being "ommadawn", and decided to use it. Oldfield rejected a claim that the title is a reference to "amadan" (pronounced "ommadawn"), meaning "the fool" in Gaelic.
Similar to his first two albums, Ommadawn is a single composition divided into two parts of the vinyl. Oldfield makes economic use of a relatively small number of subjects throughout Ommadawn and develops them extensively, both with musical variation and by varying the instruments used. Each of the two movements of Ommadawn utilise their own subjects without sharing them between the two movements. Oldfield sought out the ancient Celtic influence on English music and composed for traditional instruments such as uilleann pipes on the original LP version. A set of Northumbrian smallpipes were also recorded, and credited to "Herbie", but this recording was not used on the album.
Oldfield recorded each layer of sound and played the bulk of the instruments throughout Ommadawn, with the exception of a few musicians noted for their work in folk music: Clodagh Simonds, Paddy Moloney and the heavy African drumming of Jabula.
Oldfield plays two electric guitars: a red Gibson SG Junior and a blonde Fender Telecaster. Oldfield appears to have been using two electric bass guitars at the time; a Fender Precision and a Gibson EB-3. An acoustic bass guitar built by Tony Zemaitis and a Ramirez classical guitar appear on the album. The piano on the album is likely to be a Bösendorfer. A Fender lap steel guitar is also thought to appear on "On Horseback", although uncredited. Many of Oldfield's instruments from this period are shown in a photograph which was included in the Boxed 4-LP box set.
Oldfield's 1990 album Amarok was conceived as a sequel to Ommadawn, but turned into something quite different; Virgin had been pushing Oldfield for a sequel to Tubular Bells. An actual sequel album to Ommadawn, titled Return to Ommadawn, was released in 2017.
The topic of Ommadawn is covered in the final episode of the Tony Palmer documentary series All You Need is Love; episode 17 "Imagine (New Directions)". It includes Oldfield and Richard Branson discussing the album along with studio footage from the time.
Excerpts from Ommadawn appeared in the 1979 NASA film, The Space Movie. A small portion of Ommadawn "Part One" was used as the theme music for the BBC's Jackanory on occasions when John Grant narrated his Littlenose stories.
In June 2010 the album was reissued by Mercury Records; the release included a demo version of the work.
In his autobiography, Changeling, Oldfield states that he just wanted "sounds" not "sensible" lyrics. He asked Clodagh Simonds, one of the musicians with whom he was working, to write down the first words that came into her head. This resulted in the following in English:
The "lyrics" sung at the end of "Ommadawn (Part 1)" are:
Ab yul ann idyad awt
En yab na log a toc na awd
Taw may on omma dawn ekyowl
Omma dawn ekyowl
Oldfield states that Simonds had telephoned a relative or friend to translate into Irish for the song. The word "idiot" translated into amadán (often spelled in English as omadhaun) which he Anglicised into "Ommadawn" for the title of the album. Oldfield had previously denied this meaning of ommadawn, calling it a nonsense word, apparently as a ruse to enhance the mystery of his music.
Though the actual work Ommadawn is a two-part piece, there is a third track on the album, a short vocal song by Mike Oldfield and William Murray called "On Horseback". "On Horseback" relates to Oldfield, Murray and Leslie Penning's time riding ponies around the area of Hergest Ridge.
In November 1975, Oldfield released the single "In Dulci Jubilo", with "On Horseback" as the B-side. It reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1976. In France, "In Dulci Jubilo" was coupled to a remix of the end of part 1 of Ommadawn. Some copies of the album also include "In Dulci Jubilo" at the end, instead of "On Horseback".
The 2010 reissue includes "On Horseback" at the end of "Ommadawn (Part 2)" as one long track, as well as "In Dulce Jubilo" included as a bonus track. Three other bonus tracks are also included: "First Excursion", "Argiers" and "Portsmouth".
All words and music written by Mike Oldfield, except where noted.
On 7 June 2010 the album was re-released by Mercury Records. This came as part of a deal in which Oldfield's Virgin albums were transferred to the label. The re-release included a 2010 5.1 mix of the album and a track titled the 'lost version'. The album includes "In Dulci Jubilo", "First Excursion", "Argiers" and "Portsmouth".
The original LP artwork was restored; in previous CD issues the text had been centralised and increased in size. A 180 gram vinyl was released as a part of the Back to Black series. The digital edition contains the content from the two CDs of the Deluxe Edition. The Japanese release uses the SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) manufacturing process.
There is also a limited edition box set of the album, comprising a deluxe edition, an LP and a framed, numbered and signed print of the album artwork. Only 250 copies were produced and were sold through mikeoldfieldofficial.com and released on 14 June 2010. There are no un-signed variants.
Back to Black vinyl edition