Even if you know nothing else about Mike Oldfield, chances are you've heard of his 1973 album Tubular Bells. It broke new ground in its instrumental capabilities and also helped launch Virgin Records.
Mike Oldfield was born in 1953 in Reading, Berkshire,and as a composer has worked across progressive rock, folk, world music, classical, electronica and New Age. He's also well known for his reworking of the piece 'In Dulci Jubilo. He is known as a multi-instrumentalist, although particularly favours the guitar - something which resulted in some pretty long solo guitar spots in his later pieces.
It was while attempting to get his Tubular Bells composition off the ground that he met Richard Branson, in 1972. It was a match made in musical heaven (for a while anyway!), and soon after the track was released to wide acclaim. It spent 279 weeks in the UK Top 10 chart, and also appeared on the soundtrack to one of the all-time biggest horror movies, The Exorcist. Oldfield's follow up piece Hergest Ridge made it to number 1.
In 1975, Oldfield received a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition. He went on to composing a number of tracks for other artists, and even wrote the score for the film The Killing Fields. He continued to release on Branson's label, until they parted ways after (ahem) musical differences.
In 1992 Oldfield was signed to Warner Bros Records, and finally wrote Tubular Bells II (which Branson had been urging Oldfield to do for a long time), and in 1998 Tubular Bells III, then in 2003 Tubular Bells 2003 - a reworking to fix many of the imperfections Oldfield spotted in the original.