Feature

The voices in Mike Oldfield’s head

Mike Oldfield, whose album <em>Tubular Bells </em>became a hit when it was featured in <em>The Exorcist, </em>is convinced he inherited a touch of madness from his mother.

Mike Oldfield is a painfully sensitive man, says Ben Mitchell in Q. Best known for the hit 1973 album Tubular Bells, the English musician says he’s so attuned to the pain in the world that he can sense impending disasters. “It’s not like a premonition. I just feel physically ill and very uncomfortable. I’ll feel like that, turn on CNN, and think, okay, what went wrong?” Oldfield is convinced he inherited a touch of madness from his mother, who spent time in a mental ward. A bad 1970 acid trip didn’t help. “It freaked me out, all the things I saw.” He was still suffering flashbacks when he wrote Tubular Bells, which became a megahit when it was featured, appropriately enough, in The Exorcist. “I felt possessed by some sort of evil spirit when I was writing it. As if something had invaded me spiritually and made me afraid and uncomfortable. I was at the verge of insanity.” Then, in 1978, Oldfield underwent a form of est-like therapy in which he relived the agony of emerging from the womb. “It’s like having a heart transplant, all your teeth taken out, and both legs amputated. It was tough, but it needed to be. It stopped me being afraid of life.” Today, at 56, Oldfield has become a virtual recluse, ignoring even his own children—nine, from three different women. “I’ve always been very mistrustful of people. I don’t have any friends. Complete and utter silence is my favorite music.”

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