The Way I Was: Now I know what fun is: Mike Oldfield tells Nicholas Roe how he learnt to relax with his fame

IT'S QUITE a posed photograph. It was David Bailey who took it. He came out to a little house I had on the Welsh border, where I moved after Tubular Bells. It was one of a series taken for my third album, shot through a window when it was pouring with rain.

I was about 22 or 23 and, creatively, it was a very good period for me. It was beautiful living in that part of the world and I was very happy with my work. But I was very unhappy personally. The basic problem was that I was scared by the success and the attention I was getting. I hadn't dreamt it would be like that; or maybe I had, when I was much younger, but I was 20 when Tubular Bells was released, and by that stage I wasn't thinking about fame.

I was just very insecure. I was also very serious, and had a particularly intense view of the world. There are terrible pressures on young musicians when they're successful - to do this interview, travel all over the world, give concerts.

I began suffering a lot of phobias - agoraphobia, claustrophobia - and though I really wanted to travel, I couldn't stand the idea of flying or being in large cities. I didn't like being in a car, let alone an aeroplane. There on the borders with the rolling hills to look at, I felt a lot happier.

The place was hardly luxurious. It had been a golfers' shelter, and the rooms were so draughty that, when the wind blew, the carpets moved off the floor. I had a few local friends - one was the owner of the local watering hole, and I used to go down there at the weekend and play medieval music. No one knew who I was.

By this time, I think a lot of people had changed their attitude towards me. They expect you to be different because you've sold some records. But you haven't changed; they have. The whole idea of fame is such an illusion. I think that work, for me, meant escaping from the real world. Rather than face it, I retreated into music. It was more than comfort - it was like being an autistic person who is talented at one special thing.

So in the period when this photograph was taken, I was living music 24 hours a day, sleeping, then getting up and working all day. The only other pleasure I had was getting drunk, but that was just to deaden the pain of not making music. It was really awful.

What finally changed me was therapy, towards the end of the Seventies; realising that a lot of my problems stemmed from growing up in a house where one of my parents was ill for much of the time: my mother. In fact, she died not long after this photo was taken, and I was devastated.

Now I look back at that picture and think: I could have been having a ball. I was a sad person and life wasn't much fun, apart from when I was making music which kind of made up for it. There was so much joy there, it balanced things.

Looking back, I'm not sure I would change anything. Having gone through that period, I'm more appreciative of how things are now. I'm as creative as I was, but I don't have to work so hard purely as a matter of survival. I can take a day off and drive down along by the sea and enjoy it. I don't drink so much. I have a wine cellar and I drink bordeaux wine instead of any old thing that's alcoholic.

I've discovered fun. I don't know how, really. I suppose by learning to like myself . . .

'Elements - Mike Oldfield 1973-1991', a four-CD boxed set, will be released by Virgin on Monday.

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

    £16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

    Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high