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Mike oldfield ommadawn album cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released28 October 1975 (1975-10-28)
RecordedJanuary–September 1975
GenreProgressive rock[1]
ProducerMike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield chronology
The Orchestral Tubular Bells
Singles from Ommadawn
  1. "In Dulci Jubilo"/"On Horseback"
    Released: 14 November 1975[2]
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[1]

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.

Background and recording[edit]

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).[3] 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.[3] By the time Ommadawn was released, Oldfield had moved out of Kington and into Througham Slad Manor close to Bisley, Gloucestershire.[4]

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.[3] 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, perhaps as a result of Oldfield's numerous overdubs.[4] The African drums were recorded at The Manor Studio in Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire where Oldfield had recorded his first two albums.[4]

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 comes from the Gaelic word amadan or omadhaun, meaning "fool".[4][contradictory]


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. The motif which opens and closes Part One borrows heavily from the melody of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. 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.[5]

History and versions[edit]

An SQ system quadraphonic remix version of Ommadawn was released on Boxed a year later.

Its first live performance was by the Liffey Light Orchestra at Trinity College Dublin on 1 May 1977.[6] At the time of the album's release Oldfield did not regularly tour, but he began to include pieces from the album on his concert set lists from 1980 onwards.

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.[7] 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)".[8] 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.

Album title and lyrics[edit]

In his autobiography, Changeling, Oldfield states that he just wanted "sounds" not "sensible" lyrics. He asked Clodagh Simonds, an Irish musician with whom he was working, to come up with something in Irish. She wrote down the first words that came into her head:

Daddy's in bed, The cat's drinking milk, I'm an idiot, And I'm laughing.[9]

Oldfield states that Simonds had telephoned a relative or friend to translate these words into Irish for the song. The final lyrics included with the album are:

Ab yul ann idyad awt
En yab na log a toc na awd
Taw may on omma dawn ekyowl
Omma dawn ekyowl

These lyrics are written in an English-based respelling system, but all four lines are easily recognisable as an Irish translation of the English words, although the first two lines have undergone a process of partial scrambler: combinations of vowel + semivowel are kept intact, but otherwise the lines are written backwards (so, e.g., idyad awt corresponds to taw daydi) and some word spaces have been changed. In standard Irish orthography, the lyrics are (with English translation, since the translation does not match the original exactly):[10]

Tá daidí 'na leaba
Tá an cat ag ól an bainne
Tá mé an amadán ag ceol
Amadán ag ceol
Daddy’s in his bed
The cat’s drinking the milk
I’m the idiot singing (or the singing idiot)
Idiot singing (or singing idiot)

The word "idiot" (amadán in Irish) was Anglicised into "Ommadawn" and used as the title of the album. Prior to his autobiography, Oldfield had denied this meaning of ommadawn, calling it a nonsense word, apparently as a ruse to enhance the mystery of his music.[11][12][contradictory]

"On Horseback" and "In Dulci Jubilo"[edit]

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.[9]

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".

Track listing[edit]

All words and music written by Mike Oldfield, except where noted.

Side one

  1. "Ommadawn (Part One)" – 19:23

Side two

  1. "Ommadawn (Part Two)" – 13:54
  2. "On Horseback" (not titled) – 3:23
  • "On Horseback" is not listed on the record label, but added to the length of "Ommadawn (Part Two)", giving it a new length of 17:17. It is, however, referred to on the inner sleeve where it is noted that "the words to the horse song on side two by Mike Oldfield and William Murray". The songsheet for "On Horseback" says "Music by Mike Oldfield, Words by Mike Oldfield and William Murray".

Mercury Records reissue[edit]

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'.[13] The album includes "In Dulci Jubilo", "First Excursion", "Argiers" and "Portsmouth".[14]

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.[15] 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 and released on 14 June 2010.[16] There are no un-signed variants.




  • Mike Oldfield – producer, engineer
  • David Bailey – cover photographs
  • Phil Smee – CD package design (2010 remaster)


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Netherlands (NVPI)[18] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[19] Gold 100,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b Ommadawn at AllMusic
  2. ^ "Mike Oldfield Discography – Singles – "In Dulci Jubilo"". Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Powell, Mark (1975). Ommadawn [2010 Reissue] (Booklet essay). Mercury Records. pp. 3–5, 7–9. 532 676-2.
  4. ^ a b c d Dallas, Karl (25 October 1975). "Beyond the Ridge: Portrait of a Genius". Melody Maker. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Ommadawn Instruments". Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  6. ^ Stewart, Ken (28 May 1977). "From the Music Capitals of the World". Billboard: 70.
  7. ^ "Amarok". Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  8. ^ "All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music". Tony Palmer. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  9. ^ a b Oldfield, Mike (2007). Changeling – Autobiography of Mike Oldfield. Virgin Books. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-7535-1307-1.
  10. ^ The translation was seemingly done by a non-native Irish speaker and contains several grammatical errors. In Standard Irish, a corrected version would be: Tá daid(í) ina leaba / Tá an cat ag ól an bhainne / Is mé an t-amadán ag ceol / Amadán ag ceol.
  11. ^ "The title". 18 August 2004. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  12. ^ "Mike Oldfield FAQ". 30 December 2004. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  13. ^ "Ommadawn Deluxe Edition". Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  14. ^ "Ommadawn". Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Ommadawn Limited 180 gram Vinyl LP". What Records. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  16. ^ "Hergest Ridge & Ommadawn – Deluxe Editions – 7th June 2010". 27 April 2010. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  17. ^ Oakes, Tim (June 1980). "Mike Oldfield". International Musician and Recording World. Retrieved 28 February 2019 – via Rock's Backpages.
  18. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Mike Oldfield – Ommadawn" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 30 April 2019. Enter Ommadawn in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  19. ^ "British album certifications – Mike Oldfield – Ommadawn". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 1 May 2019. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Ommadawn in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]