Mike Oldfield - Changeling
The Autobiography Review
As Mike himself says, biographies are often ... not exactly what we thought they might be, and the nice thing about "Changeling" is that while it is a biography, in many ways, it comes off as a kind of diary of thoughts and ideas, and when I first read it, the book did not hit me much, but a few months later, reading it again, the book lined up a lot more than I thought, and in fact, I think that I myself felt like I reacted ... with a sort of mental panic attack!
It is a detailed account of his younger days, pretty much through the album "Tubular Bells" and some more beyond that, although after the putting together of that album, the book seems to have a bit less interest, since it took so much to get to the story of the first album. In some ways, I thought I did not find out enough about the following albums, and some other things that he has put together, up to and including his being on stage again ... which description seems like it goes ... whiff ... gone ... at least compared to the earlier discussion and pretty much first two thirds of the book.
At least, though, you get a very good sense of the time and place, and how the school system affected Mike during his young days. His parents get a large amount of time and space, however, his learning guitar and some music, was almost all by himself, by recognizing the mathematical design of the whole thing and how some folks were able to work it, and his comments on classical music are magnificent, and he clarifies that he really wanted to create music like that, not just a rock song.
A part of the book is about his inner self and how he has come to grips with it. he does spend an honest amount of time discussing his therapies and internal thoughts, and these, while important to the music, and how it was designed, is hard for many of us to read, as one can feel despondent, and then wonder ... how the heck can he do that? Hard to believe that he can get a guitar pill, and off to the races every thing goes.
It is, a very different book, from most biographies, in that this is not quite about the crazy musician that clamors for fame, and for the most part, he just wants to be alone, and he discusses his fun with a lot of reviewers and how frustrated he got with most of them. Sometimes, many of us prefer the quiet space, and maintain the study and look and continuity of our own inner thing. For Mike this inner thing was problematic, but he took a while to connect that to his music, and make sense of it. As an example, for me, it is all about that inner movie and its continuity and my ability to translate it ... and I really do not seem to worry too much about its connections to the past and some of those events, even if some of them are clear for me, that connection would be way too esoteric for anyone else to relate to or understand anyway, so I tend to not concentrate on that so much.
In the end, it is an interesting book, and quite far and away from the books about "stars", which makes it different, and I had to read it a second time a few months later, because the first time, the book simply did not click, and was, for me, a bit of a turn off. I had not quite connected his experiences to the music, mostly because I had my own "movie" to just about all of his music, thus, his own "movie" was not exactly important, even if what I was seeing was more from his experience than mine, which I have figured it to be about a 50/50.
Good book to read, but a bit serious and the stuff around the therapies is something that I would prefer not to have, or discuss, but that was a part of Mike's therapies that helped him get his life and work done.
But what great music, it helped define! Very nice book, although I am not sure I would consider it great.
One last item, and it is what I would consider an odd one, but it is something that goes against the definition and grain by most websites these days, and it is that Mike considers his music "progressive" and that is a bit different than what is considered "progressive" these days, and it might, somewhere along the line, add some more discussion to the topic, which needs to be done anyway. "Progressive" as is defined right now, is not even about the music ... it's about a format for a top ten like design for others to follow, and that is not an appropriate definition for "music", specially individualized and special works, as those that Mike has created all his life.
(More added later ... )
One other detail about Mike's book, that
probably needs a mention ... he tells us that one of the weird things in the
business is that there were not, after "Tubular Bells" a huge influx of music
and materials that were longer and more experimental.
Actually, I would like to correct Mike on that ... there were many experimental and different things done, but they were not done in America or England ... and I have always thought that the reason why is that the music "business" in those two countries is so designed to grab money in any way it can, and many record companies, and the only thing missing is for Mike to mention their names (... which would be un-professional, but needs to be done ...) to help expose the folks that are in the business to make money and completely disrespect the artists and the music ... for the hit.
This is a problem, even for a "popular" website, that even has a "top ten" for their folks to entertain themselves, but in the end, it hurts the interest and the ability to listen to something else that is not known or discussed. The reverse of it all, is that a lot of this music (at least Mike's ... no one discusses Ryuichi, or others!) is NOW, many years later, finally recognized, but the "business" is still not helping different artists coming around and bringing out different music, and a lot of the comments, and reviews, have a tendency to not appreciate anything that is ... I call it "classical music minded", though it does not have to be defined by that music at all, and be much more free form.
To me, what killed the Fillmore's and the American music scene from the 60's was ... the music business and record companies. They were the ones that refused the extended material ... so they could have a "hit" for the radio. At least, England, made room for a lot of these side artists, though many of them never were that famous, but many of them, have made an amazing history of their material and work, because the artistic side of it was allowed to express itself ... and this was NEVER DONE in California, or New York (try it in Memphis!), and as such .. the best you get is 3 minute cuts by The Ramones. Nice to party with, but not a whole lot of music there!
Please email me with questions and/or comments
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