Michael Gordon Oldfield (born 15 May 1953) is a British musician, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter best known for his debut studio album Tubular Bells (1973), which became an unexpected critical and commercial success and propelled him to worldwide fame. Though primarily a guitarist, Oldfield is known for playing a range of instruments, which includes keyboards and percussion, and doing vocals. He has adopted a range of musical styles throughout his career, including progressive rock, world, folk, classical, electronic, ambient, and new age music.
Oldfield took up the guitar at age ten and left school in his teens to embark on a music career. From 1967 to 1970, he and his sister Sally Oldfield were a folk duo The Sallyangie, after which he performed with Kevin Ayers. In 1971, Oldfield started work on Tubular Bells which caught the attention of Richard Branson, who agreed to release it on his new label, Virgin Records. Its opening was used in the horror film The Exorcist and the album went on to sell over 2.7 million copies in the UK. Oldfield followed it with Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn (1975), and Incantations (1978), all of which feature longform and mostly instrumental pieces.
“Far Above the Clouds” was released on 12 April 1999. The single is the final track from the album Tubular Bells III. “Far Above the Clouds” similarly features tubular bells in fashion with the part-one-finales of Oldfield’s previous works, Tubular Bells and Tubular Bells II. The sound of the bells has a slightly more dramatic tone than in its previous appearances, and it is a combination of actual tubular bells and sampled sounds from various keyboards, most prominently a Korg M1.
On 27 July 2012 at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony Oldfield performed renditions of Tubular Bells, “Far Above the Clouds” and “In Dulci Jubilo” during a segment about the NHS. This rendition appears on the soundtrack album Isles of Wonder.