Platinum is the fifth studio album by English multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Mike Oldfield, released on 23 November 1979 on Virgin Records. It was Oldfield’s first album to include shorter songs and music written by others. A modified version of the album was released in the United States and Canada and titled Airborn.
The In Concert 1980 tour, which ran from April to December of that year, was in promotion of the album. In Germany the album peaked at number 11. The album has since been reissued with bonus material.
The first side contains the 19-minute title track that is divided into four parts: “Airbourne”, “Platinum”, “Charleston”, and “North Star/Platinum Finale”. The first two sections rely on melody played mostly with electric guitar; the first is slow in tempo and has many changes, while the second introduces a simple groove rhythm and a more repetitive song structure. “Airbourne” was the theme tune for the 1980s BBC children’s quiz show First Class. “Charleston” is a humorous piece with a simple rhythm and swinging melody that features a horn section. A female vocalist adds wordless vocals while Oldfield contributes some scat vocals in a whispering voice. “North Star/Platinum Finale” includes an excerpt from the 1977 Philip Glass composition “North Star”. The lead melody is not borrowed from Glass but the choir’s part. The constant bass drum beat and octave-jumping bass line start the section and guitar enters with the melody later. A funky guitar riff and chorus appear, and the lead guitar continues to play the melody over them. Engineer Kurt Munkacsi was a frequent collaborator with Glass.
“Woodhenge” is an instrumental track named after Woodhenge, a Neolithic monument located close to Stonehenge. On Airborn, the alternate version of Platinum only released in North America, the track was replaced by the disco-influenced track “Guilty”.
“Sally” is a song written and sung by Oldfield and Nico Ramsden as a tribute to Sally Cooper, Oldfield’s girlfriend at the time, who plays the tubular bells on the album. Shortly after the album’s release, “Sally” was replaced with a different track, “Into Wonderland”, sung by Wendy Roberts. The earliest pressings of the LP and cassette actually have “Sally” in the track listing despite the sleeve including it. Later copies and subsequent reissues of Platinum correctly list “Into Wonderland”.
Part of the song survives on the second version of the album, as the first 50 seconds of “Punkadiddle” is actually the last part of “Sally”. This fast part, with the same melody of the song’s chorus, served as a musical bridge to “Punkadiddle”, so it was kept. “Sally” can often be found as part of bootleg issues.
Oldfield wrote “Punkadiddle” as a parody on punk rock. On stage, he and his band performed the song bare chested.
“I Got Rhythm” is a cover version of the song by George and Ira Gershwin, featuring Oldfield’s arrangement from the jaunty original into a Broadway-style ballad with harmonised vocals from Roberts and orchestration, mostly performed on keyboards.