Tubular Bells

24 Nov


It’s going to be difficult to write anything original about Tubular Bells, the recording which launched the Virgin Records label (catalogue V2001)  back in 1973 and is probably responsible, at least in part, for transforming Richard Branson from the owner of a mail order record company into the tycoon he is now.  It was, of course the solo debut of Mike Oldfield (recorded when he was still in his teens and his only other recordings were as part of a folkie duo with his sister). It’s also something where the bulk of the performance is by Oldfield himself, using multiple overdubs in a way that was still pretty unusual at the time (although there are other musicians involved) and it contains just two tracks (called, imaginatively, part 1 and part 2).

It’s also a piece that is almost entirely instrumental. The first of two exceptions being Viv Stanshall‘s monologue introducing each instrument at the end of part one. This of course reprises the Master of Ceremonies role monologue in the track ‘The Intro And The Outro’ from the Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band‘s 1967 LP Gorilla. This had also been parodied by the Incredible String Band on a track called ‘Waiting For You’ on their 1970 album Be Glad For The Song Has No Ending – right down to the plummy accent).  The second set of ‘vocals’ appears on the ‘Piltdown Man’ section in part two and comprises Mike Oldfield grunting screaming and snarling – allegedly because Branson wanted some lyrics in the performance in order to have a single to release.  He didn’t get the single but I don’t suppose that was a problem because Tubular Bells has sold by the millions, deservedly so since it was and remains an original, innovative and creative work.

PS: Oh yeah, I don’t suppose being used in the soundtrack of The Exorcist got in the way either!


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