I remember I was fifteen years old in my bedroom reading Rolling Stone magazine (I thought I was so cool . . . ha!) and I saw this ad for a new record called Tubular Bells. I was a precocious little sh*t who knew that tubular bells were a orchestral percussion instrument but my interest was piqued. I wasn’t actually able to hear the record until a fair time later and not before it gained notoriety as the opening theme to movie The Exorcist, of which it only uses the first few minutes.
The record was the first record by a then 19 year old Mike Oldfield who played almost all the instruments on the mostly instrumental album. Prior to Tubular Bells, Oldfield had been playing with musicians associated with the progressive rock scene in Canterbury, England. The album was seen at the time as progressive rock with it’s long song form and extended instrumental passages, distinguishing itself from other prog records of it’s time by it’s lack of lyrics.
Since the initial release of Tubular Bells, Oldfield has released numerous records including Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn (1975), and Incantations (1978), all of which follow the longform, mostly instrumental structure of Tubular Bells. Mike Oldfield has also returned to Tubular Bells several times, recording a second and third installment, adapting the piece for piano and other instruments. The composition has also been transcribed and performed by an orchestra.
Mike Oldfield ‘Tubular Bells’ Live at the BBC 1973 (HQ remastered)
The next two videos are for the real music nerds out there. The first one is of Part One of Tubular Bells with the score of the piece to read along with. While I can read music, it’s not my strong suit but I find the experience of following the score with the music really gives me a new appreciation and understanding of the music.
To go further into music geekdom, the second video is a reaction/musical analysis of Tubular Bells by Doug Helvering, a classically trained composer who has a cool music reaction/analysis series called The Daily Doug. Definitely worth checking out.
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells, Part One1 (read along video)
Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield) Reaction & Analysis | The Daily Doug (Ep 278)