O – is for Mike Oldfield

Thursday 30th June

In 1973 Virgin Records, almost a one-man operation back then, released its first record “Tubular Bells” by the then unknown Mike Oldfield.  It was a strange choice; a completely instrumental record with no singing – one long track really, and every instrument played and multitracked by Mike himself.  But it was an instant hit; I’m not sure it ever got any radio play either but it soon gathered fans.  I was one, I almost played my copy to death.  Mike released several other long pieces “Hergest Ridge” and “Ommadawn” to slowly diminishing sales.  He had a couple of singles with Maddy Pryor singing but despite Tubular Bells 2 and 3 he has never had the same success.

So what is it about the original Tubular Bells?  Well, it isn’t like anything else, or any Pop or Rock record before or after.  It has the brilliant Viv Stanshall at the end introducing the same motif on different instruments.  It is really a classical symphony played on Modern Instruments, and at the same time a fore-runner of a lot of techno and electronic music, especially in the repeated refrains and constancy of the melodies (if there really are any). It was a remarkable achievement by a mere twenty year old and continues to sell well.  Excerpts from it have been used in countless films and TV programmes and it remains a favourite of mine.  Each time I hear it, it sound fresh again and somehow refuses to date.  Maybe because Mike did this all on his own with no input from other Musicians or Producers or Record Company Exec’s that it is so unique and brilliant.

Tubular Bells [2009 Remaster]