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Tubular Bells (Part 1) by Mike Oldfield

Album: Tubular BellsReleased: 1973Charted:
  • This is an instrumental song that is more than 25 minutes long. The most famous part is the intro, which was used as the theme to the 1973 horror movie The Exorcist.
  • More than half of the instruments were played by Mike Oldfield. He insists that minimal synthesizer was used.
  • Some unusual instruments were used to record this, including a Farfisa organ, a Lowrey organ, and a flageolet (a kind of wind instrument). There were also flutes, a mandolin, and the tubular bells. The bells are represented on the album cover.
  • This makes up side one of the album. "Tubular Bells (Part 2)" makes up side two and is around 23 minutes long.
  • All the major record companies turned down the album. It was finally released on a new label called Virgin Records, and became the first album they issued. Virgin has since grown into a massive company, with an airline, record stores, and cell phone interests. Some of the artists who recorded for Virgin Records included The White Stripes, Moby, Aimee Mann, and The Black Crowes.
  • This was Oldfield's first album. It sold over 16 million copies.
  • The album hit #2 in the UK and #3 in the US. An edited version was released as the single and hit #7 in the US.
  • In 2003, Oldfield released a remastered version of the album to commemorate 30 years since it's release.
  • The UK release concluded with a rousing version of "The Sailor's Hornpipe" and a severely drunken Viv Stanshall babbling wondrously meaningless nonsense in an imitation of stuffy BBC announcers. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ekristheh - Halath
  • Oldfield told the Daily Mail March 14, 2008 that he'd been badgering Richard Branson and his business partner, Simon Draper of Virgin Records, to give him a break. He recalled: "They had been fobbing me off for a year. I was actually about to apply for citizenship of the USSR, where I thought I could become a state-funded musician. Then the phone run and it was Simon Draper asking me to come to dinner with Richard and his wife on their houseboat.
    Eventually, he asked me what I needed to make an album. So I gave him a list of guitars, drums and pianos. Tubular Bells weren't actually on the list. But, as I arrived at the studio, I noticed they were bringing some out from the last session, and I grabbed them. I had a hunch they might be useful."
  • Tubular Bells was one of the benchmark albums of the Progressive Rock era, spending 279 weeks in the UK chart and selling 15 million copies worldwide.
  • Speaking to The Daily Telegraph in 2014, Oldfield attributed much of Tubular Bells' success to its unusual key signature. "Most music is in 4/4 time, but that curious little figure at the beginning is in 15/8. It's like a puzzle with a little bit missing," he said. "That's why it sticks in the brain. And that's why it worked so well as the soundtrack to The Exorcist - with that little bit missing everything is not quite right."
  • Mike Oldfield wrote much of Tubular Bells on an old piano. He recalled to Uncut: "When I lived in Harold Wood, Redden Court Road, my grandma came to live with us. She was a pub pianist in the days when pubs were nice places, and people would go along for singalongs and could smoke. She brought her old piano to ours. It had a lovely vibe to it. Most of Tubular Bells was written on that piano."
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Comments: 26

I recently rebought the 1973 recording of "tubular bells" but Viv Stanshall is not on it WHY? Also the sailors hornpipe is a straight rip off from a TORNADOES B side called Popeye Twist.Roy - Slough
I believe that "Caveman" is not backwards, but that it was played back at half tape speed or so (which is identical to having been recorded at double tape speed). He did what Les Paul did way back in the 50's with his guitar, just the other way round. This procedure not only brings the tempo down, but also drastically alters the sound of a voice towards a caveman quality.Tom - Freiburg, Germany
Still soundz excellent 38 years on - TB2 also worth a try...Laurence - Bognor Regis, United Kingdom

'The UK release concluded with a rousing version of "The Sailor's Hornpipe" and a severely drunken Viv Stanshall babbling wondrously meaningless nonsense in an imitation of stuffy BBC announcers.'

This is not true. This version was removed from the original version before release and reinstated in a version in a later box.
Paul - London, -
I learned to play this by ear on the piano. I was 13 and had been taking lessons since I was six. I tried to find it on sheet music but drew a blank. I wanted to perform it at a recital.Paul - Washington Dc, Dc
So good to hear that someone did Pink Floyd one better (their songs "Atom Heart Mother" and "Echoes" took up an entire side of vinyl) by putting full album length tracks on BOTH sides of the disc.
Definitely a chilling song, especially the way I was introduced to it: Used to great effect in "The Exorcist."
Oldpink - New Castle, In
The tubular bells that Oldfield discovered in the studio, which he decided to use for the album, were from a previous recording session by John Cale.John - Rocklin, Ca
This is one song I'd take with me if I were stuck on an island with a very limited collection of songs to bring along. One can reflect, and the song can mean many things depending on where life happens to be going.Cecilia - Portland, Or
The famous end of this song, where Bonzo Dog Band leader Viv Stanshall names the instruments, bears a striking resemblance to Viv Stanshall's own song, "The Intro And The Outro", from the album 'Gorilla' (1967) - where the same jazz riff is repeated over and over, with new instruments being overlaid and introduced by Stanshall himself. The instruments include Val Doonican "as himself", and Adolf Hitler on vibes...Mars - Edinburgh, Scotland
The flageolet is a tiny wooden flute that makes the piccolo larger in comparison.Dean - Waltham, Ma
Actually the version of "Sailor's Hornpipe" with Viv Stanshall drunkenly narrating is included on the "BOXED" set (i.e the album which is called "Boxed"!)Razor - London, England
I gotta admit that I've listened to Part Two then Part One now, but that's just because it's very, very, very beautiful.
Also, I have TB 2003, wich is a much better re-doing of the original one. It's more clear and bright, thereby, you hear many new instruments although the sound stays the same.
Love the Bagpipe Guitar, Introduction and Blues section of that cd.
Olso, John Cleese was the master of ceremonies on this one, wich is olso kinda cool. :)
T. Michels - Venlo, Netherlands
To come back to the 'caveman' on part 2, okay I did listen to it more than once, it's just a totally hammerd Mike Oldfield grumbling nothing special. He was just screaming into the mic and that made the caveman. Vivian Stanshall or other men aren't the caveman, a totally drunk Mike Oldfield is/was.T. Michels - Venlo, Netherlands
Great song and an awesome intro wich gives me cold shivers eveytime I hear it.
And olso, at the end, when Vivian Stanshall introduces the tubular bells, that loud sound, awesome.
Olso great sleeve design. And although the Tubular Bells are illustrated bent on the sleeve, their actually straight. This 'bent idea' came from Oldfield himself. He used some heavier bangers for the Tubular Bells and thought he saw them bent. Therefor, he asked the sleevedesigner, Trevor Key, to make a bent one.
Key got his inspiration from the painting "Castle in the Pyrenees", by Magritte. (1959)
I only listen to part one, because I think Part 2 is actually worse.
Everyone should hear/know this immediat classic!
T. Michels - Venlo, Netherlands
what a mighty piece of work this is , would've loved to have seen this live , maybe a bit hard if Mike played all the instruments , would've been a lot of running around on stage....Pete - Nowra, Australia
This is an amazingly good album. I bought the LP when it first came out (yeah I'm an old f*rt) and played it until I wore out the record. I'll have to get a copy of the Mike Oldfield boxed set (also comes with two other Oldfield albums that I used to have, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, and excerpts from others) or download the set from iTunes sometime in the near future.Pat - Las Vegas, Nv
and thanks to you Si.... he sounded really polished.... would've been great to be a part ofPete - Nowra, Australia
thanks GavinPete - Nowra, Australia
The guy who introduced the instruments on Tubular Bells was former Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band member Viv Stanshall. Actor Alan Rickman (credited as "a strolling player") did the same duties on Tubular Bells II which was released 20 years later.Gavin - Dundee, Scotland
just found out he's name is Allan RickmanPete - Nowra, Australia
so who was the guy who introduced each instrument???Pete - Nowra, Australia
This is also used at the beginning of Book of Love's "Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls".Katie - Miami, Fl
The narrator at the end of Tubular Bells Part I is the late Vivian Stanshall who used to be lead vocalist with the Bonzo Dog Band.Si - London, England
at some points in the song, there are as many as 16 tracks mixed at once. Myself and three classmates did a cover of this song two years ago for an independant study project. We stole the show!Kyle - Wingham, Ontario, Canada
only ever played live a few times, as Mike Oldfield had an extreme case of 'stage fright'Peter - Sydney, Australia
It has been said that without this album the Virgin conglomerate would not exist.

I've forgotten who is the narrator at the end. It's not Oldfield.

I once heard a rumor that the "caveman grunts" on side two are backward. Not true. (I dismantled a cassette to find out!)
Anton - Hayward, Ca
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