Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield
Updated: Feb 13
I knew I'd introduce this album sooner than later, but what prompted me to do it after Regatta de Blanc is that Andy Summers, Sting, and Steward Copland met as backup musicians for a live performance of Tubular Bells, so in essence, we owe The Police to Mike Oldfield.
I recently heard Malcolm Gladwell say that there are different thresholds to enjoying and understanding music (and art). Sometimes, we don't like something the first time we listen to it, and after a few times, we can't live without it. This was the case for me with Tubular Bells. Listening to this album is like going to a classical music performance; one has to work to enjoy it, but the enjoyment goes well beyond the anticipation. This is an album that for many, may be easy to dislike and dismiss, but persisting with it is really worth it.
Tubular Bells is the first album by Mike Oldfield; interestingly, it is the first album of Virgin Records too, an album so strong that it started Richard Branson's emporium.
This music concept has only two songs, Tubular Bells Part I and Part II, which is only the case because, at the time, they had to fit it on sides A and B of a vynil; otherwise, it would only be one song. On either side, it starts with what one might consider monotonous music but slowly adds complexity and variety. Once immersed in it becomes a surprising journey on every corner that culminates in the introduction of all instruments utilized in this piece ending in, of course, the tubular bells. The end of Part I is so good that the only way to savor it for me is when I have listened to the whole thing. After listening to Part I's culmination, one doesn't have the incentive to go through another 20-minute journey for Part II. But, when the moment arrives, one has to appreciate Mike Oldfield's need to prove that he is a rock musician. Part II is as good as Part I, yet very different.
While the recording of Tubular Bells has some guest musicians, most of the instruments were played by Mike Oldfied and then overdubbed.
This record came out in Jan 1973 with minor success but gained significant traction after an abstract of it was used in the blockbuster movie The Exorcist. Oldfield has 20+ records after TB, many of them exceptional, but none have come close to his opening act.