Monday, October 8, 2007

Tubular Bells is a record album, written and mostly performed by Mike Oldfield (and later orchestrated by David Bedford for The Orchestral Tubular Bells version). The late Vivian Stanshall provided the voice of the "Master of Ceremonies" who reads off the list of instruments at the end of the first movement.

All Music Guide 5/5 stars link Tubular Bells Significance
The opening theme, which was eventually chosen for The Exorcist, gained the record considerable publicity and is how most people have probably first heard the work. It was also used in the 1979 movie, The Space Movie, in several episodes of the Dutch Bassie en Adriaan children's series, and in a television advertisement for Volkswagen in 2003. The opening theme has been sampled by many other artists such as Janet Jackson on her song "The Velvet Rope". The opening theme has also gained cultural significance as a 'haunting theme'; this is due to the association with the Exorcist. It was used in an episode ("Ghosts") of the BBC series My Family for this very reason.

In popular culture
Tubular Bells can be seen as the first of a "series" of albums consisting of Tubular Bells II (1992), Tubular Bells III (1998) and The Millennium Bell (1999), leading some critics to suggest that Oldfield was like Quasimodo — "chained to the Bells". Finally in 2003 Oldfield released Tubular Bells 2003, a re-recording of the original Tubular Bells with updated digital technology and several "corrections" to what he saw as flaws in the first album's production. This version is notable for replacing (the late) Vivian Stanshall's narration with a newly recorded narration by John Cleese.
Other versions include a quadrophonic version in 1975 ("For people with four ears", as the sleeve said; the quad mix was later used for the multi-channel part of the SACD release), an orchestral version in the same year (the Orchestral Tubular Bells with David Bedford), and different live recordings; a complete one can be found on the double live album Exposed from 1979.

Tubular Bells series
The cover design was by Trevor Key, who would go on to create the covers of many Oldfield albums, and was inspired by Magritte's "Castle in the Pyrenees".
The "bent bell" image on the cover is also associated with Oldfield, even being used for the logo of his personal music company, Oldfield Music, Ltd. The image was also the main focus for the cover art of the successive Tubular Bells albums.

Album art

"Tubular Bells" — part one — 25:36
"Tubular Bells" — part two — 23:20 Track listing

Album progression
Part one opens with a soft minor key piano line in 15/8 eventually played verbatim by organ and glockenspiel. This riff is made up of two bars; the first bar is in 7/8, the second bar is in 8/8. These are later joined by a different line in bass guitar. An occasional punchy organ chord, first heard at about 1:02 in, accents this piece, harmonized by variations of the anchor line and a later incorporated 3/4 chord sequence, both in piano. At around 3:00, a gentle flute line appears, which segues into a section of 4/4-7/8-7/8-4/4, and at 3:40 an electric guitar line, the latter entirely in 4/4.
After the electric guitar line ends, a softer, fast guitar line ("speed guitar," as listed in the liner notes) takes over, only to be interrupted by an acoustic guitar line overlaying the original piano phrase in major key. A gentle glockenspiel/piano piece takes over, but is later replaced with a fast piano section, occasionally accented with organ chords.
The mood of the first 6 minutes is soon replaced by edgy electric guitar and, afterward, a sinister organ chord, with various changes in pitch and duration. But, once again, a more refined, carefree section ensues, dominated by acoustic guitar and piano, eventually returning to the soft riff first heard just past four minutes into the piece.
A 3/4 variation of the original theme comes next, followed by eerie bass and organ playing, segueing into a bluesy shuffle on electric guitar. Once again, when it looks like the piece will be serene (when the nasal choir intervenes), another edgy guitar line ensues, with Oldfield incorporating both 4/4 and 7/8.
After that, a more folky acoustic line plays (with background tambourine), but is suddenly cut off by the tolling of bells. A weary acoustic guitar line follows, breaking into the eight-and-a-half minute "Finale" section, commencing with a double bass line in 5/4, polyrhythmically played with a 4/4 acoustic line. After the bass and guitar unite into the 4/4 line, the acoustic guitar tacets and is eventually replaced by soft pipe organ notes (usually lasting four or eight full beats) while the bass line plays.
After the 10-bar bass phrase is repeated several times, Stanshall introduces many of the instruments appearing in part one up to then, beginning with the keyboards, followed by glockenspiel and all guitars before the tubular bells are announced, the ensemble becoming more dynamic and full as more instruments are said. Finally, after the tubular bells enter, a wordless feminine chorus starts to sing. Farther down, the Finale ensemble fades out to an acoustic guitar solo, which takes up the remainder of part one.

Progression of part one
Part two begins where part one left off; a soft, simple piece, this time, beginning with bass guitar and working up with other guitars and keyboards. The opening time signature is 6/8, but a later line plays a similar melody in 3/4 on various instruments, beginning with guitar. The opening section builds for five minutes before the second section starts, another 3/4 section at half tempo on acoustic guitar, with accompaniment on organ, mandolin and female chorus.
At around 8:48, the piece becomes edgy and surreal again, as the "bagpipe guitars" enter the piece (electric guitars with added effects to give it the bagpipe-esque sound), playing a 12/8 piece of sorts. About 11 minutes in, the intensity of the section builds as the guitar pitches increase and a heavy piano "roll" plays, climaxed by a sudden ascending glissando on the piano.
What comes next is one of the more unusual parts of the entire album. Tympani rolls and drum kit commence this part, highlighted by unintelligible "lyrical" screams by Oldfield (who, according to rumours, was then intoxicated), in rebellion to how Richard Branson wanted him to include at least one part with lyrics to release as a single (at the time, Oldfield was not interested in adding lyrics to his music). This is listed in the liner notes as the "Piltdown Man". Oldfield's yelling is countered by various phrases on piano, guitars, and the "Moribund chorus," with this piece abruptly ending on one loud shout exactly 16:29 in.
As expected, another quiet section ensues, a 12/8 piece mostly dominated by guitars and organ. This section gives an excellent insight into the psychedelic, spacey side of Oldfield (a similar sound to that of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour), which would also be present in his third album, Ommadawn. After about five minutes, an optimistic organ line plays, segueing into a climatic arrangement of "Sailor's Hornpipe".
"Sailor's Hornpipe" begins with just one guitar playing at a moderately slow tempo, but quickly mutates into a gradually accented piece with multiple instruments (including an unlisted violin), ending with two loud, accented notes. In live performances, Oldfield would reach incredible tempos and "Sailor's Hornpipe" alone became a staple of his concerts.

Progression of part two
There are three known variations of the vinyl edition of Tubular Bells.
1. The standard stereo black vinyl version catalogue number V2001 (white label with twins image)
2. A quadrophonic version, black vinyl catalogue number QV2001. The first 40,000 copies of this are not true quadrophonic but doctored versions of the stereo issue, thereafter the subsequent copies are true quadrophonic. Unfortunately there is no indication on the record label that this substitution was made.
3. The Picture Disc, catalogue number VP2001. This is a stereo remix of the quadrophonic version. The only difference being in the sound of the "Reed and Pipe Organ" during the ceremony of instruments. This version appears in the "Boxed" compilation.

Sound mixes

Acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa, Hammond, and Lowrey organs; flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, "honky tonk" piano (piano with detuned strings), mandolin, piano, "Piltdown Man", percussion, Spanish guitar, "double speed guitar", "taped motor drive amplifier organ chord", timpani, violin, vocals and of course, tubular bells.

Mike Oldfield

Steve Broughtonpercussion
Lindsay L. Cooperstring basses
Mundy Ellis — vocals
Jon Fieldflutes
Sally Oldfield — vocals
Vivian Stanshall — Master of Ceremonies
Nasal Choir
Manor Choir (Simon Heyworth, Tom Newman, Mike Oldfield) Stereo record joke

Part one was recorded in just one single week at The Manor Studio, immediately after John Cale's sessions and just before Bonzo Dog and Viv Stanshall began recording. .. The recording sessions
Mike Oldfield's Single was the first 7-inch single released by Mike Oldfield, in June 1974. It featured a re-recorded extract from part two of Tubular Bells as the A-side, while "Froggy Went A-Courting" was the B-side.


Computer games
With the aid of the software house CRL and distributor Nu Wave, Mike Oldfield released an interactive Commodore 64 version of the album in 1986, which utilised the computer's SID sound chip to play back a simplified re-arrangement of the album, accompanied by some simple 2D visual effects.
The "interactivity" offered by the album/program was limited to controlling the speed and quantity of the visual effects, tuning the sound's volume and filtering, and skipping to any part of the album.
The software was not very successful, partly due to its unusual nature. It can be considered the first, if not only, example of commercial, albeit relatively simple, interactive computer demo or "musicdisk", while other sources consider it a "union between music and videogames".
This, combined with the low quality of the final sound output compared to the original album, despite the C64 arguably having one of the best sound chips of its era, decreed the attempt's failure. It's also one of the earliest attempts by part of a musician to release an interactive/multimedia software based on his works, before the CD-ROM era and before the first videogames and multimedia discs licensed by a music artist appeared.

Commodore 64
In 2004 Oldfield launched a virtual reality project called Maestro which contains music from the re-recorded Tubular Bells album (Tubular Bells 2003). The original title of the game was The Tube World.

Cover versions