Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of “Tubular Bells”, Mike Oldfield’s first album.
Today, 25 May, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Tubular Bells, the album that marked the recording debut of British guitarist and composer Mike Oldfield. The album, a single piece spread over two sides of an LP, became an unexpected hit that made its teenage composer a star. It sold seventeen million copies and propelled Richard Branson’s Virgin Records to prominence, and its cover was even reproduced on Royal Mail postage stamps. Its recognisable opening notes also served as incidental sound accompaniment to certain moments in The Exorcist, but the album is much more than that refrain. Much more. It ranges from chamber music and folk to metallic rock and spaghetti western echoes, but what Tubular Bells should be remembered and regarded for is for having become the most remarkable and successful fusion of rock and contemporary classical music, American minimalism in particular, as Oldfield himself explained, many years later, in his autobiographical book, Changeling. The Autobiography of Mike Oldfield: “I had heard pieces on the radio by the minimalist composer Terry Riley. He had this repetitive riff called A Rainbow in Curved Air, a keyboard sequence that was almost like a round because the second part was the same as the first, but played half a bar later. I challenged myself to be able to do that: I wanted to see if I could get the right hand going, then the left hand with the same thing but two beats after. It was hard, and I was very proud of myself when I could play it.”