Tubular Bells released
The 25th of May 1973 AD
Tubular Bells is one of the most significant albums released in British rock history, and not only for musical reasons: it could be regarded as one of the cornerstone’s of Richard Branson ’s fortune; and has gone into our national musical lexicon as signalling for something scary thanks to its use in the classic horror movie The Exorcist, released in the same year as the album.
It is still hard to believe that Mike Oldfield was in his teens when he composed the first version of the piece, and was 20 when he recorded it at Richard Branson’s Manor Studios in Shipton-on-Cherwell near Oxford . The LP was the first to be released by the newly created Virgin Records, thus given the catalogue number V2001, and its massive success underpinned the growth of that business and thus the success of the subsequent Virgin empire: luck, or talent? Branson saw the potential when several other companies had turned it down.
But of course above all Tubular Bells is a beautiful piece of music, which showed the rock world that longer compositions could work (though sadly many who followed the model lacked Oldfield’s gift). It was also a demonstration of the possibilities of multi-tracking, used to harness the artist’s abilities on a plethora of instruments, thereby also highlighting there were more musical colours available to the genre than guitar, drums and bass.
The album got to #1 in 1974, and in all has spent more than 250 weeks in the charts, selling it is believed more than 15 million copies worldwide. It has appeared in the charts in every decade since the 1970s.
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