For those of us who have the original vinyl album of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells in our collection, and even the highly collectable picture disc version, can tell you just how iconic a record this was back in the day, and continues to be today.
First of all, it was this record which really launched the then newly founded Virgin Records, it was in fact the first album to be released on the label by Richard Branson.
Secondly, Tubular Bells is world-renowned as one of the most celebrated examples of music in film for its soundtracking of horror classic The Exorcist. I can remember sitting in the cinema, watching what is without a shadow of doubt the scariest movie of all time, freaked out by the film but captivated by the incredible soundtrack.
Its use in the movie helped make the album the multi-million seller it went on to become. It was like a perfect storm of great music, the right record label and a movie which everyone wanted to see back in 1973.
Yes, that does in fact make the record 50 years old, and to mark the occasion Mike marking the occasion with a huge tour this year. TUBULAR BELLS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION will get to Swansea Arena this evening – Friday 24th March.
All of the tour dates and tickets details are at the bottom of the page.
The tour will feature an expansive live group, conducted and arranged by Mike’s long-term collaborator Robin Smith. It will see Tubular Bells performed in full, along with further Mike Oldfield compositions.
A version of the show premiered at Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank in London last year, with The Times calling it ‘… a slick presentation of Tubular Bells at 50’, and the Mail on Sunday commenting ‘… the bells do the business’.
ROBIN SMITH, conductor of the show, was completely mesmerised by Tubular Bells the moment he heard it. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School High Wycombe and then studied Composition at the Royal College of Music. He spent several years working as a piano/keyboard player in Africa, the Caribbean, USA, and Europe before coming back to UK to join National Youth Jazz Orchestra. He quickly became the principal pianist and spent most of his free time composing new jazz compositions.
Robin has collaborated with Mike Oldfield for over 30 years, with performances of Tubular Bells including at Edinburgh Castle, and also the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
We spoke to Robin from his lovely Cotswold home and very soon realised his passion for this incredible album. Robin has reimagined it for the noughties while retaining all the elements which made it unique. He told us about the tour, his long working relationship with Mike Oldfield and his regular trips to Wales to see his son who is studying medicine in Cardiff.
First of all, we asked him if he was a fan of the album when it was first released…………
Tubular Bells, was created in 1971 but took a further two years before it was released in 1973. It was the debut studio album by multi-instrumentalist, composer, and songwriter Mike Oldfield, who was just 17 years old when he started composing the music. He recorded and played almost all the instruments on the album, gained worldwide recognition when the opening theme was used for the soundtrack of The Exorcist, and went on to become the highest selling instrumental album of all time.
A bold and progressive fusion, Tubular Bells is a journey through classical, jazz, folk, progressive rock, and electronica and went on to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 1974.
Talking about the album back in 2000 Mike said……..
“I was so focused, and I put all my concentration and all my energy – emotional, spiritual, physical even – into it. There’s a lot of joy in it and there’s a lot of suffering in it. There’s good and bad, there’s all areas of life: there’s comedy, there’s ugliness, there’s beauty, there’s everything in it, all made by my young self.
I didn’t know anything about the world, just for one reason or another – mental instability, some hallucinogenic drugs maybe, the circumstances of my childhood. The feeling of being different, being a kind of outsider, it all comes out in that music and maybe it appeals to people going through that stage.
As they get into their teens, they think, What is life, what am I supposed to do. It develops and encapsulates all of that.”
The Tubular Bells aren’t they only unusual instruments on the album. It also includes a Farfisa organ, a Lowrey organ, and a flageolet (a kind of wind instrument). There were also flutes, a mandolin, and of course, tubular bells. The bells are represented on the original album cover.
Mike followed up the album with the release of Tubular Bells II in 1992 and Tubular Bells III in 1998. In 2003, to commemorate 30 years since its release, he released a new version of the Tubular Bells album that he worked on for nine months, recording with modern equipment.
He’s also had a few hit singles, most notably his version of Sailor’s Hornpipe (the Blue Peter theme) and Moonlight Shadow with his sister Sally on vocals.
Speaking about the tour Robin told us………….
“Along with the musicians, I’m really thrilled to be offering this beautiful re-imagined version of Tubular Bells to a wider audience up and down the country. It was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in August 2021 to great acclaim, as an early celebration of Mike Oldfield’s stunning work – so to be touring the UK in the 50th year is a huge privilege for me and a perfect tribute to one of England’s greatest composers.
Joining us on the tour will be the renowned guitarist, Jay Stapley who performed with me at the iconic Tubular Bells II concert live from Edinburgh Castle in 1992.
The wonderful thing about Tubular Bells is that it never seems to age, the actual composition is just perfect and is as spell-binding now as it was 50 years ago. It incorporates so many things – folk and rock, blues and jazz which evoke such melodic beauty and drama. This performance also features others works by Mike: Moonlight Shadow, Omadawn and Summit Day.”
TUBULAR BELLS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION will get to the Swansea Arena tonight, Friday 24th March.
For more information on the tour, go HERE
2023 Tour Dates
24th March Swansea Arena
29th March Harrogate Royal Hall
30th March Sheffield City Hall
31st March Bath Forum