Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield

Considered on its own, birthday boy Mike Oldfield's masterwork Tubular Bells isn't so bad...

When it was released in 1973 it launched the nascent Virgin Records and thus the career of showboating billionaire Richard Branson - as to how good or bad that is, well, I'll leave it up to you - but where it really achieved its full horrific potential was when, that same year, it was used as the theme music for The Exorcist; it's now been a decade since I last saw The Exorcist, and the opening bars of the above clip still managed to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. Also, as a pioneering work of what we now call New Age music* it can be said to be either innovative or as having blazed a trail better left unblazed - again, depending entirely upon your point of view.

Oldfield has expanded and adapted Tubular Bells numerous times over the years in accordance with his own vision for the piece, and seems likely to continue to do so for many years to come... First came Tubular Bells II (1992), then Tubular Bells III (1998) and finally The Millennium Bell (1999); 2003 saw the release of - you guessed it! - Tubular Bells 2003, a re-recording of the original piece using updated digital technology and containing several 'corrections' of what he saw as flaws in the first album's production. This version was also notable for replacing the late Vivian Stanshall's narration with a newly recorded one by John Cleese.

*And what still others of us call 'newage' music...
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