$10 Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells (Virgin - VR-13105)
Tubular Bells is the first album by English musician Mike Oldfield, recorded when he was 19 and released in 1973 when he was 20.
It was the first album released by Virgin Records and an early cornerstone of the company's success. Vivian Stanshall provided the voice of the "Master of Ceremonies" who reads off the list of instruments at the end of the first movement. The opening piano solo was used briefly in the soundtrack to the William Friedkin film The Exorcist (released the same year), and the album gained considerable airplay because of the film's success.
The 19-year old Mike Oldfield played the majority of the instruments on the album as a series of overdubs, which was an uncommon recording technique at the time. Oldfield was influenced by the pioneering recording techniques used by the Beatles in the late 1960s, classical music, and the minimalist work of Terry Riley. While on break from touring with Kevin Ayers, he recorded the demo pieces of Tubular Bells in his flat in Tottenham, London, in 1971, using Bang & Olufsen Beocord 1⁄4-inch tape machine which he had borrowed from him. By blocking off the erase head of the tape machine, he could overdub using it.[a] Oldfield approached several record labels with the demos, but was rejected on commercial grounds. He then played the demos to engineers at The Manor Studio, who along with manager Richard Branson, decided to record it.
The two parts of Tubular Bells were recorded between autumn 1972 and spring 1973. Part One was recorded in just one week at the Manor, in between sessions by John Cale and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Part two was recorded intermittently during down-time at the Manor over several months. The album was recorded on an Ampex 2-inch 16-track tape recorder with Dolby stereo, which was The Manor's main recording equipment at the time.
The only electric guitar to be used on the album was a 1966 blonde Fender Telecaster (serial no. 180728) which used to belong to Marc Bolan. Oldfield had added an extra Bill Lawrence pick-up and has since sold the guitar for £6500 and donated the money to the SANE charity. This guitar had been put up for auction a number of times by Bonhams in 2007, 2008 and 2009 with estimates of £25,000–35,000, £10,000–15,000 and £8,000–12,000 respectively. According to Phil Newell, the bass guitar used on the album was one of his Fender Telecaster Basses. All the guitars were recorded via direct injection into the mixing desk.
The set of tubular bells that were used on the album had been left by an instrument hire company after John Cale's sessions at the Manor, at the request of Oldfield. Having tried to produce a particularly loud note from the bells, using both the standard leather-covered and bare metal hammers, engineer Tom Newman resorted to a use of a normal heavier claw hammer to produce the desired sound intensity.
At 7:41 on 'Part 1', Oldfield can be heard counting '...2,...3' into the next section of music.
The Master of Ceremonies, introducing the instruments for the finale of Part One, was recorded at the end of the session. Vivian Stanshall had arrived at the Manor ready to start recording, and was asked by Oldfield to perform the narration. It was the way in which Stanshall had said "plus...tubular bells" that gave Oldfield the idea to call the album Tubular Bells.
The "Piltdown Man" section in Part Two was the only part of the album to feature a drumkit (played by the Edgar Broughton Band's drummer, Steve Broughton), which Oldfield later said made the section "fairly normal". The section began with a backing track of bass and drums, with Oldfield overdubbing all other instruments. The shouting sequence was developed near the end of the recording when he had practically finished recording the instruments for the section, but felt that it needed something else. The whiskey-fuelled idea to create the "Piltdown Man" effect was to shout and scream into a microphone while running the tape at a higher speed. Upon playback the tape ran at normal speed, thus dropping the pitch of the voice track.
To create the double-speed guitar, the tape was simply run at half speed during recording. Oldfield also used a custom effects unit, named the Glorfindel box, to create the 'fuzz' or 'bagpipe' distortion on some guitar pieces on the album. The Glorfindel box was given to David Bedford at a party, who then subsequently gave it to Oldfield. Tom Newman criticised the wooden cased unit in a 2001 interview with Q magazine noting that it rarely gave the same result twice.
The coda at the end of Part Two, "The Sailor's Hornpipe", was originally preceded by a longer rendition of the piece, featuring Stanshall giving an inebriated tour of the Manor over musical backing and marching footsteps. It was cut from the final version, though it can be heard in what the liner notes describe as "all its magnificent foolishness" on the compilation Boxed. It can also be heard on the SACD (multi-channel track only). This rendition of "Sailor's Hornpipe" was included in the 2009 Mercury reissue of Tubular Bells. A Spanish release of the box set missed out "The Sailor's Hornpipe" altogether and ended with the ambient section preceding it.
The working title for Tubular Bells was Opus One; Richard Branson thought to call it Breakfast in Bed. One of the possible album covers included a boiled egg with blood pouring out of it. This cover was edited and used as the artwork for Oldfield's final album with Virgin, Heaven's Open.
In the liner notes to Magma's Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh, an album recorded at the Manor at around the same time as Tubular Bells, Christian Vander claims "Mike Oldfield stole my music, more precisely, he stole some extracts from Mekanïk and The Dawotsin