1974 Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Mike Oldfield grew up in England and first began playing the guitar at about age ten. He left school to avoid getting a haircut at age 15 and pursued a music career instead. He played in a folk duo with his sister from 1967 to 1970.
H then began work on Tubular Bells, a composition that sufficiently impressed Richard Branson to earn Mike a contract with Richard’s new label, Virgin Records. The label released the album in 1973 with few hopes for sales.
The entire song consisted of an instrumental that covered both sides of an LP, lasting nearly 49 minutes. Beginning at about 19:48, we hear from Vivian Stanshall, a narrator who chimes in to announce the arrival of nine different instruments. The last announced instrument is the tubular bells, which commence at about 22:50. Part one ends at 25:25; I doubt I ever listened to part two on the b-side of the album more than once.
A single version of the song simply included little more than the first three minutes of the song, the section that played over the beginning of the film The Exorcist. That unsettling music over the beginning of the surprisingly successful horror film led to the sale of over two million copies of Mike’s album.
That single reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1974. Mike did not authorize that edit of the single release, and he edited his own single for release in other countries, Mike Oldfield’s Single.
The album ignited Mike’s career and helped the New Age music movement reach prominence in the seventies. Since then, Mike has recorded at least two dozen albums, nine of which have reached the top ten in the UK. None of his subsequent singles have charted on the US Hot 100.
Mike rerecorded his album using more modern techniques with John Cleese as the narrator (Vivian had died) and released it in 2003.
His most recent album release came out in 2017.
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