Tubular Bells stands as arguably one of the greatest achievements in rock history -though it doesn’t really qualify as rock music, or pop, or jazz or anything else. It is pop-electronic music, perhaps part Philip Glass and part Pink Floyd/Genesis. But whatever it is, it is remarkable not only for the complexity of the two nearly 20 plus minute movements, but for the manner in which it was recorded -and who it was recorded by.
Mike Oldfield was 17 or 18 years old in 1971 when he wrote and recorded a demo of “Tubular Bells Part One“ nearly in its entirety. To do this he played every instrument and overdubbed each instrument on top of the last (to understand just how many instruments this is, listen to the track. This is no guitar-guitar-bass-drums setup. He is credited on the album with playing nearly 20 instruments). He was 19 years old in 1972 when he began recording the album for a new record label looking for a hit, Virgin Records. Once again he would play nearly all of the instruments on the album, save for the odd flute or voice.
The video below was filmed for the BBC in November of 1973 and features Mike Oldfield himself leading an all-star band through “Tubular Bells Part One”. Oldfield can be seen playing bass and guitar alongside Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine, Pierre Moerlen and Steve Hillage from Gong, and other Canterbury Scene heavyweights. Soon after this performance and the attention generated by the album Mike Oldfield shied away from the limelight, preferring to write and record in the country. Enjoy!