Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells For Two

About Tubular Bells

In 1971, a young entrepreneur (Richard Branson) borrowed £30,000 off his aunt so that he could purchase a mansion and turn it into a recording studio. It was at the studio that Branson discovered an eighteen year old session musician called Mike Oldfield.

Oldfield had spent the past year using a homemade multi-track recorder to record a demo of a sprawling instrumental piece with the working title, ‘Opus One’. Branson was quite impressed with the piece and offered Oldfield one week of studio downtime to record it in full, with the intention of it being the first release on Branson’s new record label. Oldfield enthusiastically obliged, getting straight to work on the complex arrangement on which he would play nearly all of the twenty seven instruments it required.

When it came to record the ‘finale’ of side one, Oldfield had envisioned a recurring theme being performed by a series of instruments, each being announced by a ‘Master of Ceremonies’ (Viv Stanshall). After progressing through instruments such as grand piano, glockenspiel and guitars, Mike felt there needed to be something quite different and dramatic. It just so happened that John Cale (The Velvet Underground) had recently been recording in the studios with a set of tubular bells. Oldfield insisted they be used, although after playing them with the standard rawhide hammer, he felt the sound lacked grandeur. He went about testing different sticks and mallets, finally being satisfied with the great clanging of a large steel hammer from the garden shed, consequently denting the bells.

The final name of the album came about when Oldfield was discussing the ‘denting of the bells’ incident with artist Trevor Key. Inspired by this story, Key created an image of a bent bell floating above the ocean, and Oldfield decided the only apt title would be Tubular Bells.

Despite many people in the music industry considering the work ‘unmarketable’, Richard Branson launched Tubular Bells on 25 May 1973 as the first release on Virgin Records. The album reached No.1 in charts around the world, selling in excess of 25 million copies.


Why Tubular Bells ‘for Two’?

There has been a strange stigma attached to performing classic rock music which has probably come about by too many bad cover bands.

However, these albums are an important part of music history, and with many of the original artists no longer around to perform them, it is now time for a new generation to revisit them.

Our intention in performing Tubular Bells is not simply to help some baby-boomers relive their youth, but to bring a part of rock music heritage to a new audience. We are not trying to give audiences a Mike Oldfield tribute show, but rather take people on a musical journey with an exciting and vibrant performance of an intricate piece of music that is as relevant today as it was in 1973.

Daniel Holdsworth – April 2011