The current season for “spooky” stuff brings to mind a time honored classic – Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Oldfield was an unknown English teenager in 1973 when the haunting opening sequence from his highly acclaimed debut gained worldwide attention as the backdrop for Friedkin’s film version of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.
Since that time, Oldfield has revisited the Bells structure and themes for a host of sequels and alternate interpretations, including an orchestral version, various remixes, reissues, live and demo recordings. (Six different packages were released this summer alone!) The piece has also received several inspired (re)interpretations by others, including a 2008 recording for piano ensemble, and a wonderful version by the California Guitar Trio.
While trolling the murky depths of the internet this weekend, I ran across an interesting video of Oldfield performing the first segment of Tubular Bells for the BBC-TV on November 30, 1973, along with a rather stellar cast of accomplices...
- Mike Oldfield (bass, guitar)
- Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones) (guitar)
- Steve Hillage (Gong) (guitar)
- Pierre Moerlen (Gong) (percussion)
- Fred Frith (Henry Cow) (bass, guitar)
- John Greaves (Henry Cow) (keyboards, bass)
- Tim Hodgkinson (Henry Cow) (keyboards)
- Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow) (flute)
- Mike Ratledge (Soft Machine) (keyboards)
- Karl Jenkins (Soft Machine) (oboe)
- Ted Speight (Kilburn & The High Roads) (guitar, bass)
- John Field (Jade Warrior) (flute)
- Terry Oldfield (Mike’s brother) (flute)
- Tom Newman (voice)
(The full version of the video can be found on Oldfield’s Elements DVD.)
As it turns out, this was only the second first public performance of Bells – the first having occurred on 25 June 1973 in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, just a month after the album’s release. The reclusive Oldfield was so shaken by the public reaction to his initial concert that he avoided the live stage for several years. What’s truly “scary,” however, is that some 26 albums and three-and-a-half decades later, this stunning debut still holds up.
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells