top of page

Tubular Bells

Here are 50 facts about Mike Oldfield's groundbreaking album, "Tubular Bells".

1. "Tubular Bells" is the debut studio album by English musician Mike Oldfield. It was released on May 25, 1973, and marked Oldfield's breakthrough as a musician.

2. Mike Oldfield started composing "Tubular Bells" at the age of 17. He wrote much of the album on an old piano.

3. Mike recorded it when he was just 19 years old, showcasing his remarkable talent at a young age.

4. "Tubular Bells" is known for its unique blend of progressive rock, folk, and classical influences. The album remains one of the most iconic and influential albums in the history of progressive rock.

5. Oldfield played all instruments on the album including grand piano, glockenspiel, Farfisa organ, bass guitar, electric guitar, percussion, acoustic guitar, tubular bells, tympani, Hammond organ, Spanish guitar, vocals.

6. In fact the only instruments Oldfield didn't play were the flutes (done by Jon Field), The drums (Steve Broughton) and string bass (Lindsay Cooper).

7. Mike Oldfield's sister, Sally Oldfield, provided vocals on the album.

8. The album's title refers to the tubular bells, a set of tuned percussion instruments prominently featured in the music.

9. Oldfield's use of multitrack recording techniques allowed him to create a layered and intricate sound. There are more than 250 layers of sounds on the recordings.

(Photo: Virgin Records)

10. "Tubular Bells" was initially rejected by several record labels, believing the piece was unmarketable without vocals.

11. In the end entrepreneur Richard Branson a record store owner liked the demos.

12. In 1972 Branson used money earned from his record store to launch the record label "Virgin Records".

13. Branson bought a country estate north of Oxford in which he installed a residential recording studio, The Manor Studio. He invited Oldfield to start recording the album in the studio.

14. "Tubular Bells" was the first release on "Virgin Records" and became the label's most successful album of all time.

15. The album was produced by Tom Newman and Mike Oldfield.

16. Richard Branson wanted to name the album "Breakfast In Bed", with a cover image of a boiled egg dripping blood.

17. "Tubular Bells" is best known for Part One, particularly the first three and a half minutes of music, which feature a repeated motif in the key of A minor with a 15/8 time signature.

18. The album's opening theme was famously used in the horror film "The Exorcist" in 1973, gaining it widespread recognition.

19. The opening theme of "Tubular Bells" has been sampled and referenced in various forms of media, including films, television shows, and commercials.

20. "Tubular Bells" reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and remained on the chart for over five years (spending 279 weeks).

21. It also became a commercial success internationally, reaching high chart positions in multiple countries.

22. The album has sold over 2.7 million copies in the United Kingdom alone and over 15 million worldwide.

23. It has been certified platinum in several countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

24. Oldfield's success with "Tubular Bells" helped establish "Virgin Records" as a major record label.

25. The album's success allowed Oldfield to experiment with different musical styles and genres in his subsequent works.

26. It also allowed him to build his own recording studio, The Beacon, in the English countryside.

27. The original release of "Tubular Bells" included a fold-out poster featuring illustrations by artist Trevor Key.

28. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Engineered Recording" in 1974 and won a Grammy Award for "Best Instrumental Composition".

29. The album's success led to a resurgence of interest in instrumental and progressive rock music during the 1970s.

30. The album was featured in the BBC documentary series "The Old Grey Whistle Test" in 1973. In this documentary Oldfield arranged a live performance of the whole album.

31. It took 21 musicians (including Pierre Moerlen, Mick Taylor, Kevin Ayers, Steve Hillage) and 12 singers among others his sister Sally Oldfield to perform all of Oldfield's roles and instruments on the original album.

32. The track "Tubular Bells Part One" features an iconic section known as the "Sailor's Hornpipe" section, which showcases Oldfield's guitar skills.

33. The track "Tubular Bells Part Two" was recorded over about 4 months. It features a section known as the "Caveman" section, which includes primal and tribal rhythms.

34. Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band serves as the "master of ceremonies" on this track, appearing near the end of the song when he introduces various instruments that then each play the same melody: grand piano, reed and pipe organ, glockenspiel, bass guitar, double-speed guitar, two slightly distorted guitars, mandolin, Spanish guitar and introducing acoustic guitar, tubular bells.

35. The album's success helped popularize the use of the tubular bells instrument in popular music.

36. The actual tubular bell doesn't come in until 1:02. Its sound is distorted, which was Oldfield's doing.

37. "Tubular Bells" was re-recorded by Mike Oldfield in 2003 for the album's 30th anniversary.

The 2003 version, titled "Tubular Bells 2003," features updated arrangements and additional instrumentation.

38. An orchestral version produced by David Bedford was released in 1975 as "The Orchestral Tubular Bells".

39. "Tubular Bells" was featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

40. Following the success of "Tubular Bells," Mike Oldfield released two sequels: "Tubular Bells II" in 1992 and "Tubular Bells III" in 1998.

41. "Tubular Bells II" was a deliberate homage to the original album, featuring new arrangements and variations on familiar themes.

42. The album was performed live at Edinburgh Castle in 1992, accompanied by the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra and guest musicians.

43. "Tubular Bells III" further expanded on Oldfield's musical ideas, incorporating electronic elements and modern production techniques.

44. The track "The Source of Secrets" from "Tubular Bells III" features vocals by Amar, adding a new dimension to the music.

45. Mike Oldfield performed live versions of the "Tubular Bells" trilogy in a series of concerts, often accompanied by orchestras and guest musicians.

46. "Tubular Bells" received critical acclaim upon its release and has continued to be highly regarded by music critics.

47. The album's cover art, featuring a bent tubular bell, was designed by Trevor Key.

48. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.

49. It's included in Q magazine's 1998 list of "The 50 Best Albums of the '70s", Tubular Bells was placed at number six.

50. The album was also included in the book "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die".

Follow us on Facebook or Subscribe to our website

"Face/Off" - Israel's Rock Blog & Podcast


Enjoying the Blog? Subscribe to get it right to your mail!

Thank you !!

bottom of page