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Music: Tubular Bells
"Plus... Tubular... Bells!" DONNNNNNNGGG!

Hugely successful debut album by artist Mike Oldfield. The album is known for its signature opening track, which was soon used as the recognizable music to the film The Exorcist, and also for its financial success, providing the foundation for what became Richard Branson's Virgin Empire. Previously, Branson had been the owner of a single, though quite successful, record shop.

Although Oldfield was to later become known as a New Age artist, he has stated that Tubular Bells is too dynamic to fall into such a category, though some elements are similar. It has, by contrast, been featured on rock album lists, and is usually classified as a Progressive Rock album.

Tubular Bells was released in 1973, and its success spawned the recording of The Orchestral Tubular Bells in 1974, but it was not until much later that Oldfield returned to his first album in force, releasing Tubular Bells 2 in 1992, Tubular Bells 3 in 1998 and Tubular Bells 2003 in 2003.

Oldfield plays nearly all the instruments featured on the first album himself through overdubbing - the only exceptions were flute (Jon Field), string bass (Lindsay Cooper) and drums (Simon Broughton). At the time, overdubbing was not so widespread as it is now, and was a notable feature of the album in 1973. The sequels continue in this practice, although some instruments are played by others.

Tropes pertaining to these albums include:

  • Bolero Effect: Every album but TBIII has a finale at the end of the first side of vinyl which, like the original Bolero, adds a different instrument each loop until everything is playing beneath the majestic entry of the titular instrument.
    • Later works such as Ommadawn and Music of the Spheres use this as well.
  • Credits Gag: Tubular Bells has a caption reading "This stereo record cannot be played on old tin boxes no matter what they are fitted with. If you are in possession of such equipment please hand it into the nearest police station." This is a parody of labels advising listeners that stereo LPs may be played on mono equipment provided suitable cartridges are used.
    • The gag is preserved on the remakes of the album, where it reads "This stereo record still cannot be played on old tin boxes no matter what they are fitted with."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Simon Heyworth commented that the cover of "The Sailor's Hornpipe" was added to the end of Part Two because it otherwise ended on a gloomy note.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: "Tattoo" off of TBII.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The "Bootleg Chorus" (Mike Oldfield and producers Simon Heyworth and Tom Newman) credited on Part Two is so named because their chant sounds like "Boot! Leg! Boot! Leg!". They are also credited as the "Manor Choir", named after The Manor studio where the album was recorded.
    • The "Girlie Chorus" (Mundy Ellis and Sally Oldfield) needs no explanation.
  • Fake Loud: In Tubular Bells the peak volume is intentionally held down until the titular bells are heard, leaving the impression that their sound is louder. Oldfield also mentioned that he was unable to use actual tubular bells due to budget constraints, so he ended up hammering smaller bells (hard enough to crack them, which inspired the cover) and recording them with excessive microphone gain, resulting in a distorted sound.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Tubular Bells cools down near the end with the sound of a distant tolling bell, setting the piece up for its climax.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Tubular Bells 2003 which is rerecorded with all the recording, mastering, and editing equipment that didn't exist in 1973. Most bits are more or less the same, but there are some significant differences.
  • Glory Days: Oldfield released his greatest hit within his debut album. While he has released several other respectable hits, none has really matched it in terms of critical success or musical influence. He has repeatedly re-recorded that song over the years.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: Every sequel and rerelease (as well as Tubular Beats) features the iconic "bent tubular bell" logo on a different background, and sometimes in a different color.
  • Improv: That epic acoustic bit right before "The Sailor's Hornpipe" on the original? Mike wrote the bassline and the basic direction he wanted it to go in, and bam.
  • Instrumentals: With the exception of "Man in the Rain" from Tubular Bells 3.
  • Long List: The liner notes' list of instruments Oldfield played on the album.
    Part One: Mike Oldfield plays: Grand Piano, Glockenspiel, Farfisa Organ, Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Speed Guitar, Taped motor drive amplifier organ chord, Mandolin-like Guitar, Fuzz Guitars, Assorted Percussion, Acoustic Guitar, Flageolet, Honky Tonk Piano, Lowrey Organ, Tubular Bells
    Part Two: Mike Oldfield plays: Electric Guitars, Farfisa Organ, Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitars, Piano, Speed Elec. Guitars, Lowrey Organ, Concert Tympani, Guitars sounding like Bagpipes, Piltdown Man, Hammond Organ, Spanish Guitar, Moribund Chorus, Mandolinnote 
  • Metal Scream: The "Piltdown Man" section, starting at 11:55 of part two.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Today most people will associate this music with the soundtrack of the film The Exorcist.
  • Throw It In: According to Mike himself, he made several mistakes while recording, but decided to leave them in. Then again, considering part one of the album was recorded in just a week, it might be more accurate to say he didn't have a choice.
  • Uncommon Time:
    • From the first:
      • The opening riff switches between 7/8 and 8/8.
      • The "Thrash" section just before the nasal choir switches between 7/4 and 4/4.
  • Writer Revolt: According to engineer Simon Heyworth, the "Piltdown Man" section resulted from Virgin Records owner Richard Branson pressuring Oldfield to add vocals to at least one section to make it more marketable as a single. Oldfield stormed out of the meeting saying "You want lyrics? I'll give you lyrics!", proceeded to get smashed on half a bottle of whiskey and "screamed his brains out" for ten minutes in the studio.

NevermindAlbums IndexBlows Against the Empire
Mike OldfieldThe SeventiesJohn Otway

alternative title(s): Tubular Bells
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