808s / The UK's Greatest Hits

The UK’s Greatest Hits: 42. Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield


Tubular Bells  – Mike Oldfield – 1973

First listen?: Yes

The last ‘new’ album for me to listen to in this whole series, Tubular Bells is unlike anything else, on this list or otherwise. An instrumental piece composed and performed almost single-handedly by a 19 year old Mike Oldfield there are no ‘tracks’, just a Pt1 and a Pt2 on either side of a Vinyl. Opening with the now iconic bells theme used in The Exorcist and closing with a jaunty version of The Sailor’s Hornpipe it’s a baffling album to try and jump into out of context or next to typical pop records. It’s not quite a classical piece, though I wouldn’t say it’s fully prog rock either. It’s a performance piece that flits between genres unexpectedly the effect placed on the guitars throughout giving each new layer a distinctive sound. It’s impressive to think that this procedure of layering individual instruments over the top of each other was all but non existent in 70s music. Each time the initial ding ding ding of the bells comes back it’s in a new way, juxtaposed against a new set of instruments. It’s very hard to even consider what to say about such an interesting and baffling album. It’s the sort of album I feel bad listening to on a streaming service, where I feel the need to have the moments of silence while flipping over the Vinyl to start Pt2. Unlike anything else on this list, Tubular Bells is the strangest album to have captured the British public’s attention. Seeing it sat side by side on this list with Alanis Morrisette and the Grease Soundtrack just looks strange.

Rating: ?/10 I still have no idea what to think.

Will I listen again?: I don’t think so.

Best Track: The bit with the bells and the guitar was quite good. I think.

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