Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mike Oldfield -- "Tubular Bells" (1973)

Richard Branson, who has an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion, is the man behind Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Games (video games), Virgin Holidays (a group tour operator), Virgin Broadcasting, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Cola, Virgin Money (banking/credit cards), Virgin Brides (I should hope so!), Virgin Trains, Virgin Cosmetics, Virgin Mobile (wireless telephone services), Virgin Active (health clubs), Virgin Cars (an online automobile retailer), Virgin Healthcare, Virgin Produced (movie/TV production), and Virgin Galactic (suborbital space flights for tourists and satellite launches).

Richard Branson with a lemur
Branson quit school when he was 16 to start a magazine titled Student.  He had some success selling records by mail order, and opened a record store on Oxford Street in London when he was 21.  But the first truly successful Branson business venture was Virgin Records, a record label he launched a couple of years after opening that record store.

The first album that Virgin Records released was Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.  Oldfield played about 20 different instruments on the recording, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, three different organs (Farfisa, Hammond, and Lowery), flageolet (a wind instrument that's similar to a recorder), glockenspiel (similar to a xylophone, but with metal keys), mandolin, piano, timpani, and (last but certainly not least) tubular bells.

Oldfield was 19 when Tubular Bells was released in 1973.  The album remained on the British charts for 279 weeks, taking over a year to climb to the #1 spot.  The use of the opening section of the album in the hugely popular movie, The Exorcist, made it a success on this side of the pond as well.  (A single that consisted of various snippets of Part One of the album edited together  was a #7 hit in the U.S.)

The album opens with alternating 7/8 and 8/8 measures -- other passages are in 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, and 12/8 time.

Oldfield is an ornery sort.  He moved out of the UK years ago in response to anti-smoking laws, the proliferation of security videocameras in public places, and  the requirement that moped drivers wear crash helmets.

Mike Oldfield today
The musician once sued Branson for shorting him on his royalties.  (“I had about eight lawyers, now I have three," Oldfield told a reporter recently.  “The day I have no lawyers, I’ll be a happy man.”)  Oldfield's 13th album is embedded with this Morse code message: "F*ck off, RB," but he and the peripatetic entrepreneur are on good terms today.    

Here's the "Tubular Bells" single:

Click below to buy the "Tubular Bells" album from Amazon:

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