Borrowing a Bang & Olufsen Beocord reel-to-reel machine from Kevin Ayers, Mike began recording pieces of a new composition he was working on. Using a piece of cardboard to cover the erase head on the recorder, Mike was able to record more instruments than would otherwise have been possible, allowing him to build the multi-layered sounds he required.

Fortuitously, Mike took part in a recording session - playing bass for Arthur Lewis - at a new studio called The Manor. The Manor was owned by Richard Branson, who was in charge of a successful record shop chain called Virgin, and was now providing recording facilities for musicians. The friendly atmosphere at The Manor persuaded Mike to play his demo tape to the people there.

Receiving encouragement from those present, including Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth, Mike was given the addresses of record companies to whom he take the demo tape. However, none of the companies felt it could sell.

A year later, Mike returned to Virgin, who by this time had decided to become a record company, and was allocated a week’s recording time at the Manor. Working quickly (Mike recalled later, “we didn’t even have time to tune the guitars”), that week resulted in the recording of almost all of Tubular Bells Part One. Over the next few months, during free moments between other artists’ sessions, Mike completed Part One, and recorded all of Part Two. Mike felt he had to record the music quickly, because he didn't believe that he would ever get another chance.

Playing over twenty different instruments, Mike quickly filled up all tracks on the tape, making Tubular Bells a complex, ambitious piece of music. Mike took this opportunity to give a new home to pieces of music that he had composed much earlier. The Caveman Song in Part Two was an old song he used to perform in Barefeet (the song even had lyrics at that point). The section which follows is based on a guitar solo that Mike had played on live performances of Why Are We Sleeping? with Kevin Ayers and the Whole World.

With a completed album in hand, Richard Branson tried to interest record companies in Tubular Bells at the record industry trade fair MIDEM. None thought it commercially viable without lyrics, making Branson decide that it should be the first record released by his new Virgin label.

On May 25, 1973 Tubular Bells was released, gaining immensely positive reviews, and soon reached number 1 in the UK album chart.

Despite Mike’s initial reluctance to perform Tubular Bells live, the work was premiered in June at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Branson persuaded Mike to do the concert by giving him his car). Mike was joined on stage by David Bedford, Kevin Ayers, and famously, Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones.

The popularity of Tubular Bells in America was partly due the use of a short section of it in William Friedkin’s horror film The Exorcist. Although Mike was said to have been unhappy about Tubular Bells’ connection with the film, he saw the film about 15 years later, to discover that “They only used about 20 seconds of Tubular Bells” and thought it was “the best comedy I’d ever seen”.








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