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Tubular Bells
(released 25th May 1973)

Tubular Bells

Further information:

Richard Carter's
Tubular Bells page

Transcript of The Intro And The Outro

Sally Oldfield's website

Vivian Stanshall site

Tom Newman's website

Abbey Road website

Guide to HDCD format

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Track Listing

1: Tubular Bells Part One (25:34)
2: Tubular Bells Part Two (21:45) / Sailor's Hornpipe (1:33)

Other Artists

Master of Ceremonies: Vivian Stanshall
Flutes: Jon Field
String basses: Linsay Cooper
Vocals: Mundy Ellis, Sally Oldfield
Steve Broughton


While Mike was a member of Kevin Ayers And The Whole World, he borrowed a tape recorder from Kevin to record demos of pieces of music he had composed. This tape (having been rejected by practically every record label) caught the interest of Richard Branson, who decided to release it as the first album on his new Virgin label. (The demos can be heard on the DVD-Audio version of Tubular Bells 2003.)

Part One was recorded in a week during September 1972, and Part Two was recorded over the next few months up to Spring 1973 (and finishing touches were added to Part One).

The 'Master of Ceremonies' section saw Viv Stanshall reprise his role from The Intro And The Outro, a track from The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's debut album New Tricks.

The Caveman Song in Part Two was written in the 1960s, when Mike was in a folk group with his brother Terry. The tune had lyrics at that time, but Mike preferred to leave it instrumental. After Virgin persuaded him to include vocals on the album, he added growling sounds to this section.

The section at the end of Part Two (before the Sailor's Hornpipe) had previously been incorporated into Why Are We Sleeping? when Mike was in Kevin Ayers And The Whole World. A recording of this is available on Too Old To Die Young.

Trevor Key designed a cover for the album based on Richard Branson's suggested title Breakfast In Bed (a modified version of this appears on Heaven's Open). However, as Mike disliked the title, he made another suggestion. Having dented one of the tubular bells by using too large a hammer, Mike wanted the cover to have a bell that had been smashed or twisted by a gorilla. Trevor then built a twisted bell, and superimposed it over a photograph of burning bones on a beach. His fee was £100.

Versions of Tubular Bells

The original album (May 25th 1973)

Quadrophonic Remix (July 28th 1974)
Quadrophonic Remix Picture Disc (1974?)
Both of these feature Tubular Bells in Quadrophonic Sound (4-channel Discrete Quad, known as "CD-4" , which stood for Channel Discrete 4. This system required a special needle and turntable to pick up 4 separate channels on the LP).

The Sailor's Hornpipe is followed by the sound of a model aeroplane to demonstrate the capabilities of Quadrophonic sound (the aeroplane was flown around the studio by Mike and Tom Newman when they got bored with remixing).

Boxed Remix (26th October 1976)
Comprising the first disc of Boxed, this is a Quadrophonic remix (this version is in SQ format, which requires an SQ decoder to create 4 channel sound encoded on two-track LPs. No special needle or turntable were required, allowing them to be played on standard equipment as well).

Mike more or less destroyed the original set of Tubular Bells (and they were sonically distorted on the original recording), so a new set was bought and played on the Boxed remix. The Reed and Pipe Organ was also re-recorded, sounding less "buzzy" than on the original version. The Sailor's Hornpipe, featuring a commentary by Viv Stanshall, was cut from the original album, but reinstated on this version.

Quadrophonic Remix Picture Disc - alternative pressing (1978)
This contains the Boxed Quadrophonic version mixed into stereo, but reverting to the instrumental Sailor's Hornpipe from the 1973 release.

CD version - first pressing (1983)
Early pressings of the CD had incorrect bass equalisation.

CD version - corrected (1983)
These later pressings corrected the bass equalisation problems present on the earlier copies.

Elements version (November 1993)
This was the first digital remaster of Tubular Bells, carried out by Chris Blair at Abbey Road. This appeared on disc 1 of Elements: 1973-1991.

25th Anniversary Edition (25th May 1998)
A high-quality remaster carried out by Simon Heyworth. The first few seconds of Part Two are missing on this version.

On some pressings, the stereo channels on Part Two have been reversed.

HDCD Remaster (29th May 2000)
Remastered again by Simon Heyworth at Chop 'Em Out studios in London, March/April 2000. This version is in the high-quality HDCD format, which provides higher sound quality when played in an HDCD-compatible CD Player.

SACD Remaster (5th February 2001)
This version contains 3 layers:
- stereo mix (which can be played on standard Audio CD-Players)
- SACD stereo mix
- four-channel mix of the Boxed version.

This was the first SACD released by Virgin.

Credit: David Porter of The Mike Oldfield Information Service, Richard Carter, Philip Bendall, Chris Worland, Bob Angilly, Martin Bartosik.

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