Tubular Bells May 25th, 1973
Cover by Trevor Key
1. Part One 25:00 2. Part Two 23:50
Composed by Mike Oldfield except The Sailor’s Hornpipe which is Trad. Arr. Mike Oldfield Produced by Mike Oldfield, Simon Heyworth and Tom Newman Sleeve Design and Photography: Trevor Key Recorded at The Manor Autumn 1972/Spring 1973 PART ONE Mike Oldfield plays: Grand Piano, Glokenspiel, 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, Lowrey Organ, Tubular Bells, Master of Ceremonies: Viv Stanshall, Flutes: Jon Field, String Basses: Lindsay Cooper, Nasal Chorus: Nasal Choir, Girlie Chorus: Mundy Ellis, Sally Oldfield
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, Girlie Chorus: Manor Choir conducted by Mike Oldfield, Drums: Steve Broughton Unlisted but believed to be there… Mandolin, Violin/fiddle
This stereo record cannot be played on old tin boxes no matter what thay arefitted with. If you are in possession of such equipment please hand it into the nearest police station.
Additional notes from Richard Carter
Notes On The Instruments
Electric guitar – Mike only used one electric guitar on Tubular Bells, which was a blond Fender Telecaster with an extra pickup (a Bill Lawrence) fitted. This guitar was originally owned by Marc Bolan of T-Rex (although it only had 2 pickups at that stage). To create the ‘speed guitar’ and ‘mandolin like guitar’ sounds, the tape was ran at half speed while recording the electric guitar (meaning it plays back at double speed, which is what the ‘double speed guitar’ introduced at the end of part one is). Fuzz guitars just refers to the guitar being played through a distortion effect. To create ‘Guitars sounding like bagpipes’, Mike employed the slightly mysteriousGlorfindel box. This was an effects unit, encased in a wooden box, which Mike got from David Bedford, who’d been given the box at a party by its creator, a stoned hippy. The box was extremely unreliable in its operation, rarely giving the same result twice (Tom Newman was clearly unimpressed – talking in a 2001 interview with Q magazine, he said of Mike and the Glorfindel box: “he had this awful home-made electronics box full of horrid transistors, covered in faders and knobs which he called a ‘Glorfindel’. This was a piece of plywood filled with junk that he could plug his guitar into and sometimes a sound would come out. Sometimes the sound was good, but most of the time it was terrible.”)
It seems that, at least on this occasion, plugging the guitar into the Glorfindel box produced a heavily compressed and smoothly distorted guitar sound. Guitars were overdubbed at both normal and half speeds (as with the double speed guitar) to create the bagpipe sound on part two at 08:41. Mike took the idea of massed overdubbed guitars much further on the following two albums.
Bass guitar – According to Phil Newell, Mike borrowed one of Phil’s basses for Tubular Bells, which was a Fender Telecaster Bass from the late 60s.
Taped motor drive amplifier organ chord – The motor drive amplifier was a device that could increase the speed of a tape recorder, making things rise in pitch. Used on a taped organ chord, its effect can be heard in part one between about 04:13 and 04:16, behind the mandolins and again at 09:12, where it is a bit clearer.
Farfisa, Lowrey and Hammond organs – All types of electric organ. Not having access to any synthesisers (which were a fairly new thing and were also, in many ways, relatively primitive and were only able to play one note at a time), Mike instead used these organs to create all the album’s synthetic keyboard textures.
Flageolet – A type of wind instrument, originally wood, now often made from metal. The Irish tin whistle is a type of flageolet.
Honky Tonk – Honky Tonk pianos have some of their strings detuned, creating the ‘pub piano’ effect which can be heard at 13:49.
Piltdown man – The ‘caveman’ vocals that are on part two at 11:55. Mike had recorded all the instruments on this section, but thought it needed something more…just nobody was sure quite what. As a crazy idea had after drinking rather a lot of whisky down at the pub local to The Manor (according to one interview…another says that Mike found the whisky in the cellar of The Manor), they ran the tape at a lower speed while Mike shouted and screamed drunkenly into the microphone. With this, the caveman was born. Piltdown man refers to a famous archaeological hoax done with parts of human and monkey skulls put together, which were claimed to be the ‘missing link’ between man and ape.
Mandolin – This instrument isn’t listed on the album sleeve, but it is played in the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ section at the end (21:45). The instrument introduced as mandolin at the end of part one is probably also anacoustic mandolin (rather than a speeded up guitar), but it has been speeded up.
Violin/fiddle – Again, this isn’t listed, but listening to the Sailor’s Hornpipe section at the end of part 2, the sound of a violin being coarsely bowed can be heard on the left hand side (on most editions…see the note under ‘Other notes…’). It’s a kind of folk fiddle scraping sound. Whether it is played by Mike or not isn’t actually clear, of course, although producing this sound wouldn’t be completely beyond his abilities…
Notes On The Musicians
Steve Broughton – Played drums, guitar, bass and sang with the Edgar Broughton band.
Mundy Ellis – One time girlfriend of Richard Branson and manager of The Manor.
Jon Field – Founder member of band ‘Jade Warrior’. Jon played flutes in Tom Newman’s psychedelic band ‘July’ and so was brought in by Tom to play flutes on Tubular Bells. He also plays guitar, keyboards and violin, amongst other things.
Lindsay Cooper – British double bass, cello and tuba player, once active in the jazz scenes of London and Edinburgh. Linsay played with the Strawbs (first on cello, later on bass), alongside keyboard player Rick Wakeman. Lindsay Cooper sadly died in 2001. Not the same person as the female Lindsay Cooper who played on Hergest Ridge.
Vivian Stanshall – Leader of surreal group ‘The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’, who recorded at The Manor at the same time as Mike was recording Tubular Bells. Vivian was also the creator of ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’, a surreal radio series about life in an English country house, which Stanshall wrote and read himself. Vivian died in 1995, aged 52, in a fire in his home.
The Manor Choir – This was just Mike, Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth. Apparently, the ‘bootleg chorus’ is simply the shouts behind some bits of the ‘Piltdown man’ section. They felt it sounded like the shouts of a crowd on bootleg recordings of concerts, which was the reason for naming it the ‘bootleg chorus’.
Mike Oldfield’s original demos for what was to become Tubular Bells were recorded in his flat in Tottenham, London, using a Bang & Olufsen Beocord 1/4″ tape machine, which he had borrowed from Kevin Ayers, leader of ‘The Whole World’, the band that Mike had just left. Although only a stereo tape recorder, Mike managed to record many parts on the same tape by blocking off the erase head with cardboard and sticky tape. Instruments included his guitars, an electric organ and his mother’s hoover, which Mike used in an attempt to get a bagpipe drone sound. Mike then took his demo tape to various record companies, in an attempt to gain a record deal. He didn’t have much success at first, with everyone telling him that it wasn’t marketable. However, he played the tape to Tom Newman while he was working at Virgin’s new studio facility, The Manor, Shipton on Cherwell, Oxfordshire, England. Newman was instantly hooked, and eventually persuaded Richard Branson, Virgin boss, to let Mike have some studio time to record the album. He eventually agreed, and most of part one was recorded within the space of about a week. The rest was recorded whenever the studio wasn’t being used – often late at night. Branson tried to sell Tubular Bells to other record companies. When it was clear that nobody would take it, the decision was made for Virgin to release it themselves. It was the first record released on the label, hence the catalogue number V2001 (with the 1 being the important bit).
It was usual around the time of Tubular Bells’ release for rock records to be pressed on records made from recycled vinyl (partly the melted down sweepings from the floor of the record plant). The use of this recycled vinyl resulted in lower quality records – Mike (and presumably Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth as well) was not at all happy with the test pressings made on recycled vinyl, mainly because the sound of the Tubular bells themselves didn’t sound right. Branson eventually persuaded the cutting plant to press Tubular Bells on the unrecycled vinyl usually reserved for classical records.
The album was recorded onto a an Ampex 2″ 16 track recorder, with rumours that the number of overdubs ran into the thousands (although this has virtually been completely discounted).
At about 7:41 in part one, some whispering can be heard after the double bass part ends. It doesn’t seem possible to tell who this is, or what they’re saying, but it’s sort of interesting…whether it was left there deliberately or not is another matter.
Trevor Key, the sleeve designer, went on to do sleeve design and photography for acts like Jethro Tull, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. His sleeve design for Tubular Bells was probably a composite – several photos stuck together. Nowadays this is done with computers…In 1973, the tools would have been a scalpel and a tin of cow gum (a certain type of rubbery glue which smelt rather bad). The back and cover photographs are both the same place – Tom Newman thinks that it was either Hastings or Eastbourne, both places on the south coast of England. The back cover shows burning bones on a shoreline (Why? Who knows…) – Tom Newman said it was either Eastbourne or Hastings, while Mike says Brighton. That front cover though…The image has become famous, especially amongst Mike Oldfield fans – the shape of that bent ‘tubular bell’ has almost come to represent Mike himself (which is perhaps why he chose to use it as a logo for his company, Oldfield Music Ltd). The idea for the shape came, apparently, from when Mike hit the tubular bells for the end section of part 1. To get a heavier sound, he used large metal coal hammers instead of the wooden mallets that tubular bells are supposed to be hit with. The bells bent…this got Mike thinking. After considering ideas of tubular bells smashed or broken somehow, Mike arrived at the idea of the bell being bent. Trevor Key, an expert on photographing metallic objects, was called in, who took the idea from there… They had previously come up with the idea of calling it ‘breakfast in bed’ and using one of Trevor’s pictures of a boiled egg, with blood instead of yolk coming out. That picture was later used, in an altered form, for Heaven’s Open. Mike thought of the title after listening to Vivian Stanshall introducing the instruments at the end of side 1 (at least, that’s what he said at one time – Mike can often say different things to different people). He heard him go through all the instruments until…”Plus…TUBULAR BELLS”…at which point Mike thought “Ah, now I know what to call my album!” and the rest is history… That may not be true at all of course – the fact that Viv makes such a big thing about the tubular bells when they play seems to suggest that he knew that they were the ‘title instrument’ and therefore important… Trevor constructed the ‘bell’ from 1 1/2″ diameter metal tubing (presumably chromed) . It was probably then photographed in his studio – if it was photographed outdoors it would have had reflections of the sky in it, judging by the angle it has been taken from. If you take the cover of the LP and look closely, you can see where it has been cut out along the edges (it has been extremely well done – Trevor Key was skilled at this sort of work). The ‘tubular bell’ was cut out and stuck onto one of the photographs of the beach.
I’ve made a slightly puzzling discovery whilst listening for the violin in the Sailor’s Hornpipe at the end of part two. My original reference was the Tubular Bells 25th anniversary remastered CD. There, the violin appeared quite clearly on the right hand side. Fine…that was until I put a copy of disc one from Elements (the 4 CD set…also a remastered edition, in case you were wondering), which includes the whole of Tubular Bells. There, at the end of part two, was the violin in all its glory…on the left hand side. So I got out my Tubular Bells LP…the violin was on the left hand side there as well. Note we are talking about remasters and not remixes. Remastering in simple terms, is taking an exsisting stereo (ok, it can be mono as well, or quadrophonic, or something else…) mix and enhancing the sound of it using more up to date equipment (ok, to be precise, it’s carrying out the mastering stage again). In a remaster, we see none of the level and position changes of individual parts that we might see in a remix (though sometimes parts may seem more prominent, and things like stereo width can be enhanced). On further listening, I uncovered something almost startling. The whole of Tubular Bells part two on my 25th Anniversary edition CD was the wrong way round! The left and right channels had, somehow, been swapped over (and this is nothing to do with the equipment – I checked that, and have tried iton several CD players). Now all I have to do is find out why this is… As a little update on the above, it seems I may have a ‘faulty’ copy – i.e. they aren’t all reversed like this. It’s something I will investigate further.
© Richard Carter 2001