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50 years of tubular bells

Celebrate 50 years of this classic album with fopp!

2023 marks a momentous occasion as Tubular Bells, by the legendary musician, Mike Oldfield turns 50 years old. To celebrate this milestone and the release of the 50th anniversary edition reissue, we’re rediscovering the captivating and unforgettable sounds that have made Tubular Bells a cultural icon.



The year was 1973, and the music world was in flux. Rock and roll had become a bloated caricature of itself, and the counterculture was looking for something new. Enter Mike Oldfield’s debut album, Tubular Bells, which would go on to become one of the most important albums of the era.
Tubular Bells was a revolutionary album that blended rock, classical, and folk music in a way that had never been heard before, a solo effort by Mike Oldfield, who played nearly all the instruments himself. This was an unheard-of feat in the world of rock and roll, where musicians were expected to stick to their respective instruments.
But it wasn’t just Oldfield’s instrumental prowess that made Tubular Bells such an important album. It was a concept album, which told the story of a journey through the various sections of a church bell. Each section of the bell was represented by a different musical theme, and Oldfield’s music captured the mood and essence of each section perfectly.
What really made Tubular Bells so important was its impact on the music world. At a time when rock and roll had become stagnant, it injected new life into the genre. A needed breath of fresh air that inspired countless musicians to experiment with different styles and sounds.
The album’s impact was felt most strongly in the progressive rock genre, which was just starting to emerge at the time. Bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, and Genesis were all heavily influenced by Tubular Bells, and their music would go on to shape the sound of progressive rock for years to come. But Tubular Bells wasn’t just a progressive rock album. It was a genre-defying masterpiece that transcended labels and categories. It was a musical journey that took listeners on a wild ride through different styles and sounds, from folk to classical to rock and everything in between. Not without its critics, however. Some accused the album of being pretentious and self-indulgent, and others dismissed it as a novelty record that would soon be forgotten. But these criticisms only served to fuel the album’s popularity, as fans rallied around it and defended it against its detractors.
It wasn’t just the music that was revolutionary. The album’s production techniques were equally groundbreaking. Oldfield used multi-track recording to layer different instruments and sounds on top of each other, creating a dense and intricate musical landscape that was unlike anything that had come before. 
We can’t talk about Tubular Bells without mentioning The Exorcist, it capitalized on the ethereal allure of the album, harnessing its eerie essence to haunt the minds of unsuspecting viewers. With its hauntingly repetitive melodies and hypnotic rhythms, the music snaked its way through the film, seeping into the very fabric of terror. The association was so potent that the album became synonymous with the possessed, spinning heads and levitating beds. A marriage made in hell, indeed. And what followed was a seismic eruption of success. Riding the wave of demonic hysteria, the album clawed its way up the charts, ascending to the coveted top spot on the UK Albums Chart. The devil may have had his fun, but it was Mike Oldfield who emerged victorious, his musical prowess soaring to newfound heights.
In the years since its release, the album has become a cultural touchstone, used in countless films and TV shows, its influence can be heard in the music of artists as diverse as Enya, Daft Punk, and Radiohead. But perhaps the most lasting legacy is the way it inspired musicians to push the boundaries of what was possible in rock and roll.
Ultimately Tubular Bells was more than just an album. It was a musical manifesto, a call to arms for musicians and fans alike. It showed that there were no limits to what could be achieved through music, and that the only true measure of success was the ability to create something truly original and groundbreaking, a genre-defying masterpiece that inspired countless musicians to experiment with different styles and sounds. Its impact can still be felt today.


This 50th Anniversary celebration edition of Tubular Bells, overseen by Mike Oldfield, contains a brand new half-speed Abbey Road master of the original album, plus a second album that unites several beguiling versions of Oldfield’s masterwork for the first time. Out 26th May!



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