The bells, the bells! Without doubt one of the most recognisable elements of the soundtrack to The Exorcist is its appropriation of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.
The record was an early success for the fledgling Virgin Records, marking quite a shift for a man who had started out as a folk guitarist playing with his sister in a duo known as The Sallyangie...
Unsurprisingly his sibling's name was indeed Sally! Following one album, Children Of The Sun, they would split with Mike going on to play with brother Terry in Barefoot. Then as the Seventies dawned he joined former Soft Machine man Kevin Ayers in The Whole World & would appear on two records, Whatevershebringswesing & Shooting At The Moon.
By September 1971 bells would begin to ring following rejections by several labels. Richard Branson would take a punt, giving him a week's worth of recording time at his Manor Studio in Oxford. In that week he completed part one of Tubular Bells, which would later find fame with fans of horror............
Having finished the record it would become the first release on the new Virgin Records label, May 25 1973 marking the completion of Oldfield's big project. In all he plays more than twenty instruments, in a remarkable display of versatility.
The late great John Peel was also a fan, saying Tubular Bells was...
“...entirely one of the most impressive LPs I’ve had the chance to play on the radio. A really remarkable record from Mike Oldfield.”The use of the opening in The Exorcist ensured entry into the top ten of the US singles chart, though the man behind the music wouldn't see the film until ten years after it came out! As he told the Guardian in response to a question regarding when he first watched it.
"About 10 years after it first came out. Every Halloween it still pops up. I even hear it on CNN [hums chilling refrain from Tubular Bells]. I'm the godfather of scary movie music."Some also dub him the godfather of New Age chillout music, the other end of the spectrum if it can be said there is one where he's concerned. He would jokingly claim that getting a Blue Peter badge was a bigger achievement, having performed an arrangement of the theme to the BBC's long running children's magazine show!
The piece, credited as Sailor's Hornpipe, also appears on Tubular Bells. When first noted, though, it was known as the College Hornpipe circa 1797. Not immune to the Christmas single he would release In Dulci Jubilo just in time for 1975's festive season. The tune actually being an instrumental take on a traditional German carol.
Within ten years of that death metallers Possessed would be sampling his earlier work backwards to add a touch of demonic influence to their own The Exorcist, from the Seven Churches album, their début still considered an important cornerstone in the development of the genre.
2012 saw Oldfield's original work used as part of Danny Boyle's Olympics opening ceremony in a segment celebrating the NHS. As the Telegraph said at the time.
"[Oldfield] remembers getting an email in July last year, asking him to telephone his record company in London. They had “exciting news” for him: Danny Boyle, the Games’ artistic director, wanted him to be involved in the £27million opening ceremony.
Oldfield admits his jaw dropped. “And a few days later, I got a lovely email from Danny, then I spoke to him on the phone — he wanted to come out and see me.”"
Oldfield had to be summoned back from his Caribbean bolthole, after initially choosing Spain having left the United Kingdom over concerns regarding the health & safety culture. He told the Mail On Sunday...
"I went to a very strict prep school. You were so restricted. It was one of the worst times in my life. Britain has been getting more and more like that, what with this health-and-safety business.From tubular to alarm bells!
In my local town, Thornbury, the old man who runs the hardware shop has to sneak out to the backyard to have a cigarette. What's the harm in him being in the office in the back of his shop?"