Tubular Bells – which version is better?

My contribution to the eternal internal debate

I haven’t got the software and hardware at my disposal that would enable me to edit together my Ideal Version of Tubular Bells.  But if I did…

Start with the obvious point: I wouldn’t use anything from the twenty-first century re-recording (which was a waste of Oldfield’s time, our time, and Basil Fawlty’s time!)

So what amendments would I make?

This is going to get a bit complicated, because the 1973 original version – which I would use as a foundation – isn’t on YouTube at the time of writing…

I just have to assume that anyone who reads this will be familiar with both the 1973 original and the version on the Exposed live album – and won’t be too frustrated when I not only make comparisons to, but cite start/finish times from, the Orchestral version embedded above.

OK, here goes –


The first movement (by which I mean the Exorcist Motif and all the related material, leading up to 6:12-in-this-version): I would shorten it by making approx one minute’s worth of cuts prior to…the motif which happens at 3:08 in this version.  Proceed through the First Rock-Out, and then…

For the next “developmental part”, I would insert 8.12-9.48 from the Orchestral version, before cutting back to the Original on the downbeat of the Major-Key Refrain, before returning to the Orchestral version for 10.12-12.09.

On the downbeat of the Shuffle-Beat Section (it starts at 12:09 in the Orchestral version) I would edit to the Exposed version, editing back to the Original on the downbeat of the low-volume Major Key Motif which happens at 14:30 in the Orchestral version (it may be a Moribund Chorus but let’s not bury it).

Obviously nothing can replace the Original version when it comes to the Second Rock-Out. And after some more internal debate I decided to stick to the Original for the entire Master Of Ceremonies section.  (The obvious question re: the Orchestral version – what happened to the tubular bells themselves?  I know Oldfield allegedly had to take a sledgehammer to the instrument, but…if anything it sounds more like a set of wind chimes here! Bedford’s little joke?)


Almost the only place in which I really favour the Orchestral version is the first segment of Side Two (the first 5.36 of this side) – we’ll be cutting back to the Original version for the next section (the fast waltz, with the foreshadowing of Who The Fuck Is Flora?) and the bagpipe-guitars section.  Or, as I prefer to call it, the Dusty Springfield In Scotland section*

And so to every schoolboy’s favorite section of the suite.  It’s known by many names, but I’m sticking to the one which describes it best: Who The Fuck Is Flora**?

I would slightly extend this by taking the first run through the main melody from the Exposed version (the equivalent of 39.11-40.06 overall, in the Orchestral version) – then on the downbeat of the next bar, cut back to the original for the entrance of the “vocal”, and stay with it until we’re just about to have the second iteration of the blues-tinged middle-eight.

And then, for the section equivalent to 41.42 – 42.57 overall, I would cut back to Exposed (we must get in that heavy-metal guitar solo break!)…

before cutting back to the original for the last round of “vocals” and the end of this section.

On the downbeat of the penultimate movement – the slow crescendo-ing section (which, here, starts at 3.53 in the second file above, or 44.52 overall) – I would cut back to Exposed and stay there for the entire movement.  Most Oldfield fans seem to prefer this in its Exposed, and rocked-up, form, and I don’t blame them – as charming as the Orchestral version is, particularly when, finally, after about forty-six minutes, we hear the composer add his seal of approval with the electric guitar, it doesn’t belong in an Ideal Edit.

The finale: the Sailor’s Hornpipe…well, what did you expect?  Of course I’m going to use this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcJUQ1TF4wA ***

(* it’s time to play the game called One Song To The Tune Of Another – Graeme, or should I say Dougall, you’re going to sing the words of You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me to the tune of 8.55-12,22 in the first file above))

(** which, incidentally, is not to be confused with that song which some people refer to as Who The Fuck Is Ewie?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo7TBGn4R8U)

(*** am I ever going to find the time to propose a similar “editor’s-schematic” for Incantations: Studio versus Live?  Well, as Viv would say: sodomy non sapiens)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s