Mike Oldfield has made a few Crap Albums I Love but I’m choosing this because it catches him in a lie – previously whinging about how people expected a volume two and that’s what he would never give them…it also meant, after giving in and giving this to The People (or at least the people at the record company) that there’d be a third volume and various techno remixes (which there’s been – and there’s another one on the way and will it ever stop now?) Also I can’t rightly call the original Tubular Bells a crap album – but I did completely fall out of love with it. Tubular Bells II is so bright and shiny-sounding (seriously weird to have Trevor Horn producing it?!)
The original makes sense as an early 1970s album – and for its excised used in The Exorcist but it’s hard to deal with it now – rather naïve and naff actually and also who gives a fuck about one-man-bands since everyone is doing that and all but bored of doing it and you can stop time and freeze anything and polish turds…
But man, when news of Tubular Bells II dropped I nearly fainted!
I was the right age, it was the right time. I had the original album and I had Amarok – the 1990 album I’d bought on a whim because it was $5 in a chuck-out bin since nobody in Hawke’s Bay seemed to even know what it was. I had loved his soundtrack to The Killing Fields which a guy at school had dubbed for me (prob in exchange for a copy of Amarok) and I had the mid-80s double compilation which covers everything he’d really been up to from weirdo pop songs to snippets from all the long post-Tubular suites and a few other bits and pieces – it was called The Complete Mike Oldfield (but really should have been called The Incomplete Mike Oldfield…
Anyway, I was a fan. That’s the point. And I was well prepped. And news – in a pre-internet world – that there was a Tubular Bells II on the way was as good as hearing about a new Nightmare On Elm Street film or Stephen King book. Those were the (needful) things in 1992…
And so, that Christmas, I was given TB2 on cassette tape. (I reckon I got Roger Waters’ Amused to Death too – which seems appropriate I guess…)
The Mike Oldfield tapes – Tubular Bells 1 and 2 – were in that little red Sony Walkman on the regular. Incongruously, they were the soundtrack to me shooting hoops or smacking the hockey ball like it owed me money. And mowing the lawns.
Tubular Bells is such weird music for soundtracking anything – apart from the bit in the Excorcist.
Tubular Bells II is even stupider.
But that’s blind fandom.
I listen to it now and it’s embarrassingly clean and shiny – also stupidly pleased with itself. Which is no mean feat for what is basically a) instrumental music and b) a re-run of an album that came out 20 years earlier – in an altogether different musical climate. But when the instrument introductions arrive, and it’s Alan Rickman in for Viv Stanshall to do the announcing, we can hear him nearly grinding his teeth with great pleasure as he minces through the prosaic titles about “grand piano” and whatever else. And then when he wrongfoots the audience, he says, “two slightly SAMPLED electric guitars” instead of the original’s “distorted” and you can basically hear him chuckling as he says it. What prog-rock mirth. What wit. How clever!
This is Mike Oldfield displaying a sense of humour. Or as close as he got to one.
Though I could have just summed this all up by posting a clip of Altered Sate. I mean – what the actual fuck.
Like most Mike Oldfield albums, and by most I am pretty sure I mean all…I can listen to this precisely once a year (apart from Ommadawn – that’s the actual masterpiece) and of course in the weirdest way possible I still love it…stupid as it gets, embarrassing as it is. I guess it just hit with me at the right time.