I’m amazed such an ambient record did so well...

I’m amazed such an ambient record did so well...
Authored By John Nicholson
I love Tubular Bells. I first heard it when I was about 12 and a half and it made perfect sense to me then as now. Which, now that I think about it 51 years later, is quite odd for a pre-teen but there you are. It’s worth recalling how odd it was, and how radical unless you were a fan of Steve Reich or Phillip Glass and used to ambient rhythms.
It’s often said that Richard Branson bought The Manor in order to record it in a visionary fit and that it was the first album Virgin had released. This isn’t actually true. In fact it was the ninth album that started recording at the Manor. But what was the first? Well that was the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band ‘s Let's Make Up and Be Friendly in 1971 and Rock On by The Bunch, a folk rock album featuring Richard Thompson. Albums by Gong, Magma, Dave Cousins, Sandy Denny, John Cale and King Earl Boogie Band also come before Mike Oldfield’s classic.
Viv Stanshall was recording Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead at the Manor which is why he’s on the record and there are 7 more in 1973 that may have been around while he recorded the album.
Early sales were slow, and it was not until July 1973 that the album appeared in the UK Albums Chart, reaching an initial peak of number seven. The situation changed following the release of The Exorcist in December 1973, Oldfield later attributing the music's successful use on the soundtrack to its unusual 15/8 opening time signature. From February 1974 to May 1975, Tubular Bells dropped out of the UK top 10 for only four weeks. Sixteen months after its release, it went to number one for the week ending 5 October 1974, having spent 10 consecutive weeks in second place behind Band on the Run by Wings, and Oldfield's second album Hergest Ridge.
I’m still amazed such an ambient record did so well, selling 15 million worldwide and though now familiar still sound great.

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