Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope
Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope
Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope
Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope
Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope
Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope
Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope

Tubular Bells / Velvet Rope

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7"in x 74"in - 100% Acrylic Scarf

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
Released on May 25, 1973, Mike Oldfield's groundbreaking album Tubular Bells is arguably the finest conglomeration of off-centered instruments concerted together to form a single unique piece. A variety of instruments are combined to create an excitable multitude of rhythms, tones, pitches, and harmonies that all fuse neatly into each other, resulting in an astounding plethora of music. Oldfield plays all the instruments himself, including such oddities as the Farfisa organ, the Lowrey organ, and the flageolet. The familiar eerie opening, made famous by its use in The Exorcist, starts the album off slowly, as each instrument acoustically wriggles its way into the current noise that is heard, until there is a grand unison of eccentric sounds that wildly excites the ears. 

In the case of Tubular Bells landing placement in the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist, the story goes that director William Friedkin scrapped the original score by GRAMMY winner Lalo Schifrin and was on the hunt for replacement music. Friedkin was visiting the offices of Ahmet Ertegun, president of Atlantic Records, the label distributing Tubular Bells in the U.S., and gleaned a promo copy of the album. Upon dropping the needle on his record player, Friedkin was convinced he found the music that would be perfect for his supernatural horror flick.

Although the introduction of " Part One" only features briefly in two scenes in the movie, it has become synonymous with what is often argued as the scariest film of all time. "Most music is in 4/4 time, but that curious little figure at the beginning is in 15/8. It's like a puzzle with a little bit missing. That's why it sticks in the brain," said Oldfield. "And that's why it worked so well as the soundtrack to The Exorcist — with that little bit missing everything is not quite right." Oldfield didn't see The Exorcist until a decade after it was released.

Throughout the album, the tempos range from soft to intense to utterly surprising, making for some excellent musical culminations. Mandolins and Spanish guitars are joined by grinding organs and keyboards, while oddball bells and cranking noises resound in the distance. In the middle of the album, guest Vivian Stanshall announces each instrument seconds before it is heard, ending with the ominous sounding tubular bells, a truly powerful and dominating instrument. The most interesting and overwhelming aspect of this album is the fact that so many sounds are conjured up yet none go unnoticed, allowing the listener a gradual submergence into each unique portion of the music. Tubular Bells is a divine excursion into the realm of new age music.


Oldfield's original demos for what was to become Tubular Bells were recorded in his flat in Tottenham, London, using a Bang & Olufsen Beocord 1/4" tape machine, which he had borrowed from Kevin Ayers, leader of 'The Whole World', the band that Mike had just left. Although only a stereo tape recorder, Mike managed to record many parts on the same tape by blocking off the erase head with cardboard and sticky tape. Instruments included his guitars, an electric organ and his mother's hoover, which Mike used in an attempt to get a bagpipe drone sound. 

Mike then took his demo tape to various record companies, in an attempt to gain a record deal. He didn't have much success at first, with everyone telling him that it wasn't marketable. However, he played the tape to Tom Newman while he was working at Virgin's new studio facility, The Manor, Shipton on Cherwell, Oxfordshire, England. Newman was instantly hooked, and eventually persuaded Richard Branson, Virgin boss, to let Mike have some studio time to record the album. He eventually agreed, and most of part one was recorded within the space of about a week. The rest was recorded whenever the studio wasn't being used - often late at night. Branson tried to sell Tubular Bells to other record companies. When it was clear that nobody would take it, the decision was made for Virgin to release it themselves. It was the first record released on the label, hence the catalogue number V2001 (with the 1 being the important bit).

It was usual around the time of Tubular Bells' release for rock records to be pressed on records made from recycled vinyl (partly the melted down sweepings from the floor of the record plant). The use of this recycled vinyl resulted in lower quality records - Mike (and presumably Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth as well) was not at all happy with the test pressings made on recycled vinyl, mainly because the sound of the Tubular bells themselves didn't sound right. Branson eventually persuaded the cutting plant to press Tubular Bells on the unrecycled vinyl usually reserved for classical records. The album was recorded onto an Ampex 2" 16 track recorder, with rumors that the number of overdubs ran into the thousands (although this has virtually been completely discounted).

Trevor Key, the sleeve designer, went on to do sleeve design and photography for acts like Jethro Tull, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. His sleeve design for Tubular Bells was probably a composite - several photos stuck together. Nowadays this is done with computers...In 1973, the tools would have been a scalpel and a tin of cow gum (a certain type of rubbery glue which smelt rather bad). The back and cover photographs are both the same place - Tom Newman thinks that it was either Hastings or Eastbourne, both places on the south coast of England. The back cover shows burning bones on a shoreline. That front cover image has become famous, especially amongst Mike Oldfield fans - the shape of the bent 'tubular bell' has almost come to represent Mike himself.

The idea for the shape came, apparently, from when Mike hit the tubular bells for the end section of part 1. To get a heavier sound, he used large metal coal hammers instead of the wooden mallets that tubular bells are supposed to be hit with. The bells bent...this got Mike thinking. After considering ideas of tubular bells smashed or broken somehow, Mike arrived at the idea of the bell being bent. Trevor Key, an expert on photographing metallic objects, was called in, who took the idea from there.

They had previously come up with the idea of calling it 'breakfast in bed' and using one of Trevor's pictures of a boiled egg, with blood instead of yolk coming out. That picture was later used, in an altered form, for Heaven's Open. Mike thought of the title after listening to Vivian Stanshall introducing the instruments at the end of side 1. He heard him go through all the instruments until..."Plus...TUBULAR BELLS"...at which point Mike thought "Ah, now I know what to call my album!" and the rest is history.

Trevor constructed the 'bell' from 1 1/2" diameter metal tubing (presumably chromed) . It was probably then photographed in his studio - if it was photographed outdoors it would have had reflections of the sky in it, judging by the angle it has been taken from. If you take the cover of the LP and look closely, you can see where it has been cut out along the edges (it has been extremely well done - Trevor Key was skilled at this sort of work). The 'tubular bell' was cut out and stuck onto one of the photographs of the beach.


Janet Jackson - Velvet Rope
Janet Jackson was also on Virgin Records, and in 1997 she released her album The Velvet Rope incorporating the Exorcist theme from the intro to “Tubular Bells Part One” into the opening title track, Velvet Rope. 

Upon experiencing an emotional breakdown, Janet began facing a long-term case of depression. She in turn developed The Velvet Rope as a concept album, using introspection as its theme. Its title is a metaphor for emotional boundaries, as well as an allusion to an individual's need to feel special. Its lyrics address subject matter such as depression, self-worth, social networking online, and domestic violence. It also encompasses themes of sexuality, including BDSM, sexual orientation and same-sex relationships. 

The record was co-written and co-produced by Janet, her then-husband René Elizondo Jr., Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with additional contributions by various songwriters. Its composition fuses various genres, including pop, R&B, trip hop, folk, jazz, rock and electronic music.  Despite the usual array of dance-floor delights, The Velvet Rope was about self-examination, self-discovery, recognizing pain rather than denying it. It was about bad relationships and cruel lovers, about societal homophobia. It was about how, as Janet finally acknowledged, "I Get Lonely." It was about depression.

Jimmy Jam knew there were problems – suddenly canceled recording sessions, troubled moods that seemed to linger – "but Janet never let on except in the songs she was writing. When I saw the lyrics to 'Empty' and 'What About,' I thought, 'This is deep stuff.' Normally we'd do tracks and she'd write lyrics to the tracks. This time, in a lot of cases, she'd write the lyrics and then we'd do the tracks."

It’s obvious from the sinister melodies, ominous strings, the Tubular Bells sample, Janet’s shaky, vulnerable vocals and Vanessa Mae’s twisted violin solo on the spine-chilling opening title track that this album is not another janet. The exploration of Janet’s inner turmoil continues on the deceptively groovy You. This emotionally confronting track highlights Janet’s vocal versatility, encompassing emotionally weary performances in the verses, reassuring backing vocals and demented, distorted and claustrophobic cries for help in the choruses. The lyrics including ‘when you hate you, you hate everyone that day’ and ‘you can not run from you, can’t hide from you’ speak the absolute truth, empowering listeners to take more control of their lives.

The Velvet Rope was ahead of its time in numerous ways. Free Xone and a bisexual take of Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s The Night are examples of the album’s pro-LGBTQIA message. The visceral hard-rock epic about domestic violence, What About, is an album standout and an explicit, emotional smack to the face. Jaws will inevitably drop at lines like ‘all the shit you done to me’ and ‘you didn’t fuck her, she only gave you head’. Empty revolves around online dating. The dingy, sleazy Rope Burn has Janet opening herself up and doing S&M when a future Barbadian pop superstar was still at school.

The classy Got ‘Til It’s Gone (featuring Q-Tip and sampling the chorus Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi), the Motown-sampling My Need and the saucy Anything are high quality servings of mellow trip-hop. It’s hard to believe that the jubilant house-pop classic Together Again (a tribute to Janet’s friends who passed away from AIDS) was almost never a single until Janet put her foot down. Go Deep is the album’s Escapade, possibly even a prequel to Janet’s ‘single life’ follow-up All For You. It is a welcome distraction from the personal issues explored on the album and an infectiously catchy, slinky soundtrack for going out. The rhymes (e.g. ‘get him all alone, make him scream and moan’) couldn’t be better. 

Some of Janet’s greatest ballads are here too. The tender, angelic Every Time is far superior than the overrated, soppy saccharine Again, as it has an even better piano hook and more intimate vocal performance. The intensely personal, post-breakup jam I Get Lonely ranks amongst Janet’s finest. Its timeless, soulful production features out-of-this-world chord changes, a chilled, jazzy arrangement including funky Rhodes Piano and another heart-wrenching vocal that strips Janet emotionally bare. Special has Janet conjuring a child-like wonder like her brother, as she reminds listeners to water their spiritual garden and that we are all works in progress.

The Velvet Rope is a cathartic effort from Janet that shows immense artistic growth from its predecessors, as it forces listeners to look inwards. Coming from an era when pop stars actually shook things up, it’s hardly surprising that this album’s legacy has lasted. This album is a classic lesson in how pop stars should evolve as artists.