Tubular Bells tour hits Southampton for 50th anniversary

Robin Smith (Photo: Contributed)
Robin Smith (Photo: Contributed)

Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the multi-million-selling and multi-award-winning album, will be performed live in its entirety in concerts including October 13 2023 at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre.

Part of the fabric of popular culture, Tubular Bells had its legacy cemented with Oldfield’s performance of the album’s main theme at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Now the piece lives again live, conducted and arranged by Oldfield’s long-term collaborator Robin Smith. Tubular Bells will be performed in full, along with other Oldfield compositions.

Tubular Bells, created in 1971 and released in 1973, was the debut studio album by English multi-instrumentalist, composer and songwriter Mike Oldfield. Just 17 years old when he started composing the music, Oldfield recorded and played almost all the instruments on the album. It went on to become the highest selling instrumental album of all time.

Robin can remember the excitement of first hearing it: “I was composing by then and you think of that was happening and then suddenly you had Tubular Bells come out and you just thought ‘What the hell is this?’ It was so brave for anybody to have a piece of music that just repeats itself in a very odd way that it just becomes hypnotic so much so that it becomes this wonderful, beautiful mantra. I can sit in any pub or on any stage and start playing Tubular Bells and people just start listening. The whole piece is just so amazing. It really is the most incredible composition.”

Robin went on to carve out for himself a career as an arranger and a musician and he happened to be working on Mike Oldfield’s sister Sally’s album some years later: “And that's just the way it goes. Brother talks to sister and sister talks to brother and he said he was doing the premiere of Tubular Bells 2 at Edinburgh Castle which was going to be streamed around the world and did I want to be part of it. He is great to work with. He is amazing really. He is an extraordinarily creative being. When you are in his presence you know you're in the presence of somebody special.

"He is so cerebral and he is so intense but if you respect that and don't push the margins he's just great. We've had a really wonderful relationship of mutual respect.

"I know what he does and he knows what I do and I try to give him what he needs, but really the pinnacle was the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and to think that Tubular Bells was included because it was the pinnacle of British music. Like I said, it is an incredible piece of music and it is so brave.

"You go from the section at the beginning into one of the most beautiful folk melodic sections and then into the blues and then at the end of side one you've got the most incredible crescendo.”