Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield on the Virgin Records label 1973, value £45-50

TUBULAR Bells is probably the most iconic instrumental record of all time, writes MICHAEL BROOKS. Often described as simply a prog rock record, it is so much more than that. Mike Oldfield was only 19 when he began putting this album together. He made several demo copies, sent them off to almost every major record label only to find them returned unwanted and rejected. In desperation, he had heard that Russia was looking for composers of western music to perform in Moscow, and was about to ring the Russian embassy when he received a surprise phone call from entrepreneur Richard Branson. Branson was head of Virgin Music stores at the time; he had received one of the original demo copies, recognised its potential and invited Oldfield to stay at his home, the Manor Farm, to record the album in a studio that he had just built, and take it from there. Oldfield spent several days at Manor Farm, at times sleeping under the mixing desk in the studio to complete the recording. Tubular Bells is a 48 minute series of melodies from folk, rock and classical music that feature an array of different instruments all played by Oldfield. The album became a global success spread mainly by word of mouth; it eventually topped the album charts in the UK/USA, with total sales of around 17 million making it one of the biggest selling instrumental albums of all time. It also changed the fortunes of both Oldfield and Branson launching a business that grew to include films, music, cinemas, telecommunications, vodka, aviation, rail network and commercial space travel.

The opening track was featured in the horror film The Exorcist, which introduced the unknown Mike Oldfield to American audiences. When the album first became successful, Richard Branson wanted Oldfield to tour and promote it. When Oldfield proved unwilling, Branson dangled the keys to his sports car as an incentive: the tour went ahead! Two more Tubular Bells albums have been released, TB2 in 1992, heralded by a live performance in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, TB3 in 1998 was also performed in Horse Guard's Parade, London. Both albums were extremely successful. Tubular Bells was the first release of the then newly founded Virgin Records.

Mike Oldfield became one of the major rock stars to top the Classical music charts in 2018 with his album Music From The Spheres, which also feature performances by the international Chinese pianist Lang, Lang, another collectable album.

Tubular Bells looks set to continue with a forthcoming new album release later this year.