Composer Mike Oldfield rose to fame on the success of Tubular Bells, an eerie,
album-length conceptual piece employed to stunning effect in the film The Exorcist. Born May 15, 1953, in
Reading, England, Oldfield began his professional career at the age of 14, forming the Sallyangie folk duo
with his sister Sally; a year later, the siblings issued their debut LP, Children of the Sun. By the age of
16, he was playing bass with Soft Machine founder Kevin Ayers' group the Whole World alongside experimental
classical arranger David Bedford and avant-garde jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill; within months, Oldfield was
tapped to become the band's lead guitarist prior to recording the 1971 LP Shooting at the Moon.
Tubular Bells, originally dubbed Opus 1, grew out of studio time gifted by Richard Branson, who at the time was
running a mail-order record retail service. After its completion, Oldfield shopped the record to a series of
labels, only to meet with rejection; frustrated, Branson decided to found his own label, and in 1973 Tubular Bells
became the inaugural release of Virgin Records. An atmospheric, intricate composition that fused rock and folk
motifs with the structures of minimalist composition, the 49-minute instumental piece (performed on close to 30
different instruments, virtually all of them played by Oldfield himself) spent months in the number one spot on the
U.K. charts, and eventually sold over 16 million copies globally. In addition to almost single-handedly
establishing Virgin as one of the most important labels in the record industry, Tubular Bells also created a market
for what would later be dubbed new age music, and won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 1974.