Mike Oldfield ‘Tubular Bells 2003’ DVD-Audio Release Dates

Tubular Bells 2003 Update: After endless delays, Mike Oldfield’s re-recording of ‘Tubular Bells’ was finally released on DVD-Audio last week, but only in some territories and then only to a limited number of retailers.

We first broke the news that ‘Tubular Bells 2003’ would be made available as a DVD-Audio title back in the first week of June last year. The projected release date was to be in October, but that came and went, as did the deadlines in November. The reason, apparently, was that the disc was the first DVD-Audio title being authored in the U.K., although one wonders why assistance from experienced DVD-Audio authoring personnel in the U.S. couldn’t have been sought and as the title actually hails from Warner Music Spain the situation seems even more puzzling.

In mid October High Fidelity Review published the first detailed appraisal of the disc, thanks to a WAMO pre-release copy – and we can confirm that the contents have not changed since that time. Not only does the disc contain a surround re-mix of the album, but also archive demo tapes from the 1970’s, a collectors’ item if ever there was one.

The status so far… Some retailers in Europe shipped copies of the disc as early as the 15th January (Spain), with some on-line sites shipping discs on the 22nd January, Warner Music Group in the U.K. tell us that Play.com (Ј12.99) were amongst the first to receive their inventory. Amazon.co.uk (Ј11.99) followed on 26th January, theoretically at least; they are yet to receive any stock. This is not entirely surprising, ‘Tubular Bells 2003’ shot to the top of the Play.com bestseller’s list within moments of becoming available. The Oldfield DVD box set, featuring the ‘Tubular Bells II’, ‘Tubular Bells III’ and ‘Millennium Bell’ concerts together with the DVD-Audio version of ‘Tubular Bells 2003’ was also released on the same day (or a week earlier in some countries), but once again stock is scarce, to say the least. Other European countries will have to wait a little longer, for example, the release date in Sweden has been pushed out to February 11th.

The situation overseas is somewhat different – in Japan the disc is scheduled for 18th February, whilst North American fans will have to wait until February 24th. The reason for this is that in the U.S., Rhino Records, not Warner Music Group, will release the disc; catalogue number RHI60204DVA. Although Rhino is a Warner subsidiary label, of late a large percentage of their DVD-Audio titles have been subject to delays.

Retailers such as DVD Empire ($15.28) and SendMeMovies.com ($14.38) are accepting pre-orders, but die-hard fans and those who simply can’t bear to wait any longer – and risk further delays – will undoubtedly be ordering copies from the European market.

Ultimately it is sad to see another headline DVD-Audio release hit the market without one iota of publicity for the title or the format. Given all the confusion regarding the release date(s) and the interest in the disc, the silence from all those concerned, including WMG U.K.’s shiny new PR company is lamentable. If anything kills high resolution audio it will be a public lack of awareness, to release a major title such as this – and the same goes for R.E.M.’s ‘In Time…’ and others – with so little publicity is both saddening and a little troubling. One can only hope the title receives the recognition it deserves when hitting American shelves.

Anyway, here’s the blurb from WMG Spain circulated six months ago:

Tubular Bells’ has become one of the landmark albums of pop music history, it spent years at the top of the charts, predated ambient, new age and techno music – and sold over sixteen million copies. “It was always in a genre of its own,” says Mike Oldfield now, with typical understatement. Ever since, ‘Tubular Bells’ has influenced a vast variety of musicians. “Tubular Bells is a very hypnotic piece of music, very engaging,” says Chandrasonic, guitarist with midi warriors Asian Dub Foundation. “Tubular Bells – that’s the acoustic version of Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ for me,” says Phil Hartnoll of world-conquering techno duo Orbital. “They stuck out in my mind when I was ten years old. Being pre-pubescent and enjoying adult music. That daring, that novelty – what, only one song on one side of an album? Things like that showed us the way to compose instrumental music that isn’t classical music.” For Ibiza’s legendary DJ Pippi, ‘Tubular Bells’ was also a key record in his musical youth. “When I first heard it I was very young but I was very into this sound. It was a very important point for the development of electronic and acoustic music. And a very important point in my life – like Pink Floyd.

Tubular Bells’ stands alone in pop music history for its complex, pastoral arrangements, the symphonic way it glides from lilting, upbeat moods to dark, threatening passages – all without drums or lyrics or anything traditional song-writing would recognise. But Mike Oldfield has always wanted to re-record the album. He felt the album was let down by the limited studio technology of the time. “Every time I listen to the original version I hear mistakes,” he says. Yet until recently he was restricted by a twenty-five-year contract clause preventing him from doing so.

Always abreast of the latest technology, he knew ‘Tubular Bells’ was a record perfectly suited to the breathtaking capabilities of today’s studio technology. Now, the glittering new version is almost like a whole new record. “The more I worked on it, the more it took on a life of its own,” says Mike. “It’s almost like it’s completely brand new now.” The surreal roll call of instruments performed by Viv Stanshall on the original album has been re-recorded by John Cleese – who reads the list like the head master of an eccentric public school reading the register, bringing new comedy to famous phrases like “grrrrand piano!” – or the classic: “two slightly distorted guitars!” “It’s appropriate that John Cleese is on it because it’s a little bit Python-esque in the way it changes,” grins Mike. “You have this beautiful pastoral bit, then this crazy, crazy bit, then it will go to the pub piano. It chops and changes: now for something completely different.

Read our Tubular Bells 2003’ review.