Joined: Aug. 2011
||Posted: Aug. 31 2011, 12:23
Late last year, I first heard of Mike Oldfield, and his album Tubular Bells. I didn't look it up straight away, as at that point it was just another name and another album title. A few weeks passed, and I was surfing the net a bit bored, when I remembered the recommendation of Mike Oldfield and his tubular bells.
I looked it up on Wikipedia and read the article. When it mentioned that it was used in The Exorcist, I decided I was going to download it, purely to see if I would remember the music from the film.
In reading the article I saw that there were two recordings: the original debut recording from 1973, and a re-recording by Oldfield himself from 2003, which he made to correct certain mistakes and produce a more polished version than already existed.
My decision might not make sense to most of you, so I think I should give you some background.
I am a classical music student, studying as a composer. I've come to accept that the standards of recording can vary drastically between time periods, countries, and genres. On top of this, I have always been an advocate of composing a piece of music as a discrete object, instead of just a performance piece. Music performance and music recording I see as separate artforms, and I prefer the latter.
Having waded through my fair share of poor recordings of Beethoven's symphonies, Chopin's Nocturnes and Ravel's Bolero, I was getting really frustrated with the vast expanse of recordings and interpretations out there. I really wanted to find, once and for all, the definitive recordings of the definitive performances of those pieces, as far as my own tastes were concerned. As a general rule, I gravitated towards the more recent recordings, purely for the better sound quality.
I had been through two years of this frustrating search in the world of classical music by the time I came to download Tubular Bells, and on hearing that there were two recordings, one that was 37 years old, and one that was only 7 years old, which was made because the older one was deemed unsatisfactory, my decision to opt for Tubular Bells 2003 over Tubular Bells from 1973 was a foregone conclusion.
I downloaded the album, listened to the beginning, and immediately remembered The Exorcist. I was enjoying the sounds very much, and as the album continued, I grew more and more enraptured by the sounds I was hearing. I'm sure you're all envious that I had my first experience of Tubular Bells so recently, and you should be. By the time it finished, it was already my new favourite album of all time.
You all know how it goes from that point. I quickly became obsessed with it, listening to it at least once a day, playing certain favourite parts on repeat, mentioning it to everyone I spoke to. It's a familiar pattern. In those first few weeks, I didn't spare a thought for any other Mike Oldfield works, or even the original recording.
Eventually, though, it did come time for me to get over my obsession and look into Mike Oldfield a bit more deeply. I began by downloading the original recording, because I wanted to go with what I knew and not dive in like I had done in the past with Porcupine Tree (which I'm still not a fan of).
I started listening to it, not surprised by the inferior quality of sound, but as it progressed, I became painfully aware that it just wasn't living up to the standards set by 2003. Given that I had gotten used to the 2003 version, the original just sounded like an unfinished version of the later one. Parts were out of time, out of tune, not mixed properly. It sounded just like Mike's comments had led me to expect it would sound.
I couldn't tolerate it. I switched it off just after the tubular bells came in during the finale (which I had decided was its last chance to win me over before declaring it rubbish), and put on the 2003 version from the start to erase what I had just heard from my memory.
I know this sounds very harsh, but having been turned into a recordings Nazi by my classical music background, it wasn't something I felt very sorry about at the time. I was adamant that 2003 was clearly superior, and anyone who said otherwise was an idiot.
Over time, and with the influence of my friends who I introduced the album to, I warmed to the original version, to the point where that is the version I gravitate to when I want to her the composition. I still love both version in equal amounts, and I don't see a reason to blindly champion one and trash the other on mere principle, like I had been doing, and like a lot of purists do.
My point overall is that the older one is not automatically better on account of it being the original version. There are plenty of songs that are outdone by cover versions by other artists. Indeed, my own favourite song, Mad World by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules, is a cover.
Your own experiences dictate your tastes, and if you know one version of something and have another one thrust on you, you're not going to immediately latch onto it. Art is one of only a few things that don't require us to be argumentative, so don't let little things like one recording being better than another get to you.