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One Song, Five Alarms: The Exorcist's Theme Song "Tubular Bells" Still Holds Up 50 Years Later
The iconic horror theme song is slightly different in The Exorcist: Believer, but it still strikes fear.
By Grace Jidoun
Cue the goosebumps: "Tubular Bells" is back to trigger us all over again in The Exorcist: Believer, and this time, it’s slower, lower, and — dare we say — just as haunting.
The 1973 original is one of the most recognizable movie songs in half a century, up there with the iconic Jaws score and Ghostbusters. You can’t listen to it for more than a few seconds without Regan’s (Linda Blair) demonic face coming to mind.
Believer director David Gordon Green told SYFY WIRE it was a goal of his to “bring that theme back and have some of those iconic elements” in the new Exorcist. Green collaborated with composers David Wingo and Amman Abbasi to update the song with a few interesting tweaks.
What is The Exorcist's theme song, "Tubular Bells"?
The original song was released by Michael Oldfield in 1973 on his debut solo album, also called Tubular Bells, featuring the famous 25-minute-long instrumental. Only the intro is used in The Exorcist, but that was enough to catapult this obscure British prog-rock musician to fame. Oldfield was just 19 when he recorded it, and he played nearly every instrument on the album, from the guitar and organ to the actual metal tubular bells, which we don’t hear until a minute into the song. It’s the frenetic piano intro that strikes fear into our hearts.
“I was so focused, and I put all my concentration and all my energy — emotional, spiritual, physical even — into it. There's a lot of joy in it, and there's a lot of suffering in it. There's good and bad, there's all areas of life,” the musician said about the song in a 2007 interview with a Dutch Public TV station. The album went on to sell 18 million copies worldwide.
The success of "Tubular Bells" also kickstarted the career of Richard Branson and his label, Virgin Records, which was brand new when Oldfield signed.
Who composed "Tubular Bells" for The Exorcist: Believer?
Composers David Wingo and Amman Abbasi updated the classic, giving it a slower tempo and atmospheric vibe for a darker feel. Wingo began his long collaboration with Green on student films in college and has scored most of the director’s movies. Abbasi worked with Wingo on the Halloween trilogy.
Discussing their creative process on updating "Tubular Bells," Wingo told Fangoria, “It’s way more improvisational than I’ve done before. We would just get together, and I’d bring some strange instrumentation over, and we would just work with it.”
The approach worked, as the two conjured up a version — heard midway through the movie and again during the credits — that is both familiar and terrifying.
The Exorcist: Believer is in theaters now. Get tickets at Fandango.