When John Peel decided to play a long instrumental album by an unknown musician on his radio show, he put the wheels in motion for a worldwide smash, and a whole business empire, reveals Sir Richard Branson.

tubular bells
Richard Branson remembers being blown away by his first listening of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells

According to Branson, Peel is the man to thank for everything.

The still much-missed music aficionado and longtime broadcaster decided to play Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells in its entirety on his radio show after Branson played it to him over dinner...

“He said it was one of the most important albums he’d ever heard.”

Speaking to digital arts service The Space, Branson recalls the first time he heard the demo tapes of Tubular Bells, “I’d never heard anything quite so special.”

But the rest of the music industry didn’t concur and the young entrepreneur couldn't persuade any record companies to release it.

mike oldfield
Mike Oldfield had trouble getting anyone to take his instrumental offering seriously

“I thought if nobody else will put it out, we’ll start something called Virgin Records and we’ll make Mike Oldfield’s album the first on our record label.”

After his dinner date session, Peel subsequently treated BBC Radio One audiences to the whole album on his programme. At the time the DJ described Tubular Bells as “certainly one of the most impressive LPs I’ve ever had the chance to play on the radio – really a remarkable record” and dubbed it “an incredible start” for the fledgling Virgin Records label.

Branson continues:

“If he hadn’t done that I think the whole Virgin empire would have been a still-birth. From Mike Oldfield we ended up signing the Sex Pistols, Rolling Stones, Genesis and Phil Collins.”

Tubular Bells became Virgin Record’s first release, the debut album from Mike Oldfield was released in May 1973 and went on to sell over 3 million copies. Branson added: “They came very largely due to the fact that Tubular Bells had been such a very great success for us.”

john peel
John Peel - a champion of the musical offbeat and unexpected

Oldfield is currently enjoying a renewed interest in his work after his stellar performance at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in London 10 days ago. He admitted to HuffPostUK he was surprised to get the call from Danny Boyle, but found the whole thing a joy, even if it was shrouded in secrecy.

More: Mike Oldfield Tells HuffPostUK About One Song That Got Vetoed By Boyle - "Just Too British"

Remembering Peel's support over three decades ago, Oldfield reflects now: “He didn’t just play a bit - the whole album was the programme – you can’t ask for a better endorsement.”

Sir Richard Branson gave this exclusive interview to The Space to mark the revealing of the first one hundred albums filed under the letter O in John Peel’s record collection. Every week between 1 May and 31 October The Space is unveiling the contents of this extraordinary archive. Click here to listen to Richard Branson, Mike Oldfield and John Peel remembering the impact of Tubular Bells...

Click here for a virtual tour of John Peel's home studio

The Olympic Opening Ceremony in pictures...

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  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Team GB, led by flagbearer Sir Chris Hoy, enter the stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Chris Hoy of the Great Britain Olympic cycling team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Great Britain's Chris Hoy carries the flag during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Actors playing nurses perform during the

    Actors playing nurses perform during the Great Ormond Street Hospital scene during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Performers during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    A scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    The Olympic Rings during the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    A scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • Aerial view shows the people parachuting

    Aerial view shows the people parachuting (upper L) above the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GettyImages)

  • PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Acto

    PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Actors wait for the beginning of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Frank Turner performs during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

  • Actors wait for the beginning of the ope

    Actors wait for the beginning of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/GettyImages)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a traditional view of the English countryside during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Acto

    PICTURE TAKEN WITH A ROBOTIC CAMERA Actors wait for the beginning of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ANTONIN THUILLIER (Photo credit should read ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP/GettyImages)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Sheep graze during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    The scene during the pre-show before the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    A game of cricket is played by performers during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • An actor tends sheep during the pre-show prior to the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Guitarist Frank Turner performs during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Cricketers play cricket on the pitch during the preshow prior to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

  • Actors stand under the rain during the B

    Actors stand under the rain during the British meadow scene prior the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Danny Boyle speaks during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • An actor walks during the British meadow

    An actor walks during the British meadow scene prior the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Actors play cricket during the British m

    Actors play cricket during the British meadow scene prior the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    The scene during the pre-show before the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    The scene during the pre-show before the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Fans shelter from the rain during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • Britain's Prince Charles, left, and his wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall arrive for the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • An actor dressed to resemble Britain's Q

    An actor dressed to resemble Britain's Queen Elizabeth II parachutes from a helicopter over the stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GettyImages)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Giant puppets depict villainous characters from British literature during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

  • Actors playing nurses attend to children

    Actors playing nurses attend to children in hospital beds during the Great Ormond Street Hospital scene in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Actors and dancers play Great Ormond Str

    Actors and dancers play Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital staff and patients during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: A general view of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a view of the Industrial Revolution during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

  • London Olympic Games - Day 0

    Sir Kenneth Brannagh recites Shakespeare during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: David Beckham passes under Tower Bridge driving a speedboat named 'Max Power' which carries the Olympic Torch with its torchbearer on July 27, 2012 in London, England. Athletes, heads of state and dignitaries from around the world have gathered in the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad. London plays host to the 2012 Olympic Games which will see 26 sports contested by 10,500 athletes over 17 days of competition. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • 2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Children representing the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the NHS and children literature take part in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

    Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in London

  • London Olympic Games

    The history of Great Britain played during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.