Knockout R&B Here Tonight!
Today we present previously unpublished images and information surrounding one of Barney Bubbles’ key early works, the stunning poster Knockout R&B Here Tonight.
In 1965 Colin Fulcher – as he was then – won a national design award for the poster, which stemmed from a photo session the previous year with his girlfriend, fellow student and artist Lorry Sartorio.
Lorry met Barney during his final year at Twickenham College Of Technology (now Richmond Upon Thames College ). “It was a couple of terms in but I soon became part of his gang,” says Lorry. “I think Barney really liked my look; I’ve always been into the beatnik thing, loads of black clothes and loads of eye-make-up, though I don’t iron my hair anymore!”
The photo-shoot took place at Barney’s home in Whitton, Middx, on Sunday July 12 1964. In a letter to Lorry providing specific instructions and sketches for suggested poses, Barney explains that consumer magazine publisher Fleetway had given him a chance to produce a booklet of photographs “based on Mods and Rockers gear”.
The letter reveals Barney as an already assured art director a couple of weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, though he frets over the tone. “On rereading this letter it seems a bit bluff and hard day’s night. Sorry. But I would appreciate it if you would do it,” he says.
Barney supplied his own denim jacket for the shoot as well as a t-shirt to which he had applied dry transfer lettering spelling out the phrase: “Them Mule Skinners Knockout R+B Here Tonight”. A mod targeted love heart was positioned between the first two words.
“Barney had put these giant Letraset letters onto a plain white t-shirt,” says Lorry. “I remember I had to be really careful when I was putting it on and moving around in front of the camera.”
The college’s social secretary, Mac had booked the Rolling Stones as their career was shifting into overdrive for the “Twickenham Design College Dance”, held on July 12 1963 at the dilapidated Eel Pie Island Hotel.
Mac had been turned onto the Stones by another Twickenham student, Mick Finch. When Mac witnessed his first Stones gig – at the Richmond Crawdaddy – he later wrote that “it was a turning point” which set him on a path away from graphic design and into music.
The “Twickers” group were a typically tight-knit group of music fans; in another letter to Lorry, Barney warns her not to be late for an assignation since they are meeting Mac in the King’s Head in Twickenham, venue of many other early Stones performances.
In fact, Barney designed the poster for the Stones’ appearance at the July 12 college ball, and went on to produce fliers and other artwork for the Muleskinners, using Cyrillic script for a “Cossack” themed event they played at “Eel Piland” in December 1964.
At the end of his final year, Mac also booked the “graphic design Twickenham dance”, held on July 9 1965 at Eel Pie’s so-called Steam Laundry.
This featured Rod Stewart and Brian Auger’s Trinity just before the lanky vocalist formally threw in his lot with Auger, Julie Driscoll and Long John Baldry in the short-lived Steampacket. Mac and Rod were to be reunited within a few years as members of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Faces.
Lorry does not recall whether the mods and rockers booklet for Fleetway materialised. We do know that Barney took a frame from the photo-session to develop the poster which won him the award.
“It was red and blue, printed on glossy paper,” recalls Lorry of the poster. Barney’s dynamic treatment of the base image effectively solarised the lettering, while the words “Them”, “Knockout”, and “R&B”, as well as the love-heart roundel appeared in half-tone.
Announcing the award in the August 1965 issue of Design magazine, the judges described Knockout R&B Here Tonight as “a good hard-hitting poster. The design is exactly suited to it’s subject matter; lively, up-to-date, youthful and vigorous; excellent use of colour”.
Such was Barney’s affection for the image that it was a component of one of his first new wave designs, the compilation A Bunch Of Stiff Records (released April 1 1977).
The album’s inner sleeve features contributor shots and bios. For contractual reasons Dave Edmunds’ version of the The Chantels’ 50s hit Maybe – which had also been covered by Janis Joplin – was credited to “Jill Read” (with the vocal track sped up to further disguise his identity). To complete the mystery surrounding this “little known Welsh songbird” Barney playfully placed an X to mask Lorry’s face.
Tags: 1964/5, A Bunch Of Stiff Records, All The Rage, Brian Auger Trinity, British Poster Design Award, Colin Fulcher, Cossack, Crawdaddy, Cyrillic, Dave Edmunds, December 1964, Eel Pie Island Hotel, Ian McLagan, Janis Joplin, Jill Read, July 12 1964, July 9 1965, Knockout R&B Here Tonight, Lorry Sartorio, Maybe, Mick Finch, Mods, Muleskinners, Richmond University, Rockers, Rod Stewart, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Soho, Steampacket, Stiff Records, T-shirt, The Chantels, The Faces, Twickenham College Of Technology, Whitton