Get Happy!! Forget The Massage!

Among the items which didn’t make it into the first edition of the book (even though it has 600 images) is this lovely rarity photographed for us by careful owner Billy Bragg: a huge paperboard in-store display poster for Get Happy!!.

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Paperboard poster, 60in x 40in, 1980. Photo: Billy Bragg. (C) Billy Bragg Collection.

Barney tropes abound: the poster is to his favoured scale of 60″ x 40″, the throway 50s/60s image has been enlarged to the point of degradation (he once told Jake Riviera he preferred photographic dots “the size of golf balls!”) and important retail information is imparted decoratively –  the record’s catalogue number FBEATXXLP1 is placed underneath the toe of one of the “masseuse”’s high heels.

60" x 40" poster, Get Happy!!, 1980. "A great record to dance to but you wouldn't want to live there".

The graphic theme of the more common “light-bulb” poster design is developed, as is the restrained yet impactful palette of colours set out by the album sleeve.

12in sleeve. Back and front cover, Get Happy!!, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, FBeat Records, 1980.

As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, the Get Happy!! sleeve saw Barney scale back on the kaleidoscopic approach to Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ previous album Armed Forces with a co-ordinated, muted and retro feel, chiming with the singer-songwriter’s often contemplative channelling of 60s soul music as he reached an early career peak.

Both sides, 12in inner sleeve, Get Happy!!, 1980.

At the time the designed “scuffing” of the outer sleeve (deemed unacceptable by Costello’s US record company Columbia which insisted on cleaning up the artwork) overshadowed the package’s deceptive geometric complexity and textural depth (which naturally matched the music contained within).

The atomic art ellipses on the inner sleeve offered the dualities Barney delighted in delivering for Costello (the inner of Armed Forces provided contrasting images headed “Our place…”/”…Or Yours” and that of it’s predecessor This Year’s Model lined up dummy torsos on one side and a rubber mechanical hand holding a state of the art mini-TV on the other.

Get Happy!! detail: Nick Lowe's production note and Barney's credit - his VAT number.

Unlike those albums, there was no free 7in with Get Happy!! since the vinyl was packed with 10 tracks per side, necessitating another 60s touch: an assurance from producer Nick Lowe that sound quality had not been compromised.

Left: Artwork, Get Happy!! poster. (C) Riviera Global. Right: 30in x 20in Get Happy !! poster, 1980. Note "Vote Labour" sticker added by the author.

Instead there was a poster of silhouetted 50s diner lampshades with imposed commands riffing on the album title and the names of the individual songs. On purchase in 1980 I decorated mine with a”Vote Labour” sticker; I and a lot of others were still smarting from Margaret Thatcher’s ascendence just eight months before in the first election in which I had voted .

Label, Get Happy!!, FBeat, 1980.

In Barney’s original artwork, there were elements which did not make the final poster:  the question “Get it?” and graphics which popped up elsewhere: groupings of single bars and lines and a rendition of the interleavened quadrants which are tinted and overlaid on the band member photographs on the cover and depicted in outline in the label design.

Get Happy details!!. Nine blue lines placed top right-hand corner, back cover, and 22 green lines grouped in the top left hand corner, front cover.

What is one to make of these? Graphic tics to enrich and engage or symbols denoting deeper meaning?

These vie for speculation with the front-cover  motif which is inverted on the back and intrigued fans such as Billy Bragg, who describes it in Reasons To Be Cheerful as one of Barney’s “discernible signatures”.

3D motif artwork. (C) Reasons 2009/Riviera Global.

It could be that on the front this is yet another representation of Costello’s bespectacled visage, though Barney fan Paul Murphy has pointed out on feuilleton that it is a reference to 3D glasses, relating to the out-of-register images on the inner sleeve and the overall retro tone of the album’s design.

It can also be seen as an early version of  the symbol comprising three intertwined circles and a triangle which started to appear on the labels of certain FBeat releases.

Left: Artwork for music press ad, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down. Left: Artwork for FBeat singles bag. Both (C) Reasons 2009/Riviera Global.

The Get Happy!! quadrants were present in Barney’s designs for the sleeve of the album’s first single, I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, and adorned music press adverts and FBeat’s in-house singles sleeves.

The design for the cassette issue used Bob “Bromide” Hall’s single cover photograph, and the sleeves for the subsequent three singles were integrated  in terms of colour, graphics and typography.

Here’s Elvis having fun giving Get Happy!! the hard sell on US TV back in 1980. These days he’s a bigger name than ever, particularly in the US where the second series of his Sundance Channel music/chat show Spectacle starts on December 9, as he announced earlier this week:

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2 Responses to “Get Happy!! Forget The Massage!”

  1. John Coulthart Says:

    I love the variety of graphics he created for these later works.

    The green inverted version of the “3D” motif looks to me like it might be a human figure juxtaposed against the circles. The “arm” at the left seems to have no special purpose when it’s making the face shape the other way up.

  2. Paul Gorman Says:

    It sure does John – an astronaut or spaceman maybe.
    On the back cover he is aligned directly “behind” the 3D on the front, scaled down to about 50% of the size of the original.
    What I like is the way that only this (in green) and the nine bars (in blue) use as spot-colour on the back two of the major component tones from the front.

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