Kicking up the dust on Teenburger’s Red Dirt sleeve

The current issue of The Word covers former Radio One DJ Mike Read’s sale of his huge vinyl collection.

12in card. Front cover, Red Dirt, Red Dirt, Fontana, 1970. Pic: John KosmicKourier.

A notable item in Read’s glorified yard sale (also discussed on The Word’s excellent website) is the 1970 eponymous album by blues-rockers Red Dirt. Released on the Fontana label, this went as soon as it arrived, ignored by punters and press alike.

Since the 80s collectors’ boom in prog and associated genres, copies of Red Dirt have become increasingly valuable; vinyl authority (and one-time colleague of Barney Bubbles) Phil Smee points out that they are currently go for at least £600 a pop.

Back cover, Red Dirt, 1970. Pic: John KosmicKourier.

Red Dirt’s music has been derided, unfairly we believe. Though sometimes workmanlike,  the quartet’s vigorous brew kept it short and sweet, shining on such tracks as Mellotron and dirty slide-laden opener Memories, the Beefheart stomp of Death Letter, acoustic bottleneck blues Song For Pauline and the mournful I’ve Been Down So Long. Sonically, it’s in line Rod Stewart’s first couple of solo albums as well as those he did with The Faces; this could have something to do with the presence of engineer Mike Bobak (who worked on Never A Dull Moment and Long Player among others).

Red Dirt is blessed with a wonderful cover by Barney Bubbles, whose Notting Hill design studio Teenburger receives the credit.

Barney launched Teenburger Designs at the beginning of 1969 from his abode at 307 Portobello Road; for headed paper he reproduced burger wrappers, with a brown burger in a bun printed on the back. We’ll be revealing an example as one of the additions to the new enhanced edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful; above is the header.

305-309 Portobello Road, London, W11, 1970. Photo: Unknown.

Red Dirt is one of a handful of album sleeves attributed to Teenburger; some were executed in conjunction with Barney’s pal from Conran Design in the 60s, John Muggeridge.

The cover image is taken from a wanted poster of Geronimo, the Apache chieftain reputed to have magical powers (though it’s clear the photo was staged – a shackle is visible around one leg) . The Apache stem from the south of the US: Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, where there are federally recognized contemporary Apache tribal governments to this day. Geronimo’s remains were thought – until recently – to have been buried under a stone pyramid monument at Fort Sill in Oklohoma, the state renowned for the presence of – guess what? – red dirt across more than a million acres, in 33 counties no less.  Sand, siltstone and shale weathering account for its hue, apparently.

7in sleeve. Back and front, One Chord Wonders/Quickstep, The Adverts, Stiff Records, 1977.

Barney’s brutal enlargement of the deliberately ragged crop of Geronimo’s face brought out the half-tones, while  the dramatic contrasts are heightened by the sparing  use of the  red “blood” trickles seeping from the bullet holes emblazoning the band’s name on the design.

Poster, 60" x 40". The Damned, Stiff Records, 1977.

This technique really came into it’s own seven years later when applied to the monochrome imagery of early punk, as evinced by Barney’s 7in sleeve for The Adverts’ Stiff single 1977 One Chord Wonders and his large poster for The Damned that same year.

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4 Responses to “Kicking up the dust on Teenburger’s Red Dirt sleeve”

  1. Will Birch Says:

    Aha! That explains something… when I was researching ‘No Sleep Till Canvey Island – The Great Pub Rock Revolution’, I interviewed John Eichler, who was part of the 307 Portobello Road scene. We were discussing the sleeve of the first Brinsley Schwarz album (1970) and John told me that Barney had to come up with something in a hurry and proposed some artwork he had presented to ‘Red Dirt’, but it had been rejected. As Brinlsey watchers will know, the artwork depicts a Red Indian astride his horse, attributed to Teenburger Designs.

  2. Will Birch Says:

    And now I learn that Barney was Painting By Numbers! What style! Truly.

  3. Paul Gorman Says:

    Hi Will

    Have a butcher’s here – posted an image of another p-b-n painting from the series:

    http://www.barneybubbles.com/blog/archives/1285

    P

  4. Frank Selmer Says:

    The Red Dirt cover is not based on any depiction of Geronimo. The bands manager has stated all along that the owner of the face is from Hull.

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