Kill City: Electrifying artwork and a murderous join-the-dots advert

At the beginning of 1978 Barney Bubbles was installed at Jake Riviera‘s offices at 60 Parker Street on the Holborn/Covent Garden borders, above Radar, a new independent imprint set up by ex-United Artists honchos Andrew Lauder and Martin Davis.

7in sleeve. Front cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

Radar was the new home of Riviera-managed Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Barney designed the label’s amazing logo as well the sleeves and ad campaigns for many of the releases, including first single, Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass, and first album, Costello’s This Year’s Model.

The second album release was Kill City, a great collection of demos recorded in 1975 by former Stooges Iggy Pop and James Williamson licensed by Lauder from the late Greg Shaw’s splendid LA indie Bomp!, who supplied finished album artwork by David Allen.

Left: Little Electric Chair, 1965. Big Electric Chair, 1967.

But fresh packaging was needed for the storming title track released as a single in February 1978, and Barney produced a front cover recalling the Electric Chairs by Andy Warhol (whose deadpan series of  images of the implement of death appeared over a decade starting in 1963, the year of the final death-sentence executions in New York State).   

7in sleeve. Back cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

The vivid pink screen of the front splashes (in signature Barney style) onto the back cover, a monochrome image of a bizarre crime scene, where the body appears to have been impaled on a parking meter. Riviera clearly remembers Barney drawing the outline on the pavement, while design cohort Caramel Crunch delighted in adding the “bullet-holes”.

We’re indebted to eagle-eyed reader Mark Lungo for pointing out that the Kill City single sleeve was a likely Barney creation and also that the cover image is that of the execution of murderess Ruth Snyder in 1928 (see Mark’s comment below).  

Full-page advert, New Musical Express, February 17, 1978.

Naturally, the fun didn’t stop with the sleeve. Barney reproduced the back cover  for the ad campaign, adding a join-the-dots puzzle fluttering in the position of the body over the crime scene. 

This was captioned with a faux Weegee/crime dept-style teleprint caption flagging up the album release: “Kill City STOP straight sell STOP in town STOP open heart STOP out now STOP ++++Iggy Pop and James Williamson STOP KIll City STOP on Radar STOP Rad 2+”

NME ad with dots joined and single title revealed.

When the dots are joined, they reveal the title: Kill City.

Arriving on the heels of the stunning brace of 77 Bowie collaborations The Idiot and Lust For Life, the album Kill City sealed Iggy’s Godfather Of Punk status and, 33 years after purchase, our original copy never strays far from the three-legged Dansette.

Of course Iggy has been firmly ensconced back within the bosom of The Stooges these last few years, with Williamson rejoining the crew following the sad passing of Ron Asheton a year ago.

There’s something circle-squaring about the fact that The Stooges’ reunion started with three tracks on Iggy’s 2003 solo album Skull Ring, one of which was named after Warhol’s 1965 Little Electric Chair.

Here’s Iggy and the boys again, as ever, giving it plenty:

RIP: Ron “Rock Action” Asheton and Greg Shaw.

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7 Responses to “Kill City: Electrifying artwork and a murderous join-the-dots advert”

  1. Mark Lungo Says:


    At last , my lifelong dream has come true–I have my own tag at the Barney Bubbles site! 😉 Seriously, of course I’m very happy to see that you value my input so highly, and I hope I can continue to contribute to your site in the future. Two further comments:

    1. I must admit I’m curious why this interesting tidbit about the Kill City cover from one of my previous e-mail was unmentioned here:

    “The front of the single sleeve features the famous photograph of 1920s
    murderer Ruth Snyder ( ) at the
    moment of her electrocution….”

    2. I’ve remembered another Radar album sleeve that has no credit: The Red Crayola’s “Soldier-Talk”. It’s a stark, nearly colorless affair, featuring photos apparently taken from a car traveling an English motorway on an overcast day. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the band took the pictures on the way to or from the studio.) It doesn’t really look like Barney’s work to me–it may well be designed by Malcolm Garrett, who did the sleeve for the Red Crayola’s Radar single “Wives in Orbit”/”Yik Yak”–but the lack of a credit makes me wonder. If you can learn anything more about the “Soldier-Talk” sleeve, I’d be deeply grateful. Thanks again for everything.

  2. Paul Gorman Says:

    Hi Mark

    There’s a simple explanation – I forgot! I’m writing these posts while otherwise occupied on the biggest edit job of my career so you’ll have to forgive the occasional mis-step. I’ll amend the copy and flag up the Snyder connection in your comment.

    And you’re correct about The Red Crayola sleeve; it was one of Malcolm’s – we were only talking about it at the Design 4 Music event last week.

  3. Mark Lungo Says:

    Dear Paul:

    1. That’s okay. You’re human, you’re allowed to forget things once in a while. I hope your edit job goes well, and I’m looking forward to seeing the revised version of this post.

    2. I’m glad I guessed right about The Red Crayola. I still wonder why Malcolm didn’t credit himself–and if my supposition about the cover photos is correct.

  4. Mark Lungo Says:

    Thanks so much for adding the info, Paul! Also, thanks for the fascinating link to the Executed Today site. (BTW, as the link notes, the photographer of the original image was Tom Howard. Credit where it’s due!)

  5. David Allen Says:

    David Allen here, thanks for the mention btw.
    What a great read the book is, downed in one go!
    I was lucky to meet Barney once backstage at the Whisky a Go-go and we had a nice chat, he was all dressed in black and white striped clobber. Was so sad when he passed, a great artist. Lucky too to have done some work for Jake myself, plus he gave me a load of vinyl swag including some nice Ian and a proper Armed Forces. Jake said that for Do It Yourself they had a ‘competition’ and the winner got his/her house wallpapered in Crown vinyl wallpaper free by the Guinness book of records worlds fastest wallpaperer. I also recall the exterior of the Hope and Anchor wallpapered in Crown vinyl and reading about the guerilla wallpapering of the NME and Melody Maker offices, tho only the MM was put out by it.
    As an original Kilburns fan, hailing from Harrow (Ian’s hometown too) the book answered a lot of questions and painted a full picture of Colin and his times. Yeah I was one of those kids at the Roundhouse on a Sunday back then so I guess I also got to see his light shows too.
    ta very much

  6. Paul Gorman Says:

    Hello David
    Great to hear from you – I have loved the Kill City LP artwork from the very first day I clutched it to my breast at the Beggar’s shop in Earl’s Court.
    So how did you become wrapped up with Bomp! and what work did you do for Jake. Also how goes Artrouble these days?
    So many questions – here’s another – fancy doing an interview about yr interaction with BB/ view of his work, etc?

  7. David Allen Says:

    I think I must have met Jake around the same time I met Barney in LA, and Jake said at the time to look him up next time I was in London. On that trip I met the likes of Rockin’ Russian, Malcom G and Geoff Halpin. Jake had me design the Riviera Global identity, stationary logo etc.
    you can see it here bottom right, (the Manmade logo was for Jeff Ayeroff who was then at A&M, the Planit logo was for Jonh Ingham).
    Email me some Q’s Paul, be happy to answer.

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