Quintessential ‘topiary’ in Gandalf’s Garden

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"Shiva Jones and the Quintessence": Sketch by Barney Bubbles (top, bearded) with group members outside 307 Portobello Road, May, 1969.

One of the more abstruse credits for Barney Bubbles appeared just as he was embarking on his career in music design.

In the sixth and final issue of underground magazine Gandalf’s Garden, Bubbles was credited with “topiary”, in keeping with the horticultural lexicon employed at the offshoot of the Chelsea head shop/restaurant of the same name.

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Front cover, Gandalf's Garden 6, 1969.

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Exterior Gandalf's Garden, World's End, London SW10, 1969.

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Issue 6 of Gandalf’s Garden was published in late 1969, and included a feature on Quintessence. The flute-led jazz/raga/rock ensemble’s recently released debut album In Blissful Company was Bubbles’ first 12in sleeve design (with his Teenburger Designs assistant John Muggeridge, or ‘J. Moonman’ as he was styled on the cover).

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Pages 9-10, Gandalf's Garden 6.

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Page 2, Gandalf's Garden 6.

The feature was enlivened by a pink duotone image of the group, and an Island Records advert for the new album appeared in the same issue. Bubbles received the credit for supplying both of these.

“Since he’s listed among those responsible for ‘topiary’ (i.e. artwork) in the issue, all I can say is that he did SOMETHING!” said Rosemary Pardoe, who is responsible for Gandalf’s online presence.

Gandalf’s mainman Muz Murray does not believe Bubbles ever provided layouts. “However, he  kindly offered his Barney Bubbles’ Light Show for the benefit concerts we did with Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Quintessence,” added Murray.

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Concert posters, 1969.

Bubbles, whose basement at 307 Portobello Road was used as rehearsal space by Quintessence, also regularly provided lights for their performances at the Sunday Implosion events at London’s The Roundhouse.

The GG6 Quintessence image and advert share the design approach Bubbles adopted for the black-and-white 12-page booklet he placed inside the Blissful Company gatefold (the front and back covers were paintings by ‘Gopala’, a member of the group’s posse, and the inner a photograph of the group and their circle).

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Pages 6-7, In Blissful Company booklet, 1969.

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Pages 9-10, In Blissful Company booklet, 1969.

The 12in sq booklet presented italicised song lyrics and credits with images of the band-members amid coarse dot patterns, shimmering elipses and die-cut apertures leading to an op-art quadrant.

This complementary and juxtaposed use of the square, triangle and circle were repeated by Bubbles throughout his career, denoting his understanding of the power of primary shapes (defining features of art movements he investigated, such as the Bauhaus).

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Profiled in the BBC doc New Horizons: The Alternative Society, Quintessence took part in the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre (which led to the  fund-raising album of the following year housed in Bubbles’ tri-fold sleeve).

A version of the group is still led by founder Shiva Jones. You can catch up with their latest news here.

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3 Responses to “Quintessential ‘topiary’ in Gandalf’s Garden”

  1. David Allen Says:

    good gravy! – I was at that Implosion show.

  2. Paul Gorman Says:

    How was it David?

  3. tbsbet Says:

    One of the more abstruse credits for Barney Bubbles appeared just as he was embarking on his career in music design.

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