Never published before: Rejected Barney Bubbles artwork for Generation X
Presented here for the first time in nearly 35 years, this is Barney Bubbles’ original artwork for the front cover of Your Generation, the 1977 debut single by Generation X.
The design was rejected because the photograph was considered too routine. What a shame. This is a typically high-impact Bubbles work combining concise photographic presentation with audacious typography.
The quartet’s manager Jonh Ingham, the journalist who had been at the forefront of punk reportage, has dug it out from his archive exclusively for this blog.
“I cut, folded and glued it, so we could see what the sleeve would look like held in the hand,” says Ingham.
In the photograph – possibly by Ray Stevenson – the usually peroxide blonde frontman Billy Idol (centre left) has dyed red hair.
“That would have been an issue if we had gone with Barney’s first idea,” says Ingham. “But the band rejected it because they thought it looked too much like a ‘standard’ group photo/cover. At the time almost no punk sleeves had band photos.”
The decision not to use the artwork has broader significance, particularly in terms of appraising Bubbles’ contribution to the development of graphic design in the 70s.
In the event, the graphic he planned for the back cover – the Constructivist-style play on the number 45 containing song titles and credits – appeared on the front and was repeated on the back without the info.
This example of Bubbles’ plundering of the history of 20th Century art has been cited by designer Peter Saville as an inspirational spark for a post-Modern approach to graphics by the new generation of music industry designers. This in turn enabled them to keep pace with developments in the wider world of commercial design.
“We saw the Generation X cover and received a very clear signal: Mr Barney Bubbles was saying: ‘Constructivism has our blessing’,” says Saville in Reasons To Be Cheerful.
“‘Our response was: ‘Yes, this is the way’.”
Would this message have been broadcast so effectively had the graphic appeared only on the back cover? Who’s to know? It’s certainly something to ponder as we admire this missing piece of the puzzle after nearly 35 years.
Read here how Bubbles drew inspiration for the Generation X sleeve from the work of Henryk Berlewi and El Lissitzky.
Read Jonh Ingham’s back pages here.