“What he did was incredible”

An important Barney Bubbles project of the post-punk period sprang from an unlikely source: the album with the unprepossessing title Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts, released by The Rumour in March 1979.

Frogs Clogs Krauts etc

Front cover Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts

The pre-PC name took its cue from the album track Euro, and Barney created a thematically-linked design package based around the ceremony and colour schemes of EEC officialdom (then very much in the news ahead of the first European Community elections that summer).

The result of a collaboration with Brian Griffin, this became an exercise in graphic integration and photographic abstraction, completed by a set of coded references from heraldic and numeric to political and astrological.

Barney usually art-directed photographers, but made an exception for Brian; for this cover he gave over the entire floor of his warehouse studio in London’s East End and left Brian to his own devices.

Inner of Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts

Inner of Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts

Brian says he “constructed a sculpture” using regular model Charles Woods. Rigidly posed behind velvet ropes and set against the national flags of the countries indicated by the title (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany with the addition of the UK), Woods presents a soil sampler to the viewer.

“The idea was that Charles had plunged it into the earth and – like the grades of coloured sand I got in glass phials as a kid on holiday on the Isle Of Wight – produced a cross-section of the national colours,” says Brian.

Copyright

Spread from Copyright 1978 (c) Brian Griffin/Reasons 2009

Obliterating the band’s pub rock scene roots (some of the members had been close to Barney for several years as part of Brinsley Schwarz), the angular band logo is suitably post-punk, constructed from straight lines and curves in a similar fashion to the mysterious symbols Barney provided for Brian’s book Copyright 1978.

Barney also created a bespoke record label for the group, featuring the logo with the label copy enlivened by ellipses. These, which recur throughout his record sleeve designs, made their appearance on his very first, In Blissful Company by Quintessence (1969).

In Blissful Company by Quintessence

In Blissful Company booklet

A graphic of five spear-points is repeated in variation across the campaign, and bursts forth from the album title, invoking an aerial display at an official occasion and also the tips of the flag banners.

The arrowheads also zip away from the song titles on the reverse, where Barney enlarged a section of Griffin’s photograph, showing the soil-sampler in detail. A section is again enlarged on one side of the inner sleeve, and the reverse of that carries yet another enlargement (as well as an enigmatic short story), so that the image is driven to abstraction.

“Barney took my photograph and went into it to reveal the basic dot structure, just like the sampler going into the ground,” says Brian.

Frozen Years front cover

Frozen Years front cover

The cover of Frozen Years, the first single to be released from the album, shows Woods running on the spot on a snow-covered terrain, in front of five tiny flags stuck in the ground.

Frozen Years back cover

Frozen Years back cover

The reverse replaces photography with the spear-pointed fly-past and an illustration of the five flags created from the repeated silhouette of a face. These not only represent the five nations central to the functioning of the EEC, but also the number of members in The Rumour.

Some of the accompanying music press ads present unforgiving monochrome close-cropped portraits of individual band members, complete with oblique lines and arrows and information appropriate to the musician’s astrological sign.

The close-up of bassist Andrew Bodnar in the full-page ad in NME March 17 1979 is captioned: “Aquarius deals with democratic communication with human beings who look on each other as brothers; it’s ruler Uranus governs electricity.”

Such was Barney’s fascination with the cosmos and star systems; for example, a few years earlier as part of his set designs, he arranged on-stage performance positions for Hawkwind according to their star-signs.

Ad in the NME

The Rumour advert, NME, March 3 1979. (c) Carol Fawcett/Reasons 2009

Another press ad (from NME March 3 1979) has The Rumour logo spiked by the tower of an industrial plant (similar in execution to the “vinyl factory” on the back cover of The NME Book Of Modern Music published a couple of months earlier). Five rows etched into the front of the building are reflected in another fly-past, while the tour dates are set in an elongated version of the silhouette from the back of Frozen Years.

Emotional Traffic front cover

Emotional Traffic front cover

The sleeve for the second single from the album, Emotional Traffic, is set in black on the front and white on the back with the addition of a love heart. Traffic light roundels in red, green and amber indicate the three colours of vinyl in which it was made available. In each, there is a die-cut circle revealing the colour of the record inside.

Emotional Traffic back cover

Emotional Traffic back cover

The campaign for Frogs included five collect-the-set album posters spelling out the album title. On these a telecommunications tower is seen from different perspectives and set against the colours of the French and German flags as the five arrows swoop and swirl. Cropped sections of the central image also appear in the press ads featuring band member faces, completing the cross-fertilisation of the design package’s main elements.

Poster

One of the five posters for the album. (c) Carol Fawcett/Reasons 2009

Barney’s progression of the original concept for the album cover remains a source of wonder to Brian.  “Barney wanted me to give him something which he hadn’t been involved in, and then take it over,” he says. “My image was OK, but what he did with it was incredible. Everything he did with my stuff improved upon it.”

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One Response to ““What he did was incredible””

  1. Ian B Says:

    I picked up a copy of The Rumour’s elpee for a paltry quid a week or 2 ago – haven’t gotten ’round to actually playing it, have just been gazing longingly at the sleeve!

    (p.s. Bloody brilliant website btw.)

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