A popular element of the Barney Bubbles exhibition within the recent graphics/music group show White Noise: Quand Le Graphisme Fait Du Bruit was the cubicle housing designer Kate Moross’s Barney Bubbles video triptych.
Archive for the ‘Films’ Category
Thanks are due to the indefatigable Brian McCloskey for turning up this little-known interview given by Barney Bubbles to journalist Johnny Black for an early 80s Smash Hits feature on the fledgling promo video industry.
The quotes from Bubbles appeared exactly 30 years ago in the issue of the teen mag dated Jan 21- Feb 3, 1982.
In Reasons To Be Cheerful, Stafford Cliff – Barney Bubbles’ colleague in Conran’s design department in the 60s – talks about their participation in an uncompleted film version of Alice In Wonderland.
Now, after 45 years, footage featuring Bubbles and his friends has emerged as the promo video for Balloon Race, a new song by British quartet Bear Driver.
“The work of Barney Bubbles expresses post-modern principles: that there is the past, the present and the possible; that culture and the history of culture are a fluid palette of semiotic expression and everything is available to articulate a point of view.”
Peter Saville, Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life & Work Of Barney Bubbles.
During the making of Tahiti 80‘s fifth album, Xavier Boyer, mainman of the French electro-orchestralloungepopindie sextet, put together a mix-tape consisting of 80s indie from The The, dark dance 90s remixes by producer Andy Weatherall, the psychedelic cut-ups of Cornelius and 70s post-punk and power pop in the form of Wire and Squeeze.
Barney Bubbles’ promo for Is That Love, Squeeze, 1981.
Says Boyer: “The Past is the sum of strong roots, The Present is us living in our times, and The Possible is one’s interpretation of the future.”
The new album is released on Tahiti 80′s label Human Sounds in February, trailed by the Solitary Bizness EP out now with this animated clip by Daisuke Kitayama:
The most exciting moment in preparing the new edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful arrived at 6 o’clock one morning this summer when I cracked a major mystery surrounding Barney Bubbles’ life and work: the identity of his first full-time employer, the person who Bubbles said taught him “everything about typography”, instilling the rigour which resonated throughout his professional life.
In turn, the trail I uncovered lead me to establish a hitherto unacknowledged connection between Bubbles and one of the greats of graphic design, Robert Brownjohn.
During my research, family, friends and associates had recalled little about Bubbles’ first employer, least of all his name.
While stressing the importance of this mystery figure in his life, Bubbles himself declined to name the individual in his only ever interview (in The Face, published November 1981).
So that early morning in June, after years of cross-checking directories and entering any number of search engine variations, I experienced the “Eureka” moment when the name Michael Tucker + Associates popped up halfway down page 6 of Googlebooks.
This chimed not just with an address and phone number I had accessed, but also contemporaneous correspondence in which Bubbles mentioned “M.T.”.
Within hours I had confirmed that this was indeed the commercial art studio where Bubbles (then Colin Fulcher) worked as an assistant between 1963 and 1965 as part of a small team servicing such clients as Pirelli.
And soon I unravelled the whole story, one which has never been published before.
A star graduate of the London College Of Printing, Michael Tucker began his professional life working for British industrial designer Ian Bradbury in the late 50s.
In 1962, Tucker, then in his early 20s, designed the jacket to Penguin’s reissue of 30s self-help book Meet Yourself As You Really Are.
The geometric arrangement and use of colour aren’t so far removed from Bubbles’ later work, such as the inner sleeve of Hawkwind’s 1973 album Space Ritual.
Around the time of the Penguin book cover, Tucker set up his own practice on the fourth floor of Artists House, at 14-15 Manette Street, the thoroughfare alongside Foyles which connects Charing Cross Road to Greek Street in London’s West End.
Artists House adorned by JR, 2008.
Tucker was a stickler, insisting assistants use Graphos architecture pens rather than Rotrings and was dead set against the on-the-rise Helvetica, preferring for the house font the original manifestation, Neue Haas Grotesk, on a German-size body.
“There was also an unspoken rule that we had to wear American button-down shirts,” says Brian Webb, who began his career at Tucker’s in the mid-60s. “Anything not Ivy League was frowned upon.”
Webb – later of Trickett & Webb and now Webb & Webb – remembers Bubbles returning to MT+A from his job at Conran Design for occasional freelance commissions, including the lettering for the poster for director Hugh Hudson‘s 1966 Pirelli-sponsored promotional short The Tortoise & The Hare.
Brownjohn’s credit sequence starts at 1.00.
The film was produced by the powerhouse commercials company operated by Hudson in conjunction with Donald Cammell and Robert Brownjohn (famed for his typographic excellence and design audacity with such triumphs as the title sequence for Goldfinger and the sleeve of The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed).
The Tortoise & The Hare is notable for the opening credits, which Brownjohn designed to appear on moving vehicles.
Also in 1966, Tucker designed the D&AD Annual (the cover was contributed by Alan Aldridge and Lou Klein), and went on to produce such commercial designs as vinyl labels for Plastic Coatings Ltd as well as logos and booklets for security clients Chubb and Minerva.
Tucker’s work appeared the Graphis Annual 1968-69, Top Symbols And Trademarks Of The World (1973) and World Of Logotypes Vol 2 (1978). By the early 80s he was teaching graphic design at Hong Kong Polytechnic before retiring to focus on his hobby, sailing.
For full details of this and the many other fresh elements in the new edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful – including 60 new images – click here or on one of the ‘buy now’ buttons below for a personalised signed copy at just £18.99 + P&P.
Exciting news – the Barney Bubbles exhibition opens in London this autumn.
PROCESS will present many fascinating exhibits – some displayed for the first time in public – to pinpoint Barney Bubbles’ approach to the body of design work which has cemented his reputation as one of the greats in his field.
By examining Bubbles’ activities from leaving art school in the early 60s to his death in 1983, PROCESS also traces an important strand in the development of the practice of graphic design.
Situated as it is within the grounds of Chelsea College Of Art & Design in the shadow of Tate Britain, Chelsea Space’s hosting of PROCESS will provide students of design and the visual arts and other creative disciplines – as well as the visitors to the home of British art – with vital insights into pre-digital working methods across the range of media.
Delineating the stages of production, PROCESS will also investigate the ways in which Bubbles conjured brilliance by his unique conflation of references and influences.
PROCESS will be complemented by a series of events, including an opening party, talks, q&as and performances from musicians, designers, photographers and others who worked with Bubbles.
We’ll be unveiling details of that programme over the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled. Already we’ve agreed participation with quite a few people, some of whom will be speaking publicly for the first time about their association with, and appreciation for, the work of this intriguing and elusive figure.
Chelsea Space is the place where The Clash, B.A.D., Carbon Silicon and Gorillaz mainman Mick Jones launched his installation The Rock & Roll Public Library, which has evolved as it has toured other spaces.
Similarly we’re looking for PROCESS to be the first manifestation in a rolling series of Barney Bubbles shows over the coming years.
It’s taken a week or so to absorb two very different cinematic investigations into a brace of Barney Bubbles-related bands (both coincidentally from Essex).
Shown during the London Film Festival, Julien Temple’s Oil City Confidential traces the “Estuarine” roots of the wondrous Dr Feelgood, while the Frieze Art Fair delivered Jeremy Deller and Nicholas Abrahams’ The Posters Came From The Walls, an extraordinary celebration of the personal and political liberation experienced by Depeche Mode fans around the world.
More on that below.
Barney’s relationship with Dr Feelgood started around the time of the 1975 release of their mould-breaking mono-only mission statement Down By The Jetty.
The design credits on these releases are “A.D. (Design Consultants) Ltd” and “Petagmo III”. The latter has been confirmed as the artist Joe Petagno, who produced a promotional comic based on the band’s adventures (and also created the Motorhead logo).
As detailed in REASONS, Barney designed the promotional material for 1975′s Naughty Rhythms tour, which featured Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers and Kokomo and provided the Feelgoods with their national breakthrough.
In the mid 70s the Feelgoods’ sleeves were designed by UA regulars such as Paul Henry and John Pasche. All the group’s releases of this period featured the grinning quack logo created by Feelgoods’ one-man guitar army Wilko Johnson.
It was the late lamented Feelgoods’ frontman Lee Brilleaux‘s gift of a £400 cheque to road manager Jake Riviera which kick-started Stiff Records, where Barney re-entered the music business and sealed his design reputation.
Temple’s tricksy movie, while over-garnished with juxtaposed footage from British heist films in the manner of the distracting Richard II inserts in his The Filth & The Fury, is nevertheless an invigorating and touching testament to the importance of Dr Feelgood; these were men, not boys, and their ‘tude powered punk and beyond.
Witnessing one of their gigs on an aggression-filled night in 1976 prepared me for the onstage rush of such Feelgood acolytes as The Clash and The Jam the following year.
By the time Barney designed the sleeves for 1980′s A Case Of The Shakes and 1982′s Fast Women & Slow Horses, the group had lost Wilko to Ian Dury & the Blockheads but still retained a tough musicality. The diamond Brilleaux maintained his position as one of the most magnetic frontmen in rock & roll until his tragically early death from lymphoma in 1994.
For the former album, produced by Nick Lowe, Barney used photographs by Bob “Bromide” Hall to create a Saul Bass-like DTs scenario. There are similarities with two other sleeves produced around this time, for Clive Langer & The Boxes and Inner City Unit.
On the front cover of Fast Women, Barney drew on his considerable illustrative skills for a visual pun which benefits from the cheeky insertion of his own profile (with its prominent proboscis) in the ampersand.
During this period, Barney worked for another quartet who also hailed from Essex but are now the subjects of an almost-religious fervour around the world…
Barney’s work was frequently interlaced with symbols of power, and one of his most subtle was the arrangement of the credits on the album’s back cover in the form of a royal chess piece to accompany the crown logo he created for the band’s name.
The power of Depeche’s music is one of the themes investigated in the brilliant The Posters Came From The Walls, in which Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams identify where the potency of popular music truly resides: with the fans.
Appearances by Depeche members are limited to on-stage footage, and the narrative is driven by the hopes, dreams, experiences and fantasies of the millions of Depeche followers all over the world, from California to Iran via Canada, Mexico, Germany, Romania and Russia.
If there is a common thread running through this and Oil City Confidential (two very different films about groups from opposite ends of the musical spectrum), it is the transformative power of music, whether sweaty four-to-the-floor R&B or anthemic stadium synth.