Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

Kim Ann Foxman’s Creature clip

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Check out the Barney Bubbles references in this clip for Kim Ann Foxman‘s track Creature.

Comprehensive: The Art Of The Album Cover

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

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“How can something so square be so hip?”

Designer Richard Evans sets out to answer this question in the new illustrated history of the 12in album sleeve, The Art Of The Album Cover.

Evans, The Who’s in-house designer for 35 years, provides a comprehensive overview in this glossy hardback which presents many examples of Barney Bubbles’ plundering of the history of record sleeve design for his palette of possibilities: think the crazy lettering and daring mix of photography and graphics of Alex Steinweiss and his 40s brethren Jim Flora and George Maas and, in the 50s,  the work of the cool ruler, Blue Note’s Reid Miles.

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Evans shows how Miles’ admiration for the “blotted line” illustrative work of Andy Warhol in the 50s resulted in gorgeous sleeves for Johnny Griffin and Kenny Burrell, while tribute is paid to the work not just of examplars such as William Claxton and Burt Goldblatt but also the teeming “unknowns” who populated the art departments of (mainly American) record labels in the 50s and 60s.

As design critic Kenneth FitzGerald recently set out in his new collection of essays, Evans recognises that everything changed with The Beatles’ 1963 debut album sleeve by Robert Freeman, setting design for music on the path to Sgt Pepper’s four years later and then onto the 70s boom-time. There are name-checks for all the leading art directors, illustrators, designers and artists, including Cal Schenkel, Neon Park, Kosh, Hipgnosis, Roger Dean and Evans himself as well as Barney Bubbles, whose work Evans deeply admires.

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“I don’t have enough words of praise for the delightful and brilliant work of Barney Bubbles,” writes Evans. “He was the graphic designer’s graphic designer; a man full of the best ideas executed with great wit and originality.”

With concise sections dedicated to Neville Brody, Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett and Stylorouge, Evans tracks the familiar tale of the damage done by the shrinkage of the packaging with the rise of the CD and the ultimately restrictive practices wreaked by increased digitisation.

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As in FitzGerald’s Volume, however, the obituary for the vinyl sleeve outlined in Aubrey “Po” Powell‘s introduction (“The art of creating album covers belongs to a bygone age”) looks again to be premature in an era of renewed vigour in the field.

And Evans’ declaration that album sleeve design now resides in CD booklets also seems wrong-footed; the digital format is being rapidly forced down the gurgler by the download generation yet the demand for vinyl – though necessarily much more limited than in it’s heyday – is once again the smart choice.

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The Art Of The Album Cover is available here.

New edition of the Barney Bubbles book out now

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

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The enhanced, revised and updated new edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful is published in the UK this week.

With a remixed cover, the fully illustrated 224-page second edition of the acclaimed biography features many new elements.

There are nearly 60 fresh images in the new book: letters, postcards and photographs as well as sketches, designs and finished artwork for record sleeves, posters, stickers, drumheads, etc.

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Paul Gorman has written a new author’s note and afterword summing up the impact of the first edition, and the commentary now includes a chat with foremost US designer Art Chantry about the relevance of Barney Bubbles’ artistic legacy to contemporary design. The new edition is published in the US in spring 2011.

A host of new contributors have been interviewed, from Wreckless Eric to “Record John” Cowell – Bubbles’ one-time room-mate and the half brother of Simon Cowell.

All chapters have been updated with freshly researched information, including never-previously published facts and quotes about Bubbles’ time at art school and his first full-time job at leading British commercial art studio Michael Tucker + Associates.

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As an EXCLUSIVE, we are offering signed copies of the new book only from this blog, priced £18.99 plus £5 p&p UK.

Mail for info on postage to continental Europe and rest of world.

To buy your copy click on the button below or visit HERE for details.

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Process: Chelsea students’ stunning response

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Third-year graphics communications students  at Chelsea have responded to Process with a stunning set of works which formed a mini-exhibition at the college last week.

Course director Geoff Thomas-Shaw’s brief was to create three-dimensional objects in response to the show.

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Mindful of Bubbles’ educational experience working with paper and card as part of a display course at Twickenham School Of Technology in the late 50s and early 60s, Thomas-Shaw’s brief also paid attention to Bubbles’ work in the pre-digital age.

Thus, students were steered towards producing designs “analogue in terms of origination, utilising paper-based materials to reflect the non-dependency of digital influences in Barney Bubbles’ original artwork”.

Recognising some of the designer’s primary concerns, Thomas-Shaw also recommended they consider Bubbles’ use of scale, colour, texture and mode of display.

Chelsea Space director Donald Smith and I are bowled over by the quality and vision of the results.

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

“I’m incredibly impressed by the ways in which the students interpreted the brief; by their skill, wit and dexterity; and also by how well they had seemed to understand the original work,” says Donald Smith. “Their exhibition is impressive in its own right.”

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Process is on until this Saturday (October 23).
Come along and say hi.

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Exhibition of Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles show

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Exhibit from Chelsea art school graphic students reponse to Barney Bubbles exhibition

Photos: Donald Smith.

“Amazing” – flood of visitors to Process

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Process visitors' book

On a page in the Chelsea Space visitors’ book, New York designer Aleksandar Maćašev sums up the reaction to the show we’ve received this week from a flood of visitors, including waves of graphics students, a major British artist, Ian Dury’s biographer, the owner of the country’s biggest spoof news site, one of rock music’s leading record sleeve designers (who has incorporated a section on Barney Bubbles in a new book), and, of course, Billy Bragg.

Maćašev wrote that a visit to the exhibition was the top of his to-do list while in London, and, judging by his response, we did not disappoint. Artist Daniel Sturgis, who has openly acknowledged his debt to Bubbles, was similarly complimentary, as were Will Birch and Paul Stokes, one of the men behind The Daily Mash.

Paul Gorman talking with Will Birch

Studying the ramp wall exhibits with Will Birch.

Paul Gorman talks Barney with Will Birch

Will Birch asks about the book and magazine display.

Process - Paul Gorman with Chelsea students

With Paul Stokes (far right) and Chelsea students.

And designer Richard Evans, who has been art director for The Who for more than 35 years, came along for a viewing, bringing with him his exciting new book Art Of The Album Cover, which has a section dedicated to Barney Bubbles’ achievements in this sphere.

Process - Richard Evans explains the process to Barbara and Martina

Richard Evans discusses process with Chelsea Space assistant curator Barbara Elting and assistant Martina Gonano.

Process - Richard Evans with his  book The Art of the Album Cover

Richard Evans with his new book open at the section on Barney Bubbles’ album sleeve designs.

Students from courses at Chelsea, Hastings, London College Of Communications and the Vienna International School took their time to absorb the insights into Bubbles’ working methods provided by the exhibits in the main room.

Process - students from the Vienna International School

Students from the Vienna International School.

Matt Boyle with students from the London College of Communication

Students from London College Of Communications.

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Students from Chelsea College Of Art & Design.

“I found it fascinating and informative (more than most of the LDF and ADF!),”  writes Jonathan from Sussex Coast College Hastings. “Because of the layout, you get the sense of ‘this is his work’ and then you walk round the corner and…’this is how it was done’. It’s not just a show of his finished pieces – it goes deeper than that.”

Process is on until October 23.

Photos: Donald Smith.

Blue Genes, Kursaals + Fry’s 5 Boys

Monday, October 4th, 2010

birch-bluegenesDrumhead 1982.

One of the most satisfying aspects of staging Process has been engaging with visitors who knew Barney Bubbles personally.

Film producer Linda Gamble dropped by last week; she worked at Virgin Records in the 70s and 80s and knew Bubbles via her then-boyfriend Will Birch.

Touchingly, Linda brought a thank-you note Bubbles sent her and Birch in 1982 for a record player they had given him. The note – in an envelope proclaiming “Bring Back The Birch” – accompanied a painted drumhead which Bubbles suggested could either be used in performance or placed on the wall as an artwork.

“I kept this note all these years because Barney was such a great guy,” says Linda.

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As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, around this time Birch commissioned sleeve designs for his band The Records as well as a cover for a compilation of tracks by his previous outfit Kursaal Flyers. While working together he and Bubbles had entertained themselves by creating an imaginary beat group, The Blue Genes.

In his note, Bubbles recommended referring to Merseybeat or Andrew Lauder (who had reissued such gems as The Merseybeats’ Beat & Ballads via F-Beat’s catalogue wing Edsel).

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12″ sleeve. Front cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.

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Back cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.

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Credit details, back cover, Chocs Away.

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Left: Fry’s packaging, 1968. Right: Fry’s 5 Boys 1902.

Birch first met Bubbles in 1975, when the designer produced the sleeve for Kursaal Flyers’ debut album Chocs Away.

Developing the chocolate aeroplane theme of the cover, Bubbles cast the five Kursaals on the back as variations of Fry’s 5 Boys (who appeared on the confectionery company’s packaging from 1902 until a marketing overhaul the year after Chocs Away’s release).

For his credit, Bubbles chose “Grove Lane”, after the street/neighbourhood where Kursaals’ manager Paul Conroy shared a flat with photographer Adrian Boot.

By the early 80s, the designs for Music On Both Sides, In For A Spin and their attendant singles captured Bubbles during his final reductive phase, relying on repetition of primary shapes and restricted palettes.

Thus The Records designs centred on jukebox lozenges and stars, while that for In For A Spin arose from a visit of Birch’s to Bubbles’ studio in January 1983.  “The title came out of a discussion I had with Barney,” says Birch. “I remember him alternating between sketches of a ‘spin dryer’ and aeroplane propellers,  as in ‘taking a plane up for a spin.”

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12″ sleeve. Front cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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Back cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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7″ sleeve. Front cover, Imitation Jewellery, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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12in sleeve. Front cover, In For A Spin, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.

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7″ sleeve. Front cover, Radio Romance, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.

Thanks to Linda Gamble for bringing in the note and providing us with an opportunity to present yet more fantastic designs which we were unable to include in Process.

The show is on for another three weeks (until October 23), open Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm.

Visit from Kingston illustration students…

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Kingston illustration students visit Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles

The breadth and variety of visitors to Process over the last week pays testament to the growing interest in the work of Barney Bubbles.

A couple of days ago students on the illustration course at Kingston University spent a lot of time studying the various stages of artwork in the main room. “I can’t believe this was all done by hand,” exclaimed one. “It’s so rare you get an opportunity to study such great work in such detail.”

Kingston illustration students visit Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles

Kingston illustration students visit Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles

Process: Pictures from our exhibition

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

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Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles uses the three areas of Chelsea Space to guide visitors through the methods by which this master designer realised his audacious creations.

And there’s a continuous soundtrack of the music for which he designed, from Cressida to Costello, from Hawkwind to The Damned, from Iggy Pop & James Williamson to Red Dirt.

In the entrance to Chelsea Space is selected ephemera – adverts, badges, music press ads, stickers – as well as books, magazines and other finished artwork and designs, including the rug made in the image of a panel on the cover of Brewing Up With Billy Bragg.

There is also a showreel of 10 of the videos directed by Bubbles (including two never publicly displayed before: Incendiary Device and Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby for Johnny Moped).

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A face-off is conducted between Elvis Costello (in 1977’s Warholian 60″ x 40″ Live Stiffs poster) and Chuck Berry (in the form of the wall-mounted sculpture created by Bubbles for music publisher Peter Barnes) at each end of the ramp.

On the ramp wall are posters, sleeves and other exhibits denoting approaches, recurrent themes and areas such as art direction, colour usage, application of symbols, photographic treatment, geometric arrangement, etc.

In the main room there is no finished artwork, excepting a copy of Damned Damned Damned with it’s deliberate printing error, and an NME Book Of Modern Music to demonstrate from whence Bubbles was taking his design leads at the time of production.

Sketches and proposals, along with personal effects, influences, paintings and sketchbooks rest on plinths and trestles colour-schemed to a typically exuberant Bubbles palette.

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The walls are lined with pen and ink artwork, PMTs (Photo Mechanical Transfers), proofs, proposals, paste-ups, photography, etc. There’s a guide to the technical aspects of producing artwork in the pre-digital age, as well as a professional CV.

If you get the chance, do drop by; we’re around a lot of the time so can be on hand to talk you through the show and answer any questions.

Video and music track listings for the show are available here.

All photos Donald Smith.

Bazooka + Brody launch their barrage on London

Friday, September 17th, 2010

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Last night the Bazooka exhibition/collaboration with Neville Brody opened at London’s Aubin Gallery.

Curated by Stuart Semple, the show is part of the Anti-Design Festival‘s counterblast to the London Design Festival.

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With one room dedicated to two giant screens beaming a compilation of artworks, the Bazooka archive is represented from the 70s to the present day in a tradermark barrage of imagery collaging Dada, punk, reportage and commentary concerning everything from domestic abuse to Islamic fundamentalism.

Brody brings his typographical magic to bear on the series of new pieces, which are printed on industrial synthetic rugs produced especially in Belgium. These contain slogans such as “The abyss also gazes into you”.

“It brought us great pleasure that the manufacturer should be producing such work,” Bazooka’s Loulou Picasso told us. Barney Bubbles – with whom Bazooka collaborated on Elvis Costello And the Attractions’ Armed Forces sleeve – would surely have approved.

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The work at second left in the photograph above contains an element from the cover of Bazooka’s ground-breaking January 1978 Libération supplement Un Regard Sur Le Monde.

Bubbles’ personal copy of this publication is on show in our exhibition, as is an original of The NME Book Of Modern Music, which signalled his absorption of some of Bazooka’s artistic approaches.

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Utilising the comic strip visual vocab of the underground press and the Paris événements, Bazooka continue to blaze their trail in the digital age with their site Un Regard Moderne.

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Bazooka is at The Aubin Gallery until October 3.

Guest blog: The many faces of Barney Bubbles

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Vic Fieger's favourite faces.

Physiognomy was a preoccupation  of Barney Bubbles and a recurring theme; he worried at the representation of the human face and tackled it from many angles. There are hundreds littered across his work, rendered in unusual arrangements and assembled from unlikely elements.

Here, in the first of a series of blogs by guests, the US designer Vic Fieger selects his Top Ten Barney Bubbles Faces:

Armed Forces: there he is, Barney himself,  in the best place to hide: where everybody can see you. He seemed never to back away from portraying his big nose (see also Fast Women & Slow Horses), which makes up 70% of this self-portrait. The presentation of the eye utilises one of  Barney’s favourite tricks: the repositioning of an oval shape. Most of  his ovals have the same dimension ratio, and were likely cut or drawn with the use of a drafter’s stencil for isometric circles.

Inner panel, 12in sq. Armed Forces, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Radar, 1979.

The Blockhead logo for Ian Dury and crew is of course one of his best-known. Everything is as clear as can be: eye/nose/eye/mouth. The letters are unaltered and of uniform size, save for the elongated L, and the arrangement of them is all it took to makes this word into a bona fide blockhead. Is it just serendipity that the letter-forms seem to present a mouth of misaligned and rotten teeth, framed by the round C and D?

There is similarity to the back of the 1981 re-issue of Dury’s What A Waste. In the  square, white this time, the (still perfectly horizontal) mouth is the negative space of a double-edged razor which has wandered from the front cover. And is that another Eye Of Horus, gazing at the title of the B-side, perhaps just waking up to it?

Label, What A Waste/Wake Up! , Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff, 1978.

Back, 7in sleeve, What A Waste/Wake Up & Make Love To Me, Ian Dury, Stiff, 1981.

The fellow who adorns the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass is made of metal; his mouth is a utility knife, his nose a pair of tweezers, and he sheds a pop pull-tab tear. A circular saw frames the face, the negative space this time providing the outline of head and neck.

The opposite end of the spectrum is represented by the sleeve for  The Inmates’ seven-inch Me And The Boys. Here Barney subtracts rather than adds, removing different lengths of teeth of a plastic comb for the chiseled profiles of the titular mates. Stray hairs left in the combs provide – what else? – their hairstyles. This theme is extended to the rear of the sleeve, where Betty Lou (the B-side) is a long-haired beauty. There’s no paper wrapping (like for each of the Boys), so we have a female comb posing nude.

Ingrid Mansfield-Allman’s Stop Wasting Your Time has a thick stripe taking up half of the front cover, which consists of a grid  with a black dot at each eighth intersect. The portion above is black, below is white. A precise calligraphic swash eases down the left side. Together, these elements present the veiled visage of woman as  funeral attendee, her lips formed from the dense, compact letter forms of Haettenschweiler. They spell the record’s title, as if this character is saying: “He’s gone now, so what are you waiting for?”

Front, 7in sleeve. I love The Sound Of Breaking Glass/They Called It Rock, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

Front, 7in sleeve. Me And The Boys/Betty Lou, The Inmates, WEA, 1981.

Front, 7in sleeve. Stop Wasting Your Time/Sister Slow, Ingrid Mansfield-Allman, Polydor, 1981.

Haettenschweiler is also used  in Barney’s letterhead for Elvis Costello. While the O’s are big, bold and circular, the rest of Costello is pushed together in this typeface – type face? – to complete his trademark horn-rims. The capital  “E” is stretched down  for the outline of his head and the coif is made up of the “LVIS”.

Letterhead, Elvis Costello Ltd, 1980.

Another letterhead, for F-Beat, presents the face of a clown  from the most primitive of shapes. The lowercase “B” is represented as a mostly filled-in circle for one eye and the other eye is the clown’s painted cross from a lowercase “t”. The “A” is a red triangular nose,  the “E ” a square formed by identical and equally-spaced parallel rectangles (another of Barney’s recurring devices) and the longer portion below the horizontal line of the T suggests face-paint running down a harlequin’s face: the tears of a clown, maybe?

Howard Werth’s 4D Man sleeve is particularly smart: an eight-pointed star and a bold pink numeral 4  which rotates at intervals of 90deg to form the part of the star, but also, in its upright form, is  an angular profile. The rest of the star forms a spiked mohawk hairstyle, and the placement of “MAN” can be seen as a shorn scalp. Whether the D is an eye or an ear isn’t clear.

Another drawn up from geometric sources is the test-pattern man of Roger Chapman’s Mango Crazy album. It’s  quite hard to tell exactly what’s going on here; for instance, which direction is he facing? His mouth and chin seem to be in opposite directions; his eyebrows can be discerned, but which are his eyes: the red dots or the white? Does each eye have two dots, one of each color? Is he shown in the action of casting his gaze aside? Just pondering all of the possibilities here is enough to make a man, er, go crazy.

Letterhead, F-Beat Records, 1980.

Front, 7in sleeve. 4D Man/What's Hoppin', Howard Werth, Metabop, 1982.

Front, 12in sleeve. Mango Crazy, Roger Chapman & WHO, LABEL, 1983.

Come to think of it, are any of these faces at all? They’re grids, bits of metal, letters of the alphabet, combs, and so forth. It’s part of human nature to see faces where they don’t actually exist, but Barney Bubbles envisioned them like nobody else I have ever come across.

Vic Fieger – website ttp://www.vicfieger.com and  blog.