Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Coming soon! The Barney Bubbles exhibition!

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Exciting news – the Barney Bubbles exhibition opens in London this autumn.

PROCESS: The working practices of Barney Bubbles will run from September 14 to October 23 at leading London gallery Chelsea Space.

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.

For more info on the exhibition keep in touch by subscribing here and contacting us at info@barneybubbles.com

What connects Simon Callow to Johnny Moped?

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Sounds like a particularly fiendish pub quiz question doesn’t it?

7in sleeve. Front cover, Little Queenie/ Hard Lovin' Man (Live), Chiswick, 1978.

No, the actor (whose naked form cavorting on stage in a production of The Beastly Beatitudes Of Balthazar B is still emblazoned on my memory 29 years after the fact) was not a member of Croydon’s finest alongside Fred Berk and Slimy Toad.

Back cover, Little Queenie/Hard Lovin'Man (Live).

And no, Moped didn’t make a cameo in Four Weddings & Funeral as the punk-rock rival of Hugh Grant for Andi MacDowell’s affections.

However, courtesy of Barney Bubbles’ designs, Callow’s hands did appear on both sides of the sleeve of Moped’s 1978 Chiswick single Little Queenie.

Page 13, Copyright 1978, Brian Griffin.

The shot – as revealed last night by photographer Brian Griffin at a M&C Saatchi talk organised by his friend, creative director Graham Fink – was taken during BG’s Expressionist experiments which resulted in the intriguing self-published collaboration with Barney, Copyright 1978.

Exhibition postcard, 210mm x 140mm. 1979.

Callow, at that time an actor on the rise (and these days also a director, author and fine book reviewer), was one of BG’s models.

Having decorated them with barbed wire for Moped, Callow’s hands channeled the creative energy source in Barney’s design for the Derek Boshier-curated group exhibition Lives at The Hayward in 1979.

Pages 4 and 5, Power: British Management In Focus, Travelling Light, 1981.

During his illuminating presentation, BG also revealed that Barney’s frontispiece portrait for his 1981 book Power was intended as the cover, an idea rejected by the publisher (who relented for the paperback issue in 1984).

“Barney made part of my nose and face out of the numerals ’71’,” said BG. “He thought that was when I started as a professional photographer; in fact it was the following year. The figure next to me, pointing to the future, is supposed to be my boss telling me to get out there and start working.”

Illustration, readers' letters page, NME, January 31, 1981.

BG has often mentioned that he first came across Barney’s work via his enigmatic illustrations for the NME. Above is an example for the music paper’s letter’s page.

It’s a great comment on the increasingly tribal aspects to pop fandom in the early 80s, and is made extra special by the fact that it carries a credit, something the limelight-shy Barney was avoiding at all costs by this stage.

The increasingly rare originals of BG’s collaborations with Barney are available here though, as BG pointed out last night, Power now commands a staggering £400 price tag.

Humphrey Ocean does his ‘Daisy Disco’ dance

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

In 1978 painter Humphrey Ocean dipped his toe back into the music business with the one-off charmer Whoops A Daisy for Stiff Records, a suitably quirky ditty written by his Kilburn & the High Roads bandmate Ian Dury.

The man born Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon had opted out of playing bass for the Kilburns a few years earlier to concentrate on his art, occasionally contributing to record covers for the likes of Wings and 10cc.

7in sleeve. Front cover, Whoops A Daisy/Davey Crockett, Stiff, 1978.

The winsome Whoops A Daisy was backed by a cracking version of the 50s film theme The Ballad of Davy Crockett and wrapped in a wonderful Barney Bubbles sleeve using Chris Gabrin’s photographs of Ocean performing the elaborate dance moves he had recently enacted on the Stiffs Live Stiffs tour.

7in sleeve. Back cover, Whoops A Daisy/Davey Crockett, Stiff, 1978.

These were exaggerated by the huge white suit Ocean had bought in Brixton Market during his time in the Kilburns.

Sleeve lettering, front cover.

Barney decorated the sleeve with detailed lettering (the H on the back from interlinked horseshoes to match the rhyming-slang name of Ocean’s backing musicians, Iron Hoof) and on release there was also a version of the black and white sleeve featuring blue spot-colour.

Sleeve lettering, back cover.

The accompanying poster was a delight. With Ocean’s name picked out in dance-step style, 35 frames from the Chris Gabrin shoot were presented  in sequence with the instruction: “Cut poster out and make Humphrey Ocean’s Daisy Disco Do It My Way flickbook.”

Poster 30in x 20in, Stiff, 1978.

We’ve put them together here to accompany the tune:

And here Ocean is called to the stage to join the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll finale of the Stiff tour and shows us how it’s done:

The Attract!ons’ ‘solo’ album: Mad About The Rwong Boy

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

12in sleeve. Front cover, Mad About The Wrong Boy, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the least remarked of Barney Bubbles designs: that for the “solo” album by Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions: Mad About The Wrong Boy

7in sleeve. Front cover, Outline Of A Hairdo EP, Steve Nieve, F-Beat, 1980.

The deliberately zany typography of the album sleeve – with it’s kitsch Brian Griffin photography and graphic tics – mirrored some aspects of the design for that year’s  big EC album Get Happy!!.

Back covers, The Attractions, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Mad About The Wrong Boy. Right: 7in sleeve, Outline Of A Hairdo EP.

In fact, for the accompanying free EP Outline Of A Hairdo – music for an imaginary film by Steve Nieve, well ahead of similar constructs by Barry Adamson and U2 & Eno – Barney appropriated a Bob “Bromide” Hall shot of Nieve from the back covers of both Get Happy!! and it’s hit lead single I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.

Back covers, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Get Happy!!. Right: 7in sleeve, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down/Girl's Talk.

Artwork, Outline Of A Hairdo. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

In the manner of his approach to fellow F-Beat act Clive Langer & The Boxes, The Attractions were treated to a personalised label.

Left: Label. Right: 12in inner. Mad About The Wrong Boy.

On the inner Barney used a familiar trick of highlighting certain letters in the condensed font slogan “FBEAT WHERE THE ATTRACT!ONS IS” to spell out the record company’s west London location: FBeat Acton.

Double page spread advert, NME, August 30, 1980. Design: Tony Sales.

Barney repeated this on the design for the sleeve of single Single Girl. In his absence, his colleague Antoinette Sales created impressive press advertising from existing artwork. 

Back and front cover, 7" sleeve. Single Girl/Slow Patience, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

The front was an illustration by Barney of the little china dogs from his parent’s mantelshelf.

Artwork, Single Girl/Slow Patience sleeve. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

The addition of the gorgeous silhouette front cover sticker flagging up the inclusion of Nieve’s EP and a neat badge wrapped up the package, though even the musicians themselvesare likely to agree that this is one of those examples where the quality of Barney’s design exceeded that of the music it contained.

Badge and sleeve sticker, The Attractions, 1980.

 

Wreckless Eric: No Piccadilly menial

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Wreckless Eric is one of British pop’s great survivors, blessed with an ever-growing arsenal of superb, idiosyncratic songs which have seen him outlast most of the class of 77.

7in sleeve, laminated card. Front cover, Whole Wide World/Semaphore Signals, Wreckless Eric, Stiff, 1977.

Overshadowed during the early days of Stiff Records by the label’s priority acts Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe, the 2001 publication of Eric‘s great memoir A Dysfunctional Success and the use of the deathless Whole Wide World in Will Ferrell-starrer Stranger Than Fiction have provided the, er, wider world with a taste of his talents in recent years.

Over the coming weeks, the considerable fruits of his partnership with US singer-songwriter Amy Rigby can be witnessed first-hand on a series of European live dates.

In comparison with his former stablemates, Eric Goulden benefited fleetingly from the design work of Barney Bubbles, though they maintained a friendship from introduction early in 1977 to Barney’s death late in 1983; they shared common ground in having attended art schools (Goulden studied sculpture at Hull).

On the line from his home in France, Goulden confirms that Barney wasn’t at Stiff for the first six months of the label’s existence, when the design direction was handled by Chris Moreton.

“Then Barney swam into the picture,” says Goulden. “I liked him a lot. Barney was easygoing and looked kind of normal; short-ish hair and always wearing some kind of anorak. To look at him, you wouldn’t have thought this bloke had any history.

“He was a strange man, an acid casualty on some levels. It was unusual for someone who’d been such a part of the Ladbroke Grove/Notting Hill hippie scene to cross over and working with people like The Damned.”

Barney created an ident (which, like those produced for other Stiff artists, appeared on the record label). “He used the guillotine to cut jagged strips of paper which he put together to make up my name,” says Goulden. This logo was paired on the front cover of Whole Wide World with a crop from the Chris Gabrin portrait from A Bunch Of Stiffs.

From the inner to A Bunch Of Stiffs, April 1977. Photo: Chris Gabrin.

For the back, Goulden was despatched to a photo-booth and ordered to improvise semaphore signals. Barney then cropped and bleached out one of the frames. “I’d never seen anything like it; he made it look incredible,” Goulden adds.

7in sleeve, card. Back cover, Whole Wide World/Semaphore Signals, Wreckless Eric, Stiff, 1977.

“To me Barney was like The Beatles. When I was a kid you wouldn’t be quite sure of how they sounded when you first heard one of their new records. Sometimes you’d think: ‘They’ve lost it,’ because it was so unexpected, and Barney was a bit like that. Every time he did something new, it was so over-the-top you were taken aback.” 

A clutch of 1977 Stiffs with personalised labels.

One of the five subjects of the 60in x 40in day-glo posters Barney and Gabrin created for the Stiffs Live Stiffs tour of late 77, Goulden was around when the pair collaborated on the sleeve for Music For Pleasure.

12in sleeves. Back cover and inner "lino" shots, Music For Pleasure, The Damned, Stiff, 1977.

“I went with him to a lino shop in Westbourne Grove where he bought the roll which is on the inner sleeve,” says Eric. “The Damned were made to lie on it at Chris’s studio and shot from above, so it looked like they were standing up. Very odd, but it worked brilliantly.”

One of Barney’s great lost designs was the sleeve for Goulden’s unreleased 1977 Stiff EP, Piccadilly Menial. With the catalogue number LAST3, this was to comprise the title track, Excuse Me, Personal Hygiene and Rags & Tatters .

“It was on graph paper and in the style of an architectural drawing,” says Goulden, who recalls  it was akin to the axinometric lettering Barney created for The Soft Boys. The EP was replaced in the schedule with Reconnez Cherie,  the B-side of which was the Benny Hill theme tune-quoting Rags & Tatters.

Music press half-page advert, The Soft Boys tour, 1978.

“Barney had angles to him,” says Eric. “People would say ‘Oh it’s just Barney, a bit of a wacky image with some splashes and other esoteric stuff’ but in fact he thought things through and was way better than his imitators, of course. Unfortunately, in that way, he inadvertently created the look of the 80s, which was horrible and gaudy.”

Dansette, detail, front cover Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, F-beat, 1980

Poignantly, Goulden saw Barney not long before his death in November 1983. “I visited him at his house off the Balls Pond Road,” says Eric. “He got Nuggets out and played it really loud on this Dansette on legs in the basement.”

Kill City: Electrifying artwork and a murderous join-the-dots advert

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

At the beginning of 1978 Barney Bubbles was installed at Jake Riviera‘s offices at 60 Parker Street on the Holborn/Covent Garden borders, above Radar, a new independent imprint set up by ex-United Artists honchos Andrew Lauder and Martin Davis.

7in sleeve. Front cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

Radar was the new home of Riviera-managed Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Barney designed the label’s amazing logo as well the sleeves and ad campaigns for many of the releases, including first single, Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass, and first album, Costello’s This Year’s Model.

The second album release was Kill City, a great collection of demos recorded in 1975 by former Stooges Iggy Pop and James Williamson licensed by Lauder from the late Greg Shaw’s splendid LA indie Bomp!, who supplied finished album artwork by David Allen.

Left: Little Electric Chair, 1965. Big Electric Chair, 1967.

But fresh packaging was needed for the storming title track released as a single in February 1978, and Barney produced a front cover recalling the Electric Chairs by Andy Warhol (whose deadpan series of  images of the implement of death appeared over a decade starting in 1963, the year of the final death-sentence executions in New York State).   

7in sleeve. Back cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

The vivid pink screen of the front splashes (in signature Barney style) onto the back cover, a monochrome image of a bizarre crime scene, where the body appears to have been impaled on a parking meter. Riviera clearly remembers Barney drawing the outline on the pavement, while design cohort Caramel Crunch delighted in adding the “bullet-holes”.

We’re indebted to eagle-eyed reader Mark Lungo for pointing out that the Kill City single sleeve was a likely Barney creation and also that the cover image is that of the execution of murderess Ruth Snyder in 1928 (see Mark’s comment below).  

Full-page advert, New Musical Express, February 17, 1978.

Naturally, the fun didn’t stop with the sleeve. Barney reproduced the back cover  for the ad campaign, adding a join-the-dots puzzle fluttering in the position of the body over the crime scene. 

This was captioned with a faux Weegee/crime dept-style teleprint caption flagging up the album release: “Kill City STOP straight sell STOP in town STOP open heart STOP out now STOP ++++Iggy Pop and James Williamson STOP KIll City STOP on Radar STOP Rad 2+”

NME ad with dots joined and single title revealed.

When the dots are joined, they reveal the title: Kill City.

Arriving on the heels of the stunning brace of 77 Bowie collaborations The Idiot and Lust For Life, the album Kill City sealed Iggy’s Godfather Of Punk status and, 33 years after purchase, our original copy never strays far from the three-legged Dansette.

Of course Iggy has been firmly ensconced back within the bosom of The Stooges these last few years, with Williamson rejoining the crew following the sad passing of Ron Asheton a year ago.

There’s something circle-squaring about the fact that The Stooges’ reunion started with three tracks on Iggy’s 2003 solo album Skull Ring, one of which was named after Warhol’s 1965 Little Electric Chair.

Here’s Iggy and the boys again, as ever, giving it plenty:

RIP: Ron “Rock Action” Asheton and Greg Shaw.

Don’t fart before your arse is ready and win an Ian Dury biography!

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

As highlighted in Will Birch’s tremendous Ian Dury biography, the creative relationship between the late singer and Barney Bubbles was one of the most fruitful in the history of pop.

Of similar ages with deep art school roots, Barney and Dury commenced their partnership in the spring of 1977 just as both were heading for the top of their game, with Barney installed at Stiff after a hiatus of more than a year and Dury preparing to unleash the career-defining records and performances which brought him enduring national treasure status.

Back cover photograph by Chris Gabrin.

Unlike his treatment of others, Dury was never-less-than respectful of Barney. “Barney was easily the most incredible designer I’d ever come across,” Dury told Birch.

Poster for Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Stiff Records, 1977. Tom Sheehan Collection.

Dury said Barney “scared the shit out of me. He was righteous. He didn’t have the faults or the ego and he made me feel second class. I wanted his approval in a strange kind of way”.

And, as Birch details, when Jake Riviera departed Stiff with Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello at the end of 1977, remaining partner Dave Robinson was left with Dury’s recently released New Boots & Panties!! as his main chance for commercial survival.

The decision was made to throw all resources behind the polio-stricken performer and his band The Blockheads. Barney art-directed a sustained marketing and promotional campaign made up of several elements: his Blockhead logo, numerous press ads, several posters, a songbook and a tour programme. Together these helped maintain the album’s presence in the charts for more than a year and set up hits What A Waste and number one smash Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

NME, February 4, 1978: Ian Dury and Davey Payne.

The cover of Birch’s book is a delightful rendition by Dury’s friend and mentor Sir Peter Blake, while on the back is a photo by Chris Gabrin from sessions for a series of music press ads.

Melody Maker, February 4, 1978: Fred Rowe and Ian Dury.

These are littered with Dury’s skewiff humour and guttersnipe poetry and feature some of the  possible titles he had drawn up for his debut solo album.

NME January 28, 1978: Ian Dury and Charley Charles.

Gabrin’s monochromatic clarity  and his strong working relationship with both parties was an important element in the Dury/Bubbles dialogue. “We were working full-pelt at the time,” said Gabrin the other night. “There was so much to do to keep up with press ads and tours.”

Right: Melody Maker, January 28, 1978: Norman Watt-Roy and Ian Dury. Left: Sounds, February 4, 1978: Ian Dury and John Turnbull.

Gabrin’s band portraits of Dury and The Blockheads (and minder Fred “Spider” Rowe) hit the UK’s music weeklies in February 1978.

Poster, Stiff Records, 1978.

A Gabrin photograph from an earlier session (which Barney had overlaid with a lurid orange screen for one of five giant posters for the Stiff tour) was used for a standard sized poster to hammer home the album’s availabiity. The year ended with more band shots in the incredible fold-out programme for the December 1978 Hanky Pantie tour.

8" x 6" tour programme cover, December 1978.

The matchstick portrait cover was even used for the manufacture of hankies (to be knotted and worn on the head). A couple of Stiff employees – maybe Paul Conroy or Andy Murray can identify them? – sport these in the Top Of The Pops audience for Dury and The Blockheads’ triumphant performance of Hit Me.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads perform Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Top Of The Pops, December 1978.

By 1983, when Dury was filmed by director Franco Rosso for a Channel 4 documentary, the wordsmith was in a very different place. 

 

On one of his regular separations from The Blockheads and main writing partner Chaz Jankel, Dury’s career was about to hit the skids as he recorded the half-baked 4000 Weeks Holiday. During the making of the film, management company Blackhill collapsed, but there are some sequences where it’s office can be seen decorated with Barney’s designs.

As well as Blockhead logo stickers there are posters for Do It Yourself and also the spoken-word album Blackhill’s Peter Jenner  released on Charisma by cricket commentating legend John Arlott.

This was cooked up with Charisma publicist and Barney’s friend Glen Colson, who recalls how he came up with such faux cricket positions as “Wayward Short Leg”.

Poster, Charisma Records, 1982.

By the time the documentary was screened in 1984, Barney had died at his own hand.

“Barney Bubbles told me a few straighteners towards the end of his life,” said Dury, towards the end of his own. “Barney told me: ‘You were a horrible piece of work in those days Ian.’ I said: ‘Barney, I didn’t want to be’.” 

Left: 12" cover, Jukebox Dury, Stiff, 1981. Right: 7' cover, What A Waste, Stiff, 1981.

A couple of years earlier, Barney had delivered his views on Dury’s behaviour via the designs for 1981 greatest hits Jukebox Dury and it’s single, the reissued What A Waste.

Gone is the affection of the New Boots & Panties!! era. In it’s place, with stark contrasts, the bleached-out image renders Dury as Frankenstein’s monster, while the jaunty razor-blade earring is now used for chopping out coke, lobotomising the artist.

Will Birch’s book is a fully rounded portrait of this extraordinary man, and is heartily recommended.

Here’s a chance for you to get your hands on a FREE copy SIGNED by the author.

Send your answer  to the question below to thelook@rockpopfashion.com – we’ll be announcing the winner’s name on February 14 .

Q: What is the title of the B-side of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick?

Good luck!

Design 4 Music’s success (and a Heeps Willard connection revealed)

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Yesterday’s Design 4 Music symposium was a roaring success, with all tickets selling out and a stellar cast of contributors providing insights into many different aspects of this vast subject.

The closing panel on Barney Bubbles’ legacy proved entertaining and at times revelatory even from my perspective; I lined up with three leading designers: Barney’s one-time colleague Malcolm Garrett and Barney fans Kate Moross and Gerard Saint.

Label detail with band logo, Music for Pleasure, The Damned, Stiff Records, 1977.

Gerard showed off the copy of Music For Pleasure he has owned since he was a 12-year-old punk in Devon (and spotted that Barney extended the design detail to the label). This chimed with Kate since Music For Pleasure was the key which unlocked her appreciation of Barney’s ouevre.

24" x 36" card. Outer foldout sleeve, The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972.

And Malcolm displayed some choice designs including Glastonbury Fayre, In Search Of Space and Your Generation, as well as an intriguing art questionnaire filled in by Barney in 1981; he – along with other artists including Peter Blake – had been mailed it by a student friend of Malcolm’s. It’s been promised for the next edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful, which is fab.

Meanwhile an encounter with Andrew Heeps – whose framing company Art Vinyl staged a mini-exhibition – provided yet another example of how Barney connections are every which way.

12in laminated card. Front cover, Walls Have Ears, Blanket Of Secrecy, FBeat, 1982.

Andrew only recently discovered that his grandfather founded construction company Heeps Willard. Wreckless Eric (exclusive interview here) mentioned just the other week that it was an HW sign in Barney’s Islington neighbourhood in the early 80s which provided him with his final – and possibly most charming – nom-de-design, appearing as a credit on releases by Billy Bragg and Blanket Of Secrecy.

Credits, Walls Have Ears, 1982.

“I was knocked out when my dad told me about his father’s company,” said Andrew. “He gave Barney the name and here I am immersed in vinyl and one of Heeps Willard’s biggest fans!”

7" card with foil imprint. Into The Galaxy, Midnight Juggernauts, Isomorph, 2009.

And the day wrapped nicely when the name of our competition winner, illustration student Sarah Jane Griffey (who claims she never wins anything), was plucked for one of the prizes in the draw: a Kate-donated copy of Into The Galaxy by Midnight Juggernauts.

Kicking up the dust on Teenburger’s Red Dirt sleeve

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The current issue of The Word covers former Radio One DJ Mike Read’s sale of his huge vinyl collection.

12in card. Front cover, Red Dirt, Red Dirt, Fontana, 1970. Pic: John KosmicKourier.

A notable item in Read’s glorified yard sale (also discussed on The Word’s excellent website) is the 1970 eponymous album by blues-rockers Red Dirt. Released on the Fontana label, this went as soon as it arrived, ignored by punters and press alike.

Since the 80s collectors’ boom in prog and associated genres, copies of Red Dirt have become increasingly valuable; vinyl authority (and one-time colleague of Barney Bubbles) Phil Smee points out that they are currently go for at least £600 a pop.

Back cover, Red Dirt, 1970. Pic: John KosmicKourier.

Red Dirt’s music has been derided, unfairly we believe. Though sometimes workmanlike,  the quartet’s vigorous brew kept it short and sweet, shining on such tracks as Mellotron and dirty slide-laden opener Memories, the Beefheart stomp of Death Letter, acoustic bottleneck blues Song For Pauline and the mournful I’ve Been Down So Long. Sonically, it’s in line Rod Stewart’s first couple of solo albums as well as those he did with The Faces; this could have something to do with the presence of engineer Mike Bobak (who worked on Never A Dull Moment and Long Player among others).

Red Dirt is blessed with a wonderful cover by Barney Bubbles, whose Notting Hill design studio Teenburger receives the credit.

Barney launched Teenburger Designs at the beginning of 1969 from his abode at 307 Portobello Road; for headed paper he reproduced burger wrappers, with a brown burger in a bun printed on the back. We’ll be revealing an example as one of the additions to the new enhanced edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful; above is the header.

305-309 Portobello Road, London, W11, 1970. Photo: Unknown.

Red Dirt is one of a handful of album sleeves attributed to Teenburger; some were executed in conjunction with Barney’s pal from Conran Design in the 60s, John Muggeridge.

The cover image is taken from a wanted poster of Geronimo, the Apache chieftain reputed to have magical powers (though it’s clear the photo was staged – a shackle is visible around one leg) . The Apache stem from the south of the US: Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, where there are federally recognized contemporary Apache tribal governments to this day. Geronimo’s remains were thought – until recently – to have been buried under a stone pyramid monument at Fort Sill in Oklohoma, the state renowned for the presence of – guess what? – red dirt across more than a million acres, in 33 counties no less.  Sand, siltstone and shale weathering account for its hue, apparently.

7in sleeve. Back and front, One Chord Wonders/Quickstep, The Adverts, Stiff Records, 1977.

Barney’s brutal enlargement of the deliberately ragged crop of Geronimo’s face brought out the half-tones, while  the dramatic contrasts are heightened by the sparing  use of the  red “blood” trickles seeping from the bullet holes emblazoning the band’s name on the design.

Poster, 60" x 40". The Damned, Stiff Records, 1977.

This technique really came into it’s own seven years later when applied to the monochrome imagery of early punk, as evinced by Barney’s 7in sleeve for The Adverts’ Stiff single 1977 One Chord Wonders and his large poster for The Damned that same year.

Great show at “London’s second smallest gallery”

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

We dig We Oppose All Rock & Roll, the new exhibition currently on at L – “London’s second smallest gallery space” (in fact, part of the reception desk at creative agency Weiden + Kennedy).

This comprises the punk and new wave picture sleeve singles collected by W+K’s  Neil Christie way back in 1977 when he was a disaffected 15-year-old.

Naturally Barney Bubbles is represented, by one of his signature pieces – the cover of Generation X’s debut Your Generation.

7in card. Back and front of Your Generation/Day By Day, Generation X, Chrysalis, 1977.

And Neil makes a passionate case for the impact of the music and these designs at the time: “These singles were totems, talismans and badges of allegiance. Not widely available, hunted, hoarded, swapped, carried to school, played again and again and again. The graphics on the covers were themselves codes to live by, which we wore on our sleeves and pinned to our blazers.”

Check out Neil’s collection at W+K’s excellently entitled blog Welcome To Optimism.