Archive for the ‘Single sleeves’ Category

Barney Bubbles Inside Out in 100 seconds

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Barney Bubbles Inside out from Lisa Whitaker on Vimeo.

This 100-second career resume has been created by Lisa Whitaker, who is currently studying graphics at Leeds College of Art.

The DVD – housed in an “inside-out” sleeve and accompanied by a poster – came out of a course brief for a collection of 100 design objects in which she compiled album sleeves, including Bubbles’ design for Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello And The Attractions.

“I am fascinated by this talented man and his links to other creative people,” says Whitaker. “My moving image piece Barney Bubbles Inside Out pulls together the research and is aimed at graphic designers, record collectors and music lovers as a way of spreading the word about inspirational figure.”

Whitaker’s backgrounder on the project is here.

Punks Jump Up artwork debt to Barney Bubbles

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

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The absorption and reinterpretation of Barney Bubbles’ oeuvre continues apace, as evinced by this, the design for Punks Jump Up’s Blockhead EP by Michael Willis.

With an overall feel of Bubbles’ compositional techniques – particularly that of realising physiognomy by use of abstract and unusual elements – Willis’ artwork draws on such Bubbles’ creations as the BLOCKHEAD logo, the Tommy The Talking Toolbox ident, the Space Ritual tour material and the typography of the Revelations and Doremi Fasol Latido packages.

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Since he was one of the pioneers of the so-called “age of plunder” (as Jon Savage pointed out in his 1983 piece on post-modernism for The Face), it was perhaps inevitable that the reintroduction of Bubbles’ work to a new generation of graphic artists and designers – via Reasons To Be Cheerful and Process – would result in the master himself being plundered.

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.

More photos from the Process private view

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

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Courtesy of Chelsea Space director Donald Smith, here are some more photos underlining what fun was had at last week’s private view for Process. These and others will soon appear on the Chelsea Space site.

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Video commissioner Cynthia Lole, Caz Facey, writer Nick Vivian and Jake Riviera view the exhibits.

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Donald Smith with writer Chris Salewicz and Jerry Dammers.

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Designer Olaf Parker with writer/curator Paul Gorman.

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Musician Leo Williams with Paprika and Leo Junior.

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Painter and former Kilburn & The High Roads member Humphrey Ocean with the 1977 Psstt! ad featuring himself and Ian Dury.

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Jake Riviera, music publisher Peter Barnes, Mick Jones and Nick Vivian.

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Kate Moross and her VJing team.

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Clothier Lloyd Johnson whispers to arts event organiser Michael Barnett while musician Bruce Marcus chats to the V&A’s Catherine Flood.

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Mick Jones and Jerry Dammers.

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Nick Lowe talks Barney.

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Chelsea College’s Nobby Graham and Lloyd Johnson.

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Writer/filmmaker Paul Tickell looks on as artist Bruce Maclean strikes a Blockhead pose.

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Musician/writer Dave Barbarossa and his wife Alison view the music press ads.

 

The Guardian picks out Process

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

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Process is feature in today’s Guardian Guide as a pick of new exhibitions around the country. Of course John – who worked alongside Barney at Frendz and danced on Hawkwind’s Space Ritual tour – meant Nick Lowe, not Drake.

The image is the artwork for the “Hamer & Sickle” logo Barney Bubbles created for Lowe’s 1979 album Labour Of Lust, spin-off single Cracking Up and music press ads/tour promotion etc (Nick had recently come into proud possession of the Hamer bass which Bubbles “snapped” into three).

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.

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.

Barney Bubbles caught in action at work

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Barney Bubbles positions wire lettering, west London, 1980. Photo: A. Sales.

Here we have Barney Bubbles setting about creating of the wall-mounted electrical flex and wire construction which adorns the sleeve of Carlene Carter’s 1980 album Musical Shapes.

Quaver and jukebox selector, 1980. Photo: A. Sales.

Quaver with 7" single, 1980. Photo: A Sales.

The arrival of the photos from Antoinette Sales couldn’t be more timely as we prepare for our forthcoming exhibition Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles.

Tony collaborated with Barney on the design, providing the lettering and layout, as well as styling Carter (for whom she also designed stage wear).

With Chalkie Davies behind the lens, the cover shoot took place in the west London house Tony shared with her then-husband (and Barney’s friend and patron/F-Beat label boss) Jake Riviera.

“Barney set it up in our dining room in Oxford Road,” says Tony in Reasons To Be Cheerful. “I designed and set the graphics on the back. Barney had taught me how to lay down Letraset and make the placement and spacing impeccable. I had fun with the “N” for Notes, “S” for Selections and “P” for Personnel. In the self-effacing Bubbles tradition, there was no artwork credit.”

12in album. Front cover with sticker, Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, F-Beat. 1980.

12in album. Back cover, Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, Warner Bros. 1980.

12in inner sleeve, Musical Shapes.

12in album. Front cover, Around Midnight, Julie London, Liberty, 1960.

Winding away from the three-legged Dansette, the five flexes (all ending with upturned plugs) feature the album title picked out in wire and blue and red balls. These also appear to be notation; can anyone interpret what they convey musically?

One of Tony’s photographs shows that there was a try-out with a diner jukebox selector. On the back cover,  a bread bin replaced the Dansette.

Tipping a wink to the Pate/Francis & Associates 1960 design for Julie London’s Liberty album Around Midnight, the inner showed Carter reclining on a rug bearing the design of an F-Beat single (by the label’s most prominent act, Elvis Costello And The Attractions).

The sleeve was decorated with many references to the newly-launched label: on the front, Carter stood on a floor strewn with promo copies of the single version of one of her father Johnny Cash’s most popular songs Ring Of Fire (with a label incorporating Barney’s symbol of three interlocked rings and also his encircled copyright “C” familiar from designs for others such as the album’s producer Nick Lowe and Johnny Moped).

The Musical Shapes sleeve drove home the F-Beat identity by featuring the variants of the house singles bags Barney produced for Riviera.

These 7″ paper designs, based around insignia and decorations from Riviera’s office jukebox, utilised the stark colour overlays and contrasts noted across Barney’s work by such contemporary practitioners as Art Chantry.

7in house sleeve. Ring Of Fire/That Very First Kiss, Carlene Carter, F-Beat. 1980.

7in house sleeve. Ring Of Fire/That Very First Kiss, Carlene Carter, F-Beat. 1980.

7in house sleeve. Splash (A Tear Goes Rolling Down)/Hello, Clive Langer & The Boxes, F-Beat. 1980.

7in house sleeve. Good Year For The Roses/Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F-Beat. 1981.

7in house sleeve. Head To Toe/The World Of Broken Hearts, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F-Beat. 1982.

In line with the treatment he received from other American record companies,  Carter’s US  label Warner Bros tamed Barney’s design for fear of illegibility; the full-bleed front cover was given a white border for the artist credit and album title. In addition, the inner was dispensed with altogether.

Meanwhile, the US press kit included a standard 8″x1o” b&w shot of Carter from the Oxford Road session, and posters were given away with both the American and British versions of the release.

8"x10" glossy press photo. 1980.

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

Neat Neat Neat show at Paul Stolper

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The Term Reality: Collages 1970-2010, the current exhibition at London’s Paul Stolper Gallery, is to the excellent standard maintained by this leading artspace with contributions from the likes of Peter Blake, Damien Hirst, Peter Saville and our great friends John Dove & Molly White.

The Damned, Simon Periton, 2002.

At last week’s private view, Stolper revealed that the piece on which the show turns is Simon Periton‘s The Damned, since it acknowledges the first collage, Picasso’s 1912 composition Still-Life With Chair Caning.

Still-Life With Chair Caning, Pablo Picasso, 1912.

The Damned is from Periton’s period of producing intricate paper cut-outs (which he christened “doilies”) and is of course based around the front cover of Neat Neat Neat, the second single by – who else? – The Damned.

Front cover, Neat Neat Neat/Stab Yor Back/Singalonga Scabies, The Damned, Stiff, 1977.

Periton – whose recent work includes The Beezlebag for “art-eco-fashion” brand Issi and a few years back the cover of Pulp’s Hits collection – was intrigued to find out that the Neat Neat Neat sleeve is a key work for Barney, since it marked his re-entry to the fray in February 1977.

Front cover, Hits, Pulp, Island, 2002. Simon Periton/Sadie Coles HQ after photographs by Willie Seldon.

As Stiff Records and punk rock went nationwide, Barney introduced a purposeful clarity which not only elevated the label out of the pub-rock cheekiness of it’s early months but set the tone for the new wave picture sleeve boom of the next few years. In doing so, Barney also laid the foundations for the richest and most triumphant phase of his own career.

Simon Periton at last week's private view.

Periton has now moved away from cut-outs to painting on glass; The Damned dates from 2002. Read all about him and his work in Michael Bracewell’s monograph, and, if you’re in town, catch The Term Reality; it’s on until August 3.