//Drumhead painted by Barney Bubbles for Hawkwind drummer Simon King’s kit, 1972//
A rare design by Barney Bubbles has come to light after four decades; the psychedelic sci-fi drumhead was painted for Hawkwind when the space rocking Sonic Assassins undertook tours around the world following the success of their Silver Machine single in 1972.
//Hawkwind – including, from left, Nik Turner, Stacia Blake, Simon King and Lemmy – performing with the drumheads in situ at the Windsor Free Festival, August, 1973. Photographer: Unknown//
//12″ paper inner for Barney Bubbles’ packaging for Doremi Fasol Latido, Hawkwind, UA, 1972//
//Detail of grimacing Hawklord from the Doremi inner//
The design of a snarling apparition – a so-called ‘Hawklord’ as depicted on the group’s album Doremi Sofal Latido – was one of a pair which adorned the front of the twin bass-drums in Simon King’s kit during this period.
Bubbles – charged with “Optics” and effectively the group’s art director – applied an integrated approach to the collective far beyond the remit of just creating album sleeves, posters and other promotional material.
//Flam Flam: Barney Bubbles drumhead for Glen Colson, 1983//
As mentioned in my Barney Bubbles monograph Reasons To Be Cheerful, the visual impact of painted drumheads appealed to Bubbles; as well as these for Hawkwind, he designed others for Pete Thomas (of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers/The Attractions), Will Birch (Kursaal Flyers/The Records) and his publicist friend Glen Colson.
The current owner of the amazing Hawkwind drum-head has treasured it for a number of years.
A fuller version of this story appears on my blog here.
The owner also has the original drumkit, for which offers are being welcomed. These should be directed via the contact mail on my blog (in the About Me section).
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.”
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 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.
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.
12in sleeve. Choose Your Own Adventure, heartsrevolution, iheartcomix, 2008.
If proof were needed that Barney Bubbles continues to inspire contemporary designers more than a quarter of a century after his death, look no further than London’s own Kate Moross, the 23-year-old making waves around the world with a remarkable body of work which first started to attract attention while she was still at Camberwell College of Arts.
10in card gatefold. Back and front, Populuxxe, Cutting Pink With Knives, Isomorph, 2008.
Inner gatefold, Populuxe, Cutting Pink With Knives.
Moross shares Barney’s deft use of colour, concerns for isometry, geometry and architectural form and his appetite for music (operating vinyl-only label Isomorph). She is similarly fascinated by symbols – not least the repeated representation of her trademark three triangles – and applies a serious work ethic across a range of media and disciplines.
Moross determinedly creates at the cross-hatches of fine art and graphic design but, in a similar fashion to Barney, refuses to be pinned down stylistically.
12in sleeve, card. Music For Pleasure, The Damned, Stiff Records, 1977.
From left: Back sleeve, both sides of inner, Music For Pleasure.
“It was old and new and confusing,” Moross told us while on the road this summer: last month she took part in Semi Permanent, the international design event in New Zealand, lining up with fellow Brits Harry Pearce (of Pentagram), Sanky (AllofUs) and Tim Beard (Bibliotheque), as well as such design legends as David Carson.
Moross during her Semi Permanent presentation, Auckland, August 15 2009. Photo: Otis Hu.
“I love confusing,” declares Moross. “I love codes and symbols, so Music For Pleasure has everything; graphic and illustrative, pattern and block colours, everything mixed together perfectly.”
La Roux t-shirt, 2009.
Moross says that the coherence within Barney’s disparate methods and styles lies in his ability to “fit the brief, and that’s what every artist or designer’s goal should be. Not everything needs to be the same, but it should always be brilliant, and Barney was brilliant”.
7in sleeve, paper. Back and front cover, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff Records, 1978.
“I love the way the fractured isometric shapes are broken apart in a bold three-colour composition and then beautifully reconstructed on the reverse,” she said.
10in debossed laser-foiled matt sleeve. Back and front, Switchblade EP, heartsrevolution, ISO 2008.
Sleeve detail, Switchblade EP.
Foil sticker, Switchblade EP.
“To be honest, I didn’t know Barney’s work until recently,” Moross added. “But when I found it, I wished I could have been around at a time of such awesome creativity within musical ephemera. I feel like, with my enthusiasm, I would have fitted in well.”
That may be true. But their loss in the Seventies and Eighties is definitely our gain today.
From time to time we examine the work of those who collaborated professionally with Barney Bubbles; there are few who fulfilled as wide a range of roles as Antoinette Sales.
Back cover, Pure Pop For Now People, Columbia Records, 1978.
Not only was she the creator of clothes which appeared on Barney’s record sleeves, including the iconic “Riddler suit” sported by Nick Lowe on the back of Pure Pop For Now People (the US issue of Jesus Of Cool), but Tony was also his sometime model. It is she who is adorned with curlers, a face mask and bisected ping-pong balls for eyes appearing alongside a child’s doll in Barney’s disturbing Stiff Records music press adverts for Devo’s spring 1978 single (I Can’t Get Me No) Satisfaction.
Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.
Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.
Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.
And, in 1980, Tony received a six-week crash course in graphics from Barney at his studio in Paul Street in London’s East End, enabling her to become a fully fledged record sleeve designer in her own right.
Tony came up with the title of Lowe’s 1979 album Labour Of Lust, and designed the billboard promoting its US release on Sunset Strip. But she characterises the month-and-a-half she spent learning the craft from Barney as “an apprenticeship”.
Front Cover, Radio Radio, Radar, 1978.
Tony fondly recalls how she would catch the Underground from her home in west London across the city. “As soon as I arrived we’d get going,” she says.
Reversed out freehand drawing; Art center school assignment, Tony Sales. Note F-Beat style crown logo.
“I loved Barney and we were great friends, but when there was work to be done, you got on with it,” she says. “He basically instructed me in the mechanics of sleeve design and packaging.”
Hand-drawn label by Antoinette Sales, 1979.
And this is evident from Tony’s subsequent output. She created a series of photo-driven sleeves for her friend (and Lowe’s wife) Carlene Carter, for whom she also designed stagewear. These included Baby Ride Easy and Do It In A Heartbeat. “I have an aversion to copying anybody else but the choice and arrangement of the typefaces was definitely influenced by Barney,” she says. Tony also handled the sleeve design for Carter’s album Musical Shapes. The front cover shoot was art-directed by Barney, who created a set out of F-Beat singles and sleeves and constructed the wire sculpture communicating the album title.
Front cover, Musical Shapes, F-Beat, 1980.
“Barney set that up in the dining room of our house in Chiswick,” says Tony. “I designed and set the graphics on the back. He’d 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 is no artwork credit.”
Retail info sheet, Teacher Teacher, 1980.
Front cover, Everly Brothers EP, F-Beat, 1980.
Back cover, Everly Brothers EP, F-Beat, 1980.
Tony was responsible for the sleeves for Rockpile singles Teacher Teacher and Wrong Way, as well as Edmunds’ singles Crawling From the Wreckage, Girl’s Talk and Queen Of Hearts. And she came up with the title for Carlene Carter’s 1983 album C’est C Bon, though the sleeve for that was produced by Barney.
Back Cover, Teacher Teacher, Rockpile, F-Beat 1980
During this hectic period, Tony also created a welter of point-of-sale and retail promotional material, backstage passes, badges, letterheads (for holding company Riviera Global, publisher Plangent Visions Music and studios UK Pro) and the label for reissue imprint Edsel.
Backstage passes, 1980.
Tony also produced music press ads; she recalls working at Barney’s studio on one for the NME to promote The Attractions’ “solo” album Mad About The Wrong Boy (to which we’ll be returning in the near future).
Double page spread ad for The Attractions, NME, August 30, 1980.
These days a film and TV costume designer , Tony lives in Austin, Texas and is extra busy supplying musicians (Paul McCartney’s guitarist Brian Ray wore one of her shirts to the recent Grammy’s) as well as working with such fashionistas as Boudoir Queen’s Dawn Denton and South Paradiso Leather’s Romulus Von Stezelberger.
The revival of interest in Barney Bubbles is gathering pace; now an old-school “happening” has been announced in his memory at London’s historic venue The Roundhouse on Sunday, March 8.
Space Ritual 09 artwork by Bruce Fisher
The appearance of Quintessence on the bill affords an opportunity to show exclusively for the first time this late 60s sketch by Barney of himself, his friends in the band and their rehearsal space at his Notting Hill creative commune.
Barney, Quintessence and Motherburger (c) Lorraine Sartorio
The drawing appears in a letter Barney sent to his friend Lorry Sartorio enthusing about the new life he had established in the late 60s at 307 Portobello Road. It was here that Barney began designing record sleeves – his first was a die-cut booklet for Quintessence’s debut album In Blinding Light.
Sunday Implosion is being organised by a group of Barney fans and pals, including ex-Hawkwind member Nik Turner and the band’s one-time manager Doug Smith, both of whom contributed memories and material to Reasons To Be Cheerful. The promoter is John Curd, who also worked with Barney extensively.
The title is a nod to the name of the weekly events held at the venue in the 70s; these regularly featured Hawkwind as well as Barney’s posters and promotional material.
In fact a particular performance by Hawkwind one Sunday afternoon in February 1975 left a lifelong impression on this writer; I stuck my head in the bassbin while they were playing and haven’t been quite the same since.
Courtesy: Matthew Cang Collection
A number of former Hawkwind members are gathering under the moniker Hawklords. That aggregation’s dystopian 1978 album 25 Years On benefited from a total Barney package, including a suitably foreboding sleeve, booklet, stage set, choreography and lighting.
25 Years On booklet cover. Photo: Chris Gabrin
The shebang in March also promises the Space Ritual 09, inspired by the integrated design Barney created in collaboration with his compadre Robert Calvert for the ‘Wind’s 1972 UK tour and subsequent live double. Read all about the amazing Apple label bolero jacket worn by temporary Hawkwind dancer and Friends editor John May on that tour at our sister blog THE LOOK.
Barney came up with the set for Robert’s short play The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice, which will be performed at Sunday Implosion by the Pentameters Theatre group. The event also witnesses the return of ace Krautrockers Amon Duul II, whose bassist Dave Anderson was also a Hawkwind member
In old-school style, Sunday Implosion takes place between 3pm and 11pm. Tickets are £30 from The Roundhouse box office on 0844 482 8008 or here.
Stretched over the open end of the bass drum and at just under 2ft in diameter, drumheads proved a perfect canvas for the artistry of Barney Bubbles.
Throughout his career, Barney was in the habit of providing customised skins to musicians, either as part of an overall theme he had developed for an album or artist or as one-off gifts.
Today we exclusively present four produced over a 10-year period.
Only one has been widely seen before; the portrait of the freckle-faced Western gal set against a desert landscape was painted in 1973 for Pete Thomas, then of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers.
Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, 1973. (c) Pete Thomas/Pic: Tony Sayles
The cowgirl and the vista had appeared in Barney’s colour-your-own inner for the band’s debut album Kings Of The Robot Rhythm. Around this period Barney was investigating the interpretation of this educational form in a musical context: the cover of Brinsley Schwarz’s eponymously-titled album consisted of a paint-by-numbers scenario.
“Barney was such a lovely bloke,” says Pete, who gives the painting pride of place in his Los Angeles home. In 1999, it was the centrepiece for the cover of the Willi’s compilation I’ll Be Home.
In 1977 Pete went on to form the rhythmic bedrock of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and Barney created a suitably new wave, Jackson Pollock-ed drumhead for the band’s participation in 1977’s Stiff’s Greatest Stiffs UK tour. Within a couple of months Costello and the band had released the ferocious This Year’s Model – Barney’s stickers for that album’s promotional campaign still adorn it.
Stiff's Greatest Stiffs 1977. (c) Pete Thomas/Pic: Tony Sayles
As the drummer in the Kursaal Flyers, pub-rock scene chronicler Will Birch first encountered Barney when he designed the album sleeve of the Southend band’s album Chocs Away.
The two maintained contact and Barney provided artwork for Will’s post-punk band The Records in the early 80s. During their meetings the pair riffed on the notion of an imaginary band called the Blue Genes, and Barney painted Will a drumhead featuring wriggling single-celled genetic organisms with blue tails.
Blue Genes 1982. (c) Will Birch
Since the Blue Genes never performed or recorded, Will’s is in pristine condition, unlike Pete’s or that owned by another of Barney’s friends, record company promotional wizard and Viv Stanshall’s manager Glen Colson.
“I was drumming a bit at the time, so Barney offered to paint me a drumhead,” says Glen. “I used to like this move called a ‘flam’, where you bring both drumsticks in quick succession down hard on the snare. I was delighted when I saw Barney’s design say: ‘Flam Flam’.”