These provide us with an opportunity to reveal exclusive images surrounding one of Nik and Barney’s most intriguing collaborations (which also centred on a multi-media happening at the same venue).
“We struck a chord in each other,” says Nik. “Barney came along to a Hawkwind gig and saw that my vision of the band’s spirit embodied a lot of the concepts and ideals to which he related. After that he was happy to apply his creative energy, designing the Peace & Love poster for us, and then the X In Search of Space album sleeve, log-book and concept.”
Barney realised the visual identity of Hawkwind on every level as the space-rockers progressed through the first half of the 70s. When Nik left the band in 1976 he embarked on a trip to Egypt. “That was in part inspired by the common interest Barney and I had in Egyptology and ancient civilisations,” Nik explains.
“While there I recorded flute music inside the King’s Chamber of The Great Pyramid, and this became the album Xitintoday by my new group Sphynx.”
Barney agreed to design the album sleeve and booklet on condition that he applied the principals of concrete poetry (where typographical arrangement is as important as the words in conveying meaning).
Barney’s mastery of typography had long enabled him to communicate depth of meaning in this way, so concrete poetry became a natural area of investigation for a visual artist fascinated by symmetry, symbolism and shape.
These, of course, were central to his other abiding interests such as cosmology and Egyptology, as evinced by the poster he designed to promote the release of Xitintoday, which is constructed around a favourite symbol of Barney’s, The Eye of Horus.
When he was approached by Nik, Barney had already embarked on developing a series of concrete poetry artworks in 12″ x 10″ frames for a group exhibition which he was helping to organise at his London squat. He also planned the printing of a limited edition of a poem which consisted of one word: “nowhere”. This appears in the booklet he designed for Xitintoday as do many other examples, such as the word “day” made up of repeated use of the word “night” in white on black.
As this page of drafts and notes shows, Barney was fascinated by the form. Among the options are the Xitintoday cover’s constellated tiny pentagrams created from the word “twinkle”.
Barney’s interest in concrete poetry was stimulated by his relationship with the photographer Frances Newman, who was later to marry his friend Brian Griffin. Newman’s partner had been Tom Edmonds, the concrete poet who died in 1971 and contributed to the important collection Gloup And Woup along with such exponents as Bob Cobbing, John Furnival and it’s most celebrated figure, the Benedictine monk Dom Sylvester Houedard.
Xitintoday’s release was heralded by an all-day happening at The Roundhouse, for which Barney choreographed the dancers in Sphynx’s stage show.
Billed as Nik Turner’s Bohemian Love In, this featured an eclectic supporting cast, including ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band member Roger Ruskin Spear and his robots, former T. Rex member Steve Took’s Horns, punk poets Patrik Fitzgerald and John Cooper Clarke, sci-fi author Michael Moorcock and Tanz Der Youth, the band briefly led by The Damned‘s Brian James.
Both John Cooper Clarke and Tanz Der Youth also benefited from Barney designs; the former with his songbook Directory 1979 and the latter in the shape of the sleeve for his Radar single I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry.
They brought Barney on board and, working with photographer Chris Gabrin, he moved away from concrete poetry into bleak futurism and monochromatic expressionist territory to which he applied the new punk day-glo spray-can aesthetic. This is covered extensively in Reasons, as are the rest of Nik’s collaborations with Barney, through the releases by his band Inner City Unit to the extraordinary Ersatz under the guise of The Imperial Pompadours.
“Throughout this period I lived with Barney off and on, in various studios and houses,” says Nik, who is organising the event with another of Barney’s friends, promoter John Curd. “We always had wonderful times together, full of inspiration and creativity, weird, wild and wacky. I’ll always remember him as being a great fan of object trouve, and feel a debt for all his help and inspiration over the years.”
– – COMPETITION – –
Two free tickets for The Roundhouse event
This week we are giving away two free tickets for The Hawklords/Space Ritual 09/Barney Bubbles Memorial event at The Roundhouse on Sunday, March 8.
Grab a chance of winning them by sending your answer to the question below to: firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight GMT on Sunday March 1.
We’ll announce the lucky winners the following day.
Q: Who recites Sonic Attack on Hawkwind’s The Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and London?