Archive for April, 2009

Zip Nolan: an intriguing exclusive

Monday, April 27th, 2009

We’re indebted to Doug Smith for providing this original and previously unpublished Barney Bubbles artwork complete with printing instructions.

(c) Doug Smith 2009

Logo by Barney Bubbles. (C) Doug Smith 2009.

The former Hawkwind manager and a close friend of Barney’s, Doug says: “I always thought we asked him to do it, but what with my memory being what it is, I wasn’t sure. Anyway, I came across it the other day and sure enough there’s Barney’s writing at the bottom.”

Zip Nolan Highway Patrol was a creation of Barney’s friend Michael Moorcock dating back to the late 50s, and appeared in Fleetway Publications’ comic Lion in various forms until the early 70s. Original artwork is currently fetching three figures on eBay.

Original Zip Nolan artwork, 1963.

Original Zip Nolan artwork, 1963.

In 2005 the Zip Nolan character was revived in the six-issue Albion, plotted by Alan Moore and written by his daughter Leah Moore and her husband John Reppion. This was published as a book by Wildstorm in the US and Titan in the UK.

Left: Albion number 3. Right: The Albion book

Left: Albion issue 3. Right: The Albion book, Titan.

Michael doesn’t recall having seen Barney’s Zip Nolan logo until now. “I’d guess it was Barney doing a pop art rip,” he says. “I hadn’t written a Zip Nolan since 1963.”

As revealed here, Barney had worked for Fleetway around that time, having been commissioned to produce a Mods & Rockers special for the company in 1964 (which gave rise to the R&B Here Tonight t-shirt  and the award-winning Muleskinners poster).

The lettering style of Barney’s Zip Nolan logo chimes with that for The Glastonbury Fayre triple-album package of 1972.

Left: Clear vinyl envelope. Right: Booklet cover. The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972. (C) Jeff Dexter.

Left: Clear vinyl envelope. Right: Booklet cover. The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972. (C) Jeff Dexter.

1972 also saw the publication of a Lion annual featuring on it’s cover – who else? – Zip Nolan. And the character was to inspire a single of the same name a few years later by The Cult Figures, an obscure power-pop tune produced under the wing of indie pioneers Swell Maps.

Wigged-out sleeves remix Barney’s Hawkwind artwork

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Barney's letterhead during his time designing for Hawkwind, early 70s. (c) Reasons 2009.

Hailed in some quarters as the “psych-rock single of last year”, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), the Acid Mother’s Temple/White Hills split 7″ is one of three special limited edition releases by Irish record label Trensmat celebrating Hawkwind’s heyday with cover versions by contemporary bands.

Front cover, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.

The wonderful Acid Mothers Temple (with oft time collaborators Cosmic Inferno) give it plenty on their version of Brainstorm from 1972′s Doremi Fasol Latido, and White Hills “put the wig-out horse before the cart” on their reshaping of album track Be Yourself from the band’s eponymously titled debut album.

Back cover, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.

Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light) features Bardo Pond and Seattle’s  Kinski covering Lord Of Light and Master Of The Universe respectively, and, on Sonic Attack (Motorheads), Mark Arm’s pioneering grungers Mudhoney get to grips with Urban Guerilla as Liverpool’s Mugstar sound like they were born to do Born To Go.

Labels, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.

The single sleeves by Johnny O pay homage to Barney by remaking and remodelling many of the elements of his design work for Hawkwind; each sleeve appears in a different set of acidic colours.

Left: Sonic Attack (Motorheads). Right: Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light).

Some of Barney’s work for Hawkwind was produced under the aegis of design company Hawk Graphics in London’s Westbourne Park.

Left: Front X In Search Of Space, UA, 1971. Right: Record bag, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.

At the top of this post you’ll find the letterhead derived from his double-headed Hawkwind logo. Due to space considerations, the letterhead did not appear in the first edition of Reasons; this is the first time it has been published.

Gatefold, X In Search Of Space, UA 1971.

Many of the elements will be familiar to Barney heads, having appeared first on the cover, gatefold and Hawkwind log insert of  X In Search Of Space.

Outer gatefold, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.

There are graphics, symbols and decorations from both sides of the six-panel Space Ritual fold-out as well as the tessallated design of the album’s record bags.

Inner gatefold, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.

And there are images and graphics from both sides of Doremi Fasol Latido, including the chrome Hawkwind “gateway”, as well as from the programme for the tour which accompanied that album’s release

Back + front cover, Doremi Fasol Latido, UA, 1972.

Left: Space Ritual tour programme 1972. Right: Logo 1972.

To play us out  here’s Kinski’s version of Master Of The Universe:

Reasons: “A treasure trove for image-makers”

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

It is extremely flattering that Reasons To Be Cheerful is described not only as “excellent” but also as “a treasure trove for image-makers across all media” in the current issue of Varoom

And it’s praise indeed when the reviewer is of the calibre of Andy Martin, illustrator, designer, film-maker and self-confessed “Bubbloholic”.

Andy also defines what he sees as the secret to Barney’s work: his “ability to look backwards and forwards at the same time, whilst always managing to arrive at The Very Point Of Now-ness”.

And Andy knows; a former NME art editor, when he started at the music weekly in 1978 he helped out with layouts as Barney and Diana Fawcett created The NME Book Of Modern Music which accompanied Barney’s redesign.

“I was overawed to be working with him in the smallest way,” Andy told me recently. In his review Andy says: “The graphic bombs Barney Bubbles dropped are still reverberating. In the words of the late, great Ian Dury: there ain’t half been some clever bastards.”

Download Andy’s review here.

Depeche Mode, crowns, kings and the Kosmische connection

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Brian Griffin was Barney Bubbles’ chief collaborator from 1978 onwards, working with him across a dizzying array of projects, from record sleeves, advertising campaigns and promo videos to artzines, books and posters.

Brian Griffin studio ident, 1980.

Barney also designed business cards, letterheads and studio idents for Brian; these two have never been published before. And now, via this site, you can purchase original copies of a number of original items they produced together: an exhibition poster, the newspaper Y and the book Copyright 1978.

Brian Griffin business card, 1982.

More on that at the end of this post. Today we’re focusing on an unexpected project which came about in 1981 when Brian’s agent David Burnham leased premises near Baker Street in central London to young indie record label owner Daniel Miller

Front cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981.

Daniel’s Mute Records was making the post-punk runnings having pioneered electro-pop with such great records as the label’s first two singles  - his own T.V.O.D/Warm Leatherette (as The Normal) and Fad Gadget’s Back To Nature (both rarely far from our iPod playlists, record deck or CD player).

Back cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981

Back cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981

In 1981 Mute was propelled into the pop charts by fresh signing Depeche Mode‘s clutch of singles Dreaming Of Me, New Life and Just Can’t Get Enough (currently a hit again courtesy of squeaky girl band The Saturdays).

When Burnham introduce Brian to Daniel the pair established a lifelong friendship based on the shared love of the extraordinary music made by such peerless German bands as Neu!Kraftwerk and, of course, Can (whose back catalogue Mute has reissued).

Chosen as the photographer for the cover of Depeche Mode’s debut album Speak & Spell, Brian asked Barney to design the sleeve. Barney’s own association with Kosmische music dated back to his days as in-house visual director for Hawkwind. Andrew Lauder at the band’s label United Artists – for whom Barney also worked – was an early champion in Britain and the ‘Wind’s founder Dave Brock wrote the sleevenotes for Neu!’s first UK release.

Front cover, Neu! 2, Neu!, Brain Records, 1973.

Barney’s flouro spray-paint logo for the recently-reissued Hawklords album 25 Years On is, in Brian’s view, a tribute to the one which appeared across Neu!  sleeves and in particular the giant numeral which adorns their second album.

Front cover, 25 years On, Hawklords, Charisma, 1978.

The musical ties were strong;  Opa-Loka, from 1975′s Warrior On the Edge Of Time, is an oft-cited example of Hawkwind’s use of Motorik rhythms, while Brock’s first solo album Earthed To The Ground is rooted in the genre. The original sleeve of this 1984 release was a painting by John Coulthart, who has powered the revival of interest in Barney’s work in recent years.

Barney designed adverts and other promotional material to support Radar ‘s 1978 release of the eponymously-titled album by La Dusseldorf, the group formed by the late multi-instrumentalist  (and one-time Kraftwerk member) Klaus Dinger after Neu! broke up in the mid-70s.

There has been speculation recently that Barney was also responsible for the sleeves for the UK releases of Kraftwerk albums Ralf & Florian and Autobahn (as posited by Colin Buttimer at Hardformat and investigated in a posting on John’s blog). Brian does not believe this to be the case.

“He would have told me, for I was a very big fan of everything German at the time,” says Brian.

Although Barney wasn’t keen on Depeche Mode, Brian persuaded him to handle the design of Speak & Spell, which centres on the doomy image of a swan swathed in a clear plastic and silhouetted on its nest against a radioactive glow.

“I was working on a  personal project about a nuclear attack on London and photographed the swan in my studio to represent the only creature alive after the bomb had dropped,” explains Brian. “Goodness knows what I was thinking. Everybody hated it, including myself actually!”

Barney’s lack of connection with Depeche Mode is reflected in the coolness of his design, though in retrospect this is harmonious with the wilfully alienated stance adopted by the Mode (who describe their music as “synthetics” in the credits).

Speak & Spell label copy, 1981.

Using a serif font with spare application of yellow/gold bars, boxes and constellated dots, Barney grants the band a favourite symbol, the crown (which appears in many of his designs). With the group’s name and the album title providing the headband, the credits are arranged on the back cover in the shape of the King chess piece.

The crown is also repeated on both sides of the record label.

One of the many crown logos Barney created for F-Beat.

Brian says that the project as a whole  provoked little interest in Barney. “That was most unusual for him but I fully understood the reasons, for I also disliked Depeche’s music at that time,” says Brian.

The image of the swan from behind, as used on the back page of Y.

Barney  used another shot from Brian’s swan shoot – a shadowy frame from the rear  - in Y, the duo’s newspaper which was also preoccupied with the prevailing atmosphere of nuclear foreboding in the West at that time.  ”He cleverly saw that the backside of the swan was actually an infinity symbol, which is why it’s on the back page,” says Brian.

End: The title on the back page of Y.

The infinity symbol is most commonly described as the figure 8 on it’s side: this is page 8 of Y. The title spells out END, with the N created by a constellation symbolising an endless road, or infinity. This, it should be noted,  is similar to the motorway design on the front cover of Autobahn.

Barney was to rifle Brian’s collection of “nuclear” images – that of a ship being engulfed in a tsunami as a result of an explosion – for another electro-pop project with which he felt little affinity: Wang Chung’s album Points On The Curve. This was released two months after his death,  in January 1984.

Front cover, Points On The Curve, Wang Chung, 1984.

Front cover, Points On The Curve, Wang Chung, Geffen,. 1984.

This record contained the band’s biggest hit, Dance Hall Days. Depeche Mode, on the other hand, went on to become one of the biggest groups in the world, and the  curious passions they arouse in fans are explored in Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams‘ brilliant The Posters Came From The Walls. After a smash reception at the London Film Festival this documentary is currently  touring the film festivals and will be on general release later this year. We recommend it highly.

Access a podcast featuring Brian at the Format 09 festival here.

SITE EXCLUSIVE To buy original copies of Brian Griffin and Barney Bubbles artwork – the highly collectable Y, the amazing “Scarf/Face” poster for Brian’s first one-man show and their excellent book Copyright 1978 – go here.

Discovered: The rarest Barney Bubbles design ever!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Today we are proud to announce that we have tracked down the rarest of all Barney Bubbles designs: Knees Up Party, the 1975 album by popular pianist Mrs Mills.

Extremely collectable design. Note typographic comnfidence.

Knees Up Party: "Intricately reflexive."

“Barney was very secretive and never talked about his work with Mills,” says his friend Jack Rivoli. “I only found out about it by accident when she appeared on The Two Ronnies one night and Barney hinted that they had collaborated.”

Like Bubbles, Mills revelled in pseudonymic disguise (she was born Gladys Jordan in 1918). Mills had been introduced to the designer by Paul McCartney (who would later marry her grand-daughter) when she was recording at Abbey Road Studios. At one time Mills was posited as a replacement for the dancer Stacia on Hawkwind‘s groundbreaking Space Ritual tour. A deal with Stiff Records was reportedly cancelled due to her hedonistic lifestyle, as portrayed here.

In typically oblique style the cover track-listing does not mention Mills’ radical reworking of Kevin Coyne’s Eastbourne Ladies (Bubbles was responsible for the layout and logo for the Coyne album Marjory Razorblade).

Mills and Bubbles shared interests in cosmology, cybernetics and casseroles. When the concept album Knees Up Party was suggested after a trip to the Lesser Great Pyramid, Bubbles adopted his integrated approach for the sleeve, art directing the photo session which involved subtle use of Pearly King & Queen regalia (denoting his ongoing interlacing of references to heraldry and regality). Mills herself is adorned with a necklace of eight flowers, a potent symbol of Bubbles’ oeuvre.

This photo session was in turn to inspire his choreography and stage sets for Hawklords’ 25 Years On tour of 1978.

“This is definitely Bubbles,” says graphics authority Roy Wenge. “Knees Up Party is a fine example of the intricately reflexive nature of his work. As a graphic construction it offers multiple points of interest, dispersing the viewer’s attention.”

In the next post we shall examine another Bubbles rarity – his design for  The Damned’s collectable album in their incarnation as little-known horror-rockers Lemming.

Brian James, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian, 1974.