A spot of detective work has resulted in confirmation from musician, producer, engineer and now academic and orchestra leader Andy Arthurs that Barney Bubbles did indeed design the sleeve for his 1978 electropop single I Can Detect You (For 100,000 Miles).
Until now this curio has not been recognised as a Barney artwork. We were put on the trail by blog fan Mark Lungo, who put 2 + 2 together correctly, having spotted the familiar tropes and stylistic tics in Detect’s design and added in the fact that Barney was at that time in-house designer at Radar Records.
Andy, these days professor and head of music at Queensland University, confirmed that the cover was Barney’s, organised by Radar mainman Andrew Lauder. We will be featuring an interview with him shortly.
Backed with the song I Am A Machine, the sleeve was also used for the single’s release on affiliate label TDS Records, for whom Barney created “blackboard” music press adverts developing the use of faux mathematical equations. The TDS logo itself bears a resemblance to that which he produced for magazine Let It Rock a couple of years earlier.
On the TDS sleeves the label’s address is 120 Parker Street W1 – in posh Mayfair. It seems there was some playfulness afoot; Radar was based at 60 Parker Street, another thoroughfare in what was then down-at-heel Camden’s borders with Bloomsbury.
Andy had been around the British music scene for a number of years by the time of the single’s release, having started at George Martin’s AIR studios in 1971 and received engineering credits on albums such as Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things.
During the immediate post-punk era he produced singles and albums by such new wave acts as Tot Taylor’s Advertising, Stranglers’ spin-off project Celia & the Mutations, power-pop band Tonight (also on TDS), mod revivalists The Chords and 999.
999’s designer was George Snow, who had known Barney since his days at underground paper Friends. Snow is the man credited with pioneering acceptance of computers and digital technology in British graphics and illustration circles by another Barney fan, Andy Martin.
999 were also signed to Radar, having been at Lauder’s previous label UA, and the photographer responsible for many of their sleeve shots was Barney’s friend and collaborator Chris Gabrin.
Meanwhile Andy Arthurs produced 999’s eponymously-titled debut album for Radar as well as such releases as The Soft Boys’ (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp, which also benefited from a Barney sleeve, and wrote tracks including Skin Tight for Noosha Fox.
Nowadays Andy is ultra-busy, complimenting his professorial duties at Queensland with his involvement in 18-piece orchestra Deep Blue.
And his release has now been added to our virtual exhibition of Barney’s single sleeves. 71 and counting! More to be added soon!