Archive for October, 2009

Feelgoods flick feeling good…

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

It’s taken a week or so to absorb two very different cinematic investigations into a brace of Barney Bubbles-related bands (both coincidentally from Essex).

Shown during the London Film Festival, Julien Temple’s Oil City Confidential traces the “Estuarine” roots of the wondrous Dr Feelgood, while the Frieze Art Fair delivered Jeremy Deller and Nicholas Abrahams’ The Posters Came From The Walls, an extraordinary celebration of the personal and political liberation experienced by Depeche Mode fans around the world.

More on that below.


Barney’s relationship with Dr Feelgood started around the time of the 1975 release of their mould-breaking mono-only mission statement Down By The Jetty.

The monochrome photographs for Jetty and follow-up Malpractice were respectively taken by James Palmer and Barney’s late friend Keith Morris.

12in sleeves, Dr Feelgood. Left: Down By The Jetty, UA, 1975. Right: Malpractice, UA, 1976.

The design credits on these releases are “A.D. (Design Consultants) Ltd” and “Petagmo III”. The latter has been confirmed as the artist Joe Petagno, who produced a promotional comic based on the band’s adventures (and also created the Motorhead logo). 

As detailed in REASONS, Barney designed the promotional material for 1975’s Naughty Rhythms tour, which featured Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers and Kokomo and provided the Feelgoods with their national breakthrough.

Previously unpublished: artwork for Naughty Rhythms tour advert, 1975 (C) Reasons 2009/Riviera Global.

In the mid 70s the Feelgoods’ sleeves were designed by UA regulars such as Paul Henry and John Pasche. All the group’s releases of this period featured the grinning quack logo created by Feelgoods’ one-man guitar army Wilko Johnson. 

Interview still from Oil City Confidential, 2009.

It was the late lamented Feelgoods’ frontman Lee Brilleaux‘s gift of a £400 cheque to road manager Jake Riviera which kick-started Stiff Records, where Barney re-entered the music business and sealed his design reputation.

Temple’s tricksy movie, while over-garnished with juxtaposed footage from British heist films in the manner of the distracting Richard II inserts in his The Filth & The Fury, is nevertheless an invigorating and touching testament to the importance of Dr Feelgood; these were men, not boys, and their ‘tude powered punk and beyond.

Witnessing one of their gigs on an aggression-filled night in 1976 prepared me for the onstage rush of such Feelgood acolytes as The Clash and The Jam the following year.

12in sleeve. A Case Of The Shakes, Dr Feelgood, UA, 1980.

By the time Barney designed the sleeves for 1980’s A Case Of The Shakes and 1982’s Fast Women & Slow Horses, the group had lost Wilko to Ian Dury & the Blockheads but still retained a tough musicality. The diamond Brilleaux maintained his position as one of the most magnetic frontmen in rock & roll until his tragically early death from lymphoma in 1994.

12in sleeves. Left: Splash, Clive Langer & The Boxes, FBeat, 1980. Right: Pass Out, Inner City Unit, Riddle, 1980.

For the former album, produced by Nick Lowe, Barney used photographs by Bob “Bromide” Hall to create a Saul Bass-like DTs scenario. There are similarities with two other sleeves produced around this time, for Clive Langer & The Boxes and Inner City Unit.

12in sleeve. Fast Women & Slow Horses, Dr Feelgood, Chiswick, 1982.

On the front cover of Fast Women, Barney drew on his considerable illustrative skills for a visual pun which benefits from the cheeky insertion of his own profile (with its prominent proboscis) in the ampersand.


7in sleeves, Dr Feelgood. Left: No Mo Do Yakamo, UA, 1980. Right: Trying To Live My Life Without You, Chiswick, 1982.

During this period, Barney worked for another quartet who also hailed from Essex but are now the subjects of an almost-religious fervour around the world…

…Depeche doc delights and delivers

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

As previously detailed here, in 1981 Barney Bubbles was drafted in to design the sleeve of Depeche Mode’s debut album Speak & Spell at the suggestion of his friend, the photographer Brian Griffin.

12in sleeve. Front cover, Speak & Spell, Depeche Mode, Mute, 1981.

Barney’s work was frequently interlaced with symbols of power, and one of his most subtle was the arrangement of the credits on the album’s back cover in the form of a royal chess piece to accompany the crown logo he created for the band’s name.

Left: Label copy. Right: Back cover, Speak & Spell, 1981.

The power of Depeche’s music is one of the themes investigated in the brilliant The Posters Came From The Walls, in which Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams identify where the potency of popular music truly resides: with the fans.

Scenes from The Posters Came From The Walls.

Appearances by Depeche members are limited to on-stage footage, and the narrative is driven by the hopes, dreams, experiences and fantasies of the millions of Depeche followers all over the world, from California to Iran via Canada, Mexico, Germany, Romania and Russia.

If there is a common thread running through this and Oil City Confidential (two very different films about groups from opposite ends of the musical spectrum), it is the transformative power of music, whether sweaty four-to-the-floor R&B or anthemic stadium synth.

We urge you to catch both documentaries when you can; keep up with the latest news and info on their general release here and here.

Billy Bragg’s rug and the Masereel effect

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

In the early 80s an opportunity arose for Barney Bubbles to spread his creativity into designing rugs.

As detailed in REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, at this time Barney was already investigating many areas of the visual arts outside of providing commercial art for the record industry: painting, videos, mixed media, collage, mobiles, furniture design and even glass sculptures during a trip to Australia. 

12" inner sleeve. Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, F-Beat, 1980.

Barney’s friend and patron Jake Riviera explains in Chapter 5 of REASONS that in 1980 the pair encountered an invidual working in the carpet business “who could realise anything we came up with”.

Rug design artwork, 1982. (c) REASONS 2009. Courtesy: Riviera Global.

Barney designed a circular rug like a giant  single featuring Riviera’s F-Beat label for the company’s offices in Acton, west London. This appears on the inner sleeve of Carlene Carter‘s album Musical Shapes.

“Then Barney started to produce original designs,” adds Jake. “By that stage he was taking any opportunity he could to create in other media.”

But there was one rug which was based on a design of Barney’s which he didn’t commission. To explain: in the final year of his life – 1983 – Barney was working as the designer for new indie label Go! Discs, whose priority act was Billy Bragg.

Billy and Barney  shared an admiration for Flemish Expressionist artist Frans Masereel.

“I mentioned to Barney that I loved the guy’s work and of course he got it immediately,” says Billy.

Book illustrations, Charles de Coster's The Legend Of The Glorious Adventures Of Tyl Ulenspeigel. Frans Masereel, 1943.

For the cover design of Billy’s debut album Brewing Up With…Barney recreated Masereel’s signature woodcut technique.

Front covers, 12" albums. Left: Ersatz, Imperial Pompadours, Pompadour, 1982. Right: Punkadelic, Inner City Unit, Flicknife, 1982.

This was realised in the same way as the sleeve designs for his own album Ersatz (in the guise of The Imperial Pompadours) and Inner City Unit’s Punkadelic  Barney used black paper on white.

Front cover, 12" album. Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, Go! Discs, 1984.

In the event Brewing Up was released in October 1984, nearly a year after Barney’s death. The cover depicts two scenes: in one, a light radiates from a house over an industrial cityscape, in the other a contemplative figure sits at a window, lit from overhead. 

Poster, 30in x 20in. For Billy Bragg live dates, 1983.

Barney’s design was also used for Billy’s residency at London venue The Captain’s Cabin.

Rug, 8ft x 2.5ft. (c) REASONS 2009. Courtesy: Billy Bragg.

On Barney’s death, his one-time assistant Caramel Crunch took over designing for Billy, and in the mid-80s commissioned a rug rendition of one part of the Brewing Up artwork.

“My business partner Colin did some stationary for a rug-maker and she made us both rugs as payment,” explains Caramel, who these days goes by her real name, Pauline Kennedy.

“I supplied her with Barney’s album illustration and she made me the rug from that. Then I gave it to Billy as a ‘thank you’ for letting me design for him.”

And a quarter of a century later, it is still going strong, having made the leap to another domestic object, appearing appropriately on tea mugs available from Billy’s site.