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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…