Archive for July, 2010

Barney Bubbles caught in action at work

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Barney Bubbles positions wire lettering, west London, 1980. Photo: A. Sales.

Here we have Barney Bubbles setting about creating of the wall-mounted electrical flex and wire construction which adorns the sleeve of Carlene Carter’s 1980 album Musical Shapes.

Quaver and jukebox selector, 1980. Photo: A. Sales.

Quaver with 7" single, 1980. Photo: A Sales.

The arrival of the photos from Antoinette Sales couldn’t be more timely as we prepare for our forthcoming exhibition Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles.

Tony collaborated with Barney on the design, providing the lettering and layout, as well as styling Carter (for whom she also designed stage wear).

With Chalkie Davies behind the lens, the cover shoot took place in the west London house Tony shared with her then-husband (and Barney’s friend and patron/F-Beat label boss) Jake Riviera.

“Barney set it up in our dining room in Oxford Road,” says Tony in Reasons To Be Cheerful. “I designed and set the graphics on the back. Barney had taught me how to lay down Letraset and make the placement and spacing impeccable. I had fun with the “N” for Notes, “S” for Selections and “P” for Personnel. In the self-effacing Bubbles tradition, there was no artwork credit.”

12in album. Front cover with sticker, Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, F-Beat. 1980.

12in album. Back cover, Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, Warner Bros. 1980.

12in inner sleeve, Musical Shapes.

12in album. Front cover, Around Midnight, Julie London, Liberty, 1960.

Winding away from the three-legged Dansette, the five flexes (all ending with upturned plugs) feature the album title picked out in wire and blue and red balls. These also appear to be notation; can anyone interpret what they convey musically?

One of Tony’s photographs shows that there was a try-out with a diner jukebox selector. On the back cover,  a bread bin replaced the Dansette.

Tipping a wink to the Pate/Francis & Associates 1960 design for Julie London’s Liberty album Around Midnight, the inner showed Carter reclining on a rug bearing the design of an F-Beat single (by the label’s most prominent act, Elvis Costello And The Attractions).

The sleeve was decorated with many references to the newly-launched label: on the front, Carter stood on a floor strewn with promo copies of the single version of one of her father Johnny Cash’s most popular songs Ring Of Fire (with a label incorporating Barney’s symbol of three interlocked rings and also his encircled copyright “C” familiar from designs for others such as the album’s producer Nick Lowe and Johnny Moped).

The Musical Shapes sleeve drove home the F-Beat identity by featuring the variants of the house singles bags Barney produced for Riviera.

These 7″ paper designs, based around insignia and decorations from Riviera’s office jukebox, utilised the stark colour overlays and contrasts noted across Barney’s work by such contemporary practitioners as Art Chantry.

7in house sleeve. Ring Of Fire/That Very First Kiss, Carlene Carter, F-Beat. 1980.

7in house sleeve. Ring Of Fire/That Very First Kiss, Carlene Carter, F-Beat. 1980.

7in house sleeve. Splash (A Tear Goes Rolling Down)/Hello, Clive Langer & The Boxes, F-Beat. 1980.

7in house sleeve. Good Year For The Roses/Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F-Beat. 1981.

7in house sleeve. Head To Toe/The World Of Broken Hearts, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F-Beat. 1982.

In line with the treatment he received from other American record companies,  Carter’s US  label Warner Bros tamed Barney’s design for fear of illegibility; the full-bleed front cover was given a white border for the artist credit and album title. In addition, the inner was dispensed with altogether.

Meanwhile, the US press kit included a standard 8″x1o” b&w shot of Carter from the Oxford Road session, and posters were given away with both the American and British versions of the release.

8"x10" glossy press photo. 1980.

Campaign for Barney Bubbles Google doodle

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

US designer Vic Fieger has launched a campaign for Google to feature the “doodle” he has created by amalgamating various Barney Bubbles’ graphic devices.

Vic would like Google to run his doodle on July 30 – what would be Barney Bubbles’ 68th birthday.

This what Vic has sent to Google’s doodle team:


My name is Vic Fieger. I am a font designer and graphic artist.

Not many people know about Barney Bubbles, as the great majority of his work was uncredited. He doesn’t have the name recognition of his contemporaries in art and album design, such as Peter Saville or Hipgnosis.

But his influence on modern design is unmatched; his creations for acts like Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, the Psychedelic Furs and countless other recording artists gave rise to many of the graphic motifs of the 1980s. Only recently has he begun to receive the recognition he deserved with the release of the book Reasons To Be Cheerful by Paul Gorman. Ten years before this, two of his covers appeared in Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell’s 100 Best Album Covers compilation.

I was hoping you might be interested in posting a Doodle paying tribute to Barney on his birthday, July 30. I’ve attached one I’ve created the other day, using an amalgam of some of his graphic devices from various pieces. Even if a Doodle is only posted in the UK, where most of the acts he worked with were based, it would still be very much appreciated by lovers of design and modern art.

I understand that Google is a very busy company and that your calendar is probably already full. Still, I do hope you consider my proposal.

Thank you for your time, and for the services you provide.

Vic Fieger

Join Vic’s campaign by writing to referencing his letter and using the mail header:

Barney Bubbles for Google doodle on July 30, 2010

Moorcock on Ballard, Bubbles, Platt, Paolozzi et al

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Pedro Marques has posted the second installment of his interview with Michael Moorcock, in which the great man discusses his working relationship with designers not only of his books but also New Worlds, the sci-fi magazine he edited over a long period .

New Worlds, August 1967. Cover: Eduardo Paolozzi.

The interview reveals the mutual respect shared by Barney Bubbles and art director/editor/and later WIRED contributor Charles Platt.

New Worlds August 1969. Cover: Charles Platt.

“Barney and Charles lived a few blocks from one another in the Portobello Road and its environs, where the offices of New Worlds and Frendz were situated virtually side by side,” says Moorcock, whose 1975 album The New Worlds Fair is housed in a Barney Bubbles sleeve.

12in sleeve. The New Worlds Fair, Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix, UA, 1975.

Later on in the decade the New Worlds art director was Richard Glyn Jones.”By the time [Barney] was at Stiff Records, he had more work than he could handle and I never wanted to overload him, he was such a sweet guy,” says Moorcock.  “But I would have used him if I could.”

Stacia, second left, with fans at Harlow Town Park, August 1974. Photo via Bassmonster 2 at Hawkwind Free Forums.

I was thrilled that Moorcock was available to make many valuable contributions to Reasons To Be Cheerful, not least because I clearly remember him intoning excerpts from Warrior On the Edge Of Time oonstage with Hawkwind at a 1974 free festival in Harlow New Town, surrounded as I was by members of the Windsor Chapter, all of us captivated by the onstage antics of Stacia and Nik Turner (playing his sax dressed as a frog, naturellement)

Since we’re on the subject of MM, I’d also like to urge you to check out the recently published and wonderful John Coulthart-designed compendium of Moorcock’s writings, Into The Media Web.

Vic Fieger’s Barney Bubbles Google logo

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Hats of to US designer Vic Fieger for amalgamating some of Barney Bubbles’ graphic devices in this Google logo deviation over at deviantART.

Fieger designed the logo ahead of what would be Barney Bubbles’ 68th birthday on July 30.”I might send it to Google in the million-to-one chance they use it,” he says.

Check out Fieger’s range of freeware fonts and his blog Not New York No.