Archive for August, 2010

Exhibition and new edition in MOJO

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

MOJO

Read about the forthcoming exhibition Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles and the new edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful – out in October, new cover below – in the new issue of MOJO.

There are a host of fresh images in the new edition, as well as previously unpublished information and facts about Bubbles’ life and career along with extra contributions, including a chat with Art Chantry and memories from those who knew him, such as “Record John” Cowell.

Half-brother of Simon Cowell, John lived at Bubbles’ Teenburger hq 307 Portobello Road in the late 60s and says: “It’s about time he was recognised but Barney was never one for self-publicity. He was a real hippy. I miss him so much and think of him often.”

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There are many exciting elements to the forthcoming show, which runs from September 14 to October 23 at London’s Chelsea Space gallery. Full details here.

The new edition, which has a new ISBN number as befits the expanded and enhanced book, will be available to order from amazon shortly. We will also be making available signed copies exclusively from this site and will provide full details soon.

Time travel The Phenomenauts’ way

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Scamps The Phenomenauts didn’t need any encouragement to time-travel back to 1980 for Barney Bubbles to direct the promo for their song She’ll Launch.

Well that’s their story, anyway.

The pink/black treatment a la Kill City and the yellow/red/brown overlay from the posters and initial run of My Aim Is True are just some of the BB effects which abound in their clip, so who are we to disbelieve them?

Jim Haynes and the Arts Lab light show

Thursday, August 12th, 2010
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"Barney" Fulcher and friend, Drury Lane Arts Lab, 1967. Photo: Stafford Cliff.

A pleasurable introduction yesterday to the legendary Jim Haynes at the Chelsea Arts Club affords publication of this shot of Barney Bubbles in the midst of operating his slide projection light show at the Drury Lane Arts Lab in autumn 1967.

Haynes’ establishment of this space for mixed media performance and experimental theatre in September that year triggered a new phase in the development of the arts in Britain.

Soon a network of arts labs sprang up (one launched by the young David Bowie – who had performed his mime show at Drury Lane – in the back of The Three Tuns pub in Beckenham, Kent).

Drury Lane is the place where the Barney Bubbles Light Show came into being. The photograph of Barney Fulcher (as he was styled then) with ink-stained hands and heavy duty projectors was taken by his Conran design department colleague Stafford Cliff.

It shows the 25-year-old graphic designer on the cusp of adopting his new persona and stepping out into a mind-expanding future, taking the light show around other such underground venues as Middle Earth and The Roundhouse.

Jim is in the UK for participation in the Edinburgh Festival; of course his relationship with the city goes back many decades. These days he’s also known for the delightful Sunday dinners he has thrown at his Paris atelier for the past 30 years.

Quintessential ‘topiary’ in Gandalf’s Garden

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
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"Shiva Jones and the Quintessence": Sketch by Barney Bubbles (top, bearded) with group members outside 307 Portobello Road, May, 1969.

One of the more abstruse credits for Barney Bubbles appeared just as he was embarking on his career in music design.

In the sixth and final issue of underground magazine Gandalf’s Garden, Bubbles was credited with “topiary”, in keeping with the horticultural lexicon employed at the offshoot of the Chelsea head shop/restaurant of the same name.

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Front cover, Gandalf's Garden 6, 1969.

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Exterior Gandalf's Garden, World's End, London SW10, 1969.

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Issue 6 of Gandalf’s Garden was published in late 1969, and included a feature on Quintessence. The flute-led jazz/raga/rock ensemble’s recently released debut album In Blissful Company was Bubbles’ first 12in sleeve design (with his Teenburger Designs assistant John Muggeridge, or ‘J. Moonman’ as he was styled on the cover).

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Pages 9-10, Gandalf's Garden 6.

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Page 2, Gandalf's Garden 6.

The feature was enlivened by a pink duotone image of the group, and an Island Records advert for the new album appeared in the same issue. Bubbles received the credit for supplying both of these.

“Since he’s listed among those responsible for ‘topiary’ (i.e. artwork) in the issue, all I can say is that he did SOMETHING!” said Rosemary Pardoe, who is responsible for Gandalf’s online presence.

Gandalf’s mainman Muz Murray does not believe Bubbles ever provided layouts. “However, he  kindly offered his Barney Bubbles’ Light Show for the benefit concerts we did with Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Quintessence,” added Murray.

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Concert posters, 1969.

Bubbles, whose basement at 307 Portobello Road was used as rehearsal space by Quintessence, also regularly provided lights for their performances at the Sunday Implosion events at London’s The Roundhouse.

The GG6 Quintessence image and advert share the design approach Bubbles adopted for the black-and-white 12-page booklet he placed inside the Blissful Company gatefold (the front and back covers were paintings by ‘Gopala’, a member of the group’s posse, and the inner a photograph of the group and their circle).

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Pages 6-7, In Blissful Company booklet, 1969.

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Pages 9-10, In Blissful Company booklet, 1969.

The 12in sq booklet presented italicised song lyrics and credits with images of the band-members amid coarse dot patterns, shimmering elipses and die-cut apertures leading to an op-art quadrant.

This complementary and juxtaposed use of the square, triangle and circle were repeated by Bubbles throughout his career, denoting his understanding of the power of primary shapes (defining features of art movements he investigated, such as the Bauhaus).

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Profiled in the BBC doc New Horizons: The Alternative Society, Quintessence took part in the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre (which led to the  fund-raising album of the following year housed in Bubbles’ tri-fold sleeve).

A version of the group is still led by founder Shiva Jones. You can catch up with their latest news here.

Guest blog: The many faces of Barney Bubbles

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Vic Fieger's favourite faces.

Physiognomy was a preoccupation  of Barney Bubbles and a recurring theme; he worried at the representation of the human face and tackled it from many angles. There are hundreds littered across his work, rendered in unusual arrangements and assembled from unlikely elements.

Here, in the first of a series of blogs by guests, the US designer Vic Fieger selects his Top Ten Barney Bubbles Faces:

Armed Forces: there he is, Barney himself,  in the best place to hide: where everybody can see you. He seemed never to back away from portraying his big nose (see also Fast Women & Slow Horses), which makes up 70% of this self-portrait. The presentation of the eye utilises one of  Barney’s favourite tricks: the repositioning of an oval shape. Most of  his ovals have the same dimension ratio, and were likely cut or drawn with the use of a drafter’s stencil for isometric circles.

Inner panel, 12in sq. Armed Forces, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Radar, 1979.

The Blockhead logo for Ian Dury and crew is of course one of his best-known. Everything is as clear as can be: eye/nose/eye/mouth. The letters are unaltered and of uniform size, save for the elongated L, and the arrangement of them is all it took to makes this word into a bona fide blockhead. Is it just serendipity that the letter-forms seem to present a mouth of misaligned and rotten teeth, framed by the round C and D?

There is similarity to the back of the 1981 re-issue of Dury’s What A Waste. In the  square, white this time, the (still perfectly horizontal) mouth is the negative space of a double-edged razor which has wandered from the front cover. And is that another Eye Of Horus, gazing at the title of the B-side, perhaps just waking up to it?

Label, What A Waste/Wake Up! , Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff, 1978.

Back, 7in sleeve, What A Waste/Wake Up & Make Love To Me, Ian Dury, Stiff, 1981.

The fellow who adorns the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass is made of metal; his mouth is a utility knife, his nose a pair of tweezers, and he sheds a pop pull-tab tear. A circular saw frames the face, the negative space this time providing the outline of head and neck.

The opposite end of the spectrum is represented by the sleeve for  The Inmates’ seven-inch Me And The Boys. Here Barney subtracts rather than adds, removing different lengths of teeth of a plastic comb for the chiseled profiles of the titular mates. Stray hairs left in the combs provide – what else? – their hairstyles. This theme is extended to the rear of the sleeve, where Betty Lou (the B-side) is a long-haired beauty. There’s no paper wrapping (like for each of the Boys), so we have a female comb posing nude.

Ingrid Mansfield-Allman’s Stop Wasting Your Time has a thick stripe taking up half of the front cover, which consists of a grid  with a black dot at each eighth intersect. The portion above is black, below is white. A precise calligraphic swash eases down the left side. Together, these elements present the veiled visage of woman as  funeral attendee, her lips formed from the dense, compact letter forms of Haettenschweiler. They spell the record’s title, as if this character is saying: “He’s gone now, so what are you waiting for?”

Front, 7in sleeve. I love The Sound Of Breaking Glass/They Called It Rock, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

Front, 7in sleeve. Me And The Boys/Betty Lou, The Inmates, WEA, 1981.

Front, 7in sleeve. Stop Wasting Your Time/Sister Slow, Ingrid Mansfield-Allman, Polydor, 1981.

Haettenschweiler is also used  in Barney’s letterhead for Elvis Costello. While the O’s are big, bold and circular, the rest of Costello is pushed together in this typeface – type face? – to complete his trademark horn-rims. The capital  “E” is stretched down  for the outline of his head and the coif is made up of the “LVIS”.

Letterhead, Elvis Costello Ltd, 1980.

Another letterhead, for F-Beat, presents the face of a clown  from the most primitive of shapes. The lowercase “B” is represented as a mostly filled-in circle for one eye and the other eye is the clown’s painted cross from a lowercase “t”. The “A” is a red triangular nose,  the “E ” a square formed by identical and equally-spaced parallel rectangles (another of Barney’s recurring devices) and the longer portion below the horizontal line of the T suggests face-paint running down a harlequin’s face: the tears of a clown, maybe?

Howard Werth’s 4D Man sleeve is particularly smart: an eight-pointed star and a bold pink numeral 4  which rotates at intervals of 90deg to form the part of the star, but also, in its upright form, is  an angular profile. The rest of the star forms a spiked mohawk hairstyle, and the placement of “MAN” can be seen as a shorn scalp. Whether the D is an eye or an ear isn’t clear.

Another drawn up from geometric sources is the test-pattern man of Roger Chapman’s Mango Crazy album. It’s  quite hard to tell exactly what’s going on here; for instance, which direction is he facing? His mouth and chin seem to be in opposite directions; his eyebrows can be discerned, but which are his eyes: the red dots or the white? Does each eye have two dots, one of each color? Is he shown in the action of casting his gaze aside? Just pondering all of the possibilities here is enough to make a man, er, go crazy.

Letterhead, F-Beat Records, 1980.

Front, 7in sleeve. 4D Man/What's Hoppin', Howard Werth, Metabop, 1982.

Front, 12in sleeve. Mango Crazy, Roger Chapman & WHO, LABEL, 1983.

Come to think of it, are any of these faces at all? They’re grids, bits of metal, letters of the alphabet, combs, and so forth. It’s part of human nature to see faces where they don’t actually exist, but Barney Bubbles envisioned them like nobody else I have ever come across.

Vic Fieger – website ttp://www.vicfieger.com and  blog.