One of the most satisfying aspects of staging Process has been engaging with visitors who knew Barney Bubbles personally.
Film producer Linda Gamble dropped by last week; she worked at Virgin Records in the 70s and 80s and knew Bubbles via her then-boyfriend Will Birch.
Touchingly, Linda brought a thank-you note Bubbles sent her and Birch in 1982 for a record player they had given him. The note – in an envelope proclaiming “Bring Back The Birch” – accompanied a painted drumhead which Bubbles suggested could either be used in performance or placed on the wall as an artwork.
“I kept this note all these years because Barney was such a great guy,” says Linda.
As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, around this time Birch commissioned sleeve designs for his band The Records as well as a cover for a compilation of tracks by his previous outfit Kursaal Flyers. While working together he and Bubbles had entertained themselves by creating an imaginary beat group, The Blue Genes.
In his note, Bubbles recommended referring to Merseybeat or Andrew Lauder (who had reissued such gems as The Merseybeats’ Beat & Ballads via F-Beat’s catalogue wing Edsel).
12″ sleeve. Front cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.
Back cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.
Credit details, back cover, Chocs Away.
Left: Fry’s packaging, 1968. Right: Fry’s 5 Boys 1902.
Birch first met Bubbles in 1975, when the designer produced the sleeve for Kursaal Flyers’ debut album Chocs Away.
Developing the chocolate aeroplane theme of the cover, Bubbles cast the five Kursaals on the back as variations of Fry’s 5 Boys (who appeared on the confectionery company’s packaging from 1902 until a marketing overhaul the year after Chocs Away’s release).
For his credit, Bubbles chose “Grove Lane”, after the street/neighbourhood where Kursaals’ manager Paul Conroy shared a flat with photographer Adrian Boot.
By the early 80s, the designs for Music On Both Sides, In For A Spin and their attendant singles captured Bubbles during his final reductive phase, relying on repetition of primary shapes and restricted palettes.
Thus The Records designs centred on jukebox lozenges and stars, while that for In For A Spin arose from a visit of Birch’s to Bubbles’ studio in January 1983. “The title came out of a discussion I had with Barney,” says Birch. “I remember him alternating between sketches of a ‘spin dryer’ and aeroplane propellers, as in ‘taking a plane up for a spin.”
12″ sleeve. Front cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.
Back cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.
7″ sleeve. Front cover, Imitation Jewellery, The Records, Virgin, 1982.
12in sleeve. Front cover, In For A Spin, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.
7″ sleeve. Front cover, Radio Romance, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.
Thanks to Linda Gamble for bringing in the note and providing us with an opportunity to present yet more fantastic designs which we were unable to include in Process.
The show is on for another three weeks (until October 23), open Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm.