“The work of Barney Bubbles expresses post-modern principles: that there is the past, the present and the possible; that culture and the history of culture are a fluid palette of semiotic expression and everything is available to articulate a point of view.”
Peter Saville, Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life & Work Of Barney Bubbles.
During the making of Tahiti 80‘s fifth album, Xavier Boyer, mainman of the French electro-orchestralloungepopindie sextet, put together a mix-tape consisting of 80s indie from The The, dark dance 90s remixes by producer Andy Weatherall, the psychedelic cut-ups of Cornelius and 70s post-punk and power pop in the form of Wire and Squeeze.
Barney Bubbles’ promo for Is That Love, Squeeze, 1981.
It was a pleasure to take tea in Soho last week with John Muggeridge, Barney Bubbles’ friend and colleague at Conran and Teenburger Designs.
Muggeridge has long been a resident of Bolivia, and his visits to the old country are rare. This didn’t, of course, hinder his contributions to Reasons To Be Cheerful, but it was fab finally to meet the man credited on Quintessence’s In Blissful Company as J. Moonman (he and Bubbles contributed the album design including a 12-page booklet).
12″x12″. Page 5, booklet, In Blissful Company, Quintessence, Island Records, 1969.
Page 6, in Blissful Company booklet.
Page 7, In Blissful Company booklet.
Page 8, In Blissful Company booklet.
Page 9, In Blissful Company booklet.
Page 10, In Blissful Company booklet.
Booklet detail: Muggeridge-inscribed lyrics for the track Ganga Mai.
A graduate of the London College Of Printing, Muggeridge joined Conran’s design department in 1966, where he worked with Bubbles (then the company’s senior graphic designer going by his birth name, Colin Fulcher).
As described in Jonathan Aitken’s 1967 book The Young Meteors, the Conran studio was at that point at the cutting edge of the global design business, with 35 employees at its offices in Hanway Place, central London.
Muggeridge became Bubbles’ assistant when the designer launched Teenburger from 307 Portobello Road in the spring of 1969, and worked with him on a run of record sleeve designs, as well as pitches for the opening sequence credits for two or three films.
“The only one I can remember was Women In Love,” says Muggeridge, who has a clear memory of himself and Bubbles sat in an otherwise empty Soho screening room viewing a rough-cut of Ken Russell’s movie. Their proposal didn’t make the cut.
Having studied calligraphy at LCP, Muggeridge’s Teenburger responsibilities included hand-lettering; his italics adorn the In Blissful Company credits.
“I was really Barney’s apprentice,” says Muggeridge, these days involved in the food business. “It was amazing to watch him apply concepts. Ideas emerged fully-formed on the drawing board. Quite often we would work together silently in the studio; there wasn’t a great deal of talk. We just got on with it, while US draft dodgers and all sorts of people traipsed up and down the stairs outside.”
12″ x 12″. Front, Cressida, Vertigo, released February 1970.
12″ x 24in. Inner gatefold, Cressida.
12″ x 12″. Front, Red Dirt, Fontana Records, released April 1970.
Back, Red Dirt.
12″ x 12″. Front, Gracious!, Vertigo, released August 1970.
12″ x 24″. Inner gatefold, Gracious!.
As well as the Quintessence album, the pair produced the designs for the eponymous debut albums by Cressida, Brinsley Schwarz, Red Dirt and Gracious!.
In 1970 Muggeridge was laid low by peritonitis and, after recuperation in Ireland, embarked on the hippie trail with his girlfriend Virginia Clive-Smith (who had also worked with Bubbles at Conran), by which time Teenburger had closed.
During our conversation at Patisserie Valerie, the performance artist Bishi approached us. She had just been one of the crowd of 50 contributing silence to the anti-X Factor single 4’33” in a nearby studio, and was intrigued by our conversation and the RTBC cover.
There ensued a fantastic cultural exchange: Muggeridge talked about the Barney Bubbles Light Show, which was inspired by a visit he and Bubbles made to UFO while working on an all-night job at Conran, while Bishi enthused about the work of contemporary light-show designers.
She has been performing in Nicholas Immaculate’s “Hindu Tron” suit, which helps her control light and sound by voice and movements.
With Bubbles directing in the wake of his clip for The Specials’ Ghost Town (since Rico was part of Specials leader Jerry Dammers’ 2-Tone collective), Soden came up with the concept for Rico’s video with Steve Binnion.
“But I was an art student at the time and wasn’t in the union; we had to get a union crew for broadcast, so Barney and I co-directed with (Bubbles’ regular promos collaborator) Genevieve Davey producing,” says Soden. “Barney was inspiring and so generous.”
The Jungle Music film serves as a carnivalesque counterpoint to the appropriately dour Ghost Town, evoking in part the innocence of Technicolor 50s coffee bar newsreels.
As in Ghost Town, the musicians (including Dammers in his bluebeat hat-defying giant sombrero) travel in a classic car, but this time arrive to celebrate multi-cultural Britain, not mourn its inner-city decay.
And visit Soden’s DaisyB Studios Youtube channel, where she has posted much else of interest, including the promo for another great track to emerge from this period of the 2-Tone story, The Boiler by Rhoda Dakar.
Meanwhile, to come up to date, here’s the ever-progressive Dammers with his Spatial AKA Orchestra and an excerpt of their cosmic take on Ghost Town from a performance last summer: