Posts Tagged ‘1975’

Wud Wud! When Barney got the (Chilli) Willis…

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Thanks to photographic ace and all-round good chap  Tom Sheehan for this splendid Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers poster.

Poster. Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, 1972. (c) Tom Sheehan Collection.

This portrays the band’s founders Martin Stone and the sadly long-departed Phil Lithman in footloose minstrel mode, in line with their appearance on the inner sleeve of Barney-designed debut album Kings Of the Robot Rhythm.

Detail, 12in inner sleeve, Kings Of the Robot Rhythm. Phil Lithman and Martin Stone. Photo: Daisy Grinchin.

12in paperboard sleeve, front and back, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Revelation Enterprises, 1972.

Label, Kings Of the Robot Rhythm.

Detail from permissions/rights label copy.

In Tom’s poster, they’re not such a skip and a jump from the space-hopping character (a self-portrait?) Barney included in his artwork for the same year’s triple album The Glastonbury Fayre.

Detail, artwork, The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation Enterprises, 1972.

Kings Of the Robot Rhythm was the second release on Revelation Enterprises, the label launched by Barney’s former Friends colleague, music editor John Coleman, to raise funds to pay off the debts from the previous year’s festival (at which Stone’s former band Mighty Baby performed).

Poster detail, 1972.

South Londoner Tom recounts how he became a fan of  the Willis during a spell working first for the parks department and then The Star & Telegraph in Sheffield – and loved to replicate the “Very Amazing Cut Out N Colour Me In” bowtie Barney provided on Kings Of The Robot Rhythm’s charming insert.

12in brown paper insert, Kings Of the Robot Rhythm, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Revelation, 1972.

This gloried in the recommended hues: “Colour me ruby redneck” is the instruction for the rail on which the cowgirl rests, and “acupulco gold”, “blue bird blue” and “juke box emerald” are just a few of those suggested for the sun rays.

“I traced around it and made ‘bowties’ for me and my friends to wear to Willis gigs,” says Tom, one of Britain’s highest rated music photographers.

Insert detail, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm, 1972.

Note how the insert’s desert horizon is recalled in the landscape on the drumhead he painted for the Willis’ drummer Pete Thomas a couple of years later.

Drumhead, 1974. (C) Pete Thomas Collection.

Tom is also the proud possessor of a number of original Willis stickers; in Reasons To Be Cheerful, the band’s manager Jake Riviera points out how successful these were at spreading the word about the band at grass roots level in the early to mid-70s.

Stickers 1973-75. (c) Tom Sheehan collection.

Barney produced a number of variations, along with badges, cards and posters. 

Three stickers and a badge, 1972-74.

There was also Up Periscope, the proto-fanzine  and newsletter to which Willis fans could subscribe.

"The Atom Age Good Read": Masthead artwork, 1973.

Barney also created  posters  (in the style of Continental transport designs of the 20s and 30s.) for the hard-touring musicians (one year alone, Chilli Willi performed 370 gigs). These contained spaces for promoters to insert venues and dates.

"By night and day here these weirdos come to play." Gig poster, 1973.

In 1974 Chilli Willi released their stirling second album Bongos Over Balham via a deal with Charisma associated label Mooncrest/B&C.

A4 artwork, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers card, 1972.

In January 1975 the band was added to the bill of the Naughty Rhythms package tour with soul/funk ensemble Kokomo and the dynamic Dr Feelgood.

Naughty Rhythms roundel, 1975. (C) Tom Sheehan Collection.

Barney produced the delightful artwork for the tour, including the cheery banana lady whose tailfeather-shaking  is accompanied by the phrase “Wud Wud”.

“That was such a Barney touch,” says Naughty Rhythms booking agent Paul Conroy.

We’re grateful to Tom – who came to know Barney once he started working for the music press  in the mid-70s – for giving us an opportunity to celebrate this wonderfully eccentric and sorely overlooked British band.

Wud Wud!

Stylorouge: The joys of misappropriation

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

“Barney was a grand master of design irreverence and visual mischief” Rob O’Connor

Stylorouge is one of the lesser celebrated though most successful design houses to have taken its cue from Barney Bubbles’ artistic approach to the music business.

Launched in 1981 by mainman Rob O’Connor, Stylorouge flourishes as a major force in commercial art and design; the current packed workload includes Island Records’ high-profile 50th anniversary celebrations.

Left: Poster. Island Life concerts, Shepherds Bush Empire. Right: Book design. Keep On Running: 50 Years Of Island Records, edited by Chris Salewicz.

 Back in 1995, the company’s philosophy was neatly summarised on its first website:

“We try to balance the analytical approach to visual ‘problem solving’ (some folk refer to this as having ideas) with a forward-looking intuitive flair (except on Monday mornings). We hold all kinds of creativity in high esteem. Nothing puts a bigger smile on our faces than driving a job from bottom to top: Concept, Art Direction, Design, Typography, Artwork, Repro, Pub; and in that order.”

Stylorouge covers (clockwise from top right): Wild Things-Creatures (1981); Music For A New Society-John Cale (1982); Parklife-Blur (1994); Ringleader Of The Tormentors-Morrissey (2006).
Stylorouge sleeves (clockwise from top left): Wild Things, The Creatures, Polydor, 1981; Music For A New Society, John Cale, Ze, 1982; Ringleader Of The Tormentors, Morrissey, Attack, 2006); Parklife, Blur, Food, 1994.

This approach is evident through Stylorouge’s work, from Blur and new 4AD band Broken Records to Morrissey and Wham! (the exclamation mark came from a stray sheet of Letraset).

In this exclusive interview, Rob discusses Barney’s influence, and also reveals that he once came tantalisingly close to meeting his hero.

 

Credit in Oz 38, November 1971.
Credits, Oz 38, November 1971.

“I first encountered Barney’s name via his layouts for the underground press (Barney was art director of Friends and a contributor to Oz) and then with Hawkwind when he was billed alongside people like Liquid Len,” he says.

Rob – whose influences also include Barney’s one-time employer Terence Conran and 70s art collective Grapus – also checked for Barney as a fan of  Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers and an attendee of the London date of the Naughty Rhythms tour.

“Barney was so totally original in his approach I couldn’t help but be influenced – he was the complete package: illustrator, designer, typographer and creative director,” says Rob, who joined Polydor Records’ art department on leaving Brighton Art College in 1977.

“He was one of the people who made the music industry seem like a huge amount of fun. In Barney’s work there was always an area of experimentation as well as heaps of humour and self-deprecation. That spread to the musicians he worked with.”

Rob cites the campaign behind Stiff’s 1977 release of Elvis Costello’s debut My Aim Is True. “Of course people like Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera were driving it, but Barney delivered the attitude,” says Rob. 

“Hopefully we do the same at Stylorouge. Our work rests on ideas, attitude and stance rather than preciousness about design.

From The Ian Dury Songbook, Music Sales, 1979.

“I’ll throw a piece of Meccano into the mix and then realise that it is in line with Barney’s fascination for using ordinary objects as the building bricks of his art.”

A particular favourite is the cover for Billy Bragg’s 1983 debut Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy

“The notion of taking utilitarian design which was not created for aesthetic purposes and combining it with such a fundamentally working-class object as a clamp-on lamp was extraordinary,” says Rob. “He was basically saying that these objects were important and worthy of elevation.

Left: Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy, Billy Bragg, Utility, 1983. Right: Modern Life Is Rubbish, Blur, Food Records, 1993.

“The work we did with Blur came from the same place. We appropriated mundane items like the greetings card illustration of an old steam train which shouldn’t really be used to sell groovy pop music, or the greyhound track for Parklife.”

Rob also admires Barney’s willingness to revisit successful designs: “Rather like Peter Saville he was quite shameless about re-using ideas because he knew they were good enough and stood the test of time. Similarly, he wasn’t ashamed of plundering classic design motifs from the recent past like Blue Note or other 50s sleeves.”

Left: Rock Around The Clock, Bill Haley And The Comets, Decca US, 1955. Right: Seconds Of Pleasure, Rockpile, F Beat, 1980.

As a result of his parlous financial circumstances, towards the end of his life Barney took his portfolio to a number of major record labels in search of freelance commissions.  

“I can’t remember what happened but he was supposed to come in to Polydor,” says Rob.”I found it extraordinary that he would have to do such a thing because he was so brilliant. It was a real disappointment I never met him.”

Left: Full-page ad, Music Week, July 1977. Right: Poster. Lives exhibition, Hayward Gallery, 1979.

Rob continues to reel from the scale of Barney’s output. “One of my favourite pieces is the poster he did for the Lives exhibition, which I bought in a second-hand shop many years ago and have had on my wall ever since,” he says. “I only found out it was a Barney when I read your book!”

Rob also enthuses about the sleeve for Ian Dury’s 1981 single Spasticus Autisticus, released as a statement about the ghetto-isation of  the less abled by the official declaration in the UK that 1981 was “The Year Of The Disabled”.

Left: Almost Blue, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F Beat, 1981. Right: Spasticus Autisticus, Ian Dury, Polydor, 1981.

“There is something subtle and poetic about his very simple idea of changing the colours of the stuff on the plate,” says Rob. “That spoke quietly and effectively about discrimination.”

So does Rob detect Barney’s influence among the current generation of commercial artists?

“It is difficult to make the shift back in time and understand how the work was created in the context of no computers,” accepts Rob. “But I work with young people a lot and know that there is a clear understanding and appetite for good ideas, and there is no doubt Barney’s have stood the test of time.

“Because he was never fashionable, his work hasn’t dated. It can only work in favour of his memory that there is a huge amount of retrospective design around at the moment.

“Hopefully contemporary designers understand why they are doing this, rather than opting for a cheap rip-off. Barney did what later became commonly known as ‘irony’: taking design meant for one purpose and showing how it can work in a different context.

“I’ve used the word ‘misappropriation’ in the context of what we do at Stylorouge ,and it’s really one of the things I most enjoy in Barney’s work.”

Discovered: The rarest Barney Bubbles design ever!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Today we are proud to announce that we have tracked down the rarest of all Barney Bubbles designs: Knees Up Party, the 1975 album by popular pianist Mrs Mills.

Extremely collectable design. Note typographic comnfidence.

Knees Up Party: "Intricately reflexive."

“Barney was very secretive and never talked about his work with Mills,” says his friend Jack Rivoli. “I only found out about it by accident when she appeared on The Two Ronnies one night and Barney hinted that they had collaborated.”

Like Bubbles, Mills revelled in pseudonymic disguise (she was born Gladys Jordan in 1918). Mills had been introduced to the designer by Paul McCartney (who would later marry her grand-daughter) when she was recording at Abbey Road Studios. At one time Mills was posited as a replacement for the dancer Stacia on Hawkwind‘s groundbreaking Space Ritual tour. A deal with Stiff Records was reportedly cancelled due to her hedonistic lifestyle, as portrayed here.

In typically oblique style the cover track-listing does not mention Mills’ radical reworking of Kevin Coyne’s Eastbourne Ladies (Bubbles was responsible for the layout and logo for the Coyne album Marjory Razorblade).

Mills and Bubbles shared interests in cosmology, cybernetics and casseroles. When the concept album Knees Up Party was suggested after a trip to the Lesser Great Pyramid, Bubbles adopted his integrated approach for the sleeve, art directing the photo session which involved subtle use of Pearly King & Queen regalia (denoting his ongoing interlacing of references to heraldry and regality). Mills herself is adorned with a necklace of eight flowers, a potent symbol of Bubbles’ oeuvre.

This photo session was in turn to inspire his choreography and stage sets for Hawklords’ 25 Years On tour of 1978.

“This is definitely Bubbles,” says graphics authority Roy Wenge. “Knees Up Party is a fine example of the intricately reflexive nature of his work. As a graphic construction it offers multiple points of interest, dispersing the viewer’s attention.”

In the next post we shall examine another Bubbles rarity – his design for  The Damned’s collectable album in their incarnation as little-known horror-rockers Lemming.

Brian James, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian, 1974.

 

Aura revelations

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The record label Aura is mentioned in Reasons To Be Cheerful, though there wasn’t sufficient space to go into detail on Barney’s designs for this relatively obscure and now collectible indie.

“I remember Barney occasionally working for Aura in the late 70s and early 80s,” says his friend Brian Griffin, who provided an image for the cover of England’s Trance by Placebo (not the mid-90s Swiss/American glam trio). The design credit on the 1982 album reads “Photography Consultants”.

 

 

Meanwhile Barney’s assistant Diana Fawcett contributed two sleeve designs to REASONS as examples of his work for the central London-based company (whose single packaging featured a convex upper lip on the envelope front).

During the late 70s Barney’s music workload was focused at Stiff Records, Radar and Chiswick, though from time to time he would make room for commissions for other independents such as Aura, Charisma and Chrysalis.

 

 

Founded by producer/photographer Aaron Sixx, Aura is best known for having released the work of US avant-jazz performer Annette Peacock.

Her career had been put on hold when she was bound by a contract to David Bowie’s management Mainman (which also looked after Iggy & The Stooges, Dana Gillespie, Jobriath, Mick Ronson and, yes, even Lulu). Freed from this set-up,  Peacock signed with Aura and promptly unleashed such critically acclaimed albums as X-Dreams and The Perfect Release

Recent years have witnessed a revival of interest in Peacock. Her track Pony featured on Morcheeba’s Back To Mine compilation and just last year she collaborated with Coldcut.

 

 

Aura was home to other maverick talents such as Nico and the great Memphis rock & roller Alex Chilton – in 1978 Sixx released a clutch of 1974 recordings by Chilton’s group Big Star as The Third Album (also known as Third/Sister Lovers).

 

Front cover, Kizza Me by Big Star 1978.

Front cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

Big Star’s previous album Radio City had featured The Red Ceiling by the group’s Memphis friend, the celebrated photographer William Eggleston, who also played piano on the version of Nature Boy which appears as a bonus cut on later editions.

The band’s working title for their third album Sister Lovers was a reference to the fact that Chilton and drummer/vocalist Jody Stephens were romantically involved with Eggleston’s cousins, Lesa and Holliday Aldredge. Their respectively fractious relationships proved the wellspring for many of the darker album tracks. 

Jody said this week that he knows nothing of the genesis of the Aura cover, in which a model is swathed in the Tennessee Flag.

 

Back cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

Back cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

On the full-colour album sleeve the stars have each been granted 10 fizzing fuses; a reference, maybe, to the indoor fireworks delineated within. The monochrome front cover photograph for the  Kizza Me single progresses the theme with the (literally) inflammatory depiction of the Tenessee flag alight and the stars – without graphic adornment – aflame.

On the back, 10 frames are arranged geometrically into another pentagram. This is not just a nod to the band’s name. The pentagram  recurs throughout Barney’s work, as do flags, banners and other heraldic devices.

In comparison with the rarity value of The Third Album (as a result of the cult following maintained by Big Star to this day), California Sun by KK Black is more of a curio.

 

Front cover, California Sun, KK Black, 1978.

Front cover, California Sun, KK Black, 1978.

By the late 70s, The  Rivieras’ 1964 surf anthem had become familiar to punk audiences, having been a staple of The Ramones’ live set (and appeared on their second album Leave Home), but Black’s version failed to capture public interest and sank without trace.

 

Back cover, Californian Sun by KK Black, 1978

Back cover, Californian Sun by KK Black, 1978.

The noteworthy aspect of Barney’s design for this release relies on the way in which Black’s “new wave pin-up” appearance is enlivened by effective use of the spiky extended single lines which not only spell out his name on the front but also wrap around the fold onto the back.

KK Black was a pseudonym of Kelvin Blacklock, a schoolfriend of  Mick Jones who had been vocalist in the guitarist’s pre-Clash bands The Delinquents, Little Queenie and London SS, and went on to join The Damned drummer Rat Scabies’ short-lived White Cats before recording this single and one other, a version of The Herd’s I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die, before disappearing from the limelight.

Let It Rock

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Today we present a hitherto unexplored adventure of Barney’s into magazine design; his contribution to 70s music title Let It Rock.

Let It Rock’s launch in 1972 coincided with “the first era of post-modernism in pop,” as the late great Ian MacDonald told me in my music press history In Their Own Write. “Music started to be conscious of itself and look back and begin to make syntheses and style references and be ironic.”

Barneys redesign is introduced Jan 1975 (c) John Pidgeon

Barney's redesign is introduced Jan 1975 (c) John Pidgeon

Of course, the collective which founded the publication – Simon FrithCharlie GillettPhil Hardy, Gary Herman, Ian Hoare and Dave Laing  – were riding the zeitgeist;  in fashion a stylistic revolution was being sparked by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s  investigations into 50s musical subcultures at their King’s Road shop of the very same name, while visual artists such as Barney were enthusiastically plundering the recent history of art and commercial design to reinvigorate the world of graphics.

In the mid 70s John Pidgeon took over as Let It Rock editor. “I got to know Barney after he designed the Sutherland Brothers first album and loved the fact that he had shot holes in it with an airgun,” says John.  “I immediately discovered we had mutual friends in Ian McLagan and (another of Barney’s Twickenham college pals) Mick Finch.”

Let It Rock, October 1975

Let It Rock, October 1975

A couple of years later John  set about revamping Let It Rock and invited Barney over to his flat in Clapham, south London to discuss a redesign. “When he arrived, he unfolded reams of penciled artwork, all of which he had drawn on the tube between Isleworth (or whichever West London stop it was) and Clapham Common,” says John. The options were sketched on headed paper from Barney’s dad’s company.

Roughs for Let It Rock redesign on F.Fulcher paper (c) John Pidgeon

Roughs for Let It Rock redesign on F.Fulcher paper (c) John Pidgeon

As these two sheets demonstrate, Barney focused on the font for the magazine logo, and also produced single page and double page spread layout samples (including one using a Bob Dylan feature for direction on photography and text placement).

Presenting a subheading “The world’s greatest rock read”, Barney notes the magazine sections Oldies, Singles, Album reviews, News and Letters, and provides the last with its own ident: a bobbysoxer writing fan-mail.

The masthead come sinto focus (c) John Pidgeon

The masthead comes into focus (c) John Pidgeon

One masthead uses kitsch “cactii” lettering – as in Barney’s Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers drumhead logo and another substitutes the “o” in “Rock” with a spinning reel of tape. 

John – whose CV includes much journalism, many masterful music documentaries and a spell nurturing the comic talents of The Mighty Boosh and Ross Noble at the BBC  – was knocked out with the selection and chose a font which Barney completed with the addition of a lightning bolt decoration.

This was introduced onto the magazine’s front cover in the January 1975 issue. “For the catchline I amended ‘greatest’ to ‘best’,” says John.  “Otherwise it was a typically brilliant Barney Bubbles slogan.”

Fun for all the family at Howies

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Tommy The Talking Toolbox would have been proud.

Fun for all the family was had at Howies store in Bristol on Thursday night as our pals at the Barney-mad company hosted an evening to celebrate the publication of Reasons To Be Cheerful.

With the invaluable support and assistance of Howies mainmen Nick Hand (who also took these photos) and Tim March, we mounted a mini-display in a hitherto unused upstairs room as the first in a series of monthly events the guys are organising.

The core of our little taster was a collection of 24 of the 27 variations to the cover of Do It Yourself by Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Pic: Nick Hand.

This seemed particularly appropriate since the site was once occupied by a Laura Ashley branch; some of the walls in the until-now disused upstairs space are still covered in her divinely daft and dated flowery wallpaper.

Part of the original artwork for 4000 Weeks Holiday (c) P. Kennedy/Reasons 2009

To keep the ID/BB theme going, we also displayed original artefacts and artwork, including the paste-up for what later became the cover of Ian’s 1984 album 4000 Weeks Holiday.

Thought to be among the very last projects Barney worked on, this has been contributed to the Reasons archive by our friend Pauline Kennedy. In her previous incarnation as Caramel Crunch, Pauline was Barney’s assistant and continued his work at such labels as Go! Discs.

  • Presentation in Howies’ denim room.
  • With a book signing and talk about Barney, complete with power-point presentation of images from the book, the evening was capped by Paul and Caz mixing up the aural medicine with DJ sets of Barney-related sounds. These, we’re happy to tell you, went down a storm.

    BARNEY BUBBLES SOUND SELECTION:

    Here’s a selection of 10 of the Barney best to warm the cockles (click on the links to download/buy):

    Eastbourne Ladies – Kevin Coyne (Marjory Razorblade 1973)

    Inbetweenies – Ian Dury & The Blockheads (Do It Yourself 1979)

    Lipstick Vogue –  Elvis Costello & The Attractions (This Year’s Model 1978)

    Fung Kee Laundry – Quiver (Gone In the Morning 1972)

    Love My Way – The Psychedelic Furs (Forever Now 1982)

    Opa-Loka – Hawkwind (Warrior On The Edge Of Time 1975)

    Post-War Glamour Girl – John Cooper Clarke (Disguise In Love (1978)

    Darling Let’s Have Another Baby – Johnny Moped (Cycledelic 1978)

    Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode (Speak & Spell 1981)

    Ghost Town – The Specials (single 1981)

    These are just a few examples of how the BBSS can get the joint jumping. For a playlist from Caz’s set see Howies’ blog  Brainfood.