Posts Tagged ‘1979’

Bob Andrews’ Cracking Up grin

Friday, April 20th, 2012
mouthsvertical

Top: Detail, Music press ad for The Rumour, 1979. Below: Detail, front cover, Cracking Up, Nick Lowe, 1979.

The collaged waving hand/face on the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s 1979 single Cracking Up is one of Barney Bubbles’ most recognisable creations, assisted into prominence by its usage on the front of Reasons To Be Cheerful.

The toothy grin was clipped from a photo of keyboard-player Bob Andrews, one-time colleague of Lowe’s in Brinsley Schwarz (and before that in 60s pop band Kippington Lodge) and one of Graham Parker’s collaborators as a member of The Rumour.

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Three London exhibitions feature Barney Bubbles designs

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Barney Bubbles sleeve variants for Do It Yourself by Ian Dury & The Blockheads, as featured in the exhibition Ideal Home at Chelsea Space, London.

Designs by Barney Bubbles feature in three exhibitions which have opened in London this week.

Above are 24 of the Crown wallpaper variations of Bubbles sleeve design for the 1979 album Do It Yourself By Ian Dury & The Blockheads, as featured in the Donald Smith-curated group show Ideal Home at Chelsea Space.

Below is sneaky iPhone shot of Bubbles’ extraordinary design for Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, which was released the same year as Do It Yourself and appears in the V&A’s big autumn show Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990.

Barney Bubbles' sleeve design for Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, as featured in the Postmodernism exhibition at the V&A.

Barney Bubbles' Elvis Costello/Live Stiffs tour poster as featured in the exhibition Mindful Of Art at London's Old Vic Tunnels.

And above is a shot of Bubbles’ Elvis Costello poster for the 1977 Live Stiffs tour, which looms large in the subterreanean Old Vic Tunnels, venue for Stuart Semple’s exhibition Mindful Of Art, which is in aid of mental health charity Mind. The poster was sold last night at a gala auction hosted by Stephen Fry and Melvyn Bragg.

Also on display is a video installation by Kate Moross incorporating many Bubbles designs. Beamed from three TV screens this powerful light-show is cut to Hawkwind’s live 1972 track Orgone Accumulator.

Ideal Home is at Chelsea Space, Chelsea College Of Art & Design, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU until October 22. Details here.

Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990 is at the V&A, CRomwell Road, London SW7 2RL until January 15, 2012. Details here.

Mindful Of Art  is the Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach, London SE1 8SW until next Monday, September 26. Details here.

Moods for postmoderns: Barney Bubbles at the V&A

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Top: Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & The Attractions (Radar 1979); Music For Pleasure by The Damned (Stiff 1977)

Front covers, 12in card. Top: Armed Forces, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Radar, 1979. Above: Music For Pleasure, The Damned, Stiff Records, 1977.

Coming soon to the V&A is the first full-scale exhibition to tackle Postmodernism, and it not only positions Barney Bubbles as “the key innovator” in music graphics in the 1970s but also aligns his practices with those of Robert Rauschenberg in fine art and Frank Gehry in architecture.

According to curator Glenn Adamson, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 will also show how Bubbles’ work anticipated that of the digital design pioneers of the late 80s and early 90s such as David Carson.

“Bubbles was creating by hand work which looks to our eyes as though it were assembled on a computer,” says Adamson. “He foreshadows the visual eclecticism we find so natural in the internet age”

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What connects Simon Callow to Johnny Moped?

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Sounds like a particularly fiendish pub quiz question doesn’t it?

7in sleeve. Front cover, Little Queenie/ Hard Lovin' Man (Live), Chiswick, 1978.

No, the actor (whose naked form cavorting on stage in a production of The Beastly Beatitudes Of Balthazar B is still emblazoned on my memory 29 years after the fact) was not a member of Croydon’s finest alongside Fred Berk and Slimy Toad.

Back cover, Little Queenie/Hard Lovin'Man (Live).

And no, Moped didn’t make a cameo in Four Weddings & Funeral as the punk-rock rival of Hugh Grant for Andi MacDowell’s affections.

However, courtesy of Barney Bubbles’ designs, Callow’s hands did appear on both sides of the sleeve of Moped’s 1978 Chiswick single Little Queenie.

Page 13, Copyright 1978, Brian Griffin.

The shot – as revealed last night by photographer Brian Griffin at a M&C Saatchi talk organised by his friend, creative director Graham Fink – was taken during BG’s Expressionist experiments which resulted in the intriguing self-published collaboration with Barney, Copyright 1978.

Exhibition postcard, 210mm x 140mm. 1979.

Callow, at that time an actor on the rise (and these days also a director, author and fine book reviewer), was one of BG’s models.

Having decorated them with barbed wire for Moped, Callow’s hands channeled the creative energy source in Barney’s design for the Derek Boshier-curated group exhibition Lives at The Hayward in 1979.

Pages 4 and 5, Power: British Management In Focus, Travelling Light, 1981.

During his illuminating presentation, BG also revealed that Barney’s frontispiece portrait for his 1981 book Power was intended as the cover, an idea rejected by the publisher (who relented for the paperback issue in 1984).

“Barney made part of my nose and face out of the numerals ’71′,” said BG. “He thought that was when I started as a professional photographer; in fact it was the following year. The figure next to me, pointing to the future, is supposed to be my boss telling me to get out there and start working.”

Illustration, readers' letters page, NME, January 31, 1981.

BG has often mentioned that he first came across Barney’s work via his enigmatic illustrations for the NME. Above is an example for the music paper’s letter’s page.

It’s a great comment on the increasingly tribal aspects to pop fandom in the early 80s, and is made extra special by the fact that it carries a credit, something the limelight-shy Barney was avoiding at all costs by this stage.

The increasingly rare originals of BG’s collaborations with Barney are available here though, as BG pointed out last night, Power now commands a staggering £400 price tag.

Looking back with Langer

Monday, June 29th, 2009

The new Madness album The Liberty Of Norton Folgate is the latest career high for London’s finest band.

It also marks the return of the sympatico producer Clive Langer, who – with his partner Alan Winstanley – has been on hand at various points through Madness’ career (even organising the band’s first recording sessions when they were rambunctious teens).

Clive’s pedigree stretches through production credits on records by such artists as Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Morrissey and Elvis Costello (with whom he co-wrote Shipbuilding) to membership of the pre-punk cabaret troupe Deaf School.

Splash, Clive Langer & The Boxes, FBeat, 1980.

And his leadership of post-Deaf School band The Boxes coincided with Barney Bubbles’ boldest and most wide-ranging record label brief: patron Jake Riviera’s formation of FBeat in 1980.

At Stiff, Barney had joined the team seven months in, and the year or so at Radar witnessed contributions from others, including Malcolm Garrett.

Radar singles by Bette Bright and Clive Langer, 1979. Designs: Malcolm Garrett.

Malcolm had been taken on at Radar straight from college to ease the pressure on Barney, and was responsible for sleeves for releases by another Deaf School alum Bette Bright as well as The Boxes’ debut, the 12″ EP I Want The World.  

FBeat was different; here Barney grew the identity of the company from the ground up, producing sleeves and posters as well as a slew of logos for label copy, headed paper, advertising and promotional purposes.

Inspired by the design detail of Jake’s early 60s jukebox, kitsch-y crowns and other regal imagery, as well as precisely arranged chevrons, stars, ellipses and other insignia dominated this period. Barney even designed Jake’s furniture for his office at the company’s Acton offices, as well as an FBeat rug (which appeared on the inner of Carlene Carter’s Musical Shapes).

Of course the priority act was Elvis Costello, responsible with his band The Attractions for FBeat’s first single I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down) and album Get Happy!!.

But Clive and the Boxes were hot on their heels; FBeat’s second 7″ was Splash (A Tear Goes Rolling Down), which arrived in Barney’s bespoke single bags, and the second album was the band’s Splash.

Left: Photo album. Right: NME ad for Splash (A Tear Goes Rolling Down), 1980. Carol Fawcett Collection/Reasons 2009.

For the album sleeve the Boxes were dispatched to Putney swimming baths in south-west London, where Barney’s friend, the photographer Keith Morris, shot them diving, floating and generally splashing around.

But Clive wasn’t happy with Barney’s first draft for the cover. “I knew of and admired Barney; he had a notoriety in punk circles,” says Clive. “But the first idea for the cover just didn’t work for me.

“I got the distinct impression that he wasn’t too pleased, because people rarely rejected what he came up with. But on the second go the sleeve looked fantastic – there’s a great turquoise variation which came out in Germany.”

Barney’s advertising campaigns for the single and album played with a variety of visual puns. Ads for the music press used a close up of his friend Carol Fawcett’s right eye – not only does he create a face out of the typographic arrangement but the graphic “tears” splash into the shape of a crown.

Double A-side promo copies were sent to retailers wrapped in an 12″ x 8″ poster in which the droplets are stylised as lozenges set against swimming pool blue.

The standard single label features the ident for Liverpool label Korova, from whom the track was licensed. Interestingly, the promo label also bears an arcane symbol with which Barney peppered his work at the time: three triangulated circles.

Left: Music press ad artwork (c) Riviera Global/Reasons 2009. Right: It's All Over Now, Clive Langer & The Boxes, FBeat, 1980.

The five-pointed crowns of the album cover are set atop boxes in the music press ads which trailed the tour dates while a single large one dominates the cover of follow-up single It’s All Over Now.

Coincidental aside: these days the Madness “M” logo – created by member Chrissy Boy Foreman – is sporting a five-pointed crown rather than a bluebeat hat.

As 1980 wore on, the Boxes waned, and Langer became fully engaged in production chores for Madness’ smash debut One Step Beyond, making the first steps in his career with Winstanley as part of one of Britain’s most highly rated record production teams.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Do It Yourself

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Do It Yourself  by Ian Dury & The Blockheads with a visual feast including previously unpublished images.


  
When the album came out on May 18, 1979, much was made of the fact that the wallpaper cover was available in a number of variations. There have been claims that as many as 56 were printed in stock from the Crown range. We found 27 in the course of researching Reasons To Be Cheerful, most of which are reproduced here.  

The inspiration for the cover came from a book of wallpaper samples; as ever Barney Bubbles delighted in elevating the mundane and everyday, though his initial proposal was for four covers.

When Stiff Records‘ boss Dave Robinson persuaded Crown to provide the materials for free in exchange for featuring the order number on the front of the album, Stiff swiftly escalated the plans with 10 alone for the UK and many others for their licensees around the world.

With screw-hole lettering embossed onto the surface of the wallpaper, the front cover carries the tracklisting and also a Barney classic; an illustration entitled “Tommy The Talking Toolbox says it’s…for all the family to enjoy!”

(c) Diana Fawcett/Reasons 2009

One piece of original artwork unearthed for the book contains part of the lyric from the album’s lead-track Inbetweenies, which was released as a single in some countries.

The back cover carries a Chris Gabrin photograph of Dury and the Blockheads lined up outside a wig shop; this is mirrored in abstract form in a painting by Barney on one side of the inner, entitled “Better Being Mugs Than Being Smug”.

The other side of the inner – headed “Ultramine” with Gabrin billed as “Gabrinovsky” – features the musicians and their team hand-triggering portrait shots of themselves.

(c) Diana Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

A lot was riding on the album’s release. It’s predecessor – New Boots & Panties!! – had established Ian Dury as a new wave star, remaining in the charts for 90 weeks and setting up hits such as Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

When Dury refused to allow Hit Me to appear on the album, the Stiff staff, including marketing men Alan Cowderoy and Paul Conroy (who went on to work with hit acts from Madness to the Spice Girls), pulled out all the stops with an advertising and promotional campaign which integrated Barney’s design work centred around the theme of home improvement.

Barney’s paintbrush and paint logo for the record label was extended across posters, in-store banners and music press ads, as were his graphics representing paint splashes and stains.

Famously, Stiff sent teams of wallpaper hangers to decorate music press offices before journalists arrived while the exterior of record label’s offices received similar treatment. 

Left: Dury outside Stiff. Pic: Redferns. Right: Inbetweenies 12", Stiff France.

A photo-shoot took place at Barney’s Shoreditch studio with Ian Dury  - complete with knotted hankie on his head – as a housepainter.

Right (c) Alan Cowderoy/Reasons 2009.

Barney created point of display artwork on clear vinyl to be posted in record shop windows, and press ads and many badges (including an adapted Blockheads logo) continued the theme.

Promotional items even included “Blockhead” tins of paint while posters such as the one on the right below (which belongs to designer Alan Aboud) were printed on wallpaper and pasted onto exterior walls. 

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Typical of his approach to advertising in this period, Barney exploited the presence of five weekly music papers with different ads using spot-colour to “paint” and decorate full pages. Several incorporated his Blockhead ideogram (which has been identified on John Coulthart’s Barney post by Paul Murphy as stemming from British political imprint of the 30s, the Left Book Club).

One  is a cut-out-and-keep face mask (so that the reader could, er, do it themselves…), while another features a splash of paint over one “eye”. The Watchmen ident has always put me in mind of this image.

The  volume and sustained quality of the work is impressive, particularly since Barney also delivered sleeves and promotional, advertising and marketing designs for other projects in this period, including Labour Of Lust by Nick Lowe and Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs And Krauts by The Rumour and their attendant singles.

In the event, Do It Yourself didn’t achieve the hoped-for sales levels. The absence of Hit Me was compounded by the mercurial Dury’s decision to hastily release  a new track as the next single.

Reasons To be Cheerful Part 3 was recorded while on the road in Europe, and released a month or so after Do It Yourself (and effectively eclipsing it). The artwork was not designed by Barney but Dury’s friend and former art-school teacher Peter Blake. But that’s another story…

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.

    Peter York’s Grey Hopes

    Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

    Barney Bubbles credited one of the most creatively satisfying phases of his career to a prescient feature by marketing guru and cultural commentator Peter York published in the September 1978 issue of Harpers & Queen magazine.

    York’s piece, headlined Grey Hopes, investigated the ageing demographic of the rock consumer and the concurrent wave of post-modernism pervading popular music. “The paradox of rock is that at precisely the time that a new rock sensibility is starting to invade the commercial heartland, the whole rock thing is uncomfortably coming of age,” wrote York, who also declared: “Rock & roll is the hamburger which ate the world.”

    Extract from letter to Diane Fawcett, late 1978.

    Extract from letter to Diana Fawcett, late 1979.

    Presenting research which showed that 25- to 44-year-olds, not teens, had become the largest single group of record buyers, York pointed to the likes of Roxy Music as examples of art rockers who “consciously saw rock as a medium like any other”.

    Reasons author Paul Gorman and Peter York, July 2008

    Reasons author Paul Gorman and Peter York, July 2008.

    York cites the highly referential example of Generation X, which was apposite; Barney designed two of the group’s single sleeves, the El Lissitzy-quoting Your Generation and the symbol-strewn King Rocker (available in four variations denoting vinyl colours).

    Tony James: Barney took our ideas an inspired step further.

    Tony James: "Barney took our ideas an inspired step further."

    Guitarist Tony James says that, during the planning stages of the sleeves, he and Gen X singer Billy Idol talked to Barney about t-shirts they had designed in a Constructivist style.  “Barney looked at our original ideas and took them a very inspired step further,” he adds.

    In a letter to his assistant and friend Diana Fawcett late in 1979, Barney says that York’s article “gave me my orders for the year” regarding “technology, urban environment, rock, etc”. He also says that he had carried out “everything I wanted to. It was a great, successful year”.

     

    Inner sleeve, labour Of Lust, 1979

    Inner sleeve, Labour Of Lust, 1979. (c) Riviera Global

    This is true; the previous 12 months had been an extraordinarily fruitful period. Notwithstanding the advertising and promotional material which formed the bedrock of his business, Barney had also executed such triumphs as the redesign of the NME and creation of the paper’s Book Of Modern Music as well as sleeves for albums such as Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, 25 Years On by Hawklords (including the integrated stage show set), Do It Yourself by Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Labour Of Lust by Nick Lowe and Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs And Krauts by The Rumour.

    In addition Barney completed the catalogue for the Lives exhibition at The Hayward (in which he also participated) as well as Brian Griffin’s Copyright, The Ian Dury Songbook and The John Cooper Clarke Directory. We shall be exploring all of these and more over the coming months.

    Artwork for advert for Splash by Clive Langer & The Boxes 1980. (c) Riviera Global

    Barney also tells Diana he has “had his orders” for 1980, the coming year. Since this was to witness advances into video-direction, painting, the realisation of the ambitious visual identity for the new F-Beat label AND a slew of releases by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Carlene Carter, Clive Langer & The Boxes, Rockpile, Inner City Unit,  Dirty Looks and many more, it can safely be assumed the instructions came from as rich a source as York’s Grey Hopes.