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anniversary of the release of Do It Yourself by Ian Dury & The Blockheads with a visual feast including previously unpublished images.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