Here we have Barney Bubbles setting about creating of the wall-mounted electrical flex and wire construction which adorns the sleeve of Carlene Carter’s 1980 album Musical Shapes.
Tony collaborated with Barney on the design, providing the lettering and layout, as well as styling Carter (for whom she also designed stage wear).
“Barney set it up in our dining room in Oxford Road,” says Tony in Reasons To Be Cheerful. “I designed and set the graphics on the back. Barney had taught me how to lay down Letraset and make the placement and spacing impeccable. I had fun with the “N” for Notes, “S” for Selections and “P” for Personnel. In the self-effacing Bubbles tradition, there was no artwork credit.”
Winding away from the three-legged Dansette, the five flexes (all ending with upturned plugs) feature the album title picked out in wire and blue and red balls. These also appear to be notation; can anyone interpret what they convey musically?
One of Tony’s photographs shows that there was a try-out with a diner jukebox selector. On the back cover, a bread bin replaced the Dansette.
Tipping a wink to the Pate/Francis & Associates 1960 design for Julie London’s Liberty album Around Midnight, the inner showed Carter reclining on a rug bearing the design of an F-Beat single (by the label’s most prominent act, Elvis Costello And The Attractions).
The sleeve was decorated with many references to the newly-launched label: on the front, Carter stood on a floor strewn with promo copies of the single version of one of her father Johnny Cash’s most popular songs Ring Of Fire (with a label incorporating Barney’s symbol of three interlocked rings and also his encircled copyright “C” familiar from designs for others such as the album’s producer Nick Lowe and Johnny Moped).
The Musical Shapes sleeve drove home the F-Beat identity by featuring the variants of the house singles bags Barney produced for Riviera.
These 7″ paper designs, based around insignia and decorations from Riviera’s office jukebox, utilised the stark colour overlays and contrasts noted across Barney’s work by such contemporary practitioners as Art Chantry.
In line with the treatment he received from other American record companies, Carter’s US label Warner Bros tamed Barney’s design for fear of illegibility; the full-bleed front cover was given a white border for the artist credit and album title. In addition, the inner was dispensed with altogether.
Meanwhile, the US press kit included a standard 8″x1o” b&w shot of Carter from the Oxford Road session, and posters were given away with both the American and British versions of the release.