Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lauder’

Blue Genes, Kursaals + Fry’s 5 Boys

Monday, October 4th, 2010

birch-bluegenesDrumhead 1982.

One of the most satisfying aspects of staging Process has been engaging with visitors who knew Barney Bubbles personally.

Film producer Linda Gamble dropped by last week; she worked at Virgin Records in the 70s and 80s and knew Bubbles via her then-boyfriend Will Birch.

Touchingly, Linda brought a thank-you note Bubbles sent her and Birch in 1982 for a record player they had given him. The note – in an envelope proclaiming “Bring Back The Birch” – accompanied a painted drumhead which Bubbles suggested could either be used in performance or placed on the wall as an artwork.

“I kept this note all these years because Barney was such a great guy,” says Linda.

Barney---bring-back-the-bir

As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, around this time Birch commissioned sleeve designs for his band The Records as well as a cover for a compilation of tracks by his previous outfit Kursaal Flyers. While working together he and Bubbles had entertained themselves by creating an imaginary beat group, The Blue Genes.

In his note, Bubbles recommended referring to Merseybeat or Andrew Lauder (who had reissued such gems as The Merseybeats’ Beat & Ballads via F-Beat’s catalogue wing Edsel).

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12″ sleeve. Front cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.

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Back cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.

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Credit details, back cover, Chocs Away.

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Left: Fry’s packaging, 1968. Right: Fry’s 5 Boys 1902.

Birch first met Bubbles in 1975, when the designer produced the sleeve for Kursaal Flyers’ debut album Chocs Away.

Developing the chocolate aeroplane theme of the cover, Bubbles cast the five Kursaals on the back as variations of Fry’s 5 Boys (who appeared on the confectionery company’s packaging from 1902 until a marketing overhaul the year after Chocs Away’s release).

For his credit, Bubbles chose “Grove Lane”, after the street/neighbourhood where Kursaals’ manager Paul Conroy shared a flat with photographer Adrian Boot.

By the early 80s, the designs for Music On Both Sides, In For A Spin and their attendant singles captured Bubbles during his final reductive phase, relying on repetition of primary shapes and restricted palettes.

Thus The Records designs centred on jukebox lozenges and stars, while that for In For A Spin arose from a visit of Birch’s to Bubbles’ studio in January 1983.  “The title came out of a discussion I had with Barney,” says Birch. “I remember him alternating between sketches of a ‘spin dryer’ and aeroplane propellers,  as in ‘taking a plane up for a spin.”

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12″ sleeve. Front cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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Back cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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7″ sleeve. Front cover, Imitation Jewellery, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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12in sleeve. Front cover, In For A Spin, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.

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7″ sleeve. Front cover, Radio Romance, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.

Thanks to Linda Gamble for bringing in the note and providing us with an opportunity to present yet more fantastic designs which we were unable to include in Process.

The show is on for another three weeks (until October 23), open Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm.

Andy Arthurs’ single sleeve: Detected after 31 years!

Monday, August 17th, 2009

A spot of detective work has resulted in confirmation from musician, producer, engineer and now academic and orchestra leader Andy Arthurs that Barney Bubbles did indeed design the sleeve for his 1978 electropop single I Can Detect You (For 100,000 Miles).

Until now this curio has not been recognised as a Barney artwork. We were put on the trail by blog fan Mark Lungo, who put 2 + 2 together correctly, having spotted the familiar tropes and stylistic tics in Detect’s design and added in the fact that Barney was at that time in-house designer at Radar Records.

Andy, these days professor and head of music at Queensland University, confirmed that the cover was Barney’s, organised by Radar mainman Andrew Lauder. We will be featuring an interview with him shortly.

Backed with the song I Am A Machine, the sleeve was also used for the single’s release on affiliate label TDS Records, for whom Barney created “blackboard” music press adverts developing the use of faux mathematical equations. The TDS logo itself bears a resemblance to that which he produced for magazine Let It Rock a couple of years earlier.

On the TDS sleeves the label’s address is 120 Parker Street W1 – in posh Mayfair. It seems there was some playfulness afoot; Radar was based at 60 Parker Street, another thoroughfare in what was then down-at-heel Camden’s borders with Bloomsbury.

Andy had been around the British music scene for a number of years by the time of the single’s release, having started at George Martin’s AIR studios in 1971 and received engineering credits on albums such as Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things.

During the immediate post-punk era he produced singles and albums by such new wave acts as Tot Taylor’s Advertising, Stranglers’ spin-off project Celia & the Mutations, power-pop band Tonight (also on TDS), mod revivalists The Chords and 999

Barney had many connections to the latter band led by Nick Cash, who had been a one-time member of his friend Ian Dury’s pub-rock outfit Kilburn & The High Road

999’s designer was George Snow, who had known Barney since his days at underground paper Friends. Snow is the man credited with pioneering acceptance of computers and digital technology in British graphics and illustration circles by another Barney fan, Andy Martin.

999 were also signed to Radar, having been at Lauder’s previous label UA, and the photographer responsible for many of their sleeve shots was Barney’s friend and collaborator Chris Gabrin.

Meanwhile Andy Arthurs produced 999’s eponymously-titled debut album for Radar as well as such releases as The Soft Boys’ (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp, which also benefited from a Barney sleeve, and wrote tracks including Skin Tight for Noosha Fox.

Nowadays Andy is ultra-busy, complimenting his professorial duties at Queensland with his involvement in 18-piece orchestra Deep Blue.

And his release has now been added to our virtual exhibition of Barney’s single sleeves. 71 and counting! More to be added soon!

Depeche Mode, crowns, kings and the Kosmische connection

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Brian Griffin was Barney Bubbles’ chief collaborator from 1978 onwards, working with him across a dizzying array of projects, from record sleeves, advertising campaigns and promo videos to artzines, books and posters.

Brian Griffin studio ident, 1980.

Barney also designed business cards, letterheads and studio idents for Brian; these two have never been published before. And now, via this site, you can purchase original copies of a number of original items they produced together: an exhibition poster, the newspaper Y and the book Copyright 1978.

Brian Griffin business card, 1982.

More on that at the end of this post. Today we’re focusing on an unexpected project which came about in 1981 when Brian’s agent David Burnham leased premises near Baker Street in central London to young indie record label owner Daniel Miller

Front cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981.

Daniel’s Mute Records was making the post-punk runnings having pioneered electro-pop with such great records as the label’s first two singles  – his own T.V.O.D/Warm Leatherette (as The Normal) and Fad Gadget’s Back To Nature (both rarely far from our iPod playlists, record deck or CD player).

Back cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981

Back cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981

In 1981 Mute was propelled into the pop charts by fresh signing Depeche Mode‘s clutch of singles Dreaming Of Me, New Life and Just Can’t Get Enough (currently a hit again courtesy of squeaky girl band The Saturdays).

When Burnham introduce Brian to Daniel the pair established a lifelong friendship based on the shared love of the extraordinary music made by such peerless German bands as Neu!Kraftwerk and, of course, Can (whose back catalogue Mute has reissued).

Chosen as the photographer for the cover of Depeche Mode’s debut album Speak & Spell, Brian asked Barney to design the sleeve. Barney’s own association with Kosmische music dated back to his days as in-house visual director for Hawkwind. Andrew Lauder at the band’s label United Artists – for whom Barney also worked – was an early champion in Britain and the ‘Wind’s founder Dave Brock wrote the sleevenotes for Neu!’s first UK release.

Front cover, Neu! 2, Neu!, Brain Records, 1973.

Barney’s flouro spray-paint logo for the recently-reissued Hawklords album 25 Years On is, in Brian’s view, a tribute to the one which appeared across Neu!  sleeves and in particular the giant numeral which adorns their second album.

Front cover, 25 years On, Hawklords, Charisma, 1978.

The musical ties were strong;  Opa-Loka, from 1975’s Warrior On the Edge Of Time, is an oft-cited example of Hawkwind’s use of Motorik rhythms, while Brock’s first solo album Earthed To The Ground is rooted in the genre. The original sleeve of this 1984 release was a painting by John Coulthart, who has powered the revival of interest in Barney’s work in recent years.

Barney designed adverts and other promotional material to support Radar ‘s 1978 release of the eponymously-titled album by La Dusseldorf, the group formed by the late multi-instrumentalist  (and one-time Kraftwerk member) Klaus Dinger after Neu! broke up in the mid-70s.

There has been speculation recently that Barney was also responsible for the sleeves for the UK releases of Kraftwerk albums Ralf & Florian and Autobahn (as posited by Colin Buttimer at Hardformat and investigated in a posting on John’s blog). Brian does not believe this to be the case.

“He would have told me, for I was a very big fan of everything German at the time,” says Brian.

Although Barney wasn’t keen on Depeche Mode, Brian persuaded him to handle the design of Speak & Spell, which centres on the doomy image of a swan swathed in a clear plastic and silhouetted on its nest against a radioactive glow.

“I was working on a  personal project about a nuclear attack on London and photographed the swan in my studio to represent the only creature alive after the bomb had dropped,” explains Brian. “Goodness knows what I was thinking. Everybody hated it, including myself actually!”

Barney’s lack of connection with Depeche Mode is reflected in the coolness of his design, though in retrospect this is harmonious with the wilfully alienated stance adopted by the Mode (who describe their music as “synthetics” in the credits).

Speak & Spell label copy, 1981.

Using a serif font with spare application of yellow/gold bars, boxes and constellated dots, Barney grants the band a favourite symbol, the crown (which appears in many of his designs). With the group’s name and the album title providing the headband, the credits are arranged on the back cover in the shape of the King chess piece.

The crown is also repeated on both sides of the record label.

One of the many crown logos Barney created for F-Beat.

Brian says that the project as a whole  provoked little interest in Barney. “That was most unusual for him but I fully understood the reasons, for I also disliked Depeche’s music at that time,” says Brian.

The image of the swan from behind, as used on the back page of Y.

Barney  used another shot from Brian’s swan shoot – a shadowy frame from the rear  – in Y, the duo’s newspaper which was also preoccupied with the prevailing atmosphere of nuclear foreboding in the West at that time.  “He cleverly saw that the backside of the swan was actually an infinity symbol, which is why it’s on the back page,” says Brian.

End: The title on the back page of Y.

The infinity symbol is most commonly described as the figure 8 on it’s side: this is page 8 of Y. The title spells out END, with the N created by a constellation symbolising an endless road, or infinity. This, it should be noted,  is similar to the motorway design on the front cover of Autobahn.

Barney was to rifle Brian’s collection of “nuclear” images – that of a ship being engulfed in a tsunami as a result of an explosion – for another electro-pop project with which he felt little affinity: Wang Chung’s album Points On The Curve. This was released two months after his death,  in January 1984.

Front cover, Points On The Curve, Wang Chung, 1984.

Front cover, Points On The Curve, Wang Chung, Geffen,. 1984.

This record contained the band’s biggest hit, Dance Hall Days. Depeche Mode, on the other hand, went on to become one of the biggest groups in the world, and the  curious passions they arouse in fans are explored in Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams‘ brilliant The Posters Came From The Walls. After a smash reception at the London Film Festival this documentary is currently  touring the film festivals and will be on general release later this year. We recommend it highly.

Access a podcast featuring Brian at the Format 09 festival here.

SITE EXCLUSIVE To buy original copies of Brian Griffin and Barney Bubbles artwork – the highly collectable Y, the amazing “Scarf/Face” poster for Brian’s first one-man show and their excellent book Copyright 1978 – go here.