Posts Tagged ‘Armed Forces’

Barney Bubbles, July 30 1942 – November 14 1983: A celebration in rare and previously unpublished images and artworks

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
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//Barney Bubbles with poster/programme for Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ Armed Forces tour, west London, 1979. Photo courtesy Chalkie Davies//

In celebration of the creative legacy of Barney Bubbles – who died on this day 30 years ago – here is a selection of rare and previously unpublished images and artworks.

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//Drawing of Odeon cinema facade, Richmond, south-west London from early 60s student sketchbook. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Credit to “the magnificent Barney Bubbles”, Oz 38, 1972//

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//Ident for Kevin Coyne’s 1973 LP Marjory Razorblade. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Photobooth shot from Stiff Records day out, 1977//

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//Bubbles (left) with Suzanne Spiro, Jake Riviera, Cynthia Lole, Paul Conroy and Dez Brown at Stiff Records offices, from Melody Maker, August 6, 1977. Photo: Barry Plummer//

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//Single sleeve proofs for Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ giveaway 45 Talking In The Dark/Wednesday Week, December 1978//

 

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//FBeat Records letterhead, 1980//

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//Profile, pen and ink on art board, 1983. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Profile, pen and ink on art board, 1983. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Pen and ink on art board. The sparkplug, along with the lightbulb, was one of the recurring motifs of Bubbles’ later work. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

Read here for recent examples of Bubbles’ pervasive influence.

 

Photos from The Past The Present & The Possible: Barney Bubbles exhibition in Chaumont

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
02_WHITE_NOISE_©R.Pelletier_002

//Photo: R. Pelletier.//

06_WHITE_NOISE_©Pierrick_Mouton_006

//Photo: Pierrick Mouton.//

The Past The Present & The Possible was the title of the section in graphics music exhibition White Noise devoted to Barney Bubbles and curated by Reasons To Be Cheerful author Paul Gorman with artist/curator Sophie Demay and Etienne Hervy, director of the International Graphics & Poster Festival held every year in Chaumont, France.

00_WHITE_NOISE_©R.Pelletier_000

//Photo: R. Pelletier.//

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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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Bazooka + Brody launch their barrage on London

Friday, September 17th, 2010

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Last night the Bazooka exhibition/collaboration with Neville Brody opened at London’s Aubin Gallery.

Curated by Stuart Semple, the show is part of the Anti-Design Festival‘s counterblast to the London Design Festival.

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With one room dedicated to two giant screens beaming a compilation of artworks, the Bazooka archive is represented from the 70s to the present day in a tradermark barrage of imagery collaging Dada, punk, reportage and commentary concerning everything from domestic abuse to Islamic fundamentalism.

Brody brings his typographical magic to bear on the series of new pieces, which are printed on industrial synthetic rugs produced especially in Belgium. These contain slogans such as “The abyss also gazes into you”.

“It brought us great pleasure that the manufacturer should be producing such work,” Bazooka’s Loulou Picasso told us. Barney Bubbles – with whom Bazooka collaborated on Elvis Costello And the Attractions’ Armed Forces sleeve – would surely have approved.

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The work at second left in the photograph above contains an element from the cover of Bazooka’s ground-breaking January 1978 Libération supplement Un Regard Sur Le Monde.

Bubbles’ personal copy of this publication is on show in our exhibition, as is an original of The NME Book Of Modern Music, which signalled his absorption of some of Bazooka’s artistic approaches.

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Utilising the comic strip visual vocab of the underground press and the Paris événements, Bazooka continue to blaze their trail in the digital age with their site Un Regard Moderne.

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Bazooka is at The Aubin Gallery until October 3.

Guest blog: The many faces of Barney Bubbles

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Vic Fieger's favourite faces.

Physiognomy was a preoccupation  of Barney Bubbles and a recurring theme; he worried at the representation of the human face and tackled it from many angles. There are hundreds littered across his work, rendered in unusual arrangements and assembled from unlikely elements.

Here, in the first of a series of blogs by guests, the US designer Vic Fieger selects his Top Ten Barney Bubbles Faces:

Armed Forces: there he is, Barney himself,  in the best place to hide: where everybody can see you. He seemed never to back away from portraying his big nose (see also Fast Women & Slow Horses), which makes up 70% of this self-portrait. The presentation of the eye utilises one of  Barney’s favourite tricks: the repositioning of an oval shape. Most of  his ovals have the same dimension ratio, and were likely cut or drawn with the use of a drafter’s stencil for isometric circles.

Inner panel, 12in sq. Armed Forces, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Radar, 1979.

The Blockhead logo for Ian Dury and crew is of course one of his best-known. Everything is as clear as can be: eye/nose/eye/mouth. The letters are unaltered and of uniform size, save for the elongated L, and the arrangement of them is all it took to makes this word into a bona fide blockhead. Is it just serendipity that the letter-forms seem to present a mouth of misaligned and rotten teeth, framed by the round C and D?

There is similarity to the back of the 1981 re-issue of Dury’s What A Waste. In the  square, white this time, the (still perfectly horizontal) mouth is the negative space of a double-edged razor which has wandered from the front cover. And is that another Eye Of Horus, gazing at the title of the B-side, perhaps just waking up to it?

Label, What A Waste/Wake Up! , Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff, 1978.

Back, 7in sleeve, What A Waste/Wake Up & Make Love To Me, Ian Dury, Stiff, 1981.

The fellow who adorns the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass is made of metal; his mouth is a utility knife, his nose a pair of tweezers, and he sheds a pop pull-tab tear. A circular saw frames the face, the negative space this time providing the outline of head and neck.

The opposite end of the spectrum is represented by the sleeve for  The Inmates’ seven-inch Me And The Boys. Here Barney subtracts rather than adds, removing different lengths of teeth of a plastic comb for the chiseled profiles of the titular mates. Stray hairs left in the combs provide – what else? – their hairstyles. This theme is extended to the rear of the sleeve, where Betty Lou (the B-side) is a long-haired beauty. There’s no paper wrapping (like for each of the Boys), so we have a female comb posing nude.

Ingrid Mansfield-Allman’s Stop Wasting Your Time has a thick stripe taking up half of the front cover, which consists of a grid  with a black dot at each eighth intersect. The portion above is black, below is white. A precise calligraphic swash eases down the left side. Together, these elements present the veiled visage of woman as  funeral attendee, her lips formed from the dense, compact letter forms of Haettenschweiler. They spell the record’s title, as if this character is saying: “He’s gone now, so what are you waiting for?”

Front, 7in sleeve. I love The Sound Of Breaking Glass/They Called It Rock, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

Front, 7in sleeve. Me And The Boys/Betty Lou, The Inmates, WEA, 1981.

Front, 7in sleeve. Stop Wasting Your Time/Sister Slow, Ingrid Mansfield-Allman, Polydor, 1981.

Haettenschweiler is also used  in Barney’s letterhead for Elvis Costello. While the O’s are big, bold and circular, the rest of Costello is pushed together in this typeface – type face? – to complete his trademark horn-rims. The capital  “E” is stretched down  for the outline of his head and the coif is made up of the “LVIS”.

Letterhead, Elvis Costello Ltd, 1980.

Another letterhead, for F-Beat, presents the face of a clown  from the most primitive of shapes. The lowercase “B” is represented as a mostly filled-in circle for one eye and the other eye is the clown’s painted cross from a lowercase “t”. The “A” is a red triangular nose,  the “E ” a square formed by identical and equally-spaced parallel rectangles (another of Barney’s recurring devices) and the longer portion below the horizontal line of the T suggests face-paint running down a harlequin’s face: the tears of a clown, maybe?

Howard Werth’s 4D Man sleeve is particularly smart: an eight-pointed star and a bold pink numeral 4  which rotates at intervals of 90deg to form the part of the star, but also, in its upright form, is  an angular profile. The rest of the star forms a spiked mohawk hairstyle, and the placement of “MAN” can be seen as a shorn scalp. Whether the D is an eye or an ear isn’t clear.

Another drawn up from geometric sources is the test-pattern man of Roger Chapman’s Mango Crazy album. It’s  quite hard to tell exactly what’s going on here; for instance, which direction is he facing? His mouth and chin seem to be in opposite directions; his eyebrows can be discerned, but which are his eyes: the red dots or the white? Does each eye have two dots, one of each color? Is he shown in the action of casting his gaze aside? Just pondering all of the possibilities here is enough to make a man, er, go crazy.

Letterhead, F-Beat Records, 1980.

Front, 7in sleeve. 4D Man/What's Hoppin', Howard Werth, Metabop, 1982.

Front, 12in sleeve. Mango Crazy, Roger Chapman & WHO, LABEL, 1983.

Come to think of it, are any of these faces at all? They’re grids, bits of metal, letters of the alphabet, combs, and so forth. It’s part of human nature to see faces where they don’t actually exist, but Barney Bubbles envisioned them like nobody else I have ever come across.

Vic Fieger – website ttp://www.vicfieger.com and  blog.

Get Happy!! Forget The Massage!

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Among the items which didn’t make it into the first edition of the book (even though it has 600 images) is this lovely rarity photographed for us by careful owner Billy Bragg: a huge paperboard in-store display poster for Get Happy!!.

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Paperboard poster, 60in x 40in, 1980. Photo: Billy Bragg. (C) Billy Bragg Collection.

Barney tropes abound: the poster is to his favoured scale of 60″ x 40″, the throway 50s/60s image has been enlarged to the point of degradation (he once told Jake Riviera he preferred photographic dots “the size of golf balls!”) and important retail information is imparted decoratively –  the record’s catalogue number FBEATXXLP1 is placed underneath the toe of one of the “masseuse”’s high heels.

60" x 40" poster, Get Happy!!, 1980. "A great record to dance to but you wouldn't want to live there".

The graphic theme of the more common “light-bulb” poster design is developed, as is the restrained yet impactful palette of colours set out by the album sleeve.

12in sleeve. Back and front cover, Get Happy!!, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, FBeat Records, 1980.

As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, the Get Happy!! sleeve saw Barney scale back on the kaleidoscopic approach to Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ previous album Armed Forces with a co-ordinated, muted and retro feel, chiming with the singer-songwriter’s often contemplative channelling of 60s soul music as he reached an early career peak.

Both sides, 12in inner sleeve, Get Happy!!, 1980.

At the time the designed “scuffing” of the outer sleeve (deemed unacceptable by Costello’s US record company Columbia which insisted on cleaning up the artwork) overshadowed the package’s deceptive geometric complexity and textural depth (which naturally matched the music contained within).

The atomic art ellipses on the inner sleeve offered the dualities Barney delighted in delivering for Costello (the inner of Armed Forces provided contrasting images headed “Our place…”/”…Or Yours” and that of it’s predecessor This Year’s Model lined up dummy torsos on one side and a rubber mechanical hand holding a state of the art mini-TV on the other.

Get Happy!! detail: Nick Lowe's production note and Barney's credit - his VAT number.

Unlike those albums, there was no free 7in with Get Happy!! since the vinyl was packed with 10 tracks per side, necessitating another 60s touch: an assurance from producer Nick Lowe that sound quality had not been compromised.

Left: Artwork, Get Happy!! poster. (C) Riviera Global. Right: 30in x 20in Get Happy !! poster, 1980. Note "Vote Labour" sticker added by the author.

Instead there was a poster of silhouetted 50s diner lampshades with imposed commands riffing on the album title and the names of the individual songs. On purchase in 1980 I decorated mine with a”Vote Labour” sticker; I and a lot of others were still smarting from Margaret Thatcher’s ascendence just eight months before in the first election in which I had voted .

Label, Get Happy!!, FBeat, 1980.

In Barney’s original artwork, there were elements which did not make the final poster:  the question “Get it?” and graphics which popped up elsewhere: groupings of single bars and lines and a rendition of the interleavened quadrants which are tinted and overlaid on the band member photographs on the cover and depicted in outline in the label design.

Get Happy details!!. Nine blue lines placed top right-hand corner, back cover, and 22 green lines grouped in the top left hand corner, front cover.

What is one to make of these? Graphic tics to enrich and engage or symbols denoting deeper meaning?

These vie for speculation with the front-cover  motif which is inverted on the back and intrigued fans such as Billy Bragg, who describes it in Reasons To Be Cheerful as one of Barney’s “discernible signatures”.

3D motif artwork. (C) Reasons 2009/Riviera Global.

It could be that on the front this is yet another representation of Costello’s bespectacled visage, though Barney fan Paul Murphy has pointed out on feuilleton that it is a reference to 3D glasses, relating to the out-of-register images on the inner sleeve and the overall retro tone of the album’s design.

It can also be seen as an early version of  the symbol comprising three intertwined circles and a triangle which started to appear on the labels of certain FBeat releases.

Left: Artwork for music press ad, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down. Left: Artwork for FBeat singles bag. Both (C) Reasons 2009/Riviera Global.

The Get Happy!! quadrants were present in Barney’s designs for the sleeve of the album’s first single, I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, and adorned music press adverts and FBeat’s in-house singles sleeves.

The design for the cassette issue used Bob “Bromide” Hall’s single cover photograph, and the sleeves for the subsequent three singles were integrated  in terms of colour, graphics and typography.

Here’s Elvis having fun giving Get Happy!! the hard sell on US TV back in 1980. These days he’s a bigger name than ever, particularly in the US where the second series of his Sundance Channel music/chat show Spectacle starts on December 9, as he announced earlier this week:

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.