Posts Tagged ‘Brian Griffin’

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.

The Attract!ons’ ‘solo’ album: Mad About The Rwong Boy

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

12in sleeve. Front cover, Mad About The Wrong Boy, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the least remarked of Barney Bubbles designs: that for the “solo” album by Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions: Mad About The Wrong Boy

7in sleeve. Front cover, Outline Of A Hairdo EP, Steve Nieve, F-Beat, 1980.

The deliberately zany typography of the album sleeve – with it’s kitsch Brian Griffin photography and graphic tics – mirrored some aspects of the design for that year’s  big EC album Get Happy!!.

Back covers, The Attractions, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Mad About The Wrong Boy. Right: 7in sleeve, Outline Of A Hairdo EP.

In fact, for the accompanying free EP Outline Of A Hairdo – music for an imaginary film by Steve Nieve, well ahead of similar constructs by Barry Adamson and U2 & Eno – Barney appropriated a Bob “Bromide” Hall shot of Nieve from the back covers of both Get Happy!! and it’s hit lead single I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.

Back covers, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Get Happy!!. Right: 7in sleeve, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down/Girl's Talk.

Artwork, Outline Of A Hairdo. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

In the manner of his approach to fellow F-Beat act Clive Langer & The Boxes, The Attractions were treated to a personalised label.

Left: Label. Right: 12in inner. Mad About The Wrong Boy.

On the inner Barney used a familiar trick of highlighting certain letters in the condensed font slogan “FBEAT WHERE THE ATTRACT!ONS IS” to spell out the record company’s west London location: FBeat Acton.

Double page spread advert, NME, August 30, 1980. Design: Tony Sales.

Barney repeated this on the design for the sleeve of single Single Girl. In his absence, his colleague Antoinette Sales created impressive press advertising from existing artwork. 

Back and front cover, 7" sleeve. Single Girl/Slow Patience, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

The front was an illustration by Barney of the little china dogs from his parent’s mantelshelf.

Artwork, Single Girl/Slow Patience sleeve. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

The addition of the gorgeous silhouette front cover sticker flagging up the inclusion of Nieve’s EP and a neat badge wrapped up the package, though even the musicians themselvesare likely to agree that this is one of those examples where the quality of Barney’s design exceeded that of the music it contained.

Badge and sleeve sticker, The Attractions, 1980.

 

Little Hitler artwork and the Jesus Of Cool tie

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Thanks to top designer and all-round good egg Phil Smee for digging out this prime piece of Barney artwork for us: an ultra-neat shirt-and-tie ad for Nick Lowe‘s spring 1978 single Little Hitler.

Artwork for music press ad, May 1978. (c) Phil Smee Collection/Reasons 2010.

Captioned: “A new single. A new shirt. You can’t take it off”, the ad – with the record company Radar’s logo as the shirt label – appeared in music paper Sounds.

7in card envelope. Back and front, Little Hitler/Cruel To Be Kind, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

Housed in a sleeve designed by Barney using a Brian Griffin photograph, Little Hitler set the scene for the release of Nick’s debut solo album Jesus Of Cool (renamed and remodelled as Pure Pop For Now People in the US).

12in paperboard. Front cover, Jesus Of Cool, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

The ad’s theme of sharp apparel was carried over to the album with Barney-designed skinny new wave ties issued as promotional items.

Jesus Of Cool promotional tie. (c) Diana Fawcett Collection/Reasons 2010.

Here’s Nick – tie-less – performing Little Hitler. It failed to make an impact on the chart (unlike predecessor I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass), but further brought him out of the production shadows of such high-profile clients as Elvis Costello, The Damned, Dr Feelgood and Graham Parker

And a reworked version of Little Hitler’s b-side Cruel To Be Kind was to provide Nick with the biggest hit of his career the following year. But that’s a whole other story…

…Depeche doc delights and delivers

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

As previously detailed here, in 1981 Barney Bubbles was drafted in to design the sleeve of Depeche Mode’s debut album Speak & Spell at the suggestion of his friend, the photographer Brian Griffin.

12in sleeve. Front cover, Speak & Spell, Depeche Mode, Mute, 1981.

Barney’s work was frequently interlaced with symbols of power, and one of his most subtle was the arrangement of the credits on the album’s back cover in the form of a royal chess piece to accompany the crown logo he created for the band’s name.

Left: Label copy. Right: Back cover, Speak & Spell, 1981.

The power of Depeche’s music is one of the themes investigated in the brilliant The Posters Came From The Walls, in which Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams identify where the potency of popular music truly resides: with the fans.

Scenes from The Posters Came From The Walls.

Appearances by Depeche members are limited to on-stage footage, and the narrative is driven by the hopes, dreams, experiences and fantasies of the millions of Depeche followers all over the world, from California to Iran via Canada, Mexico, Germany, Romania and Russia.

If there is a common thread running through this and Oil City Confidential (two very different films about groups from opposite ends of the musical spectrum), it is the transformative power of music, whether sweaty four-to-the-floor R&B or anthemic stadium synth.

We urge you to catch both documentaries when you can; keep up with the latest news and info on their general release here and here.

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.

Sphynx: Symmetry, symbolism and shape

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Ahead of The Roundhouse celebration on March 8, Nik Turner has posted a set of reminiscences about his exciting creative relationship with Barney Bubbles.

These provide us with an opportunity to reveal exclusive images surrounding one of Nik and Barney’s most intriguing collaborations (which also centred on a multi-media happening at the same venue).

As covered by his stellar contribution to Reasons To Be Cheerful, Nik’s friendship with Barney began at the dawn of the 70s when they were introduced by the late writer and performer Robert Calvert.

 

Hawkwind Love & Peace poster (c) N. Turner.

Hawkwind Love & Peace poster (c) N. Turner.

“We struck a chord in each other,” says Nik. “Barney came along to a Hawkwind gig and saw that my vision of the band’s spirit embodied a lot of the concepts and ideals to which he related. After that he was happy to apply his creative energy, designing the Peace & Love poster for us, and then the X In Search of Space album sleeve, log-book and concept.”

Full-page advert for X In Search Of Space, Oz 38, 1971.

Full-page advert for X In Search Of Space, Oz 38, 1971.

Barney realised the visual identity of Hawkwind on every level as the space-rockers progressed through the first half of the 70s. When Nik left the band in 1976 he embarked on a trip to Egypt. “That was in part inspired by the common interest Barney and I had in Egyptology and ancient civilisations,” Nik explains.

“While there I recorded flute music inside the King’s Chamber of The Great Pyramid, and this became the album Xitintoday by my new group Sphynx.”

Xitintoday promotional poster. (c) N. Turner/Reasons 2009.

Xitintoday promotional poster. (c) N. Turner/Reasons 2009.

Barney agreed to design the album sleeve and booklet on condition that he applied the principals of concrete poetry (where typographical arrangement is as important as the words in conveying meaning).

Barney’s mastery of typography had long enabled him to communicate depth of meaning in this way, so concrete poetry became a natural area of investigation for a visual artist fascinated by symmetry, symbolism and shape.

These, of course, were central to his other abiding interests such as cosmology and Egyptology, as evinced by the poster he designed to promote the release of Xitintoday, which is constructed around a favourite symbol of Barney’s, The Eye of Horus.

When he was approached by Nik, Barney had already embarked on developing a series of concrete poetry artworks in 12″ x 10″ frames for a group exhibition which he was helping to organise at his London squat. He also planned the printing of a limited edition of a poem which consisted of one word:  “nowhere”. This appears in the booklet he designed for Xitintoday as do many other examples, such as the word “day” made up of repeated use of the word “night” in white on black.

Sketches and word pictures. (c) D.Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

Examples of Barney's concrete poetry. (c) C.Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

As this page of drafts and notes shows, Barney was fascinated by the form. Among the options are the Xitintoday cover’s constellated tiny pentagrams created from the word “twinkle”.

Big star: detail from Xitintoday;s front cover

Big star: detail from Xitintoday's front cover.

Barney’s interest in concrete poetry was stimulated by his relationship with the photographer Frances Newman, who was later to marry his friend Brian Griffin. Newman’s partner had been Tom Edmonds, the concrete poet who died in 1971 and contributed to the important collection Gloup And Woup along with such exponents as Bob Cobbing, John Furnival and it’s most celebrated figure, the Benedictine monk Dom Sylvester Houedard.

Xitintoday front cover, Charisma records, 1978.

Xitintoday front cover, Charisma Records, 1978.

Xitintoday’s release was heralded by an all-day happening at The Roundhouse, for which Barney choreographed the dancers in Sphynx’s stage show.

Do not lick this dot. Summer 1978. (c) G. Colson/Reasons 2009.
“Do not lick this dot’, Summer 1978. (c) G. Colson/Reasons 2009.

Billed as Nik Turner’s Bohemian Love In, this featured an eclectic supporting cast, including ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band member Roger Ruskin Spear and his robots, former T. Rex member Steve Took’s Horns, punk poets Patrik Fitzgerald and John Cooper Clarke, sci-fi author Michael Moorcock and Tanz Der Youth, the band briefly led by The Damned‘s Brian James.

Both John Cooper Clarke and Tanz Der Youth also benefited from Barney designs; the former with his songbook Directory 1979 and the latter in the shape of the sleeve for his Radar single I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry.

Im Sorry Im Sorry by Tanz Der Youth, Radar 1978

I'm Sorry I'm Sorry by Tanz Der Youth, Radar, 1978.

Among the attendees at The Bohemian Love In were Calvert and Hawkwind founder Dave Brock, both then putting together new  group Hawklords and recording dystopian concept album 25 Years On.

Hawklords postcard 1978.

Hawklords postcard 1978. Pauline Kennedy Collection.

They brought Barney on board and, working with photographer Chris Gabrin, he moved away from concrete poetry into bleak futurism and monochromatic expressionist territory to which he applied the new punk day-glo spray-can aesthetic. This is covered extensively in Reasons, as are the rest of Nik’s collaborations with Barney, through the releases by his band Inner City Unit to the extraordinary Ersatz under the guise of The Imperial Pompadours.

“Throughout this period I lived with Barney off and on, in various studios and houses,” says Nik, who is organising the event with another of Barney’s friends, promoter John Curd.  “We always had wonderful times together, full of inspiration and creativity, weird, wild and wacky. I’ll always remember him as being a great fan of object trouve, and feel a debt for all his help and inspiration over the years.”

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– – COMPETITION – –

Two free tickets for The Roundhouse event

This week we are giving away two free tickets for The Hawklords/Space Ritual 09/Barney Bubbles Memorial event at The Roundhouse on Sunday, March 8.

Grab a chance of winning them by sending your answer to the question below to: thelook@rockpopfashion.com by midnight GMT on Sunday March 1.

We’ll announce the lucky winners the following day.

Q: Who recites Sonic Attack on Hawkwind’s The Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and London?

———————————————————————————————————–

Aura revelations

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The record label Aura is mentioned in Reasons To Be Cheerful, though there wasn’t sufficient space to go into detail on Barney’s designs for this relatively obscure and now collectible indie.

“I remember Barney occasionally working for Aura in the late 70s and early 80s,” says his friend Brian Griffin, who provided an image for the cover of England’s Trance by Placebo (not the mid-90s Swiss/American glam trio). The design credit on the 1982 album reads “Photography Consultants”.

 

 

Meanwhile Barney’s assistant Diana Fawcett contributed two sleeve designs to REASONS as examples of his work for the central London-based company (whose single packaging featured a convex upper lip on the envelope front).

During the late 70s Barney’s music workload was focused at Stiff Records, Radar and Chiswick, though from time to time he would make room for commissions for other independents such as Aura, Charisma and Chrysalis.

 

 

Founded by producer/photographer Aaron Sixx, Aura is best known for having released the work of US avant-jazz performer Annette Peacock.

Her career had been put on hold when she was bound by a contract to David Bowie’s management Mainman (which also looked after Iggy & The Stooges, Dana Gillespie, Jobriath, Mick Ronson and, yes, even Lulu). Freed from this set-up,  Peacock signed with Aura and promptly unleashed such critically acclaimed albums as X-Dreams and The Perfect Release

Recent years have witnessed a revival of interest in Peacock. Her track Pony featured on Morcheeba’s Back To Mine compilation and just last year she collaborated with Coldcut.

 

 

Aura was home to other maverick talents such as Nico and the great Memphis rock & roller Alex Chilton – in 1978 Sixx released a clutch of 1974 recordings by Chilton’s group Big Star as The Third Album (also known as Third/Sister Lovers).

 

Front cover, Kizza Me by Big Star 1978.

Front cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

Big Star’s previous album Radio City had featured The Red Ceiling by the group’s Memphis friend, the celebrated photographer William Eggleston, who also played piano on the version of Nature Boy which appears as a bonus cut on later editions.

The band’s working title for their third album Sister Lovers was a reference to the fact that Chilton and drummer/vocalist Jody Stephens were romantically involved with Eggleston’s cousins, Lesa and Holliday Aldredge. Their respectively fractious relationships proved the wellspring for many of the darker album tracks. 

Jody said this week that he knows nothing of the genesis of the Aura cover, in which a model is swathed in the Tennessee Flag.

 

Back cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

Back cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

On the full-colour album sleeve the stars have each been granted 10 fizzing fuses; a reference, maybe, to the indoor fireworks delineated within. The monochrome front cover photograph for the  Kizza Me single progresses the theme with the (literally) inflammatory depiction of the Tenessee flag alight and the stars – without graphic adornment – aflame.

On the back, 10 frames are arranged geometrically into another pentagram. This is not just a nod to the band’s name. The pentagram  recurs throughout Barney’s work, as do flags, banners and other heraldic devices.

In comparison with the rarity value of The Third Album (as a result of the cult following maintained by Big Star to this day), California Sun by KK Black is more of a curio.

 

Front cover, California Sun, KK Black, 1978.

Front cover, California Sun, KK Black, 1978.

By the late 70s, The  Rivieras’ 1964 surf anthem had become familiar to punk audiences, having been a staple of The Ramones’ live set (and appeared on their second album Leave Home), but Black’s version failed to capture public interest and sank without trace.

 

Back cover, Californian Sun by KK Black, 1978

Back cover, Californian Sun by KK Black, 1978.

The noteworthy aspect of Barney’s design for this release relies on the way in which Black’s “new wave pin-up” appearance is enlivened by effective use of the spiky extended single lines which not only spell out his name on the front but also wrap around the fold onto the back.

KK Black was a pseudonym of Kelvin Blacklock, a schoolfriend of  Mick Jones who had been vocalist in the guitarist’s pre-Clash bands The Delinquents, Little Queenie and London SS, and went on to join The Damned drummer Rat Scabies’ short-lived White Cats before recording this single and one other, a version of The Herd’s I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die, before disappearing from the limelight.

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.

The radical redesign of the NME

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

One of the greatest examples of Barney Bubbles’ ability to fast-track cutting-edge ideas into the mainstream occurred in 1978 with his redesign of best-selling weekly paper the New Musical Express.

As detailed in Chapter 4 of REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, at this time the NME’s sales regularly surpassed 200,000 copies.

NME Alphabet

Artwork for The NME Book Of Modern Music alphabet. (c) Neil Spencer/Reasons 2009

And the recently-appointed editor Neil Spencer was an ardent Barney fan. “I loved the way Barney quoted Lissitzky for Generation X and Kandinsky for The Damned,” he says. “At the same time he sculpted the images of  unique characters like Ian Dury and Elvis Costello.

“Barney was head-and-shoulders above everyone else, and perfect for the job because he’d worked at Oz, Friends, Town and Nova.”

Barney’s first move was to de-clutter the layout. “There was so much going on in terms of images and info,” says Neil. “He also sorted out the presentation of the charts. I don’t think they’ve changed materially since then.”

Spread from The NME Book of Modern Music

Spread from The NME Book of Modern Music

Part of the brief was production of a free supplement to mark the relaunch: The NME Book Of Modern Music, which was compiled by readers from a series of collect-and-keep inserts.

With his assistant Diana Fawcett and contributions from freelancers such as Andy Martin, Barney whipped art and design references into a mélange evoking the inventive chaos of the immediate post-punk period.

The NME Book of Modern Music

Front cover of The NME Book of Modern Music

Barney’s alphabet for the Book Of Modern Music “borrowed from 20s Russia, 60s Britain and beyond”, says Neil. “He was so wily technically, and yet he always conjured unexpected colours and effects.”

The redesign was unveiled with the issue of October 14, 1978, though the NME’s owners IPC refused to allow the new masthead for another six weeks, when sales confirmed that readers were content with the new visual direction.

NME launch issue

Redesign launch issue. The new masthead was introduced six weeks later.

And so it was the December 2 issue which introduced Barney’s stencil block NME logo (promoted via a campaign shot by Barney’s collaborator Brian Griffin).

NME logo

NME logo campaign shot by Brian Griffin

The inspiration for the font was a company name on industrial premises in City Road, just around the corner from the site of Barney’s warehouse studio in Paul Street (he was two decades ahead of his time by occupying the western edge of what is now London’s achingly trendy Shoreditch area).

And Barney’s legacy at the paper lingers; despite the management’s worries, his NME logo is still used in adapted form more than 30 years later.

“What he did was incredible”

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

An important Barney Bubbles project of the post-punk period sprang from an unlikely source: the album with the unprepossessing title Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts, released by The Rumour in March 1979.

Frogs Clogs Krauts etc

Front cover Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts

The pre-PC name took its cue from the album track Euro, and Barney created a thematically-linked design package based around the ceremony and colour schemes of EEC officialdom (then very much in the news ahead of the first European Community elections that summer).

The result of a collaboration with Brian Griffin, this became an exercise in graphic integration and photographic abstraction, completed by a set of coded references from heraldic and numeric to political and astrological.

Barney usually art-directed photographers, but made an exception for Brian; for this cover he gave over the entire floor of his warehouse studio in London’s East End and left Brian to his own devices.

Inner of Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts

Inner of Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts

Brian says he “constructed a sculpture” using regular model Charles Woods. Rigidly posed behind velvet ropes and set against the national flags of the countries indicated by the title (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany with the addition of the UK), Woods presents a soil sampler to the viewer.

“The idea was that Charles had plunged it into the earth and – like the grades of coloured sand I got in glass phials as a kid on holiday on the Isle Of Wight – produced a cross-section of the national colours,” says Brian.

Copyright

Spread from Copyright 1978 (c) Brian Griffin/Reasons 2009

Obliterating the band’s pub rock scene roots (some of the members had been close to Barney for several years as part of Brinsley Schwarz), the angular band logo is suitably post-punk, constructed from straight lines and curves in a similar fashion to the mysterious symbols Barney provided for Brian’s book Copyright 1978.

Barney also created a bespoke record label for the group, featuring the logo with the label copy enlivened by ellipses. These, which recur throughout his record sleeve designs, made their appearance on his very first, In Blissful Company by Quintessence (1969).

In Blissful Company by Quintessence

In Blissful Company booklet

A graphic of five spear-points is repeated in variation across the campaign, and bursts forth from the album title, invoking an aerial display at an official occasion and also the tips of the flag banners.

The arrowheads also zip away from the song titles on the reverse, where Barney enlarged a section of Griffin’s photograph, showing the soil-sampler in detail. A section is again enlarged on one side of the inner sleeve, and the reverse of that carries yet another enlargement (as well as an enigmatic short story), so that the image is driven to abstraction.

“Barney took my photograph and went into it to reveal the basic dot structure, just like the sampler going into the ground,” says Brian.

Frozen Years front cover

Frozen Years front cover

The cover of Frozen Years, the first single to be released from the album, shows Woods running on the spot on a snow-covered terrain, in front of five tiny flags stuck in the ground.

Frozen Years back cover

Frozen Years back cover

The reverse replaces photography with the spear-pointed fly-past and an illustration of the five flags created from the repeated silhouette of a face. These not only represent the five nations central to the functioning of the EEC, but also the number of members in The Rumour.

Some of the accompanying music press ads present unforgiving monochrome close-cropped portraits of individual band members, complete with oblique lines and arrows and information appropriate to the musician’s astrological sign.

The close-up of bassist Andrew Bodnar in the full-page ad in NME March 17 1979 is captioned: “Aquarius deals with democratic communication with human beings who look on each other as brothers; it’s ruler Uranus governs electricity.”

Such was Barney’s fascination with the cosmos and star systems; for example, a few years earlier as part of his set designs, he arranged on-stage performance positions for Hawkwind according to their star-signs.

Ad in the NME

The Rumour advert, NME, March 3 1979. (c) Carol Fawcett/Reasons 2009

Another press ad (from NME March 3 1979) has The Rumour logo spiked by the tower of an industrial plant (similar in execution to the “vinyl factory” on the back cover of The NME Book Of Modern Music published a couple of months earlier). Five rows etched into the front of the building are reflected in another fly-past, while the tour dates are set in an elongated version of the silhouette from the back of Frozen Years.

Emotional Traffic front cover

Emotional Traffic front cover

The sleeve for the second single from the album, Emotional Traffic, is set in black on the front and white on the back with the addition of a love heart. Traffic light roundels in red, green and amber indicate the three colours of vinyl in which it was made available. In each, there is a die-cut circle revealing the colour of the record inside.

Emotional Traffic back cover

Emotional Traffic back cover

The campaign for Frogs included five collect-the-set album posters spelling out the album title. On these a telecommunications tower is seen from different perspectives and set against the colours of the French and German flags as the five arrows swoop and swirl. Cropped sections of the central image also appear in the press ads featuring band member faces, completing the cross-fertilisation of the design package’s main elements.

Poster

One of the five posters for the album. (c) Carol Fawcett/Reasons 2009

Barney’s progression of the original concept for the album cover remains a source of wonder to Brian.  “Barney wanted me to give him something which he hadn’t been involved in, and then take it over,” he says. “My image was OK, but what he did with it was incredible. Everything he did with my stuff improved upon it.”