Posts Tagged ‘Brinsley Schwarz’

Bob Andrews’ Cracking Up grin

Friday, April 20th, 2012
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Top: Detail, Music press ad for The Rumour, 1979. Below: Detail, front cover, Cracking Up, Nick Lowe, 1979.

The collaged waving hand/face on the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s 1979 single Cracking Up is one of Barney Bubbles’ most recognisable creations, assisted into prominence by its usage on the front of Reasons To Be Cheerful.

The toothy grin was clipped from a photo of keyboard-player Bob Andrews, one-time colleague of Lowe’s in Brinsley Schwarz (and before that in 60s pop band Kippington Lodge) and one of Graham Parker’s collaborators as a member of The Rumour.

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Farewell “Auntie” Dunkley: The Human Jukebox

Thursday, May 5th, 2011
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//Andy Dunkley. Photo: Howard Thompson.//

Andy Dunkley, a fellow-traveller of Barney Bubbles as the Hawkwind collective’s MC and in-house DJ in the 70s, died on April 30 of heart failure. He was 68.

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Talking Teenburger: J.Moonman meets Bishi

Monday, December 13th, 2010

moon-teenburgerpaper8″x8″. Livery, Teenburger Designs, 1969.

It was a pleasure to take tea in Soho last week with John Muggeridge, Barney Bubbles’ friend and colleague at Conran and Teenburger Designs.

Muggeridge has long been a resident of Bolivia, and his visits to the old country are rare. This didn’t, of course, hinder his contributions to Reasons To Be Cheerful, but it was fab finally to meet the man credited on Quintessence’s In Blissful Company as J. Moonman (he and Bubbles contributed the album design including a 12-page booklet).

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12″x12″. Page 5, booklet, In Blissful Company, Quintessence, Island Records, 1969.

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Page 6, in Blissful Company booklet.

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Page 7, In Blissful Company booklet.

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Page 8, In Blissful Company booklet.

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Page 9, In Blissful Company booklet.

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Page 10, In Blissful Company booklet.

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Booklet detail: Muggeridge-inscribed lyrics for the track Ganga Mai.

A graduate of the London College Of Printing, Muggeridge joined Conran’s design department in 1966, where he worked with Bubbles (then the company’s senior graphic designer going by his birth name, Colin Fulcher).

As described in Jonathan Aitken’s 1967 book The Young Meteors, the Conran studio was at that point at the cutting edge of the global design business, with 35 employees at its offices in Hanway Place, central London.

Muggeridge became Bubbles’ assistant when the designer launched Teenburger from 307 Portobello Road in the spring of 1969, and worked with him on a run of record sleeve designs, as well as pitches for the opening sequence credits for two or three films.

“The only one I can remember was Women In Love,” says Muggeridge, who has a clear memory of himself and Bubbles sat in an otherwise empty Soho screening room viewing a rough-cut of Ken Russell’s movie. Their proposal didn’t make the cut.

Having studied calligraphy at LCP, Muggeridge’s Teenburger responsibilities included hand-lettering; his italics adorn the In Blissful Company credits.

“I was really Barney’s apprentice,” says Muggeridge, these days involved in the food business. “It was amazing to watch him apply concepts. Ideas emerged fully-formed on the drawing board. Quite often we would work together silently in the studio; there wasn’t a great deal of talk. We just got on with it, while US draft dodgers and all sorts of people traipsed up and down the stairs outside.”

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12″ x 12″. Front, Cressida, Vertigo, released February 1970.

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12″ x 24in. Inner gatefold, Cressida.

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Back, Cressida.

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12″ x 12″. Front, Red Dirt, Fontana Records, released April 1970.

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Back, Red Dirt.

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12″ x 12″. Front, Gracious!, Vertigo, released August 1970.

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12″ x 24″. Inner gatefold, Gracious!.

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Back, Gracious!.

As well as the Quintessence album, the pair produced the designs for the eponymous debut albums by Cressida, Brinsley Schwarz, Red Dirt and Gracious!.

In 1970 Muggeridge was laid low by peritonitis and, after recuperation in Ireland, embarked on the hippie trail with his girlfriend Virginia Clive-Smith (who had also worked with Bubbles at Conran), by which time Teenburger had closed.

During our conversation at Patisserie Valerie, the performance artist Bishi approached us. She had just been one of the crowd of 50 contributing silence to the anti-X Factor single 4’33” in a nearby studio, and was intrigued by our conversation and the RTBC cover.

There ensued a fantastic cultural exchange: Muggeridge talked about the Barney Bubbles Light Show, which was inspired by a visit he and Bubbles made to UFO while working on an all-night job at Conran, while Bishi enthused about the work of contemporary light-show designers.

She has been performing in Nicholas Immaculate’s “Hindu Tron” suit, which helps her control light and sound by voice and movements.

Call The Tiger – Performance from Bishi TV on Vimeo.

Muggeridge was delighted. “I’m sure Barney would have approved,” he said.

Nick Lowe: From Glastonbury Fayre to St Paul’s

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Tomorrow (April 30) I have the great pleasure to be DJing for Nick Lowe again.

The venue couldn’t be more different from the Albert Hall; this time Nick is playing for a couple of hundred people at St Paul’s in his stamping ground, Brentford. It’s in a good cause – the money from the sold-out gig will go to the church’s community drop-in centre.

Nick, second left, with the other members of Brinsley Schwarz from The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972.

This is the first of a spate of live appearances by Nick this year. In a couple of months he will be in the acoustic tent at the Glastonbury Festival as the only performer to have played the very first Glastonbury Fayre in 1971.

On that occasion he was a member of Brinsley Schwarz, whose debut album benefited from the lux gatefold cover by Barney Bubbles.

The printed "Silver Surfer" sealed vinyl envelope for The Glastonbury Fayre. Courtesy: Jeff Dexter Collection.

The Brinsleys’ subsequent appearance on the fund-raising triple Glastonbury Fayre set was the next staging post in Nick’s association with Barney.

"Dome Sweet Dome" cut-out geodesic dome insert, The Glastonbury Fayre.

Barney’s Glastonbury package comprised the tri-fold 24in x 36in card sleeve housed in a sealed printed vinyl envelope with customised labels, booklets and cut-out inserts for the creation of a miniature silver pyramid and  geodesic dome.

"Pyramid" cut-out album insert.

These scans of the pyramid inserts don’t do the originals justice (they’re shiny silver on black).

However, it’s been fun using the scans (and some silver paint) to create our own versions.

"Power" cut-out album insert.

Taking it’s cue from Stewart Brand‘s revolutionary Whole Earth Catalogue, the “Dome Sweet Dome” is covered in messages and instructions of ever-increasing pertinence:

“We can survive on waste – energy, experience, imagination is all!”

“Scavenge and scrounge shamelessly – you are your own architect.”

“Ecology is you.”

“We might need this kind of good, cheap shelter one day.”

We also love the “Astral” visage made by glueing the ornate sci-fi insert borders together.

The Eye Of Horus which accompanies the instructions was a marker of Barney’s abiding interest in Egyptology, and one of the powerful symbols he loved to revisit, sometimes using Nick’s aquiline features.

Album insert detail.

For example, a decade later  he openly referenced The All Seeing Eye, as it is also known,  on the cover of Nick’s 1982 album Nick The Knife.

12in sleeves. Front covers, Nick The Knife, 1982. Left: US issue on Columbia. Right: UK issue, F-Beat.

The uncompromising crop on the front of the UK issue (on F-Beat) concentrated on Nick’s angular features to achieve the full effect; as in the case of many another Barney design, the US issue soft-pedaled this with an uncropped and thus more conventional portrait.

Cheekily, Barney responded to comments that the Nick The Knife cover was unforgiving by delivering a totally contrasting sleeve for 1983 follow-up The Abominable Showman.

12in sleeve. Front cover, The Abonimable Showman, Nick Lowe, F-Beat, 1983.

Here there isn’t sign of a single blemish: the boxed-in portrait of Nick is colourised and airbrushed to the max, though the shadows and his expression once again clearly render…The Eye Of Horus.

Really looking forward to tomorrow night’s show. Sure Nick will pull out all the stops at St Paul’s just as he did at another church, St Luke’s, for the BBC a couple of years back – have a look at him rocking with one of the founding fathers of British popular music Chris Barber in the clip above.

Shaking a tail-feather with Nick Lowe tonight

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Survival Kit back and front view (c) Carol Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

Tonight I’m DJing for Nick Lowe’s show at the Royal Albert Hall, which provides an opportunity to show off the so-called Survival Kit put together for his 1979 US tour promoting Labour Of Lust.

Survival Kit contents (c) Carol Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

Not that Nick would be in need of such a device on his current UK dates; these days he’s a happily settled father whose mid-career resurgence has been rightly likened to that of Bob Dylan’s. Surely he is our greatest living songwriter?

Gatefold outer sleeve, Brinsley Schwarz, Brinsley Schwarz, UA 1970.

Nick’s career first benefited from Barney Bubbles artwork when he was a member of Brinsley Schwarz. Back in 1970 Barney provided the gatefold cover of the band’s eponymous debut album  under the guise of Teenburger Designs.

Cowboys, paint-by-numbers series, possibly 50s.

For the Brinsley Schwarz sleeve, Barney applied lurid colours to a paint-by-numbers depiction of a Native American brave ( painted to look as though he is observing earth from a far-off planet). As can be seen in another from this Western series – discovered by Mrs G on eBay last year – Barney increased the hallucinatory/sci-fi effect by stretching the width.

If you’re in the South Kensington area tonight come along and shake a tail-feather; Ron Sexsmith is in support and Nick and his fine fellow musicians will be performing a selection from recent career retrospective Quiet Please. I’m DJing before and after the show.

Let there be drums

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Stretched over the open end of the bass drum and at just under 2ft in diameter, drumheads proved a perfect canvas for the artistry of Barney Bubbles.

Throughout his career, Barney was in the habit of providing customised skins to musicians, either as part of an overall theme he had developed for an album or artist or as one-off gifts.

Today we exclusively present four produced over a 10-year period.

Only one has been widely seen before; the portrait of the freckle-faced Western gal set against a desert landscape was painted in 1973 for Pete Thomas, then of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers.

Chilli Willi drumhead

Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, 1973. (c) Pete Thomas/Pic: Tony Sayles

The cowgirl and the vista had appeared in Barney’s colour-your-own inner for the band’s debut album Kings Of The Robot Rhythm. Around this period Barney was investigating the interpretation of this educational form in a musical context: the cover of Brinsley Schwarz’s eponymously-titled album consisted of a paint-by-numbers scenario.

“Barney was such a lovely bloke,” says Pete, who gives the painting pride of place in his Los Angeles home. In 1999, it was the centrepiece for  the cover of the Willi’s compilation  I’ll Be Home.

In 1977 Pete went on to form the rhythmic bedrock of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and Barney created a suitably new wave, Jackson Pollock-ed drumhead for the band’s participation in 1977’s Stiff’s Greatest Stiffs UK tour. Within a couple of months Costello and the band had released the ferocious This Year’s Model – Barney’s stickers for that album’s promotional campaign still adorn it.

Greatest drumhead

Stiff's Greatest Stiffs 1977. (c) Pete Thomas/Pic: Tony Sayles

As the drummer in the Kursaal Flyers, pub-rock scene chronicler Will Birch first encountered Barney when he designed the album sleeve of the Southend band’s album Chocs Away.

The two maintained contact and Barney provided artwork for Will’s post-punk band The Records in the early 80s. During their meetings the pair riffed on the notion of an imaginary band called the Blue Genes, and Barney painted Will a drumhead featuring wriggling single-celled genetic organisms with blue tails.

Blue Genes drum head

Blue Genes 1982. (c) Will Birch

Since the Blue Genes never performed or recorded, Will’s is in pristine condition, unlike Pete’s or that owned by another of Barney’s friends, record company promotional wizard and Viv Stanshall’s manager Glen Colson.

“I was drumming a bit at the time, so Barney offered to paint me a drumhead,” says Glen. “I used to like this move called a ‘flam’, where you bring both drumsticks in quick succession down hard on the snare. I was delighted when I saw Barney’s design say: ‘Flam Flam’.”

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Flam Flam 1983. (c)Glen Colson/ Reasons 2009

“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.

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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.

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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.”