Posts Tagged ‘Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers’

Amazing Hawklord drumhead comes to light after four decades

Thursday, January 8th, 2015
Hawkwind drumhead designed by Barney Bubbles 1972

//Drumhead painted by Barney Bubbles for Hawkwind drummer Simon King’s kit, 1972//

A rare design by Barney Bubbles has come to light after four decades; the psychedelic sci-fi drumhead was painted for Hawkwind when the space rocking Sonic Assassins undertook tours around the world following the success of their Silver Machine single in 1972.

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//Hawkwind – including, from left, Nik Turner, Stacia Blake, Simon King and Lemmy – performing with the drumheads in situ at the Windsor Free Festival, August, 1973. Photographer: Unknown//

Doremi Fasol Latido by Hawkwind - inner sleeve

//12″ paper inner for Barney Bubbles’ packaging for Doremi Fasol Latido, Hawkwind, UA, 1972//

Doremi-inner-detail

//Detail of grimacing Hawklord from the Doremi inner//

The design of a snarling apparition – a so-called ‘Hawklord’ as depicted on the group’s album Doremi Sofal Latido – was one of a pair which adorned the front of the twin bass-drums in Simon King’s kit during this period.

Bubbles – charged with “Optics” and effectively the group’s art director – applied an integrated approach to the collective far beyond the remit of just creating album sleeves, posters and other promotional material.

GlenColsonDrumhead82

//Flam Flam: Barney Bubbles drumhead for Glen Colson, 1983//

As mentioned in my Barney Bubbles monograph Reasons To Be Cheerful, the visual impact of painted drumheads appealed to Bubbles; as well as these for Hawkwind, he designed others for Pete Thomas (of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers/The Attractions), Will Birch (Kursaal Flyers/The Records) and his publicist friend Glen Colson.

The current owner of the amazing Hawkwind drum-head has treasured it for a number of years.

1a-Kit-Front-Colour

A fuller version of this story appears on my blog here.

The owner also has the original drumkit, for which offers are being welcomed. These should be directed via the contact mail on my blog (in the About Me section).

Rare 1975 design comes to light

Monday, February 4th, 2013

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I am indebted to Melanie de Blank, widow of the late gastronomic pioneer Justin de Blank, for this treasure; a rare copy of a little known Barney Bubbles design, the recipe booklet Feasts by Victor Gordon.

P1150107

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Wud Wud! When Barney got the (Chilli) Willis…

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Thanks to photographic ace and all-round good chap  Tom Sheehan for this splendid Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers poster.

Poster. Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, 1972. (c) Tom Sheehan Collection.

This portrays the band’s founders Martin Stone and the sadly long-departed Phil Lithman in footloose minstrel mode, in line with their appearance on the inner sleeve of Barney-designed debut album Kings Of the Robot Rhythm.

Detail, 12in inner sleeve, Kings Of the Robot Rhythm. Phil Lithman and Martin Stone. Photo: Daisy Grinchin.

12in paperboard sleeve, front and back, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Revelation Enterprises, 1972.

Label, Kings Of the Robot Rhythm.

Detail from permissions/rights label copy.

In Tom’s poster, they’re not such a skip and a jump from the space-hopping character (a self-portrait?) Barney included in his artwork for the same year’s triple album The Glastonbury Fayre.

Detail, artwork, The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation Enterprises, 1972.

Kings Of the Robot Rhythm was the second release on Revelation Enterprises, the label launched by Barney’s former Friends colleague, music editor John Coleman, to raise funds to pay off the debts from the previous year’s festival (at which Stone’s former band Mighty Baby performed).

Poster detail, 1972.

South Londoner Tom recounts how he became a fan of  the Willis during a spell working first for the parks department and then The Star & Telegraph in Sheffield – and loved to replicate the “Very Amazing Cut Out N Colour Me In” bowtie Barney provided on Kings Of The Robot Rhythm’s charming insert.

12in brown paper insert, Kings Of the Robot Rhythm, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Revelation, 1972.

This gloried in the recommended hues: “Colour me ruby redneck” is the instruction for the rail on which the cowgirl rests, and “acupulco gold”, “blue bird blue” and “juke box emerald” are just a few of those suggested for the sun rays.

“I traced around it and made ‘bowties’ for me and my friends to wear to Willis gigs,” says Tom, one of Britain’s highest rated music photographers.

Insert detail, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm, 1972.

Note how the insert’s desert horizon is recalled in the landscape on the drumhead he painted for the Willis’ drummer Pete Thomas a couple of years later.

Drumhead, 1974. (C) Pete Thomas Collection.

Tom is also the proud possessor of a number of original Willis stickers; in Reasons To Be Cheerful, the band’s manager Jake Riviera points out how successful these were at spreading the word about the band at grass roots level in the early to mid-70s.

Stickers 1973-75. (c) Tom Sheehan collection.

Barney produced a number of variations, along with badges, cards and posters. 

Three stickers and a badge, 1972-74.

There was also Up Periscope, the proto-fanzine  and newsletter to which Willis fans could subscribe.

"The Atom Age Good Read": Masthead artwork, 1973.

Barney also created  posters  (in the style of Continental transport designs of the 20s and 30s.) for the hard-touring musicians (one year alone, Chilli Willi performed 370 gigs). These contained spaces for promoters to insert venues and dates.

"By night and day here these weirdos come to play." Gig poster, 1973.

In 1974 Chilli Willi released their stirling second album Bongos Over Balham via a deal with Charisma associated label Mooncrest/B&C.

A4 artwork, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers card, 1972.

In January 1975 the band was added to the bill of the Naughty Rhythms package tour with soul/funk ensemble Kokomo and the dynamic Dr Feelgood.

Naughty Rhythms roundel, 1975. (C) Tom Sheehan Collection.

Barney produced the delightful artwork for the tour, including the cheery banana lady whose tailfeather-shaking  is accompanied by the phrase “Wud Wud”.

“That was such a Barney touch,” says Naughty Rhythms booking agent Paul Conroy.

We’re grateful to Tom – who came to know Barney once he started working for the music press  in the mid-70s – for giving us an opportunity to celebrate this wonderfully eccentric and sorely overlooked British band.

Wud Wud!

Found! Big Jobs Inc artwork for The Damned’s “printing error” sleeve

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Never previously published, this is something of an exclusive: Barney Bubbles’ original artwork for the back cover of the first 2,000 sleeves of The Damned’s debut album Damned Damned Damned.

Damned Damned Damned special edition artwork. (c) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

On the album’s release in February 1977 the story was put about that distributor Island Records had mistakenly positioned an Erica Echenberg photograph of new wave r&b band Eddie & The Hot Rods in place of a live shot of The Damned at London punk venue the Roxy .

Left: 12in card. "Printing error" back cover. Right: Erratum sticker.

Barney and Stiff boss Jake Riviera went so far as to add an erratum sticker, explaining: “Due to Record Company error, a picture of Island recording artists Eddie & The Hot Rods has been printed instead of The Damned. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and the correct picture will be substituted on future copies.”

12in card. Damned Damned Damned back cover, standard release, Stiff Records, 1977.

In fact the “error” was intentional; Jake had worked out that Stiff needed to sell 2,000 copies to recoup the cost of recording and producing the first UK punk album release.

12in card. Damned Damned Damned front cover. Photo: Peter Kodick.

With Barney recently installed as Stiff’s art director, Jake was able to create an instant collectible, all the while keeping the Island executives involved in the newly-inked distribution deal on their toes.

12 in. Limited edition shrink-wrapped sleeve with "food-fight" sticker.

And the trick worked. Media coverage of the “error” helped rustle up interest and propel the Nick Lowe-produced album into the UK Top 40, establishing The Damned as an act to rival The Clash and the Sex Pistols commercially.

A very limited number of albums were also shrink-wrapped and featured a red “food-fight” sticker completing the title Damned Damned Damned. These now fetch up to £500 apiece.

“By the time Barney had finished, you could imagine our covers competing with whatever else is out there,” says Rat Scabies. “He understood that, much as Stiff was a lot of fun, the releases had to have commercial appeal.  At the same time he made it edgy and kind of sinister.”

Left: 12in card, front cover, "Bongos Over Balham", Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Mooncrest, 1974. Right: Sleeve detail.

At once a savvy marketing maneouvre and a keen artistic intervention, the printing error stunt is a prime example of Barney’s wily approach, particularly when working with Jake: see also the Bohemian Revivalist Series Vol 2 “sticker” on the sleeve of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers’ 1974 album Bongos Over Balham and the deliberately off-register sleeve of Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ 1978 release This Year’s Model.

Left: 12in card. Front cover, This Year's Model, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Radar, 1978. Right: Sleeve detail with sticker and exposed colour code.

Similarly the bogus Stiff “voucher” which appeared on the back of the August 1977 release of Ian Dury‘s single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll; the voucher had just been introduced on the Barney-designed sleeve of the preceding single, Wreckless Eric’s (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World.

Left: 7in card, back cover, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Ian Dury, Stiff records, 1977. Right: Sleeve detail - cut-out "voucher".

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll bore the catalogue number BUY 17, which Barney had allocated to the Damned Damned Damned artwork as a positional several months earlier. At that time Riviera and his Stiff partner Dave Robinson had not quite settled on a separate numbering for album releases (which were allocated the prefix SEEZ; The Damned’s debut was SEEZ1).

Pen and ink on paper. Details, Damned Damned Damned artwork, 1977.

Barney also decorated his artwork with a sketch of a “100% Guaranteed Refund” sticker and typically twisted marketing slogans: “To clean use a barely damp Brillo pad” advises a vertical instruction, and the sentence along the bottom reads: “Long range full frequency stereo ersatz recording. Play at 33 1/3 rpm.”

In the event, the final back cover of the album carried the nonsensical note: “Made to be played loud at low volume.”

Design credit, Damned Damned Damned, 1977.

And in final flourish, Barney adopted one of his finer pseudonymous credits: Big Jobs Inc.

Stylorouge: The joys of misappropriation

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

“Barney was a grand master of design irreverence and visual mischief” Rob O’Connor

Stylorouge is one of the lesser celebrated though most successful design houses to have taken its cue from Barney Bubbles’ artistic approach to the music business.

Launched in 1981 by mainman Rob O’Connor, Stylorouge flourishes as a major force in commercial art and design; the current packed workload includes Island Records’ high-profile 50th anniversary celebrations.

Left: Poster. Island Life concerts, Shepherds Bush Empire. Right: Book design. Keep On Running: 50 Years Of Island Records, edited by Chris Salewicz.

 Back in 1995, the company’s philosophy was neatly summarised on its first website:

“We try to balance the analytical approach to visual ‘problem solving’ (some folk refer to this as having ideas) with a forward-looking intuitive flair (except on Monday mornings). We hold all kinds of creativity in high esteem. Nothing puts a bigger smile on our faces than driving a job from bottom to top: Concept, Art Direction, Design, Typography, Artwork, Repro, Pub; and in that order.”

Stylorouge covers (clockwise from top right): Wild Things-Creatures (1981); Music For A New Society-John Cale (1982); Parklife-Blur (1994); Ringleader Of The Tormentors-Morrissey (2006).
Stylorouge sleeves (clockwise from top left): Wild Things, The Creatures, Polydor, 1981; Music For A New Society, John Cale, Ze, 1982; Ringleader Of The Tormentors, Morrissey, Attack, 2006); Parklife, Blur, Food, 1994.

This approach is evident through Stylorouge’s work, from Blur and new 4AD band Broken Records to Morrissey and Wham! (the exclamation mark came from a stray sheet of Letraset).

In this exclusive interview, Rob discusses Barney’s influence, and also reveals that he once came tantalisingly close to meeting his hero.

 

Credit in Oz 38, November 1971.
Credits, Oz 38, November 1971.

“I first encountered Barney’s name via his layouts for the underground press (Barney was art director of Friends and a contributor to Oz) and then with Hawkwind when he was billed alongside people like Liquid Len,” he says.

Rob – whose influences also include Barney’s one-time employer Terence Conran and 70s art collective Grapus – also checked for Barney as a fan of  Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers and an attendee of the London date of the Naughty Rhythms tour.

“Barney was so totally original in his approach I couldn’t help but be influenced – he was the complete package: illustrator, designer, typographer and creative director,” says Rob, who joined Polydor Records’ art department on leaving Brighton Art College in 1977.

“He was one of the people who made the music industry seem like a huge amount of fun. In Barney’s work there was always an area of experimentation as well as heaps of humour and self-deprecation. That spread to the musicians he worked with.”

Rob cites the campaign behind Stiff’s 1977 release of Elvis Costello’s debut My Aim Is True. “Of course people like Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera were driving it, but Barney delivered the attitude,” says Rob. 

“Hopefully we do the same at Stylorouge. Our work rests on ideas, attitude and stance rather than preciousness about design.

From The Ian Dury Songbook, Music Sales, 1979.

“I’ll throw a piece of Meccano into the mix and then realise that it is in line with Barney’s fascination for using ordinary objects as the building bricks of his art.”

A particular favourite is the cover for Billy Bragg’s 1983 debut Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy

“The notion of taking utilitarian design which was not created for aesthetic purposes and combining it with such a fundamentally working-class object as a clamp-on lamp was extraordinary,” says Rob. “He was basically saying that these objects were important and worthy of elevation.

Left: Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy, Billy Bragg, Utility, 1983. Right: Modern Life Is Rubbish, Blur, Food Records, 1993.

“The work we did with Blur came from the same place. We appropriated mundane items like the greetings card illustration of an old steam train which shouldn’t really be used to sell groovy pop music, or the greyhound track for Parklife.”

Rob also admires Barney’s willingness to revisit successful designs: “Rather like Peter Saville he was quite shameless about re-using ideas because he knew they were good enough and stood the test of time. Similarly, he wasn’t ashamed of plundering classic design motifs from the recent past like Blue Note or other 50s sleeves.”

Left: Rock Around The Clock, Bill Haley And The Comets, Decca US, 1955. Right: Seconds Of Pleasure, Rockpile, F Beat, 1980.

As a result of his parlous financial circumstances, towards the end of his life Barney took his portfolio to a number of major record labels in search of freelance commissions.  

“I can’t remember what happened but he was supposed to come in to Polydor,” says Rob.”I found it extraordinary that he would have to do such a thing because he was so brilliant. It was a real disappointment I never met him.”

Left: Full-page ad, Music Week, July 1977. Right: Poster. Lives exhibition, Hayward Gallery, 1979.

Rob continues to reel from the scale of Barney’s output. “One of my favourite pieces is the poster he did for the Lives exhibition, which I bought in a second-hand shop many years ago and have had on my wall ever since,” he says. “I only found out it was a Barney when I read your book!”

Rob also enthuses about the sleeve for Ian Dury’s 1981 single Spasticus Autisticus, released as a statement about the ghetto-isation of  the less abled by the official declaration in the UK that 1981 was “The Year Of The Disabled”.

Left: Almost Blue, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F Beat, 1981. Right: Spasticus Autisticus, Ian Dury, Polydor, 1981.

“There is something subtle and poetic about his very simple idea of changing the colours of the stuff on the plate,” says Rob. “That spoke quietly and effectively about discrimination.”

So does Rob detect Barney’s influence among the current generation of commercial artists?

“It is difficult to make the shift back in time and understand how the work was created in the context of no computers,” accepts Rob. “But I work with young people a lot and know that there is a clear understanding and appetite for good ideas, and there is no doubt Barney’s have stood the test of time.

“Because he was never fashionable, his work hasn’t dated. It can only work in favour of his memory that there is a huge amount of retrospective design around at the moment.

“Hopefully contemporary designers understand why they are doing this, rather than opting for a cheap rip-off. Barney did what later became commonly known as ‘irony’: taking design meant for one purpose and showing how it can work in a different context.

“I’ve used the word ‘misappropriation’ in the context of what we do at Stylorouge ,and it’s really one of the things I most enjoy in Barney’s work.”

Let It Rock

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Today we present a hitherto unexplored adventure of Barney’s into magazine design; his contribution to 70s music title Let It Rock.

Let It Rock’s launch in 1972 coincided with “the first era of post-modernism in pop,” as the late great Ian MacDonald told me in my music press history In Their Own Write. “Music started to be conscious of itself and look back and begin to make syntheses and style references and be ironic.”

Barneys redesign is introduced Jan 1975 (c) John Pidgeon

Barney's redesign is introduced Jan 1975 (c) John Pidgeon

Of course, the collective which founded the publication – Simon FrithCharlie GillettPhil Hardy, Gary Herman, Ian Hoare and Dave Laing  – were riding the zeitgeist;  in fashion a stylistic revolution was being sparked by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s  investigations into 50s musical subcultures at their King’s Road shop of the very same name, while visual artists such as Barney were enthusiastically plundering the recent history of art and commercial design to reinvigorate the world of graphics.

In the mid 70s John Pidgeon took over as Let It Rock editor. “I got to know Barney after he designed the Sutherland Brothers first album and loved the fact that he had shot holes in it with an airgun,” says John.  “I immediately discovered we had mutual friends in Ian McLagan and (another of Barney’s Twickenham college pals) Mick Finch.”

Let It Rock, October 1975

Let It Rock, October 1975

A couple of years later John  set about revamping Let It Rock and invited Barney over to his flat in Clapham, south London to discuss a redesign. “When he arrived, he unfolded reams of penciled artwork, all of which he had drawn on the tube between Isleworth (or whichever West London stop it was) and Clapham Common,” says John. The options were sketched on headed paper from Barney’s dad’s company.

Roughs for Let It Rock redesign on F.Fulcher paper (c) John Pidgeon

Roughs for Let It Rock redesign on F.Fulcher paper (c) John Pidgeon

As these two sheets demonstrate, Barney focused on the font for the magazine logo, and also produced single page and double page spread layout samples (including one using a Bob Dylan feature for direction on photography and text placement).

Presenting a subheading “The world’s greatest rock read”, Barney notes the magazine sections Oldies, Singles, Album reviews, News and Letters, and provides the last with its own ident: a bobbysoxer writing fan-mail.

The masthead come sinto focus (c) John Pidgeon

The masthead comes into focus (c) John Pidgeon

One masthead uses kitsch “cactii” lettering – as in Barney’s Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers drumhead logo and another substitutes the “o” in “Rock” with a spinning reel of tape. 

John – whose CV includes much journalism, many masterful music documentaries and a spell nurturing the comic talents of The Mighty Boosh and Ross Noble at the BBC  – was knocked out with the selection and chose a font which Barney completed with the addition of a lightning bolt decoration.

This was introduced onto the magazine’s front cover in the January 1975 issue. “For the catchline I amended ‘greatest’ to ‘best’,” says John.  “Otherwise it was a typically brilliant Barney Bubbles slogan.”

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’.”

flam flam drum head

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