Posts Tagged ‘Clive Langer & The Boxes’

Buy the exhibition booklet

Monday, September 20th, 2010

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Copies of the 24-page Barney Bubbles exhibition booklet are now available exclusively from this site.

Click on the Process exhibition booklet link in the right hand column.

Featuring the cover image of the ingenious hammer & sickle artwork for Nick Lowe’s 1979 album Labour Of Lust, the illustrated booklet includes:

  • Title sticker (in ‘process magenta’)
  • Introduction by author Paul Gorman
  • Overview of Barney Bubbles’ design practices
  • Photograph of Barney Bubbles creating set design for cover of Carlene Carter’s Musical Shapes
  • Letter to Barney Bubbles from client Line Records
  • Design for The M!ss!ng L!nk tattoo for The Damned drummer Rat Scabies
  • 18 images including original artwork, sketches and photography for Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds, Hawkwind, Clive Langer & The Boxes and Whirlwind

PRICE INCLUDING POSTAGE

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PRICE INCLUDING POSTAGE

The power of the pyramid and the mystery of the three circles

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The application of geometric symbols was an important element of Barney Bubbles’ visual language.

Detail from label, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down, FBeat XX1, February 1980.

As pointed out in Reasons To Be Cheerful, Barney’s use of symbolism throughout his career underlines his consistency of approach and undercuts notions of a clear division between his 60s/70s “hippie” work and that produced after joining Stiff Records in March 1977.

The presence of symbols also effected a “signature” for this artist who opted for anonymity and avoided credits in his later years.

A fine example are the three triangulated circles which surfaced in February 1980 as a tiny detail on the label for I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, the hit single by Elvis Costello & The Attractions which inaugurated Jake Riviera’s FBeat Records. Next they appeared on the double A-side promo for the label’s second single, Splash (A Tear Comes Rolling Down) by Clive Langer & The Boxes, though were gone by the official release.

B-side of From Head To Toe, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, FBeat, 1983.

Thereafter, the circles crop up on releases by Costello and Nick Lowe up until Barney’s death in 1983. However, the symbol was not used in the label copy for releases by other acts on FBeat, including Lowe’s collaborative projects with Dave Edmunds in Rockpile such as Seconds of Pleasure or The Attractions’ “solo” effort Mad About The Wrong Boy.

Triple gatefold cover, the Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972. Advert, Frendz 33, 1972.

So what to make of this repeated, if selective, use?  The pyramid and triangle were sources of fascination in line with Barney’s interest in Egyptology and Norse mythology, as evinced by such projects as The Glastonbury Fayre and in various forms for Hawkwind and band-member Nik Turner’s solo projects.

"Pyramid power": Cut and fold inserts, The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972.

The three overlapping circles convey many meanings,  drawing on the potency of Sacred Geometry as well as the work of “The Great Geometer” himself, Appollonius of Perga.

From advert for Xitintoday by Nik Turner's Sphynx, NME, April 22, 1978.

In Christian terms, they represent the Holy Trinity, and in combination with triangles signify alchemy. Intersecting and tangental circles occur in Masonic mathematical calculations – Barney’s father Fred Fulcher was a mason and the compass, used to draw circles, is a key symbol in Freemasonry.

Left: Symbol for the Holy Trinity. Right: The Borromean Rings.

The three interlaced circles are also known as the Borromean Rings (since they  decorate a particular Baroque palazzo on one of the three northern Italian islands owned in the 17th Century by the Borromeo family).  A form of the link was used by the Vikings and is known as Odin’s Triangle.

Left: Alchemical sign. Right: Odin's Triangle.

More recently, three interlinked rings have been employed to define business leadership and corporate management structures.

Contemporary versions used in sociology and management models.

The explicit use of this symbol during the FBeat period comes into focus when one considers Barney’s ongoing preoccupation with power – hence also the variants on crowns and other regal insignia. The strength in the three interlocked circles lies in their unity; if one is broken the potency is lost.

My interpretation is that the three circles – fuelled by the energy of the pyramid and imbued with multiple layers of meaning – represent the powerful interplay between Jake Riviera, Barney himself and the priority artists Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe: this was a time when management, design and music were all reliant on each other and firing on all cylinders.

What’s yours?

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.