Posts Tagged ‘Devo’

David Allen: From A(rtouble) to Z(eros) and back

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

In June 1978, the British graphic artist David Allen was introduced to Barney Bubbles backstage after a gig at LA’s celebrated Sunset Strip club Whisky a Go Go.

12in sq sleeve. Front cover, Kill City, Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

“It was most likely some punk rock-a-thon; The GoGos, Devo, The Dickies?” says David, who has been based in New York since the mid-80s and recalls that Barney’s friend and label boss Jake Riviera was present, as was local  music champion and Bomp! owner, the late Greg Shaw.

Back cover, Kill City.

“I had been an avid reader of Friends and NME, grew up in north-west London when seeing Hawkwind was no big deal, and was at the first Glastonbury Fayre, so could critique the pyramid fold-out blindfold in a box,” says David.

24in x 36in paperboard. Unfolded outer of Revelations - A Musical Anthology For Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972.

“Like many, I was exposed to Barney’s work from an early age without being aware of who was responsible,” says David. “It was Greg Shaw who identified that the anonymity he aspired to was high art, Duchamp-esque for the mid-70s. Around that time, if a clever record cover had no credits, you assumed it was a Barney Bubbles.”

Poster 20in x 30in. Freedom Of Choice, Devo, 1980.

At The Whisky, the fellow artists compared notes. “Barney was dressed like an eye test, black-and-white striped shirt and trousers, not quite matching,” recalls David. “We were both sober enough to make sociable conversation and had some common ground.”

7sq in. Front cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Radar, 1978.

A connection was Kill City. This collection of Iggy Pop and James Williamson demos (with contributions from David Bowie) had been released earlier in 1978 by Bomp! in the US and Radar in England, housed in David’s first album sleeve.

Back cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin'.

As explained here, when the lead track was issued as a UK single, Barney created a Warholesque sleeve and gritty promotional campaign.

David graduated from Harrow College Of Art in 1976 having studied graphic design with a “strong illustrative leaning”. A fan of Roxy Music, David Bowie, Kilburn & The High Roads, Dr Feelgood and Kokomo, he’d hung out at Biba’s Rainbow Room, Dingwalls, The Hope & Anchor and The Roundhouse, then high-tailed it to LA via a stop-over in Manhattan.

Poster celeebrating 30th birthday of The Masque, 1997.

“After a year I had found my way into the Hollywood punk scene  – see Live At The Masque: Nightmare In Punk Alley – doing graphics for bands and clubs,” says David, whose commissions included the logo and sleeves for singles by the great “Mexican Ramones” The Zeros, whose founding member Robert Lopez is over in Europe in his incarnation as the fabulous El Vez next week.

7sq in. Back and front cover, Wild Weekend/Beat Your Heart Out, The Zeros, Bomp! Records, 1978.

“I shared a rundown mansion with punks including Margo from The GoGos, John and Exene from X and Jonh Ingham,” says David. “X did their first ever show in my living room. Todd Rundgren was there, and Darby Crash started a spaghetti fight”

GoGos photosession art directed by David Allen. 1978.

By this time David was involved in the late Claude Bessey‘s Slash magazine and was soon  hired as art director of Bomp! the label and magazine. When he  met photographer Jules Bates at The Masque one night, the pair launched design company Artrouble.

Late 70s: Jules Bates (left) and David Allen.

David recalls that the late 77 arrival of The Damned’s Music For Pleasure in it’s Barney-designed sleeve grabbed his attention.

Slash number 7, January 1978.

“I’d already been using abstracted typefaces for a while at Slash,” says David.  “But Music For Pleasure raised the bar on legibility vs illegibility. Like all of his work it is a great ‘design’, but with a sophisticated visual subtext delivered with sharp wit.”

In the wake of the encounter at The Whiskey, David returned to Britain and visited Riviera, who commissioned a logo and stationery for his company.

Logo/stationery header, Riviera Global, 1979.

“I met him in his tiny office and  got the idea to design a huge factory with it’s own nuclear reactor as the company logo,” says David.”For the font I chose Profil, as used for signage at London Airport in the 50s.”

During that visit, David also caught up with such Barney admirers as Malcolm Garret, Al McDowell‘s company Rockin’ Russian and George Hardie, though by this time Barney was focusing on designing his furniture range so was unavailable.

12 sq in. Back and front, Freedom Of Choice, Devo, Warner Music, 1980.

Back in LA, Artrouble developed with illustrator/make-up designer  Phyllis Cohen, producing such work as Devo’s Freedom Of Choice, a number of sleeves for The Dickies, Kim Fowley’s Snake Document Masquerade and The Motels’ Four Square.


12sq in. Front cover, Snake Document Masquerade, Kim Fowley, Antilles, 1979.

“We designed for everyone from Shawn Cassidy to The Gap Band, Earth Wind & Fire to The Surf Punks, Chaka Khan to The Weirdos,” he adds.

Having moved to New York in the mid-80s, David worked at such publications as Soho News, East Village Eye and High Times, and has more recently painted and manages Sorceress.

“I still get the odd record cover and just returned from a six-week study of the Mayan empire in central America, so hope to be painting again soon,” says David.

6sq in. Front cover, Greg Shaw tribute CD, Bomp!, 2006.

David reserves particular affection for Greg Shaw,  a pivotal figure in American independent music who died aged 55 in 2004. “Greg was a soft-spoken Valley kid without whom very little of note would have occurred in the lives of many young people back then,” says David.

For the Artrouble archive, go here.

The artistry of Antoinette

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

From time to time we examine the work of those who collaborated professionally with Barney Bubbles; there are few who fulfilled as wide a range of roles as Antoinette Sales.

Back cover, Pure Pop For Now People, Columbia Records, 1978.

Not only was she the creator of clothes which appeared on Barney’s record sleeves, including the iconic “Riddler suit” sported by Nick Lowe on the back of Pure Pop For Now People (the US issue of Jesus Of Cool), but Tony was also his sometime model. It is she who is adorned with curlers, a face mask and bisected ping-pong balls for eyes appearing alongside a child’s doll in Barney’s disturbing Stiff Records music press adverts for Devo’s spring 1978  single (I Can’t Get Me No) Satisfaction.

Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.

Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.

Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.

And, in 1980, Tony received a six-week crash course in graphics from Barney at his studio in Paul Street in London’s East End, enabling her to become a fully fledged record sleeve designer in her own right.

A fashion illustrator and Stiff/Radar/F-Beat label boss Jake Riviera’s first wife, Tony had already  produced a number of sleeves, among them Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ biggest hits Oliver’s Army,  Radio Radio and Accidents Will Happen and Lowe’s American Squirm and Cruel To Be Kind.

Billboard, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, 1979

Billboard, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, 1979

Tony came up with the title of Lowe’s 1979 album Labour Of Lust, and designed the billboard promoting its US release on Sunset Strip. But she characterises the  month-and-a-half she spent learning the craft from Barney as  “an apprenticeship”.

Front Cover, Radio Radio, Radar, 1978.

Front Cover, Radio Radio, Radar, 1978.

Tony fondly recalls how she would catch the Underground from her home in west London across the city. “As soon as I arrived we’d get going,” she says.

Reversed out freehand drawing; Art center school assignment, Tony Sales. Note F-Beat style crown logo.
“I loved Barney and we were great friends, but when there was work to be done, you got on with it,” she says. “He basically instructed me in the mechanics of sleeve design and packaging.”
Hand-drawn label by Antoinette Sales, 1979.

Hand-drawn label by Antoinette Sales, 1979.

And this is evident from Tony’s subsequent output. She created a series of photo-driven sleeves for her friend (and Lowe’s wife) Carlene Carter, for whom she also designed stagewear. These included Baby Ride Easy and Do It In A Heartbeat. “I have an aversion to copying anybody else but the choice and arrangement of the typefaces was definitely influenced by Barney,” she says.   Tony also handled the sleeve design for Carter’s album Musical Shapes. The front cover shoot was art-directed by Barney, who created a set out of F-Beat singles and sleeves and constructed the wire sculpture communicating the album title.

Front cover, Musical Shapes, F-Beat, 1981.

Front cover, Musical Shapes, F-Beat, 1980.

“Barney set that up in the dining room of our house in Chiswick,” says Tony. “I designed and set the graphics on the back. He’d taught me how to lay down Letraset and make the placement and spacing impeccable. I had fun with the “N” for Notes, “S” for Selections and “P” for Personnel. In the self-effacing Bubbles tradition, there is no artwork credit.”

Retail info sheet, Teacher Teacher, 1980.

Front cover, Everly Brothers EP, F-Beat, 1980.
Back cover, Everly Brothers EP, F-Beat, 1980.

Tony was responsible for the sleeves for Rockpile singles Teacher Teacher and Wrong Way, as well as Edmunds’ singles Crawling From the Wreckage, Girl’s Talk and Queen Of Hearts. And she came up with the title for Carlene Carter’s 1983 album C’est C Bon, though the sleeve for that was produced by Barney.

Back Cover, Teacher Teacher, Rockpile, F-Beat 1980.

Back Cover, Teacher Teacher, Rockpile, F-Beat 1980

During this hectic period, Tony also created a welter of point-of-sale and retail promotional material, backstage passes, badges, letterheads (for holding company Riviera Global, publisher Plangent Visions Music and studios UK Pro) and the label for reissue imprint Edsel.

Backstage passes, 1980.

Backstage passes, 1980.

Tony also produced music press ads; she recalls working at Barney’s studio on one for the NME to promote The Attractions’ “solo” album Mad About The Wrong Boy (to which we’ll be returning in the near future).

Double page spread ad for The Attractions, NME, August 30, 1980.

Double page spread ad for The Attractions, NME, August 30, 1980.

These days a film and TV costume designer , Tony lives in Austin, Texas and is extra busy supplying musicians (Paul McCartney’s guitarist  Brian Ray wore one of her shirts to the recent Grammy’s) as well as working with such fashionistas as Boudoir Queen’s Dawn Denton and South Paradiso Leather’s Romulus Von Stezelberger.