//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.
//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//
//12″ paper inner for Barney Bubbles’ packaging for Doremi Fasol Latido, Hawkwind, UA, 1972//
//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.
//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.
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).
The absorption and reinterpretation of Barney Bubbles’ oeuvre continues apace, as evinced by this, the design for Punks Jump Up’s Blockhead EP by Michael Willis.
With an overall feel of Bubbles’ compositional techniques – particularly that of realising physiognomy by use of abstract and unusual elements – Willis’ artwork draws on such Bubbles’ creations as the BLOCKHEAD logo, the Tommy The Talking Toolbox ident, the Space Ritual tour material and the typography of the Revelations and Doremi Fasol Latido packages.
Since he was one of the pioneers of the so-called “age of plunder” (as Jon Savage pointed out in his 1983 piece on post-modernism for The Face), it was perhaps inevitable that the reintroduction of Bubbles’ work to a new generation of graphic artists and designers – via Reasons To Be Cheerful and Process – would result in the master himself being plundered.
Prompted by the forthcoming regrouping of Hawklords at Nik Turner’s Barney Bubbles Memorial Concert on Sunday November 29, here’s yet another exclusive: Barney Bubbles’ sketches for a front-and-back-printed t-shirt for the Hawkwind splinter group’s 1978 dystopian project 25 Years On.
Lorry Sartorio 1964. Design/Concept/Photography: Barney Bubbles. (C) L. Sartorio/Reasons 2009.
As we’ve noted here, Barney first designed t-shirts in 1964, creating one worn by his girlfriend Lorry Sartorio for a poster he made for college band The Muleskinners (featuring his pal and Face Ian McLagan).
Alfalpha t-shirt detail, 1976. (C) Jeff Dexter.
In 1976 he supplied an amazing logo design for his friend Jeff Dexter, then co-managing Hawkwind with Tony Howard and also looking after an ill-fated combo Alfalpha. This logo appeared on badges Barney created in conjunction with his friend Joly McFie of Better Badges and t-shirts in fluorescent pink on black with a diamante in the text. “They were very kool – made by his other mate Alan Holden from Sunrise Studios,” says Jeff.
Ian Dury t-shirt, 1978. (C) Ian Dury Family Estate/Reasons 2009.
Back, Imperial Bedroom US tour t-shirt, 1982. (C) Reasons 2009.
By 1982 Barney was contributing not only his album covers but also detail from the artwork to t-shirts, such as the “bedbug” which appeared on the back of the top fronted by his Imperial Bedroom painting for a US tour by Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
Front, Hank Wangford Band sweatshirt, 1983. (C) Reasons 2009.
When his friend from the 60s counterculture days Sam Hutt – aka Hank Wangford – started to make waves on the UK music scene around the same time, Barney not only supplied album artwork but also came up with a wonderful range of t-shirt designs which mixed Argyll knitwear and grey marl with cowpoke.
Back, Hank Wangford Jogging With Jesus t-shirt 1983. (C) Reasons 2009.
Tickets for the Barney Bubbles Memorial Concert at the 229 Club, London on Sunday November 29 are available here.
Based in Bristol, Johnny first encountered Barney’s work via an introduction to Hawkwind as an avid vinyl collector in the late 80s, when acid house, shoe-gazing and grunge reigned in “a heady mix of distorted guitars and expanded oscillations”, to use his phrase.
Poster, The Heads/White Hills split LP, Rocket, 2009.
“Nowadays, investigating the past is handed to you on a plate via the internet,” says Johnny. “Back then, I had to rely on older brothers and their friends.” One, by the name of Simon Healey, championed early 70s Hawkwind and in particular the first album Barney designed for the group, X In Search of Space.
Posters, The Heads/White Hills split LP, 2009.
“Wow, the music was Viva La Trance!, a driving, throbbing freak-out,” exclaims Johnny. “I couldn’t detect the ‘hippiness’ the post-punk period portrayed it as, and the cover was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I sat for hours listening, looking and absorbing. The design and music seemed so intertwined, and I’m not sure Hawkwind would have had quite the same power without Barney’s work.”
Poster, Can You Pass The Rocket Test? 2008.
At the time, Johnny was a student on a technical illustration course, which would have struck a chord with Barney; his father was a precision engineer and the technical drawing he himself had studied at Twickenham art school (now Richmond Upon Thames University) was a major element in his output.
7" sleeve, Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, The Heads, Sweet Nothing, 2000.
Johnny says he’d been accustomed to “a disciplined and geometrical but black-and-white world. Barney opened infinite doorways to the possibilities of the vinyl LP packaging format in all it’s multi-coloured glory. In Search Of Space’s artwork and log booklet are striking, graphic yet stark. It embodied an escape from the rigid structure of the engineered drawing I was studying, while still encompassing geometrical forms”.
Sonic Attack (Motorheads)/Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light), Trensmat, 2008.
Johnny describes the Trensmat covers – which came in three colour schemes in a nod to Barney’s multi-format approach – as a “collage”, bringing together elements from Barney’s covers, posters, inserts and booklets for ISOS, Doremi Fasol Latido, Space Ritual and The Glastonbury Fayre, as well as the die-cut elliptical puzzles contained within the booklet produced with his former Conran colleague John Muggeridge (who has the credit J. Moonman) for Quintessence album In Blissful Company.
Poster, Sun Ra Arkestera, The Croft, Bristol, 2008.
“They are all amazing,” says Johnny, “not least because of the interactivity: the opening, the unfolding, reflective print, puzzles, shapes, allusions, the collage of BB’s influences – all of these reflect the consciousness of that period in music, something that is harder to replicate in CD packaging.”
In his work for Rocket Recordings, Johnny says he has attempted to incorporate this creative approach “by collaging different influences and techniques; be it for graphic design pieces, photography or light shows. I dabble with the same methods and draw from an ever widening circle of interests”.
Poster featuring 12" sleeve, Which Side Are You On?, The Notorious Hi Fi Killers, 2008.
And he is full of admiration for the way Barney adapted to the post-punk period. “He seemed to fit neatly into the DIY ethic, but simultaneously had the full multicoloured myriad imagination of the 60s,” says Johnny. “Hopefully I try and encompass those values.”
Logo, Rocket Recordings, 2009.
And Johnny has a theory as to why there is such a blossoming of interest in Barney’s work right now: “In the 80s the commercial environment surrounding cheaply manufactured CDs didn’t pay regard to consumer tastes in packaging, so the art-form was forced underground.
Concert poster, Trinity Centre, Bristol, 2005.
“The rise of download culture has enhanced a desire from those who oppose it to own music as part of a well-crafted and considered package which makes an artistic statement.”
Barney's letterhead during his time designing for Hawkwind, early 70s. (c) Reasons 2009.
Hailed in some quarters as the “psych-rock single of last year”, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), the Acid Mother’s Temple/White Hills split 7″ is one of three special limited edition releases by Irish record label Trensmat celebrating Hawkwind’s heyday with cover versions by contemporary bands.
Front cover, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.
Labels, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.
The single sleeves by Johnny O pay homage to Barney by remaking and remodelling many of the elements of his design work for Hawkwind; each sleeve appears in a different set of acidic colours.
Left: Sonic Attack (Motorheads). Right: Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light).
Some of Barney’s work for Hawkwind was produced under the aegis of design company Hawk Graphics in London’s Westbourne Park.
Left: Front X In Search Of Space, UA, 1971. Right: Record bag, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.
At the top of this post you’ll find the letterhead derived from his double-headed Hawkwind logo. Due to space considerations, the letterhead did not appear in the first edition of Reasons; this is the first time it has been published.
Gatefold, X In Search Of Space, UA 1971.
Many of the elements will be familiar to Barney heads, having appeared first on the cover, gatefold and Hawkwind log insert of X In Search Of Space.
Outer gatefold, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.
There are graphics, symbols and decorations from both sides of the six-panel Space Ritual fold-out as well as the tessallated design of the album’s record bags.
Inner gatefold, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.
And there are images and graphics from both sides of Doremi Fasol Latido, including the chrome Hawkwind “gateway”, as well as from the programme for the tour which accompanied that album’s release
Back + front cover, Doremi Fasol Latido, UA, 1972.
Left: Space Ritual tour programme 1972. Right: Logo 1972.
To play us out here’s Kinski’s version of Master Of The Universe: