Posts Tagged ‘F-Beat’

Barney Bubbles’ work in French exhibition this summer

Monday, April 9th, 2012
P1050090

//4 x 12" colour variants, back cover, My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello, Stiff Records, 1977.//

Selected works by Barney Bubbles will appear in  this summer’s group exhibition about the visual language of music, White Noise: Quand le graphisme fait du bruit (When graphics make the noise) at the 23rd International Poster & Graphic Design Festival in Chaumont, France, from May 26 to June 10.

White Noise is being put together by Sophie Demay and Étienne Hervy, the Chaumont festival artistic director and former editor of French graphics magazine Etapes, and includes contributions from a number of contemporary graphic artists – read more here.

P1050093

//Back cover + outer bag, Oora, Edgar Broughton Band, Harvest, 1973.//

P1050097

//Front covers, clockwise from bottom left: Neat Neat Neat, The Damned, Stiff, 1977; Damned Damned Damned, The Damned, Stiff, 1977; Boogie On The Street, Lew Lewis, Stiff, 1976 (not Barney Bubbles design); Save The Wail, Lew Lewis Reformer, Stiff, 1979; One Chord Wonders, The Adverts, Stiff, 1977; Whole Wide World, Wreckless Eric, Stiff, 1977.//

Here are some more of Sophie’s shots taken during a recent run-through of potential exhibits:

(more…)

Blue Genes, Kursaals + Fry’s 5 Boys

Monday, October 4th, 2010

birch-bluegenesDrumhead 1982.

One of the most satisfying aspects of staging Process has been engaging with visitors who knew Barney Bubbles personally.

Film producer Linda Gamble dropped by last week; she worked at Virgin Records in the 70s and 80s and knew Bubbles via her then-boyfriend Will Birch.

Touchingly, Linda brought a thank-you note Bubbles sent her and Birch in 1982 for a record player they had given him. The note – in an envelope proclaiming “Bring Back The Birch” – accompanied a painted drumhead which Bubbles suggested could either be used in performance or placed on the wall as an artwork.

“I kept this note all these years because Barney was such a great guy,” says Linda.

Barney---bring-back-the-bir

As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, around this time Birch commissioned sleeve designs for his band The Records as well as a cover for a compilation of tracks by his previous outfit Kursaal Flyers. While working together he and Bubbles had entertained themselves by creating an imaginary beat group, The Blue Genes.

In his note, Bubbles recommended referring to Merseybeat or Andrew Lauder (who had reissued such gems as The Merseybeats’ Beat & Ballads via F-Beat’s catalogue wing Edsel).

chocsa

12″ sleeve. Front cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.

chocsb

Back cover, Chocs Away, Kursaal Flyers, UK Records, 1975.

chocsdetails

Credit details, back cover, Chocs Away.

frys

Left: Fry’s packaging, 1968. Right: Fry’s 5 Boys 1902.

Birch first met Bubbles in 1975, when the designer produced the sleeve for Kursaal Flyers’ debut album Chocs Away.

Developing the chocolate aeroplane theme of the cover, Bubbles cast the five Kursaals on the back as variations of Fry’s 5 Boys (who appeared on the confectionery company’s packaging from 1902 until a marketing overhaul the year after Chocs Away’s release).

For his credit, Bubbles chose “Grove Lane”, after the street/neighbourhood where Kursaals’ manager Paul Conroy shared a flat with photographer Adrian Boot.

By the early 80s, the designs for Music On Both Sides, In For A Spin and their attendant singles captured Bubbles during his final reductive phase, relying on repetition of primary shapes and restricted palettes.

Thus The Records designs centred on jukebox lozenges and stars, while that for In For A Spin arose from a visit of Birch’s to Bubbles’ studio in January 1983.  “The title came out of a discussion I had with Barney,” says Birch. “I remember him alternating between sketches of a ‘spin dryer’ and aeroplane propellers,  as in ‘taking a plane up for a spin.”

birch-musica

12″ sleeve. Front cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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Back cover, Music On Both Sides, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

birch-imitationa

7″ sleeve. Front cover, Imitation Jewellery, The Records, Virgin, 1982.

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12in sleeve. Front cover, In For A Spin, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.

birch-radioa

7″ sleeve. Front cover, Radio Romance, Kursaal Flyers, Line, 1983.

Thanks to Linda Gamble for bringing in the note and providing us with an opportunity to present yet more fantastic designs which we were unable to include in Process.

The show is on for another three weeks (until October 23), open Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm.

Guest blog: The many faces of Barney Bubbles

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Vic Fieger's favourite faces.

Physiognomy was a preoccupation  of Barney Bubbles and a recurring theme; he worried at the representation of the human face and tackled it from many angles. There are hundreds littered across his work, rendered in unusual arrangements and assembled from unlikely elements.

Here, in the first of a series of blogs by guests, the US designer Vic Fieger selects his Top Ten Barney Bubbles Faces:

Armed Forces: there he is, Barney himself,  in the best place to hide: where everybody can see you. He seemed never to back away from portraying his big nose (see also Fast Women & Slow Horses), which makes up 70% of this self-portrait. The presentation of the eye utilises one of  Barney’s favourite tricks: the repositioning of an oval shape. Most of  his ovals have the same dimension ratio, and were likely cut or drawn with the use of a drafter’s stencil for isometric circles.

Inner panel, 12in sq. Armed Forces, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Radar, 1979.

The Blockhead logo for Ian Dury and crew is of course one of his best-known. Everything is as clear as can be: eye/nose/eye/mouth. The letters are unaltered and of uniform size, save for the elongated L, and the arrangement of them is all it took to makes this word into a bona fide blockhead. Is it just serendipity that the letter-forms seem to present a mouth of misaligned and rotten teeth, framed by the round C and D?

There is similarity to the back of the 1981 re-issue of Dury’s What A Waste. In the  square, white this time, the (still perfectly horizontal) mouth is the negative space of a double-edged razor which has wandered from the front cover. And is that another Eye Of Horus, gazing at the title of the B-side, perhaps just waking up to it?

Label, What A Waste/Wake Up! , Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff, 1978.

Back, 7in sleeve, What A Waste/Wake Up & Make Love To Me, Ian Dury, Stiff, 1981.

The fellow who adorns the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass is made of metal; his mouth is a utility knife, his nose a pair of tweezers, and he sheds a pop pull-tab tear. A circular saw frames the face, the negative space this time providing the outline of head and neck.

The opposite end of the spectrum is represented by the sleeve for  The Inmates’ seven-inch Me And The Boys. Here Barney subtracts rather than adds, removing different lengths of teeth of a plastic comb for the chiseled profiles of the titular mates. Stray hairs left in the combs provide – what else? – their hairstyles. This theme is extended to the rear of the sleeve, where Betty Lou (the B-side) is a long-haired beauty. There’s no paper wrapping (like for each of the Boys), so we have a female comb posing nude.

Ingrid Mansfield-Allman’s Stop Wasting Your Time has a thick stripe taking up half of the front cover, which consists of a grid  with a black dot at each eighth intersect. The portion above is black, below is white. A precise calligraphic swash eases down the left side. Together, these elements present the veiled visage of woman as  funeral attendee, her lips formed from the dense, compact letter forms of Haettenschweiler. They spell the record’s title, as if this character is saying: “He’s gone now, so what are you waiting for?”

Front, 7in sleeve. I love The Sound Of Breaking Glass/They Called It Rock, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

Front, 7in sleeve. Me And The Boys/Betty Lou, The Inmates, WEA, 1981.

Front, 7in sleeve. Stop Wasting Your Time/Sister Slow, Ingrid Mansfield-Allman, Polydor, 1981.

Haettenschweiler is also used  in Barney’s letterhead for Elvis Costello. While the O’s are big, bold and circular, the rest of Costello is pushed together in this typeface – type face? – to complete his trademark horn-rims. The capital  “E” is stretched down  for the outline of his head and the coif is made up of the “LVIS”.

Letterhead, Elvis Costello Ltd, 1980.

Another letterhead, for F-Beat, presents the face of a clown  from the most primitive of shapes. The lowercase “B” is represented as a mostly filled-in circle for one eye and the other eye is the clown’s painted cross from a lowercase “t”. The “A” is a red triangular nose,  the “E ” a square formed by identical and equally-spaced parallel rectangles (another of Barney’s recurring devices) and the longer portion below the horizontal line of the T suggests face-paint running down a harlequin’s face: the tears of a clown, maybe?

Howard Werth’s 4D Man sleeve is particularly smart: an eight-pointed star and a bold pink numeral 4  which rotates at intervals of 90deg to form the part of the star, but also, in its upright form, is  an angular profile. The rest of the star forms a spiked mohawk hairstyle, and the placement of “MAN” can be seen as a shorn scalp. Whether the D is an eye or an ear isn’t clear.

Another drawn up from geometric sources is the test-pattern man of Roger Chapman’s Mango Crazy album. It’s  quite hard to tell exactly what’s going on here; for instance, which direction is he facing? His mouth and chin seem to be in opposite directions; his eyebrows can be discerned, but which are his eyes: the red dots or the white? Does each eye have two dots, one of each color? Is he shown in the action of casting his gaze aside? Just pondering all of the possibilities here is enough to make a man, er, go crazy.

Letterhead, F-Beat Records, 1980.

Front, 7in sleeve. 4D Man/What's Hoppin', Howard Werth, Metabop, 1982.

Front, 12in sleeve. Mango Crazy, Roger Chapman & WHO, LABEL, 1983.

Come to think of it, are any of these faces at all? They’re grids, bits of metal, letters of the alphabet, combs, and so forth. It’s part of human nature to see faces where they don’t actually exist, but Barney Bubbles envisioned them like nobody else I have ever come across.

Vic Fieger – website ttp://www.vicfieger.com and  blog.

The Attract!ons’ ‘solo’ album: Mad About The Rwong Boy

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

12in sleeve. Front cover, Mad About The Wrong Boy, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the least remarked of Barney Bubbles designs: that for the “solo” album by Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions: Mad About The Wrong Boy

7in sleeve. Front cover, Outline Of A Hairdo EP, Steve Nieve, F-Beat, 1980.

The deliberately zany typography of the album sleeve – with it’s kitsch Brian Griffin photography and graphic tics – mirrored some aspects of the design for that year’s  big EC album Get Happy!!.

Back covers, The Attractions, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Mad About The Wrong Boy. Right: 7in sleeve, Outline Of A Hairdo EP.

In fact, for the accompanying free EP Outline Of A Hairdo – music for an imaginary film by Steve Nieve, well ahead of similar constructs by Barry Adamson and U2 & Eno – Barney appropriated a Bob “Bromide” Hall shot of Nieve from the back covers of both Get Happy!! and it’s hit lead single I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.

Back covers, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Get Happy!!. Right: 7in sleeve, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down/Girl's Talk.

Artwork, Outline Of A Hairdo. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

In the manner of his approach to fellow F-Beat act Clive Langer & The Boxes, The Attractions were treated to a personalised label.

Left: Label. Right: 12in inner. Mad About The Wrong Boy.

On the inner Barney used a familiar trick of highlighting certain letters in the condensed font slogan “FBEAT WHERE THE ATTRACT!ONS IS” to spell out the record company’s west London location: FBeat Acton.

Double page spread advert, NME, August 30, 1980. Design: Tony Sales.

Barney repeated this on the design for the sleeve of single Single Girl. In his absence, his colleague Antoinette Sales created impressive press advertising from existing artwork. 

Back and front cover, 7" sleeve. Single Girl/Slow Patience, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

The front was an illustration by Barney of the little china dogs from his parent’s mantelshelf.

Artwork, Single Girl/Slow Patience sleeve. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

The addition of the gorgeous silhouette front cover sticker flagging up the inclusion of Nieve’s EP and a neat badge wrapped up the package, though even the musicians themselvesare likely to agree that this is one of those examples where the quality of Barney’s design exceeded that of the music it contained.

Badge and sleeve sticker, The Attractions, 1980.

 

Billy Bragg’s rug and the Masereel effect

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

In the early 80s an opportunity arose for Barney Bubbles to spread his creativity into designing rugs.

As detailed in REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, at this time Barney was already investigating many areas of the visual arts outside of providing commercial art for the record industry: painting, videos, mixed media, collage, mobiles, furniture design and even glass sculptures during a trip to Australia. 

12" inner sleeve. Musical Shapes, Carlene Carter, F-Beat, 1980.

Barney’s friend and patron Jake Riviera explains in Chapter 5 of REASONS that in 1980 the pair encountered an invidual working in the carpet business “who could realise anything we came up with”.

Rug design artwork, 1982. (c) REASONS 2009. Courtesy: Riviera Global.

Barney designed a circular rug like a giant  single featuring Riviera’s F-Beat label for the company’s offices in Acton, west London. This appears on the inner sleeve of Carlene Carter‘s album Musical Shapes.

“Then Barney started to produce original designs,” adds Jake. “By that stage he was taking any opportunity he could to create in other media.”

But there was one rug which was based on a design of Barney’s which he didn’t commission. To explain: in the final year of his life – 1983 – Barney was working as the designer for new indie label Go! Discs, whose priority act was Billy Bragg.

Billy and Barney  shared an admiration for Flemish Expressionist artist Frans Masereel.

“I mentioned to Barney that I loved the guy’s work and of course he got it immediately,” says Billy.

Book illustrations, Charles de Coster's The Legend Of The Glorious Adventures Of Tyl Ulenspeigel. Frans Masereel, 1943.

For the cover design of Billy’s debut album Brewing Up With…Barney recreated Masereel’s signature woodcut technique.

Front covers, 12" albums. Left: Ersatz, Imperial Pompadours, Pompadour, 1982. Right: Punkadelic, Inner City Unit, Flicknife, 1982.

This was realised in the same way as the sleeve designs for his own album Ersatz (in the guise of The Imperial Pompadours) and Inner City Unit’s Punkadelic  Barney used black paper on white.

Front cover, 12" album. Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, Go! Discs, 1984.

In the event Brewing Up was released in October 1984, nearly a year after Barney’s death. The cover depicts two scenes: in one, a light radiates from a house over an industrial cityscape, in the other a contemplative figure sits at a window, lit from overhead. 

Poster, 30in x 20in. For Billy Bragg live dates, 1983.

Barney’s design was also used for Billy’s residency at London venue The Captain’s Cabin.

Rug, 8ft x 2.5ft. (c) REASONS 2009. Courtesy: Billy Bragg.

On Barney’s death, his one-time assistant Caramel Crunch took over designing for Billy, and in the mid-80s commissioned a rug rendition of one part of the Brewing Up artwork.

“My business partner Colin did some stationary for a rug-maker and she made us both rugs as payment,” explains Caramel, who these days goes by her real name, Pauline Kennedy.

“I supplied her with Barney’s album illustration and she made me the rug from that. Then I gave it to Billy as a ‘thank you’ for letting me design for him.”

And a quarter of a century later, it is still going strong, having made the leap to another domestic object, appearing appropriately on tea mugs available from Billy’s site.

From Twickenham to Tuscany: the George Snow connection

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

There are a number of parallels between the early careers of Barney Bubbles and video-maker/computer animator George Snow.

Both studied art and design at Twickenham College Of Technology (now Richmond Upon Thames College), though George was there a couple of years after Barney. George also worked for the underground press, designed record sleeves, was stimulated rather than stymied by the punk upheaval of the mid-70s, and went on to direct pop videos (such as Jack ‘n’ Chill’s The House That Jack Built).

By the time Barney took his own life in 1983, George had investigated collage and social comment, as editor of Radical Illustration and as a photo-journalist in strife-torn Northern Ireland for such publications as the Morning Star, Socialist Worker and Black Dwarf.

He also embraced new technology in the form of computer animation and multimedia, and today his establishment 3D3 World leads the way in the training of 3D animation.

George first encountered Barney personally at the offices of Friends in Portobello Road when he art-directed a single issue of the underground paper in 1970.

“I remember Barney as soft-spoken, friendly and somewhat shambolic in appearance,” says George. “I had never heard of him when we first met, but following the decline of the underground press we were all aware of his growing fame as we struggled with Bay City Rollers magazines and other junk.”

Band logo, George Snow, 1977.

George’s music business work included sleeves for UA-signed acts such as The Stranglers and 999, for whom he created the familiar raffle-ticket logo. When the punk act moved to Radar, where Barney was design head, their sleeves were created by another UA alum, Paul Henry.

Back and front cover, 7" single sleeve, Nasty Nasty/No Pity, 999, UA Records, 1977. Design: George Snow.

In the 80s George directed videos for such acts as London Beat and The Art Of Noise, designed book jackets and taught at a number of leading colleges, all the while developing his computer-generated artistry via projects such as his 1988 Channel 4 film based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Assignation. His 1996 film Tall Story – about a building which comes life when struck by lightning – was nominated in the British Animation Awards.

George believes he, Barney and many others benefited from the traditional and multi-disciplinary approach to teaching at their alma mater Twickenham.

“The foundation course was probably the best in the country at the time,” he says. “Observation through drawing and painting were central to it. And it is important to bear in mind that the art school was a part of a larger organisation teaching crafts such as bricklaying and plumbing among other trades. That meant we had access to oxy-acetylene welding gear, a complete chemistry lab (we made tear gas for our closing party) and all the other equipment that had a common purpose for tradesmen and artists.”

George  recalls in particular a visit from Bob Gill, co-founder of Fletcher Forbes Gill (which became design behemoth Pentagram) and author with his partners of one of Barney’s favourite books.

Front cover of Barney's own copy of Graphic Design.

“Bob Gill was a major influence on me,” says George. “He gave us one lecture and a crit and knocked me out. His approach to idea creation was what really hit home. Basically by taking two elements of a situation and combining them he showed how we could get an original ‘idea’: a classic example being his illustration on divorce – a wedding photograph torn in two with the bride on one side and the groom on the other.”

Back cover, 7" single sleeve, Welcome To The Working Week/Alison, Elvis Costello, Stiff Records, 1977. Design: Barney Bubbles.

George believes that Barney’s work was similarly special “because it was subject to his personal whims. We were allowed a great deal of free expression in those distant days; there were no marketing men to tell us what was required. Often enough impoverished record labels let us do what our egos dictated simply because it allowed them to pay us so little”.

As to the creative course Barney would have pursued had he lived beyond 1983, George says: “I feel sure Barney would have continued to develop; that is to say he would have stopped following those roads that bored him or threatened him with repetition.

“Multimedia and computer animation would have attracted him, probably because they were new. He would have picked up on audio software such as Pro Tools and probably composed music himself.”

Among George’s current projects is the virtual world he is creating for an exhibit entitled APES at Den Haag’s Gemeentemuseum next year. This is made up of 10 projections displaying a 360deg panorama of architectural space which draws on Alberti, Piranesi, Escher as well as his own work (hence the acronym).

Such projects underline George’s acceptance that if there is an similarity between Barney and himself, “it would have been a certain restlessness and a desire to prove oneself in another field. Doubtless he would have been into video, web design and multi-media in general. How those areas would have benefited from his sense of humour.”

Front cover, 12" album sleeve, Imperial Bedroom, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F-Beat Records, 1982. Credit: Sal Forlenza, 1942.

If his hand is forced, George selects the geometric Hawkwind covers,  The Glastonbury Fayre and Imperial Bedroom as his Barney favourites.

“But I don’t think Barney was a man of one work or one particular work of genius,” he emphasises. “Like a colony of ants his work was one single being – with many legs.”

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.

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.