A popular element of the Barney Bubbles exhibition within the recent graphics/music group show White Noise: Quand Le Graphisme Fait Du Bruit was the cubicle housing designer Kate Moross’s Barney Bubbles video triptych.
Posts Tagged ‘Hawkwind’
With the legacy of Situationism the subject of a couple of posts on my blog, it seems timely to point up Barney Bubbles’ inclusion of frames from Christopher Grey’s Leaving The 20th Century: The Incomplete Work Of The Situationist International in his slide-show for Hawkwind’s post-punk offshoot Hawklords.
Designs by Barney Bubbles feature in three exhibitions which have opened in London this week.
Above are 24 of the Crown wallpaper variations of Bubbles sleeve design for the 1979 album Do It Yourself By Ian Dury & The Blockheads, as featured in the Donald Smith-curated group show Ideal Home at Chelsea Space.
Below is sneaky iPhone shot of Bubbles’ extraordinary design for Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, which was released the same year as Do It Yourself and appears in the V&A’s big autumn show Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990.
And above is a shot of Bubbles’ Elvis Costello poster for the 1977 Live Stiffs tour, which looms large in the subterreanean Old Vic Tunnels, venue for Stuart Semple’s exhibition Mindful Of Art, which is in aid of mental health charity Mind. The poster was sold last night at a gala auction hosted by Stephen Fry and Melvyn Bragg.
Also on display is a video installation by Kate Moross incorporating many Bubbles designs. Beamed from three TV screens this powerful light-show is cut to Hawkwind’s live 1972 track Orgone Accumulator.
Ideal Home is at Chelsea Space, Chelsea College Of Art & Design, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU until October 22. Details here.
Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990 is at the V&A, CRomwell Road, London SW7 2RL until January 15, 2012. Details here.
Mindful Of Art is the Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach, London SE1 8SW until next Monday, September 26. Details here.
Andy Dunkley, a fellow-traveller of Barney Bubbles as the Hawkwind collective’s MC and in-house DJ in the 70s, died on April 30 of heart failure. He was 68.
Stickers, a top-ranking new book about the enduring art of the most immediate of rock & roll ephemera, provides an opportunity to show a selection of Barney Bubbles’ forays into this area of design.
Stickers is compiled by expat Brit DB Burkeman, who, pausing only to publish one of his rare shots of the Sex Pistols live in 1977, mentions in his introduction that a chance encounter with Reasons To Be Cheerful enabled him to trace Barney Bubbles as the link between the visual audacity of Hawkwind and the new wave/post-punk scene.
Burkeman’s tome covers the waterfront, from Bubbles, Jamie Reid, Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville to Fresh Jive, Fuct, Shephard Fairey and beyond.
A great feature at the back of the book are the pages of contemporary stickers just waiting to adorn a clean surface.
Buy your copy of Stickers here.
The enhanced, revised and updated new edition of Reasons To Be Cheerful is published in the UK this week.
With a remixed cover, the fully illustrated 224-page second edition of the acclaimed biography features many new elements.
There are nearly 60 fresh images in the new book: letters, postcards and photographs as well as sketches, designs and finished artwork for record sleeves, posters, stickers, drumheads, etc.
Paul Gorman has written a new author’s note and afterword summing up the impact of the first edition, and the commentary now includes a chat with foremost US designer Art Chantry about the relevance of Barney Bubbles’ artistic legacy to contemporary design. The new edition is published in the US in spring 2011.
A host of new contributors have been interviewed, from Wreckless Eric to “Record John” Cowell – Bubbles’ one-time room-mate and the half brother of Simon Cowell.
All chapters have been updated with freshly researched information, including never-previously published facts and quotes about Bubbles’ time at art school and his first full-time job at leading British commercial art studio Michael Tucker + Associates.
Mail for info on postage to continental Europe and rest of world.
To buy your copy click on the button below or visit HERE for details.
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
Like Barney, Johnny studied technical illustration and works closely with a select band of independent labels and groups, incorporating Barney’s legacy in his graphic design, light-shows, photography and concert posters for Trensmat and Rocket Recordings and sonic adventurers such as The Heads, The Notorious Hi-Fi Killers, Thought Forms and Cripple Black Phoenix Band.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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”.
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.
“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.”
Johnny’s light show for The Heads live.
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”.
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.”
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.
“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 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.
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.”
In this exclusive interview, Rob discusses Barney’s influence, and also reveals that he once came tantalisingly close to meeting his hero.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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”.
“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.”
We’re indebted to Doug Smith for providing this original and previously unpublished Barney Bubbles artwork complete with printing instructions.
The former Hawkwind manager and a close friend of Barney’s, Doug says: “I always thought we asked him to do it, but what with my memory being what it is, I wasn’t sure. Anyway, I came across it the other day and sure enough there’s Barney’s writing at the bottom.”
Zip Nolan Highway Patrol was a creation of Barney’s friend Michael Moorcock dating back to the late 50s, and appeared in Fleetway Publications’ comic Lion in various forms until the early 70s. Original artwork is currently fetching three figures on eBay.
In 2005 the Zip Nolan character was revived in the six-issue Albion, plotted by Alan Moore and written by his daughter Leah Moore and her husband John Reppion. This was published as a book by Wildstorm in the US and Titan in the UK.
Michael doesn’t recall having seen Barney’s Zip Nolan logo until now. “I’d guess it was Barney doing a pop art rip,” he says. “I hadn’t written a Zip Nolan since 1963.”
As revealed here, Barney had worked for Fleetway around that time, having been commissioned to produce a Mods & Rockers special for the company in 1964 (which gave rise to the R&B Here Tonight t-shirt and the award-winning Muleskinners poster).
The lettering style of Barney’s Zip Nolan logo chimes with that for The Glastonbury Fayre triple-album package of 1972.
1972 also saw the publication of a Lion annual featuring on it’s cover – who else? – Zip Nolan. And the character was to inspire a single of the same name a few years later by The Cult Figures, an obscure power-pop tune produced under the wing of indie pioneers Swell Maps.