Posts Tagged ‘Imperial Bedroom’

Barney’s t-shirts from Alfalpha to Hawklords to Wangford

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

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.

Hawklord t-shirt design Barney Bubbles, 1978. (C) Reasons 2009.

These were drawn in the bottom right-hand corner of an otherwise blank sheet of one of his pads, and feature the heraldic/masonic symbols Barney  incorporated in the concept album’s design.

Hawklords booklet 1978. Design/Concept: Barney Bubbles. Photography/Concept: Chris Gabrin.

As detailed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, years before merchandise became an ancillary money-spinner for the music biz, Barney was integrating his Hawkwind approach by providing tees for the band and gig-goers based on his designs for X In Search Of Space, Space Ritual and Doremi Fasol Latido and the Hawkwind/Man 1999 Party US tour poster.

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.

And when punk and new wave took off, Barney provided many t-shirt designs for his friends, such as this Lissitzky-informed Ian Dury tee from 1978.

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.

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.”