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.