Posts Tagged ‘Kursaal Flyers’

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.

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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.

Let there be drums

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Stretched over the open end of the bass drum and at just under 2ft in diameter, drumheads proved a perfect canvas for the artistry of Barney Bubbles.

Throughout his career, Barney was in the habit of providing customised skins to musicians, either as part of an overall theme he had developed for an album or artist or as one-off gifts.

Today we exclusively present four produced over a 10-year period.

Only one has been widely seen before; the portrait of the freckle-faced Western gal set against a desert landscape was painted in 1973 for Pete Thomas, then of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers.

Chilli Willi drumhead

Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, 1973. (c) Pete Thomas/Pic: Tony Sayles

The cowgirl and the vista had appeared in Barney’s colour-your-own inner for the band’s debut album Kings Of The Robot Rhythm. Around this period Barney was investigating the interpretation of this educational form in a musical context: the cover of Brinsley Schwarz’s eponymously-titled album consisted of a paint-by-numbers scenario.

“Barney was such a lovely bloke,” says Pete, who gives the painting pride of place in his Los Angeles home. In 1999, it was the centrepiece for  the cover of the Willi’s compilation  I’ll Be Home.

In 1977 Pete went on to form the rhythmic bedrock of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and Barney created a suitably new wave, Jackson Pollock-ed drumhead for the band’s participation in 1977’s Stiff’s Greatest Stiffs UK tour. Within a couple of months Costello and the band had released the ferocious This Year’s Model – Barney’s stickers for that album’s promotional campaign still adorn it.

Greatest drumhead

Stiff's Greatest Stiffs 1977. (c) Pete Thomas/Pic: Tony Sayles

As the drummer in the Kursaal Flyers, pub-rock scene chronicler Will Birch first encountered Barney when he designed the album sleeve of the Southend band’s album Chocs Away.

The two maintained contact and Barney provided artwork for Will’s post-punk band The Records in the early 80s. During their meetings the pair riffed on the notion of an imaginary band called the Blue Genes, and Barney painted Will a drumhead featuring wriggling single-celled genetic organisms with blue tails.

Blue Genes drum head

Blue Genes 1982. (c) Will Birch

Since the Blue Genes never performed or recorded, Will’s is in pristine condition, unlike Pete’s or that owned by another of Barney’s friends, record company promotional wizard and Viv Stanshall’s manager Glen Colson.

“I was drumming a bit at the time, so Barney offered to paint me a drumhead,” says Glen. “I used to like this move called a ‘flam’, where you bring both drumsticks in quick succession down hard on the snare. I was delighted when I saw Barney’s design say: ‘Flam Flam’.”

flam flam drum head

Flam Flam 1983. (c)Glen Colson/ Reasons 2009