Posts Tagged ‘Nick Lowe’

Update: Signed copies of the Barney Bubbles book available

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

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Signed copies of Reasons To Be Cheerful, my acclaimed monograph of the radical British graphic artist Barney Bubbles, are now available from my eBay page.

Buy your copies here.

As well as a celebration of a pop culture great, Reasons To Be Cheerful is recognised as a significant design history, praised by leading magazines and newspapers around the world and voted MOJO’s book of the year . It is also a recommended reference source for graphics communications courses at leading educational institutions.

Reasons To Be Cheerful includes contributions from some of the most important graphic practitioners operating today, such as Art Chantry, Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville.

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Bob Andrews’ Cracking Up grin

Friday, April 20th, 2012
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Top: Detail, Music press ad for The Rumour, 1979. Below: Detail, front cover, Cracking Up, Nick Lowe, 1979.

The collaged waving hand/face on the sleeve of Nick Lowe’s 1979 single Cracking Up is one of Barney Bubbles’ most recognisable creations, assisted into prominence by its usage on the front of Reasons To Be Cheerful.

The toothy grin was clipped from a photo of keyboard-player Bob Andrews, one-time colleague of Lowe’s in Brinsley Schwarz (and before that in 60s pop band Kippington Lodge) and one of Graham Parker’s collaborators as a member of The Rumour.

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Five Live Stiffs line up for the first time since 77

Sunday, August 28th, 2011
Five Live Stiffs posters designed by Barney Bubbles, photography by Chris Gabrin, 1977.

Posters, each 60" x 40" designed by Barney Bubbles for the October 1977 Stiff Records UK tour Live Stiffs. Photography: Chris Gabrin.

The series of five Live Stiffs posters designed by Barney Bubbles using Chris Gabrin photographs.

Exhibits in Chris Gabrin's exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Isle Of Wight.

Chris Gabrin’s exhibition From Hear To Photography includes a doozy for Barney Bubbles fans – for the first time since their creation more than three decades ago, Bubbles’ huge Live Stiffs poster designs are displayed together.

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Barney Bubbles features large in NYC punk + post-punk graphics exhibition

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
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Poster, 60in x 40in, Live Stiffs tour, 1977.

This Larry Wallis poster design – one of five of the stars of the 1977 Live Stiffs tour – is among 20 or so examples of Barney Bubbles’ work included in Rude & Reckless, the punk and post-punk graphics exhibition opening tomorrow (July 21) at NYC’s Steven Kasher Gallery.

The show samples the collection of New York resident Andrew Krivine, who started accumulating records, posters, flyers and ephemera during family visits to the UK in the late 70s.

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Barney Bubbles events at Glastonbury

Saturday, June 4th, 2011
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Front, fold-out sleeve, Revelations: A Musical Anthology, Revelation Enterprises, 1972. 24" x 36".

This year’s Glastonbury Festival will celebrate the work of Barney Bubbles, who created the extraordinary sleeve for the Glastonbury Fayre triple album set Revelations – A Musical Anthology.

Since 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the Fayre, Bubbles’ biographer Paul Gorman is staging two events at the Festival’s Spirit Of 71 Cafe  to mark the late graphic designer’s involvement with the album, the festival and many of the performers who have played there.

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Kosmo Vinyl on Barney Bubbles + Ian Dury

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

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Kosmo Vinyl has sent this photograph taken of himself with Barney Bubbles (centre) and an unidentified person (right)* in the west London offices of Stiff Records in 1977.

“I have no idea what we are looking at,” says Vinyl, the former plugger/publicist/ideas man for Dury and The Clash who later became a record producer.

“The way I’m holding whatever it is,  I’d say it’s a book or a magazine. I love the way it captures Barney’s enthusiasm and amazement.”

Vinyl has also provided some fascinating tales and insights into the creative partnership conducted between Bubbles and the late Ian Dury.

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The Guardian picks out Process

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

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Process is feature in today’s Guardian Guide as a pick of new exhibitions around the country. Of course John – who worked alongside Barney at Frendz and danced on Hawkwind’s Space Ritual tour – meant Nick Lowe, not Drake.

The image is the artwork for the “Hamer & Sickle” logo Barney Bubbles created for Lowe’s 1979 album Labour Of Lust, spin-off single Cracking Up and music press ads/tour promotion etc (Nick had recently come into proud possession of the Hamer bass which Bubbles “snapped” into three).

Process private view party

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

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Last night’s full-moon private view for Process was quite a wing-ding; the great and the good were out in force, with Kate Moross and her crew VJing to a psychedelic/punk/prog/folk/whassat? soundtrack of music for which Barney Bubbles designed.

Jerry Dammers, Jeff Dexter, Nick Lowe, Mick Jones, Jake Riviera and Jah Wobble are just a few of the legends who dropped by to have a sticky-beak.

What would Barney have thought? “He’d have run a mile, but would have loved it,” said Nick Lowe.

Virginia Clive-Smith, who worked with Barney Bubbles in Conran’s design department when he was Colin Fulcher, wholeheartedly agreed, and Paul Conroy, whose association with the designer started with the Kursaal Flyers’ Chocs Away has just written: “Barney would be embarrassed…but secretly very proud.”

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Images thanks to Mrs Gorman and Madame, who wrote up the party at her blog.

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.

Nick Lowe: From Glastonbury Fayre to St Paul’s

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Tomorrow (April 30) I have the great pleasure to be DJing for Nick Lowe again.

The venue couldn’t be more different from the Albert Hall; this time Nick is playing for a couple of hundred people at St Paul’s in his stamping ground, Brentford. It’s in a good cause – the money from the sold-out gig will go to the church’s community drop-in centre.

Nick, second left, with the other members of Brinsley Schwarz from The Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972.

This is the first of a spate of live appearances by Nick this year. In a couple of months he will be in the acoustic tent at the Glastonbury Festival as the only performer to have played the very first Glastonbury Fayre in 1971.

On that occasion he was a member of Brinsley Schwarz, whose debut album benefited from the lux gatefold cover by Barney Bubbles.

The printed "Silver Surfer" sealed vinyl envelope for The Glastonbury Fayre. Courtesy: Jeff Dexter Collection.

The Brinsleys’ subsequent appearance on the fund-raising triple Glastonbury Fayre set was the next staging post in Nick’s association with Barney.

"Dome Sweet Dome" cut-out geodesic dome insert, The Glastonbury Fayre.

Barney’s Glastonbury package comprised the tri-fold 24in x 36in card sleeve housed in a sealed printed vinyl envelope with customised labels, booklets and cut-out inserts for the creation of a miniature silver pyramid and  geodesic dome.

"Pyramid" cut-out album insert.

These scans of the pyramid inserts don’t do the originals justice (they’re shiny silver on black).

However, it’s been fun using the scans (and some silver paint) to create our own versions.

"Power" cut-out album insert.

Taking it’s cue from Stewart Brand‘s revolutionary Whole Earth Catalogue, the “Dome Sweet Dome” is covered in messages and instructions of ever-increasing pertinence:

“We can survive on waste – energy, experience, imagination is all!”

“Scavenge and scrounge shamelessly – you are your own architect.”

“Ecology is you.”

“We might need this kind of good, cheap shelter one day.”

We also love the “Astral” visage made by glueing the ornate sci-fi insert borders together.

The Eye Of Horus which accompanies the instructions was a marker of Barney’s abiding interest in Egyptology, and one of the powerful symbols he loved to revisit, sometimes using Nick’s aquiline features.

Album insert detail.

For example, a decade later  he openly referenced The All Seeing Eye, as it is also known,  on the cover of Nick’s 1982 album Nick The Knife.

12in sleeves. Front covers, Nick The Knife, 1982. Left: US issue on Columbia. Right: UK issue, F-Beat.

The uncompromising crop on the front of the UK issue (on F-Beat) concentrated on Nick’s angular features to achieve the full effect; as in the case of many another Barney design, the US issue soft-pedaled this with an uncropped and thus more conventional portrait.

Cheekily, Barney responded to comments that the Nick The Knife cover was unforgiving by delivering a totally contrasting sleeve for 1983 follow-up The Abominable Showman.

12in sleeve. Front cover, The Abonimable Showman, Nick Lowe, F-Beat, 1983.

Here there isn’t sign of a single blemish: the boxed-in portrait of Nick is colourised and airbrushed to the max, though the shadows and his expression once again clearly render…The Eye Of Horus.

Really looking forward to tomorrow night’s show. Sure Nick will pull out all the stops at St Paul’s just as he did at another church, St Luke’s, for the BBC a couple of years back – have a look at him rocking with one of the founding fathers of British popular music Chris Barber in the clip above.