Posts Tagged ‘Radar’

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.

(more…)

David Allen: From A(rtouble) to Z(eros) and back

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

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.

Kill City: Electrifying artwork and a murderous join-the-dots advert

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

At the beginning of 1978 Barney Bubbles was installed at Jake Riviera‘s offices at 60 Parker Street on the Holborn/Covent Garden borders, above Radar, a new independent imprint set up by ex-United Artists honchos Andrew Lauder and Martin Davis.

7in sleeve. Front cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

Radar was the new home of Riviera-managed Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Barney designed the label’s amazing logo as well the sleeves and ad campaigns for many of the releases, including first single, Lowe’s I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass, and first album, Costello’s This Year’s Model.

The second album release was Kill City, a great collection of demos recorded in 1975 by former Stooges Iggy Pop and James Williamson licensed by Lauder from the late Greg Shaw’s splendid LA indie Bomp!, who supplied finished album artwork by David Allen.

Left: Little Electric Chair, 1965. Big Electric Chair, 1967.

But fresh packaging was needed for the storming title track released as a single in February 1978, and Barney produced a front cover recalling the Electric Chairs by Andy Warhol (whose deadpan series of  images of the implement of death appeared over a decade starting in 1963, the year of the final death-sentence executions in New York State).   

7in sleeve. Back cover, Kill City/I Got Nothin', Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Radar, 1978.

The vivid pink screen of the front splashes (in signature Barney style) onto the back cover, a monochrome image of a bizarre crime scene, where the body appears to have been impaled on a parking meter. Riviera clearly remembers Barney drawing the outline on the pavement, while design cohort Caramel Crunch delighted in adding the “bullet-holes”.

We’re indebted to eagle-eyed reader Mark Lungo for pointing out that the Kill City single sleeve was a likely Barney creation and also that the cover image is that of the execution of murderess Ruth Snyder in 1928 (see Mark’s comment below).  

Full-page advert, New Musical Express, February 17, 1978.

Naturally, the fun didn’t stop with the sleeve. Barney reproduced the back cover  for the ad campaign, adding a join-the-dots puzzle fluttering in the position of the body over the crime scene. 

This was captioned with a faux Weegee/crime dept-style teleprint caption flagging up the album release: “Kill City STOP straight sell STOP in town STOP open heart STOP out now STOP ++++Iggy Pop and James Williamson STOP KIll City STOP on Radar STOP Rad 2+”

NME ad with dots joined and single title revealed.

When the dots are joined, they reveal the title: Kill City.

Arriving on the heels of the stunning brace of 77 Bowie collaborations The Idiot and Lust For Life, the album Kill City sealed Iggy’s Godfather Of Punk status and, 33 years after purchase, our original copy never strays far from the three-legged Dansette.

Of course Iggy has been firmly ensconced back within the bosom of The Stooges these last few years, with Williamson rejoining the crew following the sad passing of Ron Asheton a year ago.

There’s something circle-squaring about the fact that The Stooges’ reunion started with three tracks on Iggy’s 2003 solo album Skull Ring, one of which was named after Warhol’s 1965 Little Electric Chair.

Here’s Iggy and the boys again, as ever, giving it plenty:

RIP: Ron “Rock Action” Asheton and Greg Shaw.

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.”

Andy Arthurs’ single sleeve: Detected after 31 years!

Monday, August 17th, 2009

A spot of detective work has resulted in confirmation from musician, producer, engineer and now academic and orchestra leader Andy Arthurs that Barney Bubbles did indeed design the sleeve for his 1978 electropop single I Can Detect You (For 100,000 Miles).

Until now this curio has not been recognised as a Barney artwork. We were put on the trail by blog fan Mark Lungo, who put 2 + 2 together correctly, having spotted the familiar tropes and stylistic tics in Detect’s design and added in the fact that Barney was at that time in-house designer at Radar Records.

Andy, these days professor and head of music at Queensland University, confirmed that the cover was Barney’s, organised by Radar mainman Andrew Lauder. We will be featuring an interview with him shortly.

Backed with the song I Am A Machine, the sleeve was also used for the single’s release on affiliate label TDS Records, for whom Barney created “blackboard” music press adverts developing the use of faux mathematical equations. The TDS logo itself bears a resemblance to that which he produced for magazine Let It Rock a couple of years earlier.

On the TDS sleeves the label’s address is 120 Parker Street W1 – in posh Mayfair. It seems there was some playfulness afoot; Radar was based at 60 Parker Street, another thoroughfare in what was then down-at-heel Camden’s borders with Bloomsbury.

Andy had been around the British music scene for a number of years by the time of the single’s release, having started at George Martin’s AIR studios in 1971 and received engineering credits on albums such as Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things.

During the immediate post-punk era he produced singles and albums by such new wave acts as Tot Taylor’s Advertising, Stranglers’ spin-off project Celia & the Mutations, power-pop band Tonight (also on TDS), mod revivalists The Chords and 999

Barney had many connections to the latter band led by Nick Cash, who had been a one-time member of his friend Ian Dury’s pub-rock outfit Kilburn & The High Road

999’s designer was George Snow, who had known Barney since his days at underground paper Friends. Snow is the man credited with pioneering acceptance of computers and digital technology in British graphics and illustration circles by another Barney fan, Andy Martin.

999 were also signed to Radar, having been at Lauder’s previous label UA, and the photographer responsible for many of their sleeve shots was Barney’s friend and collaborator Chris Gabrin.

Meanwhile Andy Arthurs produced 999’s eponymously-titled debut album for Radar as well as such releases as The Soft Boys’ (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp, which also benefited from a Barney sleeve, and wrote tracks including Skin Tight for Noosha Fox.

Nowadays Andy is ultra-busy, complimenting his professorial duties at Queensland with his involvement in 18-piece orchestra Deep Blue.

And his release has now been added to our virtual exhibition of Barney’s single sleeves. 71 and counting! More to be added soon!

The single sleeves: the embodiment of pop art

Monday, July 6th, 2009


Today we unveil the first public exhibition of the collected single sleeves created by Barney Bubbles; a stunning virtual presentation featuring a host of rarely seen images.

England's Glory/Dream Tobacco, Max Wall, Stiff BUY 12. Released April 1, 1977.

The single sleeves are important since they – more than any other area of Barney’s work – embody the characteristics of pop art as defined by Richard Hamilton in 1957:

Pop Art is:
Popular (designed for a mass audience)
Transient (short-term solution)
Expendable (easily forgotten)
Low cost
Mass produced
Young (aimed at youth)
Witty
Sexy
Gimmicky
Glamorous
Big business

Barney’s single sleeves comply, though, of course, he added the particular characteristic of anonymity. Only one sleeve carries a credit – for the lettering above Humphrey Ocean’s portrait on England’s Glory/Dream Tobacco by Max Wall (apparently at the insistence of the late comic genius).

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll/Razzle In My Pocket, Ian Dury, Stiff BUY17. Released August 26, 1977.

More will be added over the coming months; just last night at the Nick Lowe/Ry Cooder aftershow, Soft Boys’ leader Robyn Hitchcock confirmed what had long been posited: Barney was responsible for his band’s 1978 Radar single (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp/Fat Man’s Son.

(I Wanna Be An) Anglepoise Lamp/Fat Man's Son, The Soft Boys, Radar ADA8. Released: April 1978.

Collectively this represents an inspired body of commercial work, much of it concentrated in the post-punk period after Barney returned to the music business in March 1977.

From Head To Toe/The World Of Broken Hearts, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, FBeat XX30. Released September 1982.

In the days when hit singles sold in their hundreds of thousands, Barney (who majored in cardboard design for retail purposes at college) almost single-handedly ignited the explosion of 45rpm packaging as it came back into vogue.

Darling Let's Have Another Baby/It Really Digs/Something Else (Chiswick NS27). Released January 1978.

Eager to address the problem-solving possibilities offered by multiple releases and coloured vinyl, Barney produced at an impressive rate, with few, if any, falling below the high quality threshold.

Accidents Will Happen/Talking In The Dark, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Radar ADA38. Released May 1979.

The mask of anonymity eased adoption of a dizzying array of styles and approaches. Yet themes, symbols, fonts and techniques recur and develop: hearts, arrows, stars, tears, physiognomy, dynamic use of colour, art history references, industry in-jokes, photographic treatments and so on.

Some contain elements contributed by others; obviously the images of the photographers with whom he worked, and also releases such as Accidents Will Happen, where Barney applied the concept of inverting the sleeve.  The stills which ended up on the inside came from the promo for the song made by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel. Designs for earlier releases, such as The Pie and Silver Machine, were completed by record companies out of artwork he had already created for albums or posters.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick /There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards, Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Stiff BUY38. Released: November 23 1978.

We start with the folded paper sleeve for the Christmas message of 1966 Barney recorded in a railway station auto recording booth for family and a few friends and move on to big sellers such as Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, which reached number one and spent 15 weeks in the UK chart.

Visit the exhibition here; download tracks by clicking on individual sleeves. These days music arrives naked, so come celebrate a time when it paraded all gussied up and garbed in finery.

Looking back with Langer

Monday, June 29th, 2009

The new Madness album The Liberty Of Norton Folgate is the latest career high for London’s finest band.

It also marks the return of the sympatico producer Clive Langer, who – with his partner Alan Winstanley – has been on hand at various points through Madness’ career (even organising the band’s first recording sessions when they were rambunctious teens).

Clive’s pedigree stretches through production credits on records by such artists as Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Morrissey and Elvis Costello (with whom he co-wrote Shipbuilding) to membership of the pre-punk cabaret troupe Deaf School.

Splash, Clive Langer & The Boxes, FBeat, 1980.

And his leadership of post-Deaf School band The Boxes coincided with Barney Bubbles’ boldest and most wide-ranging record label brief: patron Jake Riviera’s formation of FBeat in 1980.

At Stiff, Barney had joined the team seven months in, and the year or so at Radar witnessed contributions from others, including Malcolm Garrett.

Radar singles by Bette Bright and Clive Langer, 1979. Designs: Malcolm Garrett.

Malcolm had been taken on at Radar straight from college to ease the pressure on Barney, and was responsible for sleeves for releases by another Deaf School alum Bette Bright as well as The Boxes’ debut, the 12″ EP I Want The World.  

FBeat was different; here Barney grew the identity of the company from the ground up, producing sleeves and posters as well as a slew of logos for label copy, headed paper, advertising and promotional purposes.

Inspired by the design detail of Jake’s early 60s jukebox, kitsch-y crowns and other regal imagery, as well as precisely arranged chevrons, stars, ellipses and other insignia dominated this period. Barney even designed Jake’s furniture for his office at the company’s Acton offices, as well as an FBeat rug (which appeared on the inner of Carlene Carter’s Musical Shapes).

Of course the priority act was Elvis Costello, responsible with his band The Attractions for FBeat’s first single I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down) and album Get Happy!!.

But Clive and the Boxes were hot on their heels; FBeat’s second 7″ was Splash (A Tear Goes Rolling Down), which arrived in Barney’s bespoke single bags, and the second album was the band’s Splash.

Left: Photo album. Right: NME ad for Splash (A Tear Goes Rolling Down), 1980. Carol Fawcett Collection/Reasons 2009.

For the album sleeve the Boxes were dispatched to Putney swimming baths in south-west London, where Barney’s friend, the photographer Keith Morris, shot them diving, floating and generally splashing around.

But Clive wasn’t happy with Barney’s first draft for the cover. “I knew of and admired Barney; he had a notoriety in punk circles,” says Clive. “But the first idea for the cover just didn’t work for me.

“I got the distinct impression that he wasn’t too pleased, because people rarely rejected what he came up with. But on the second go the sleeve looked fantastic – there’s a great turquoise variation which came out in Germany.”

Barney’s advertising campaigns for the single and album played with a variety of visual puns. Ads for the music press used a close up of his friend Carol Fawcett’s right eye – not only does he create a face out of the typographic arrangement but the graphic “tears” splash into the shape of a crown.

Double A-side promo copies were sent to retailers wrapped in an 12″ x 8″ poster in which the droplets are stylised as lozenges set against swimming pool blue.

The standard single label features the ident for Liverpool label Korova, from whom the track was licensed. Interestingly, the promo label also bears an arcane symbol with which Barney peppered his work at the time: three triangulated circles.

Left: Music press ad artwork (c) Riviera Global/Reasons 2009. Right: It's All Over Now, Clive Langer & The Boxes, FBeat, 1980.

The five-pointed crowns of the album cover are set atop boxes in the music press ads which trailed the tour dates while a single large one dominates the cover of follow-up single It’s All Over Now.

Coincidental aside: these days the Madness “M” logo – created by member Chrissy Boy Foreman – is sporting a five-pointed crown rather than a bluebeat hat.

As 1980 wore on, the Boxes waned, and Langer became fully engaged in production chores for Madness’ smash debut One Step Beyond, making the first steps in his career with Winstanley as part of one of Britain’s most highly rated record production teams.

Depeche Mode, crowns, kings and the Kosmische connection

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Brian Griffin was Barney Bubbles’ chief collaborator from 1978 onwards, working with him across a dizzying array of projects, from record sleeves, advertising campaigns and promo videos to artzines, books and posters.

Brian Griffin studio ident, 1980.

Barney also designed business cards, letterheads and studio idents for Brian; these two have never been published before. And now, via this site, you can purchase original copies of a number of original items they produced together: an exhibition poster, the newspaper Y and the book Copyright 1978.

Brian Griffin business card, 1982.

More on that at the end of this post. Today we’re focusing on an unexpected project which came about in 1981 when Brian’s agent David Burnham leased premises near Baker Street in central London to young indie record label owner Daniel Miller

Front cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981.

Daniel’s Mute Records was making the post-punk runnings having pioneered electro-pop with such great records as the label’s first two singles  – his own T.V.O.D/Warm Leatherette (as The Normal) and Fad Gadget’s Back To Nature (both rarely far from our iPod playlists, record deck or CD player).

Back cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981

Back cover, Speak & Spell, Mute Records, 1981

In 1981 Mute was propelled into the pop charts by fresh signing Depeche Mode‘s clutch of singles Dreaming Of Me, New Life and Just Can’t Get Enough (currently a hit again courtesy of squeaky girl band The Saturdays).

When Burnham introduce Brian to Daniel the pair established a lifelong friendship based on the shared love of the extraordinary music made by such peerless German bands as Neu!Kraftwerk and, of course, Can (whose back catalogue Mute has reissued).

Chosen as the photographer for the cover of Depeche Mode’s debut album Speak & Spell, Brian asked Barney to design the sleeve. Barney’s own association with Kosmische music dated back to his days as in-house visual director for Hawkwind. Andrew Lauder at the band’s label United Artists – for whom Barney also worked – was an early champion in Britain and the ‘Wind’s founder Dave Brock wrote the sleevenotes for Neu!’s first UK release.

Front cover, Neu! 2, Neu!, Brain Records, 1973.

Barney’s flouro spray-paint logo for the recently-reissued Hawklords album 25 Years On is, in Brian’s view, a tribute to the one which appeared across Neu!  sleeves and in particular the giant numeral which adorns their second album.

Front cover, 25 years On, Hawklords, Charisma, 1978.

The musical ties were strong;  Opa-Loka, from 1975’s Warrior On the Edge Of Time, is an oft-cited example of Hawkwind’s use of Motorik rhythms, while Brock’s first solo album Earthed To The Ground is rooted in the genre. The original sleeve of this 1984 release was a painting by John Coulthart, who has powered the revival of interest in Barney’s work in recent years.

Barney designed adverts and other promotional material to support Radar ‘s 1978 release of the eponymously-titled album by La Dusseldorf, the group formed by the late multi-instrumentalist  (and one-time Kraftwerk member) Klaus Dinger after Neu! broke up in the mid-70s.

There has been speculation recently that Barney was also responsible for the sleeves for the UK releases of Kraftwerk albums Ralf & Florian and Autobahn (as posited by Colin Buttimer at Hardformat and investigated in a posting on John’s blog). Brian does not believe this to be the case.

“He would have told me, for I was a very big fan of everything German at the time,” says Brian.

Although Barney wasn’t keen on Depeche Mode, Brian persuaded him to handle the design of Speak & Spell, which centres on the doomy image of a swan swathed in a clear plastic and silhouetted on its nest against a radioactive glow.

“I was working on a  personal project about a nuclear attack on London and photographed the swan in my studio to represent the only creature alive after the bomb had dropped,” explains Brian. “Goodness knows what I was thinking. Everybody hated it, including myself actually!”

Barney’s lack of connection with Depeche Mode is reflected in the coolness of his design, though in retrospect this is harmonious with the wilfully alienated stance adopted by the Mode (who describe their music as “synthetics” in the credits).

Speak & Spell label copy, 1981.

Using a serif font with spare application of yellow/gold bars, boxes and constellated dots, Barney grants the band a favourite symbol, the crown (which appears in many of his designs). With the group’s name and the album title providing the headband, the credits are arranged on the back cover in the shape of the King chess piece.

The crown is also repeated on both sides of the record label.

One of the many crown logos Barney created for F-Beat.

Brian says that the project as a whole  provoked little interest in Barney. “That was most unusual for him but I fully understood the reasons, for I also disliked Depeche’s music at that time,” says Brian.

The image of the swan from behind, as used on the back page of Y.

Barney  used another shot from Brian’s swan shoot – a shadowy frame from the rear  – in Y, the duo’s newspaper which was also preoccupied with the prevailing atmosphere of nuclear foreboding in the West at that time.  “He cleverly saw that the backside of the swan was actually an infinity symbol, which is why it’s on the back page,” says Brian.

End: The title on the back page of Y.

The infinity symbol is most commonly described as the figure 8 on it’s side: this is page 8 of Y. The title spells out END, with the N created by a constellation symbolising an endless road, or infinity. This, it should be noted,  is similar to the motorway design on the front cover of Autobahn.

Barney was to rifle Brian’s collection of “nuclear” images – that of a ship being engulfed in a tsunami as a result of an explosion – for another electro-pop project with which he felt little affinity: Wang Chung’s album Points On The Curve. This was released two months after his death,  in January 1984.

Front cover, Points On The Curve, Wang Chung, 1984.

Front cover, Points On The Curve, Wang Chung, Geffen,. 1984.

This record contained the band’s biggest hit, Dance Hall Days. Depeche Mode, on the other hand, went on to become one of the biggest groups in the world, and the  curious passions they arouse in fans are explored in Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams‘ brilliant The Posters Came From The Walls. After a smash reception at the London Film Festival this documentary is currently  touring the film festivals and will be on general release later this year. We recommend it highly.

Access a podcast featuring Brian at the Format 09 festival here.

SITE EXCLUSIVE To buy original copies of Brian Griffin and Barney Bubbles artwork – the highly collectable Y, the amazing “Scarf/Face” poster for Brian’s first one-man show and their excellent book Copyright 1978 – go here.

The artistry of Antoinette

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

From time to time we examine the work of those who collaborated professionally with Barney Bubbles; there are few who fulfilled as wide a range of roles as Antoinette Sales.

Back cover, Pure Pop For Now People, Columbia Records, 1978.

Not only was she the creator of clothes which appeared on Barney’s record sleeves, including the iconic “Riddler suit” sported by Nick Lowe on the back of Pure Pop For Now People (the US issue of Jesus Of Cool), but Tony was also his sometime model. It is she who is adorned with curlers, a face mask and bisected ping-pong balls for eyes appearing alongside a child’s doll in Barney’s disturbing Stiff Records music press adverts for Devo’s spring 1978  single (I Can’t Get Me No) Satisfaction.

Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.

Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.

Music press ad board, (I Can't Get Me No) Satisfaction, 1978. Antoinette Sales Collection.

And, in 1980, Tony received a six-week crash course in graphics from Barney at his studio in Paul Street in London’s East End, enabling her to become a fully fledged record sleeve designer in her own right.

A fashion illustrator and Stiff/Radar/F-Beat label boss Jake Riviera’s first wife, Tony had already  produced a number of sleeves, among them Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ biggest hits Oliver’s Army,  Radio Radio and Accidents Will Happen and Lowe’s American Squirm and Cruel To Be Kind.

Billboard, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, 1979

Billboard, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, 1979

Tony came up with the title of Lowe’s 1979 album Labour Of Lust, and designed the billboard promoting its US release on Sunset Strip. But she characterises the  month-and-a-half she spent learning the craft from Barney as  “an apprenticeship”.

Front Cover, Radio Radio, Radar, 1978.

Front Cover, Radio Radio, Radar, 1978.

Tony fondly recalls how she would catch the Underground from her home in west London across the city. “As soon as I arrived we’d get going,” she says.

Reversed out freehand drawing; Art center school assignment, Tony Sales. Note F-Beat style crown logo.
“I loved Barney and we were great friends, but when there was work to be done, you got on with it,” she says. “He basically instructed me in the mechanics of sleeve design and packaging.”
Hand-drawn label by Antoinette Sales, 1979.

Hand-drawn label by Antoinette Sales, 1979.

And this is evident from Tony’s subsequent output. She created a series of photo-driven sleeves for her friend (and Lowe’s wife) Carlene Carter, for whom she also designed stagewear. These included Baby Ride Easy and Do It In A Heartbeat. “I have an aversion to copying anybody else but the choice and arrangement of the typefaces was definitely influenced by Barney,” she says.   Tony also handled the sleeve design for Carter’s album Musical Shapes. The front cover shoot was art-directed by Barney, who created a set out of F-Beat singles and sleeves and constructed the wire sculpture communicating the album title.

Front cover, Musical Shapes, F-Beat, 1981.

Front cover, Musical Shapes, F-Beat, 1980.

“Barney set that up in the dining room of our house in Chiswick,” says Tony. “I designed and set the graphics on the back. He’d taught me how to lay down Letraset and make the placement and spacing impeccable. I had fun with the “N” for Notes, “S” for Selections and “P” for Personnel. In the self-effacing Bubbles tradition, there is no artwork credit.”

Retail info sheet, Teacher Teacher, 1980.

Front cover, Everly Brothers EP, F-Beat, 1980.
Back cover, Everly Brothers EP, F-Beat, 1980.

Tony was responsible for the sleeves for Rockpile singles Teacher Teacher and Wrong Way, as well as Edmunds’ singles Crawling From the Wreckage, Girl’s Talk and Queen Of Hearts. And she came up with the title for Carlene Carter’s 1983 album C’est C Bon, though the sleeve for that was produced by Barney.

Back Cover, Teacher Teacher, Rockpile, F-Beat 1980.

Back Cover, Teacher Teacher, Rockpile, F-Beat 1980

During this hectic period, Tony also created a welter of point-of-sale and retail promotional material, backstage passes, badges, letterheads (for holding company Riviera Global, publisher Plangent Visions Music and studios UK Pro) and the label for reissue imprint Edsel.

Backstage passes, 1980.

Backstage passes, 1980.

Tony also produced music press ads; she recalls working at Barney’s studio on one for the NME to promote The Attractions’ “solo” album Mad About The Wrong Boy (to which we’ll be returning in the near future).

Double page spread ad for The Attractions, NME, August 30, 1980.

Double page spread ad for The Attractions, NME, August 30, 1980.

These days a film and TV costume designer , Tony lives in Austin, Texas and is extra busy supplying musicians (Paul McCartney’s guitarist  Brian Ray wore one of her shirts to the recent Grammy’s) as well as working with such fashionistas as Boudoir Queen’s Dawn Denton and South Paradiso Leather’s Romulus Von Stezelberger.

Sphynx: Symmetry, symbolism and shape

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Ahead of The Roundhouse celebration on March 8, Nik Turner has posted a set of reminiscences about his exciting creative relationship with Barney Bubbles.

These provide us with an opportunity to reveal exclusive images surrounding one of Nik and Barney’s most intriguing collaborations (which also centred on a multi-media happening at the same venue).

As covered by his stellar contribution to Reasons To Be Cheerful, Nik’s friendship with Barney began at the dawn of the 70s when they were introduced by the late writer and performer Robert Calvert.

 

Hawkwind Love & Peace poster (c) N. Turner.

Hawkwind Love & Peace poster (c) N. Turner.

“We struck a chord in each other,” says Nik. “Barney came along to a Hawkwind gig and saw that my vision of the band’s spirit embodied a lot of the concepts and ideals to which he related. After that he was happy to apply his creative energy, designing the Peace & Love poster for us, and then the X In Search of Space album sleeve, log-book and concept.”

Full-page advert for X In Search Of Space, Oz 38, 1971.

Full-page advert for X In Search Of Space, Oz 38, 1971.

Barney realised the visual identity of Hawkwind on every level as the space-rockers progressed through the first half of the 70s. When Nik left the band in 1976 he embarked on a trip to Egypt. “That was in part inspired by the common interest Barney and I had in Egyptology and ancient civilisations,” Nik explains.

“While there I recorded flute music inside the King’s Chamber of The Great Pyramid, and this became the album Xitintoday by my new group Sphynx.”

Xitintoday promotional poster. (c) N. Turner/Reasons 2009.

Xitintoday promotional poster. (c) N. Turner/Reasons 2009.

Barney agreed to design the album sleeve and booklet on condition that he applied the principals of concrete poetry (where typographical arrangement is as important as the words in conveying meaning).

Barney’s mastery of typography had long enabled him to communicate depth of meaning in this way, so concrete poetry became a natural area of investigation for a visual artist fascinated by symmetry, symbolism and shape.

These, of course, were central to his other abiding interests such as cosmology and Egyptology, as evinced by the poster he designed to promote the release of Xitintoday, which is constructed around a favourite symbol of Barney’s, The Eye of Horus.

When he was approached by Nik, Barney had already embarked on developing a series of concrete poetry artworks in 12″ x 10″ frames for a group exhibition which he was helping to organise at his London squat. He also planned the printing of a limited edition of a poem which consisted of one word:  “nowhere”. This appears in the booklet he designed for Xitintoday as do many other examples, such as the word “day” made up of repeated use of the word “night” in white on black.

Sketches and word pictures. (c) D.Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

Examples of Barney's concrete poetry. (c) C.Fawcett/Reasons 2009.

As this page of drafts and notes shows, Barney was fascinated by the form. Among the options are the Xitintoday cover’s constellated tiny pentagrams created from the word “twinkle”.

Big star: detail from Xitintoday;s front cover

Big star: detail from Xitintoday's front cover.

Barney’s interest in concrete poetry was stimulated by his relationship with the photographer Frances Newman, who was later to marry his friend Brian Griffin. Newman’s partner had been Tom Edmonds, the concrete poet who died in 1971 and contributed to the important collection Gloup And Woup along with such exponents as Bob Cobbing, John Furnival and it’s most celebrated figure, the Benedictine monk Dom Sylvester Houedard.

Xitintoday front cover, Charisma records, 1978.

Xitintoday front cover, Charisma Records, 1978.

Xitintoday’s release was heralded by an all-day happening at The Roundhouse, for which Barney choreographed the dancers in Sphynx’s stage show.

Do not lick this dot. Summer 1978. (c) G. Colson/Reasons 2009.
“Do not lick this dot’, Summer 1978. (c) G. Colson/Reasons 2009.

Billed as Nik Turner’s Bohemian Love In, this featured an eclectic supporting cast, including ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band member Roger Ruskin Spear and his robots, former T. Rex member Steve Took’s Horns, punk poets Patrik Fitzgerald and John Cooper Clarke, sci-fi author Michael Moorcock and Tanz Der Youth, the band briefly led by The Damned‘s Brian James.

Both John Cooper Clarke and Tanz Der Youth also benefited from Barney designs; the former with his songbook Directory 1979 and the latter in the shape of the sleeve for his Radar single I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry.

Im Sorry Im Sorry by Tanz Der Youth, Radar 1978

I'm Sorry I'm Sorry by Tanz Der Youth, Radar, 1978.

Among the attendees at The Bohemian Love In were Calvert and Hawkwind founder Dave Brock, both then putting together new  group Hawklords and recording dystopian concept album 25 Years On.

Hawklords postcard 1978.

Hawklords postcard 1978. Pauline Kennedy Collection.

They brought Barney on board and, working with photographer Chris Gabrin, he moved away from concrete poetry into bleak futurism and monochromatic expressionist territory to which he applied the new punk day-glo spray-can aesthetic. This is covered extensively in Reasons, as are the rest of Nik’s collaborations with Barney, through the releases by his band Inner City Unit to the extraordinary Ersatz under the guise of The Imperial Pompadours.

“Throughout this period I lived with Barney off and on, in various studios and houses,” says Nik, who is organising the event with another of Barney’s friends, promoter John Curd.  “We always had wonderful times together, full of inspiration and creativity, weird, wild and wacky. I’ll always remember him as being a great fan of object trouve, and feel a debt for all his help and inspiration over the years.”

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– – COMPETITION – –

Two free tickets for The Roundhouse event

This week we are giving away two free tickets for The Hawklords/Space Ritual 09/Barney Bubbles Memorial event at The Roundhouse on Sunday, March 8.

Grab a chance of winning them by sending your answer to the question below to: thelook@rockpopfashion.com by midnight GMT on Sunday March 1.

We’ll announce the lucky winners the following day.

Q: Who recites Sonic Attack on Hawkwind’s The Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and London?

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