Posts Tagged ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’

Maisie Parker’s 1962 postcard from Colin Fulcher

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

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Postcard (front) with contact frames from Colin Fulcher to Margaret Minay, 1962.

maisie-cardbackBack of card. Courtesy: Maisie Parker.

We’re indebted to Barney Bubbles’ fellow Twickenham art school student Maisie Parker for providing the chance to post this precious hand-made card dating from 1962.

Bubbles, then 20-year-old Colin Fulcher, sent it to Parker – then Margaret Minay (whose maiden name he misspelt) – following a photographic modeling session in his bedroom in Whitton, Middx, for a putative project for Queen magazine.

There is no evidence to suggest the exercise reached publication, though portraits of Parker appeared in a college sketchbook, along with musings on art and life.

At one point on Saturday October 27 1962, Fulcher writes: “It is now 9.30 in the evening and we have decided to go up the pub, Margaret and me.”

One of these portraits along with text was featured in Reasons To Be Cheerful; another was an exhibit in recent exhibition Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles.

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maisie-sketch2Above: Maisie Parker portraits + musings, sketchbooks, 1962. Diana Fawcett Collection.

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Bottom left: Portrait in Process exhibit vitrine, Sept-Oct 2010. Photo: Andi Sapey.

Parker, a West Country-based artist, was in the year below Fulcher. “I was aware of him from the very start of my time at Twickenham,” she says.

“He was very distinctive looking, quite loud and laughed a lot in the canteen,” she says. “But I was such a mouse I was terrified of speaking to anyone other than a few classmates. It wasn’t until my second year that he actually spoke to me, and then it was to joke about something or other.

“I was aware that he made the tickets for the end of term dances that we had on Eelpie, and remember discussing with a few other people how we were going to dress up for the Cowboys & Indians bash.

“I lino-printed raw linen with Wild West designs and made myself an Indian squaw costume, along the lines of the ticket design.”

Parker’s postcard provides another piece in the jigsaw of Barney Bubbles’ life and work: the self-portrait he drew on the wall of his bedroom in the early 60s. In Reasons To Be Cheerful brother-in-law Brian Jewiss recounts how this was subsequently covered over during redecoration. It has never been seen publicly…until now.

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After teaching art and design in London secondary schools for a number of years, Parker is currently studying for a degree in fine art. She clearly recalls the conversations recounted in Fulcher’s sketchbook texts.

“I was very politicised; my family were incredibly left-wing, and musicians,” she says “I’d also just blown nearly all my grant on a leather coat!”

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The students shared a love of jazz; in fact on the evening of October 27 1962 Fulcher records they listened to Thelonius Monk’s 1960 album At The Blackhawk.

“I kept a lot of the cards I received from him, though over the years most have disappeared,” says Parker. “One was particularly funny and ‘Colinish’: he knew I’d gone to a Thelonius  Monk concert and did a little painting of who he thought was Thelonius Monk, but in fact was Stevie Wonder…he cracked up when I told him.”

Visit Maisie Parker’s site here.

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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Aura revelations

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The record label Aura is mentioned in Reasons To Be Cheerful, though there wasn’t sufficient space to go into detail on Barney’s designs for this relatively obscure and now collectible indie.

“I remember Barney occasionally working for Aura in the late 70s and early 80s,” says his friend Brian Griffin, who provided an image for the cover of England’s Trance by Placebo (not the mid-90s Swiss/American glam trio). The design credit on the 1982 album reads “Photography Consultants”.

 

 

Meanwhile Barney’s assistant Diana Fawcett contributed two sleeve designs to REASONS as examples of his work for the central London-based company (whose single packaging featured a convex upper lip on the envelope front).

During the late 70s Barney’s music workload was focused at Stiff Records, Radar and Chiswick, though from time to time he would make room for commissions for other independents such as Aura, Charisma and Chrysalis.

 

 

Founded by producer/photographer Aaron Sixx, Aura is best known for having released the work of US avant-jazz performer Annette Peacock.

Her career had been put on hold when she was bound by a contract to David Bowie’s management Mainman (which also looked after Iggy & The Stooges, Dana Gillespie, Jobriath, Mick Ronson and, yes, even Lulu). Freed from this set-up,  Peacock signed with Aura and promptly unleashed such critically acclaimed albums as X-Dreams and The Perfect Release

Recent years have witnessed a revival of interest in Peacock. Her track Pony featured on Morcheeba’s Back To Mine compilation and just last year she collaborated with Coldcut.

 

 

Aura was home to other maverick talents such as Nico and the great Memphis rock & roller Alex Chilton – in 1978 Sixx released a clutch of 1974 recordings by Chilton’s group Big Star as The Third Album (also known as Third/Sister Lovers).

 

Front cover, Kizza Me by Big Star 1978.

Front cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

Big Star’s previous album Radio City had featured The Red Ceiling by the group’s Memphis friend, the celebrated photographer William Eggleston, who also played piano on the version of Nature Boy which appears as a bonus cut on later editions.

The band’s working title for their third album Sister Lovers was a reference to the fact that Chilton and drummer/vocalist Jody Stephens were romantically involved with Eggleston’s cousins, Lesa and Holliday Aldredge. Their respectively fractious relationships proved the wellspring for many of the darker album tracks. 

Jody said this week that he knows nothing of the genesis of the Aura cover, in which a model is swathed in the Tennessee Flag.

 

Back cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

Back cover, Kizza Me by Big Star, 1978.

On the full-colour album sleeve the stars have each been granted 10 fizzing fuses; a reference, maybe, to the indoor fireworks delineated within. The monochrome front cover photograph for the  Kizza Me single progresses the theme with the (literally) inflammatory depiction of the Tenessee flag alight and the stars – without graphic adornment – aflame.

On the back, 10 frames are arranged geometrically into another pentagram. This is not just a nod to the band’s name. The pentagram  recurs throughout Barney’s work, as do flags, banners and other heraldic devices.

In comparison with the rarity value of The Third Album (as a result of the cult following maintained by Big Star to this day), California Sun by KK Black is more of a curio.

 

Front cover, California Sun, KK Black, 1978.

Front cover, California Sun, KK Black, 1978.

By the late 70s, The  Rivieras’ 1964 surf anthem had become familiar to punk audiences, having been a staple of The Ramones’ live set (and appeared on their second album Leave Home), but Black’s version failed to capture public interest and sank without trace.

 

Back cover, Californian Sun by KK Black, 1978

Back cover, Californian Sun by KK Black, 1978.

The noteworthy aspect of Barney’s design for this release relies on the way in which Black’s “new wave pin-up” appearance is enlivened by effective use of the spiky extended single lines which not only spell out his name on the front but also wrap around the fold onto the back.

KK Black was a pseudonym of Kelvin Blacklock, a schoolfriend of  Mick Jones who had been vocalist in the guitarist’s pre-Clash bands The Delinquents, Little Queenie and London SS, and went on to join The Damned drummer Rat Scabies’ short-lived White Cats before recording this single and one other, a version of The Herd’s I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die, before disappearing from the limelight.

Let It Rock

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Today we present a hitherto unexplored adventure of Barney’s into magazine design; his contribution to 70s music title Let It Rock.

Let It Rock’s launch in 1972 coincided with “the first era of post-modernism in pop,” as the late great Ian MacDonald told me in my music press history In Their Own Write. “Music started to be conscious of itself and look back and begin to make syntheses and style references and be ironic.”

Barneys redesign is introduced Jan 1975 (c) John Pidgeon

Barney's redesign is introduced Jan 1975 (c) John Pidgeon

Of course, the collective which founded the publication – Simon FrithCharlie GillettPhil Hardy, Gary Herman, Ian Hoare and Dave Laing  – were riding the zeitgeist;  in fashion a stylistic revolution was being sparked by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s  investigations into 50s musical subcultures at their King’s Road shop of the very same name, while visual artists such as Barney were enthusiastically plundering the recent history of art and commercial design to reinvigorate the world of graphics.

In the mid 70s John Pidgeon took over as Let It Rock editor. “I got to know Barney after he designed the Sutherland Brothers first album and loved the fact that he had shot holes in it with an airgun,” says John.  “I immediately discovered we had mutual friends in Ian McLagan and (another of Barney’s Twickenham college pals) Mick Finch.”

Let It Rock, October 1975

Let It Rock, October 1975

A couple of years later John  set about revamping Let It Rock and invited Barney over to his flat in Clapham, south London to discuss a redesign. “When he arrived, he unfolded reams of penciled artwork, all of which he had drawn on the tube between Isleworth (or whichever West London stop it was) and Clapham Common,” says John. The options were sketched on headed paper from Barney’s dad’s company.

Roughs for Let It Rock redesign on F.Fulcher paper (c) John Pidgeon

Roughs for Let It Rock redesign on F.Fulcher paper (c) John Pidgeon

As these two sheets demonstrate, Barney focused on the font for the magazine logo, and also produced single page and double page spread layout samples (including one using a Bob Dylan feature for direction on photography and text placement).

Presenting a subheading “The world’s greatest rock read”, Barney notes the magazine sections Oldies, Singles, Album reviews, News and Letters, and provides the last with its own ident: a bobbysoxer writing fan-mail.

The masthead come sinto focus (c) John Pidgeon

The masthead comes into focus (c) John Pidgeon

One masthead uses kitsch “cactii” lettering – as in Barney’s Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers drumhead logo and another substitutes the “o” in “Rock” with a spinning reel of tape. 

John – whose CV includes much journalism, many masterful music documentaries and a spell nurturing the comic talents of The Mighty Boosh and Ross Noble at the BBC  – was knocked out with the selection and chose a font which Barney completed with the addition of a lightning bolt decoration.

This was introduced onto the magazine’s front cover in the January 1975 issue. “For the catchline I amended ‘greatest’ to ‘best’,” says John.  “Otherwise it was a typically brilliant Barney Bubbles slogan.”