Posts Tagged ‘Stiff Records’

Barney Bubbles lines up with the greats with a clutch of works in MoMA’s 2014 diary

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

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Barney Bubbles is included among the greats of 20th Century art, design and photography in the handsome 2014 appointments calendar issued by New York’s Museum Of Modern Art.

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//Poster for The Damned’s album Damned Damned Damned, Stiff Records, 1977. (C) Barney Bubbles Estate//

 

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//Litho print of variant of front cover design for Do It Yourself by Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff Records, 1979. (C) Barney Bubbles Estate//

 

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//Elvis Costello poster for Lives Stiffs tour, 1977. (C) Barney Bubbles Estate.//

The ring-bound calendar includes illustrations of work by such artists as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Ferdinand Léger as well as designs by Shin Matsunaga, Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser and Ralf Winkler.

MoMA has selected three Bubbles works from its collection: posters for the 1977 Live Stiffs tour and The Damned’s debut album and a litho print of one of the variants of his design for Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ 1979 Do It Yourself LP.

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//Back cover of MoMA’s 2014 calendar, designed by Adam&Co//

There are 10 Bubbles designs in MoMA’s permanent collection, donated by the prominent New York art collector Lawrence Benenson. View them here.

Barney Bubbles, July 30 1942 – November 14 1983: A celebration in rare and previously unpublished images and artworks

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
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//Barney Bubbles with poster/programme for Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ Armed Forces tour, west London, 1979. Photo courtesy Chalkie Davies//

In celebration of the creative legacy of Barney Bubbles – who died on this day 30 years ago – here is a selection of rare and previously unpublished images and artworks.

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//Drawing of Odeon cinema facade, Richmond, south-west London from early 60s student sketchbook. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Credit to “the magnificent Barney Bubbles”, Oz 38, 1972//

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//Ident for Kevin Coyne’s 1973 LP Marjory Razorblade. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Photobooth shot from Stiff Records day out, 1977//

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//Bubbles (left) with Suzanne Spiro, Jake Riviera, Cynthia Lole, Paul Conroy and Dez Brown at Stiff Records offices, from Melody Maker, August 6, 1977. Photo: Barry Plummer//

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//Single sleeve proofs for Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ giveaway 45 Talking In The Dark/Wednesday Week, December 1978//

 

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//FBeat Records letterhead, 1980//

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//Profile, pen and ink on art board, 1983. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Profile, pen and ink on art board, 1983. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

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//Pen and ink on art board. The sparkplug, along with the lightbulb, was one of the recurring motifs of Bubbles’ later work. © Barney Bubbles Estate//

Read here for recent examples of Bubbles’ pervasive influence.

 

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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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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Moorcock on Ballard, Bubbles, Platt, Paolozzi et al

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Pedro Marques has posted the second installment of his interview with Michael Moorcock, in which the great man discusses his working relationship with designers not only of his books but also New Worlds, the sci-fi magazine he edited over a long period .

New Worlds, August 1967. Cover: Eduardo Paolozzi.

The interview reveals the mutual respect shared by Barney Bubbles and art director/editor/and later WIRED contributor Charles Platt.

New Worlds August 1969. Cover: Charles Platt.

“Barney and Charles lived a few blocks from one another in the Portobello Road and its environs, where the offices of New Worlds and Frendz were situated virtually side by side,” says Moorcock, whose 1975 album The New Worlds Fair is housed in a Barney Bubbles sleeve.

12in sleeve. The New Worlds Fair, Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix, UA, 1975.

Later on in the decade the New Worlds art director was Richard Glyn Jones.”By the time [Barney] was at Stiff Records, he had more work than he could handle and I never wanted to overload him, he was such a sweet guy,” says Moorcock.  “But I would have used him if I could.”

Stacia, second left, with fans at Harlow Town Park, August 1974. Photo via Bassmonster 2 at Hawkwind Free Forums.

I was thrilled that Moorcock was available to make many valuable contributions to Reasons To Be Cheerful, not least because I clearly remember him intoning excerpts from Warrior On the Edge Of Time oonstage with Hawkwind at a 1974 free festival in Harlow New Town, surrounded as I was by members of the Windsor Chapter, all of us captivated by the onstage antics of Stacia and Nik Turner (playing his sax dressed as a frog, naturellement)

Since we’re on the subject of MM, I’d also like to urge you to check out the recently published and wonderful John Coulthart-designed compendium of Moorcock’s writings, Into The Media Web.

Humphrey Ocean does his ‘Daisy Disco’ dance

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

In 1978 painter Humphrey Ocean dipped his toe back into the music business with the one-off charmer Whoops A Daisy for Stiff Records, a suitably quirky ditty written by his Kilburn & the High Roads bandmate Ian Dury.

The man born Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon had opted out of playing bass for the Kilburns a few years earlier to concentrate on his art, occasionally contributing to record covers for the likes of Wings and 10cc.

7in sleeve. Front cover, Whoops A Daisy/Davey Crockett, Stiff, 1978.

The winsome Whoops A Daisy was backed by a cracking version of the 50s film theme The Ballad of Davy Crockett and wrapped in a wonderful Barney Bubbles sleeve using Chris Gabrin’s photographs of Ocean performing the elaborate dance moves he had recently enacted on the Stiffs Live Stiffs tour.

7in sleeve. Back cover, Whoops A Daisy/Davey Crockett, Stiff, 1978.

These were exaggerated by the huge white suit Ocean had bought in Brixton Market during his time in the Kilburns.

Sleeve lettering, front cover.

Barney decorated the sleeve with detailed lettering (the H on the back from interlinked horseshoes to match the rhyming-slang name of Ocean’s backing musicians, Iron Hoof) and on release there was also a version of the black and white sleeve featuring blue spot-colour.

Sleeve lettering, back cover.

The accompanying poster was a delight. With Ocean’s name picked out in dance-step style, 35 frames from the Chris Gabrin shoot were presented  in sequence with the instruction: “Cut poster out and make Humphrey Ocean’s Daisy Disco Do It My Way flickbook.”

Poster 30in x 20in, Stiff, 1978.

We’ve put them together here to accompany the tune:

And here Ocean is called to the stage to join the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll finale of the Stiff tour and shows us how it’s done:

Found! Big Jobs Inc artwork for The Damned’s “printing error” sleeve

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Never previously published, this is something of an exclusive: Barney Bubbles’ original artwork for the back cover of the first 2,000 sleeves of The Damned’s debut album Damned Damned Damned.

Damned Damned Damned special edition artwork. (c) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

On the album’s release in February 1977 the story was put about that distributor Island Records had mistakenly positioned an Erica Echenberg photograph of new wave r&b band Eddie & The Hot Rods in place of a live shot of The Damned at London punk venue the Roxy .

Left: 12in card. "Printing error" back cover. Right: Erratum sticker.

Barney and Stiff boss Jake Riviera went so far as to add an erratum sticker, explaining: “Due to Record Company error, a picture of Island recording artists Eddie & The Hot Rods has been printed instead of The Damned. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and the correct picture will be substituted on future copies.”

12in card. Damned Damned Damned back cover, standard release, Stiff Records, 1977.

In fact the “error” was intentional; Jake had worked out that Stiff needed to sell 2,000 copies to recoup the cost of recording and producing the first UK punk album release.

12in card. Damned Damned Damned front cover. Photo: Peter Kodick.

With Barney recently installed as Stiff’s art director, Jake was able to create an instant collectible, all the while keeping the Island executives involved in the newly-inked distribution deal on their toes.

12 in. Limited edition shrink-wrapped sleeve with "food-fight" sticker.

And the trick worked. Media coverage of the “error” helped rustle up interest and propel the Nick Lowe-produced album into the UK Top 40, establishing The Damned as an act to rival The Clash and the Sex Pistols commercially.

A very limited number of albums were also shrink-wrapped and featured a red “food-fight” sticker completing the title Damned Damned Damned. These now fetch up to £500 apiece.

“By the time Barney had finished, you could imagine our covers competing with whatever else is out there,” says Rat Scabies. “He understood that, much as Stiff was a lot of fun, the releases had to have commercial appeal.  At the same time he made it edgy and kind of sinister.”

Left: 12in card, front cover, "Bongos Over Balham", Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Mooncrest, 1974. Right: Sleeve detail.

At once a savvy marketing maneouvre and a keen artistic intervention, the printing error stunt is a prime example of Barney’s wily approach, particularly when working with Jake: see also the Bohemian Revivalist Series Vol 2 “sticker” on the sleeve of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers’ 1974 album Bongos Over Balham and the deliberately off-register sleeve of Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ 1978 release This Year’s Model.

Left: 12in card. Front cover, This Year's Model, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Radar, 1978. Right: Sleeve detail with sticker and exposed colour code.

Similarly the bogus Stiff “voucher” which appeared on the back of the August 1977 release of Ian Dury‘s single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll; the voucher had just been introduced on the Barney-designed sleeve of the preceding single, Wreckless Eric’s (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World.

Left: 7in card, back cover, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Ian Dury, Stiff records, 1977. Right: Sleeve detail - cut-out "voucher".

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll bore the catalogue number BUY 17, which Barney had allocated to the Damned Damned Damned artwork as a positional several months earlier. At that time Riviera and his Stiff partner Dave Robinson had not quite settled on a separate numbering for album releases (which were allocated the prefix SEEZ; The Damned’s debut was SEEZ1).

Pen and ink on paper. Details, Damned Damned Damned artwork, 1977.

Barney also decorated his artwork with a sketch of a “100% Guaranteed Refund” sticker and typically twisted marketing slogans: “To clean use a barely damp Brillo pad” advises a vertical instruction, and the sentence along the bottom reads: “Long range full frequency stereo ersatz recording. Play at 33 1/3 rpm.”

In the event, the final back cover of the album carried the nonsensical note: “Made to be played loud at low volume.”

Design credit, Damned Damned Damned, 1977.

And in final flourish, Barney adopted one of his finer pseudonymous credits: Big Jobs Inc.

When music advertising’s aim was true

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

One of the key factors which accelerated Stiff Records past all-comers in 1977 – whether established majors or the new wave of indies launching in its wake –  was the quality, wit and invention of its music press advertising.

Cut-out-and-keep Elvis Costello poster constructed from Stiff adverts in Melody Maker, NME and Sounds, July 1977.

As explained in Reasons To Be Cheerful, this was a result of the winning combination of Barney Bubbles’ graphic genius and commercial experience (principally with Conran) and Stiff founders Dave Robinson and, in particular, Jake Riviera‘s pithy and provocative promotional nous.

Stiff Records DPS adverts, New Musical Express (top), Sounds (bottom left) and Melody Maker, all published July 23, 1977.

Jake’s progress in London’s hidebound advertising scene on leaving school in the 60s had been stymied by lack of qualifications. Come the 70s his substantial creative capabilities locked in with Barney’s arsenal of references and willingness to play games to provide series after series of individual ads for each of Britain’s music publications: the five weeklies Disc & Music Echo, Melody Maker, NME, Record Mirror and Sounds and the monthlies Let it Rock and ZigZag.

Stiff Records ad detail. Assembly instructions, July 23, 1977.

A fabulous example is the batch of three cut-out-and-keep double-page spreads announcing the release of Elvis Costello’s debut album My Aim Is True in the summer of 1977. Pieced together and clipped, these created a poster of Keith Morris‘s image from the front of the album.

12in sleeve. Back and front cover, My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello, Stiff, 1977.

“Our credo was that people are more intelligent than politicians or big business gives them credit for,” says Jake. “We wanted to really engage with fans and, since there were so many music papers, why not come up with a collectable series? Better than the same old ad for the latest Genesis album; hold me back, you know?”

Jake Riviera with point-of-sale Elvis Costello cut-out figure, outside Stiff offices, 32 Alexander Street, London W2, 1977. Photo: LIFE.

This and the image on the back had been carefully selected after a photo-session in which Barney and Jake were both involved to ensure that Costello’s transformation from country-rocker DP McManus (at the time holding down a day-job as a computer operator in North Acton with cosmetics manufacturer Elizabeth Arden) was complete.

Meanwhile retailers were provided with in-store cut-outs of the back cover shot; I coveted without success the one which occupied pride of place in my local record shop, Manzi’s in Finchley Road, north London.

Full-page adverts for Bongos Over Balham, Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers, Mooncrest, 1974. Left: artwork for Let It Rock. Right, artwork for ZigZag.

Barney and Jake had been finessing this approach for a couple of years; Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers benefited from a wide range of stickers, cut-outs and other promotional ephemera, and, when second album Bongos Over Balham was released in 1974, it was “presented” in the music press ads by a variety of items, including a pig’s trotter and a vibrator.

Contact sheet, My Aim Is True photo-session 1977, Keith Morris. (C) Keith Morris Estate.

And the objective of introducing the then-totally unknown Costello as “Buddy Holly on acid” with a sackful of songs driven by guilt and revenge was achieved in the time-honoured fashion of maintaining tight rein over available imagery while word-of-mouth was built. 

My Aim Is True colour variations, 1977/78.

Morris’s two cover shots were used repeatedly in posters as well as ads, and Barney adopted a Warholian approach by chopping and changing the eye-popping overlaid colours of the album sleeve over the course of several print-runs.

Elvis Costello posters promoting live appearances (left) and his debut album, 1977.

With the initial pressing containing the “Help Us Hype Elvis” leaflet offering free copies for those who could turn their friends on to the album, it’s likely that there were at least 30 different coloured sleeves.

Full page adverts: (left) NME August 6, 1977, Melody Maker, August 13, 1977.

Of course it’s impossible to calculate what would have happened had Elvis Presley not died on August 16 1977 just as the My Aim Is True campaign got underway; the album’s prospects certainly weren’t hurt by the public attention directed to such elements as the near-sacriligeous phrase “Elvis Is King” Letraset-ed into the cover’s two-tone boxes by Barney.

By the autumn Costello was proving he was not only one of the greatest songwriters of his generation but also a fearsome live prospect, having hooked up with The Attractions and started to perform some of the stunning tracks to appear on follow-up This Year’s Model.

Once again, this was heralded by a campaign based on more spectacular advertising, including a music press series  of three ads (NB: we’re advised there were at least six – see note below) featuring various headings including “Drugs”, “Fads” and “Commodities”.

Barney chose not to lay the titles across the gutter (the central margin separating type and images) to increase legibility for the reader holding the paper open. Laid out flat this would be nearly 2ft wide and was often a source of discomfort for those trying to read the “inkies” on cramped public transport.

DPS advert for This Year's Model, NME, March 25, 1978.

These ads are packed with puns and inside jokes: Patti Smith is miscaptioned as Patty Hearst, Chilli Willi as “saccharine”, Troggs’ singer Reg Presley as Elvis Presley, The Attractions as much-maligned budget label K-Tel and the recently arrested Roman Polanski as Charles Manson (the man, of course, responsible for the death of his wife Sharon Tate).

DPS advert for This Year's Model, NME, March 18, 1978.

And Costello was not spared: a photograph of Buddy Holly was placed next to his name. And a banjo lying on the ground lays the ghost of DP MacManus to rest with the caption: “Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass”.

Feelgoods flick feeling good…

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

It’s taken a week or so to absorb two very different cinematic investigations into a brace of Barney Bubbles-related bands (both coincidentally from Essex).

Shown during the London Film Festival, Julien Temple’s Oil City Confidential traces the “Estuarine” roots of the wondrous Dr Feelgood, while the Frieze Art Fair delivered Jeremy Deller and Nicholas Abrahams’ The Posters Came From The Walls, an extraordinary celebration of the personal and political liberation experienced by Depeche Mode fans around the world.

More on that below.

 

Barney’s relationship with Dr Feelgood started around the time of the 1975 release of their mould-breaking mono-only mission statement Down By The Jetty.

The monochrome photographs for Jetty and follow-up Malpractice were respectively taken by James Palmer and Barney’s late friend Keith Morris.

12in sleeves, Dr Feelgood. Left: Down By The Jetty, UA, 1975. Right: Malpractice, UA, 1976.

The design credits on these releases are “A.D. (Design Consultants) Ltd” and “Petagmo III”. The latter has been confirmed as the artist Joe Petagno, who produced a promotional comic based on the band’s adventures (and also created the Motorhead logo). 

As detailed in REASONS, Barney designed the promotional material for 1975′s Naughty Rhythms tour, which featured Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers and Kokomo and provided the Feelgoods with their national breakthrough.

Previously unpublished: artwork for Naughty Rhythms tour advert, 1975 (C) Reasons 2009/Riviera Global.

In the mid 70s the Feelgoods’ sleeves were designed by UA regulars such as Paul Henry and John Pasche. All the group’s releases of this period featured the grinning quack logo created by Feelgoods’ one-man guitar army Wilko Johnson. 

Interview still from Oil City Confidential, 2009.

It was the late lamented Feelgoods’ frontman Lee Brilleaux‘s gift of a £400 cheque to road manager Jake Riviera which kick-started Stiff Records, where Barney re-entered the music business and sealed his design reputation.

Temple’s tricksy movie, while over-garnished with juxtaposed footage from British heist films in the manner of the distracting Richard II inserts in his The Filth & The Fury, is nevertheless an invigorating and touching testament to the importance of Dr Feelgood; these were men, not boys, and their ‘tude powered punk and beyond.

Witnessing one of their gigs on an aggression-filled night in 1976 prepared me for the onstage rush of such Feelgood acolytes as The Clash and The Jam the following year.

12in sleeve. A Case Of The Shakes, Dr Feelgood, UA, 1980.

By the time Barney designed the sleeves for 1980′s A Case Of The Shakes and 1982′s Fast Women & Slow Horses, the group had lost Wilko to Ian Dury & the Blockheads but still retained a tough musicality. The diamond Brilleaux maintained his position as one of the most magnetic frontmen in rock & roll until his tragically early death from lymphoma in 1994.

12in sleeves. Left: Splash, Clive Langer & The Boxes, FBeat, 1980. Right: Pass Out, Inner City Unit, Riddle, 1980.

For the former album, produced by Nick Lowe, Barney used photographs by Bob “Bromide” Hall to create a Saul Bass-like DTs scenario. There are similarities with two other sleeves produced around this time, for Clive Langer & The Boxes and Inner City Unit.

12in sleeve. Fast Women & Slow Horses, Dr Feelgood, Chiswick, 1982.

On the front cover of Fast Women, Barney drew on his considerable illustrative skills for a visual pun which benefits from the cheeky insertion of his own profile (with its prominent proboscis) in the ampersand.

 

7in sleeves, Dr Feelgood. Left: No Mo Do Yakamo, UA, 1980. Right: Trying To Live My Life Without You, Chiswick, 1982.

During this period, Barney worked for another quartet who also hailed from Essex but are now the subjects of an almost-religious fervour around the world…