Posts Tagged ‘The Attractions’

Amazing Hawklord drumhead comes to light after four decades

Thursday, January 8th, 2015
Hawkwind drumhead designed by Barney Bubbles 1972

//Drumhead painted by Barney Bubbles for Hawkwind drummer Simon King’s kit, 1972//

A rare design by Barney Bubbles has come to light after four decades; the psychedelic sci-fi drumhead was painted for Hawkwind when the space rocking Sonic Assassins undertook tours around the world following the success of their Silver Machine single in 1972.

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//Hawkwind – including, from left, Nik Turner, Stacia Blake, Simon King and Lemmy – performing with the drumheads in situ at the Windsor Free Festival, August, 1973. Photographer: Unknown//

Doremi Fasol Latido by Hawkwind - inner sleeve

//12″ paper inner for Barney Bubbles’ packaging for Doremi Fasol Latido, Hawkwind, UA, 1972//

Doremi-inner-detail

//Detail of grimacing Hawklord from the Doremi inner//

The design of a snarling apparition – a so-called ‘Hawklord’ as depicted on the group’s album Doremi Sofal Latido – was one of a pair which adorned the front of the twin bass-drums in Simon King’s kit during this period.

Bubbles – charged with “Optics” and effectively the group’s art director – applied an integrated approach to the collective far beyond the remit of just creating album sleeves, posters and other promotional material.

GlenColsonDrumhead82

//Flam Flam: Barney Bubbles drumhead for Glen Colson, 1983//

As mentioned in my Barney Bubbles monograph Reasons To Be Cheerful, the visual impact of painted drumheads appealed to Bubbles; as well as these for Hawkwind, he designed others for Pete Thomas (of Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers/The Attractions), Will Birch (Kursaal Flyers/The Records) and his publicist friend Glen Colson.

The current owner of the amazing Hawkwind drum-head has treasured it for a number of years.

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A fuller version of this story appears on my blog here.

The owner also has the original drumkit, for which offers are being welcomed. These should be directed via the contact mail on my blog (in the About Me section).

The Attract!ons’ ‘solo’ album: Mad About The Rwong Boy

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

12in sleeve. Front cover, Mad About The Wrong Boy, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the least remarked of Barney Bubbles designs: that for the “solo” album by Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions: Mad About The Wrong Boy

7in sleeve. Front cover, Outline Of A Hairdo EP, Steve Nieve, F-Beat, 1980.

The deliberately zany typography of the album sleeve – with it’s kitsch Brian Griffin photography and graphic tics – mirrored some aspects of the design for that year’s  big EC album Get Happy!!.

Back covers, The Attractions, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Mad About The Wrong Boy. Right: 7in sleeve, Outline Of A Hairdo EP.

In fact, for the accompanying free EP Outline Of A Hairdo – music for an imaginary film by Steve Nieve, well ahead of similar constructs by Barry Adamson and U2 & Eno – Barney appropriated a Bob “Bromide” Hall shot of Nieve from the back covers of both Get Happy!! and it’s hit lead single I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.

Back covers, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980. Left: 12in sleeve, Get Happy!!. Right: 7in sleeve, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down/Girl's Talk.

Artwork, Outline Of A Hairdo. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

In the manner of his approach to fellow F-Beat act Clive Langer & The Boxes, The Attractions were treated to a personalised label.

Left: Label. Right: 12in inner. Mad About The Wrong Boy.

On the inner Barney used a familiar trick of highlighting certain letters in the condensed font slogan “FBEAT WHERE THE ATTRACT!ONS IS” to spell out the record company’s west London location: FBeat Acton.

Double page spread advert, NME, August 30, 1980. Design: Tony Sales.

Barney repeated this on the design for the sleeve of single Single Girl. In his absence, his colleague Antoinette Sales created impressive press advertising from existing artwork. 

Back and front cover, 7" sleeve. Single Girl/Slow Patience, The Attractions, F-Beat, 1980.

The front was an illustration by Barney of the little china dogs from his parent’s mantelshelf.

Artwork, Single Girl/Slow Patience sleeve. (C) Jake Riviera Collection/Reasons 2010.

The addition of the gorgeous silhouette front cover sticker flagging up the inclusion of Nieve’s EP and a neat badge wrapped up the package, though even the musicians themselvesare likely to agree that this is one of those examples where the quality of Barney’s design exceeded that of the music it contained.

Badge and sleeve sticker, The Attractions, 1980.

 

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”.

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.