Posts Tagged ‘Whitton’

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.”

Knockout R&B Here Tonight!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Today we present previously unpublished images and information surrounding one of Barney Bubbles’ key early works, the stunning poster Knockout R&B Here Tonight.

Winner of British Poster Design Award, double/four-sheet category 1964/5

In 1965 Colin Fulcher – as he was then – won a national design award for the poster, which stemmed from a photo session the previous year with his girlfriend, fellow student and artist Lorry Sartorio.

Design magazine August 1965.

Lorry met Barney during his final year at Twickenham College Of Technology (now Richmond Upon Thames College ). “It was a couple of terms in but I soon became part of his gang,” says Lorry. “I think Barney really liked my look; I’ve always been into the beatnik thing, loads of black clothes and loads of eye-make-up, though I don’t iron my hair anymore!”

The photo-shoot took place at Barney’s home in Whitton, Middx, on Sunday July 12 1964. In a letter to Lorry providing specific instructions and sketches for suggested poses, Barney explains that consumer magazine publisher Fleetway had given him a chance to produce a booklet of photographs “based on Mods and Rockers gear”.

Barney’s sketches for the photoshoot.(c) L.Sartorio/Reasons 2009

 The letter reveals Barney as an already assured art director a couple of weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, though he frets over the tone. “On rereading this letter it seems a bit bluff and hard day’s night. Sorry. But I would appreciate it if you would do it,” he says.

Barney supplied his own denim jacket for the shoot as well as a t-shirt to which he had applied dry transfer lettering spelling out the phrase: “Them Mule Skinners Knockout R+B Here Tonight”. A mod targeted love heart was positioned between the first two words.

Lorry Sartorio models for Barney Bubbles July 1964.(c) L.Sartorio/Reasons 2009

“Barney had put these giant Letraset  letters onto a plain white t-shirt,” says Lorry. “I remember I had to be really careful when I was putting it on and moving around in front of the camera.”

The Muleskinners were Twickenham’s college band, led by the keyboard-playing graphic design student Ian McLagan, who writes fondly of Barney in his excellent memoir All The Rage.

The college’s social secretary, Mac had booked the Rolling Stones as their career was shifting into overdrive for the “Twickenham Design College Dance”, held on July 12 1963 at the dilapidated Eel Pie Island Hotel.

Mac had been turned onto the Stones by another Twickenham student, Mick Finch. When Mac witnessed his first Stones gig – at the Richmond Crawdaddy – he later wrote that “it was a turning point” which set him on a path away from graphic design and into music.

The “Twickers”  group were a typically tight-knit  group of music fans; in another letter to Lorry, Barney warns her not to be late for an assignation since they are meeting Mac in the King’s Head in Twickenham, venue of many other early Stones performances.

In fact, Barney designed the poster for the Stones’ appearance at the July 12 college ball,  and went on to produce fliers and other artwork for the Muleskinners, using Cyrillic script for a “Cossack” themed event they played at “Eel Piland” in December 1964.

Russian invite to Christmas dance (c) L.Sartorio/Reasons 2009

At the end of his final year, Mac also booked the “graphic design Twickenham dance”, held on July 9 1965 at Eel Pie’s so-called Steam Laundry.

This featured Rod Stewart and Brian Auger’s Trinity just before the lanky vocalist formally threw in his lot with Auger, Julie Driscoll and Long John Baldry  in the short-lived Steampacket. Mac and Rod were to be reunited within a few years as members of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Faces.

Flyer for Rod Stewart/Brian Auger end-of-term ball(c) L.Sartorio/Reasons 2009

Lorry does not recall whether the mods and rockers booklet for Fleetway materialised. We do know that Barney took a frame from the photo-session to develop the poster which won him the award.

“It was red and blue, printed on glossy paper,” recalls Lorry of the poster. Barney’s dynamic treatment of the base image effectively solarised the lettering, while the words “Them”, “Knockout”, and “R&B”, as well as the love-heart roundel appeared in half-tone.

Announcing the award in the August 1965 issue of Design magazine, the judges described Knockout R&B Here Tonight as “a good hard-hitting poster. The design is exactly suited to it’s subject matter; lively, up-to-date, youthful and vigorous; excellent use of colour”.

The original shot used for A Bunch Of Stiffs, Stiff Records 1977.

Such was Barney’s affection for the image that it was a component of one of his first new wave designs, the compilation A Bunch Of Stiff Records (released April 1 1977).

The album’s inner sleeve features contributor shots and bios. For contractual reasons Dave Edmunds’  version of the The Chantels’ 50s hit Maybe – which had also been covered by Janis Joplin – was credited to “Jill Read” (with the vocal track sped up to further disguise his identity). To complete the mystery surrounding this “little known Welsh songbird” Barney playfully placed an X to mask Lorry’s face.