Thursday, 18 November 2010

Barney Bubbles // Paul Gorman

Barney Bubbles is the the enigma behind many a classic album cover, and a man who I was intrigued to learn more about in our recent lecture by Paul Gorman, a Journalist and Author of the book "Reasons to Be Cheerful: The Life and Times of Barney Bubbles".

I know of the work of Barney Bubbles (or Colin Fulcher as his mother once knew him) having been advised to look into him last year for a project. However, I evidently didn't know all there is to know. Paul took us through not only his work but also the story of his life. The story of a depressive, very private, troubled man whose legacy has almost been lost through his own penchant for pseudonyms and his wish to not become a known name. However it has somewhat become Paul's mission to resurrect his work and bring Barney Bubbles to a whole new audience.

Barney began his 'career' whilst at Twickenham College of Art where he designed posters for numerous bands including an early Rolling Stones. The name Barney Bubbles comes from his practice of creating ink projection shows as a backdrop for live bands. He termed these 'Barney Bubbles Light Show' (having already been going by the name Barney for some time) and it just seemed to stick. He left college and proceeded to work for Michael Tucker + Associates, London and later The Conran Group working for such brands as Pirelli, Strongbow and Habitat. When he left Conran he went into business with two colleagues and began his association with designing music sleeves.

It was in the early 70's when his rich association with Hawkwind began. Designing sleeves for various albums and creating backdrops and props for their live shows. He designed for them them right upto 1977 when he joined Stiff Records.

It was then and right up 1981/2 where, I believe, he created his best work. He created sleeves, most famously, for Elvis Costello, The Damned and Ian Dury. He was working freelance aswell and created numerous works under various pseudonyms, many of which Paul Gorman believes will never be accredited to him. His work through this period is some of my favourite of his. What is termed as his 'signature style' was evident at this time in work such as the 'Armed Forces' cover below and the 'This Years Model' sleeve at the top. I love his use of deliberate mistakes such as the off-register on 'This Years Model' revealing the printers marks (a technique 'borrowed' by Peter Saville for New Order's 'Blue Monday').

Paul talked about Barneys life with the gusto of a man obviously deeply involved in his subject. His quest to get Barneys name where it should be is helped by the fact that he is already a bit of a 'designers designer' with luminaries such as Peter Saville and Malcolm Garrett already signed up to the Barney Bubbles fan list. This was a totally inspiring lecture for me as some of the work on show I really appreciate and in particular "This Years Model' which I am totally struck on. What a fantastic piece of playful, direct, simple design/photography. Wondrous.

I myself am signed up on the ever growing list of inspired fans.

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