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Friday, November 21, 2008


This post was written the day after the London launch of Paul Gorman's first  book on Barney Bubbles 'Reasons To be Cheerful'. Born and named Colin Fulcher on 30th July 1942,  he took is own life on the14th on November 1983. For more than a decade his work was neglected. He is now revered as a marvellously imaginative graphic designer and artist in his own right who pioneered and opened up new worlds of vinyl art which inspired others.

'The Generalist was in London last night, attending the book launch of 'Reasons to be Cheerful: The life and Works of Barney Bubbles' by Paul Gorman, held at Paul Smith's shop on Park Road, just off Borough Market. For those of us who knew him, the book will bring back memories of the impish delight Barney took in his friends and colleagues, his electric enthusiasm for his work, his constant innovations and unending search for the new and above all his inspiring and fun-filled presence. For those coming fresh to his work, particularly young artists, illustrators and graphic designers, they will find a huge source of inspiration and marvel at the effort and industry involved in achieving many of his finest artworks in that pre-digital, hands-on age of yore.

This book was designed by Paul's partner Caz Facey and was published by Adelita, a limited company with Paul and Jenny Ross as directors. The company folded in 2019. When I looked only two copies are currently available on Amazon priced at £470.19.


Posted Monday, February 02, 2009

This second post sketches in the stages of rediscovery of his work by others in Ladbroke Grove before Paul Gorman. Much of Barney's work was unsigned or credited using pseudonyms, so much of his huge creative achievement was obscured.

Fourteen years later, there is now a revised and updated version retitled: THE WILD WORLD OF BARNEY BUBBLES published by Thames & Hudson in a large format paperback version. I was keen to see what's new.

The opening essays feature: Paul's rewritten Author's note, Peter Saville's 4pp 'Towards the canonisation of Barney Bubbles' as before, 'What would Barney Bubbles do? by Clarita Hinojosa who runs a Design Freaks podcast in Seattle [replacing Malcolm Garret's 'I see a vision of a modern world'],  Billy Bragg's 'Making misfits magnificent' as before and finally Paul's chat with US designer Art Chantry.

Section A1  Good Guy 1942-1968 covers Barney's time in art school, his early years in commercial design and his musical activities with his band The Mule Skinners'. I'm sorry that the beautiful full-page portrait on p17 of the original has been replaced by Barney standing on a roof bare-chested with a cap. A good change is the two tickets from Eel Pie Island. Also two colour portraits for a 'Rockers & Mod' art project which seem to be very much inspired by Keith Richards and Brian Jones, and graphics for a Summer OZ supplement. The final page has a powerful pen and ink self-portrait

In Search of Space 1969-1972 This section is where Barney settles himself in various spaces in Portobello Road, starts doing album covers and other material for bands like Brinsley Schwarz, Chilli Willi, Quintessence and most especially for Hawkwind. He also worked on many issues of Friends and Frendz magazine which is when I met him as I was working on the paper. We were the younger ones on the crew but Barney was always a kind presence towards us. A magic figure. He also worked on the Glastonbury Festival triple album. Few changes from the original.

So It Goes 1973-1976 Again Hawkwind dominated this time period with also Barney working for Chilli Willi, Kokomo, Dr Feelgood, Edgar Broughton band. The opening picture has been replaced from a black and white photo of Barney in Phil Franks's kitchen flashing the peace sign. to a lovely colour family photo Giana Cioffi and their son Aten in Devon 1973. I am pleased to get a name check this time round as being one of the dancers on part of Hawkwind's Silver Machine tour.

Phil Franks was kind enough to send me this great pic of Barney as above, together with a quote.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long
plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die
like dogs. There's also a negative side." 

- Hunter S. Thompson 

My Aim Is True 1977- 1978 This was flat out time for Barney who was at the centre of the Stiff Records operation. He did the The Damned's first record and most of the work from Elvis Costello, Ian Drury, Nick Lowe and many more. This book's cover was taken from the cover of Nick Lowe's album 'I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass'. It's good to see the new look logo for the NME in 1978 and his design for 'The NME Book of  Modern Music' which I remember when I was working there as Dick Tracy.

Labour of Lust 1979- 1981 This chapter is a further cornucopia of the above named bands for which Barney created iconic graphics and other post-punk activities.

Punch The Clock 1982-1983 Barney further expands his repertoire including paintings and work for Billy Bragg.

An additional section The M!ss!ing Links is a fresh collection of 15 pages of unseen material to add further to Barney's oeuvre.

The book's Postcript has a interesting summary of the further work Paul and others have done to further expand Barney's reputation. Congrats all round.

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