Barney Bubbles
1942 - 1983
     Barney Bubbles - who sadly, took his own life last week - was every bit as influential as those creative performers for whom he designed sleeves.

But to tag Bubbles as just a designer of record sleeves and adjacent paraphernalia is to vastly understate his role.

His ability to assimilate everday imagery and then vividly reinterpret it with stunning wit , technical prowess and impeccable colour sense revolutionised popular packing concepts these last few years.

In terms of both draughtmanship and typography, not since American artist David Stone Martin dresssed LP sleeves for Clef and Verve, in the '50s, has any one individual exerted such a positive and much emulated influence in this arena as Barney Bubbles.


However, it was for his mock-cubist
BLOCKHEAD trademark that Bubbles
was internationally acclaimed,
prompting Japanese devotees to
rummage through his garbage for
discarded designs
                                    Born Colin Fulcher, this west Londoner was self-effacing to a fault, refusing to sign his work, not out of arrogance but because he genuinly considered that identifying himself was really no big deal. Despite his aversion to self-promotion, Barney Bubbles style was so personal as to be a recognisable signature in itself.

Said Jake Riviera, who forever championed Bubbles' endeavours: "Only a unique man with Barney's immense dignity and talent had both the courage and modesty to do just that."

It was Barney who - with Riviera often supplying the slogans - instantly established the carefree visual identities of such adventurous labels as STIFF, RADAR and F-BEAT with such clarity.
He was also responsible for NME's current mast head logo.

     Prior to the '77 cultural uprising, Bubbles had already established his creative credentials with swingin' 60s design group CONRAN, operating liquid light shows in the psychedelic temples of both London and San Francisco and formulating Hawkwind's original Gothic imagery.

Cover for Hawkwind's ROADHAWKS album     > >

Yet it was the post-punk era which saw Bubbles totally revitalized, to the extent where he unconsciously dictated design trends.

And though his concepts have been plagiarized more often than any other commercially popular designer, nobody ever came close to recapturing his sparkling sense of humour.

     Barney Bubbles - pic by courtesy of Phil Franks    Whenever he felt himself in danger of retracing his own steps, Bubbles would detach himself from his work and go to ground - once to Ireland, another time to a monastery. One self-enforced sabbatical had him restocking shelves in a supermarket.

His talent wasn't restricted to paper, brush and pencil. As a director he was responsible for The Specials' "Ghost Town" video and Costello's "Clubland" which was featured on NME's Expresso Video.

Barney Bubbles (photo + copyright by Phil Franks) may have frequently undervalued the validity of his own work and the clarity of the innovations he pioneered, but those who knew the man either as a friend or through his work never failed to be stimulated and entertained by his enthusiasm and energy.
Nobody ever drew a better joke.

Roy Carr - New Musical Express, 26th Nov. 1983

Just recently there has been a lot of new interest in / attention to
Barney Bubbles' impressive body of work. There's a first / new book out on Barney
by author Paul Gorman, called "Reasons to be cheerful - the life and works of Barney Bubbles" -
Here's a website that tells you much more about it and that also contains a substantial blog an all new things
re. BB and also some wonderful pieces from collector's archives. Have a look, it's great.

back to:

Calvert & Hawkwind / part III

more on Barney Bubble's work on Hawkwind's Astounding Sounds; Amazing Music cover
- a
letter that B. B. wrote to his co-designer Tony Hyde
more voices on
Barney Bubbles - incl. some wonderful shots
of Barney himself by his friend and collaborator Phil Franks

> Robert Calvert - the spirit of the p/age <