December 5th, 2008
Today I recieved the most exciting Amazon package I’ve had for years. Finally, there’s a book about the life and work of one of my heroes, the brilliant British designer Barney Bubbles.
I won’t give a biography as there’s lots of information out there on the interweb. The short version is that Bubbles (aka Colin Fulcher) was an eccentric and tragic character who was talent-spotted by Terence Conran in 1965, cut his teeth on Oz magazine, and went on to become one of the most visible and influential designers the music business has ever seen. He blossomed in the hippy/progressive era and did his finest work in the days of punk and new wave, before taking his own life in 1983.
In my teens, my musical tastes followed the arc of his career. Hawkwind’s Space Ritual Alive (top) was, along with Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, the first grown-up album I encountered, and the covers of both made a big impression. Then in my later years at school and university, the albums he designed for Ian Dury and Elvis Costello were part of the soundtrack of my life. I loved his work before I even knew what graphic design was, and I’ve never forgotten the excitement I got from it .
It’s hard to think about some of this music, particularly the stuff on Stiff records in the late 70s and early 80s, without also seeing Barney Bubbles’ images. He gave the sounds and the artists a visual identity which captured their attitude and their essential Britishness brilliantly.
The book has text from Peter Saville and Malcom Garrett and lots of background information, but the joy is over 200 pages of Bubbles’ work including all the classics I remembered and many I didn’t. Apart from the unreadable News Gothic text, its a sheer delight. If you like music, are interested in British pop culture of the last 40 years, or just love great design, you must buy this book!