Today, I decided to show off some artwork that I didn’t know was by the same person. That person was a fantastic artist who went by the name (most of the time) of Barney Bubbles. We’ll keep our eyes out for his artwork from now on. In record hunting, sometimes the music is not the only reason to love the vinyl. Sometimes, it’s a visual pursuit, too.
This album, Armed Forces by Elvis Costello and The Attractions,is my earliest memory of Barney’s work. Thankfully, my relatives brought this great album home in early 1979. Little did I know, more artwork from this fellow would later turn up in my record collection as I looked for all the top British New Punk and some New Wave bands of the early ’80s.
He was the artist behind much of the album art for Stiff Records. For a time, he lived in the Stiff Records offices, designing all types of promotional material for the company, album sleeves, record logos and promotional posters.
There’s a lot of discovering left on my part. Unfortunately,though he was prolific, he tended not to identify all of his works with signatures. He was also a victim of mental illness which brought his life to an early end. Some say other artists had begun to steal his style, while others mentioned money problems and recent album cover rejections were the cause of the mood swing that led to his suicide.
Many of his famous album covers and posters are featured in the book Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles for sale here. Also, you can hear more of the people who knew the man, including relatives in this BBC Radio 4 Documentary, In Search of Barney Bubbles.
Bubbles designed the poster above for the band Hawkwind. He built a strong relationship with the band during the ’70s as well as with Ian Dury and The Blockheads (Reasons to Be Cheerful is an Ian Dury and The Blockheads song). Bubbles designed their black and white ‘profile’ logo below.
He also was a director in the early ’80s video scene. One of his best known videos is Ghost Town by the Specials. I decided to include this nice one he directed for Squeeze.
With luck, now that I know that a lot of those bizarre album covers that represented the bands so well were by one man, I’ll see more examples of his work out there. Maybe, someday, I’ll have my own little collection to share with everybody in new blogs.