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Masie P. writes: I had a brief stay back in Twickenham last week and had yet another culinary delight from Whitton High Street. A new Bengali restaurant has opened where the John Greigs store used to be. It’s in the style of Southall High Street eateries, but a little more refined than the stand-up takeaway. It is of course, completely vegetarian and non-alcoholic and the food comes in pantechnicon-sized containers and costs pennies.I took my son and eldest grand-daughter for a birthday treat… eight… and the waiter was amazed that such a wee child was relishing the chillies in the dhosa. Takes after her Nanna.Been painting blue angels all week… I seem to have a comic-book streak hidden away in me somewhere, that keeps making a break for it.
I recently played a compendium of Vaudeville tunes and heard for the first time a song with a catchy hook called, “Barney Google with those great big googly eyes” which Barney Bubbles may have been familiar with, he certainly had the googly eyes to match. (Possibly this song was an antecedent of the search engine Google’s name too.) He never mentioned that song – but I know he was a fan of ‘Barney Rubble’ from the Flintstones (he would have been ‘Flintstoned’ no doubt) and their phrase “Yabbadabadoo !” which he frequently used.
.. And here ladies and gints, is the song itself, which seems to imply carnal love of a horse, nabbed from the Wikki entry for ‘Barney Google’, who was the eponymous character from the strip cartoon out of Chicago begun in 1911:
- Who’s the most important man this country ever knew?
- Who’s the man our Presidents tell all their troubles to?
- No, it isn’t Mr. Bryan and it isn’t Mr. Hughes;
- I’m mighty proud that I’m allowed a chance to introduce:
- Barney Google—with the goo-goo-googly eyes,
- Barney Google—had a wife three times his size;
- She sued Barney for divorce,
- Now he’s sleeping with his horse!
- Barney Google—with the goo-goo-googly eyes!
- Who’s the greatest lover that this country ever knew?
- Who’s the man that Valentino takes his hat off to?
- No, it isn’t Douglas Fairbanks that the ladies rave about;
- When he arrives, who makes the wives chase all their husbands out?
- Barney Google—with the goo, goo, googly eyes,
- Barney Google—bet his horse would win the prize;
- When the horses ran that day,
- Spark Plug ran the other way!
- Barney Google—with the goo-goo-googly eyes!
Image courtesy of Rick Poynor
Oz 12, the Tax-dodge special, a co-operatively designed multi-media poster.
Co-operatively* designed by Barney Bubbles and myself to begin with, in July 1967, we worked on and off for a while, and then finished with many others, including John Dove, over a time period than lasted, from my initial meeting with Jon Goodchild, for about five months. I don’t think it reached the streets ’til January of ’68. (I was credited as ‘Eric Stodge’. Wikipedia is wrong when it says A1GG Roy Burge was one of the designers, maybe someone could change the reference.) John Dove has accurate memories of the working on Oz 12 and I will post them in a later post.
When I was cross examined over the credit ‘rights’ on Oz12 I was asked “Who was the art director? ” Which, on this job at least, was the wrong question big time, since both Barney and I were working as communards, and avoided the term with contempt, considering it an irrelevant name of commerce.
Barney or Muggeridge (?) drew the ruled rapidograph art. Barney and I started the Cow-gummed the collage which was finished in a massive work out (at which I was not present) with John Dove, Staffford Cliff and John Muggeridge amongst others. Faces in the boxes come from a history of the cinema and a Picture Post (?) history of technology, both from the fifties.
This sheet is is a dart board – one throws a projectile, or uses a blow pipe with a needle in a fletched cork perhaps, at Donald Duck, then reads off the appropriate codes and learns one’s fate. I invented the game and wrote the instructions amongst other things. With post cards by various artists including John Dove’s quartet of breasts (lower left, top row, far left).
The wheels on left are the landing gear of the TSR2 bomber that my dad worked on, Barney put them in, said, “Here’s something for your dad.” As others have pointed out the poster is influenced by Paolozzi. But my original drawing, spotted by Barney, was derived from a Paul Klee watercolour of a figure in a skirt, which in turn could be similar to a portrait of St. James(?) in the Book of Kells. Oz 12 also has references to Zen Buddhist art.
That’s my photograph up top of Twickenham student Dave Palmer, later of JWT in Birmingham, grinning at the world. He knew the Great Train Robber, Mr Biggs, before he escaped. While Biggs was doing time, Palmer ran errands for him, so he said. Palmer commissioned me one-time to design an ocean going pod-boat, based on a water-spider and made of moulded plastic with eight out-rigger floats, for ICI plastics. It sank as a project.
I took the art work up to Paisley to print, with the replacement cover drawing by Martin Sharp, by this time Barney was elsewhere and very pizzed-off about the cover, and i was stuck up in Paisley for a week. I put the art together for the Martin Sharp cover sheet, including the pages in what was to be the ‘center fold’ with the line, ‘Tax dodge special’ by the staple, that led to a court case by the tax man, centered around the fact that they said it wasn’t a magazine but a poster, using my words as evidence. I think this may have been ultimately the cause of the demise of Oz. My bad.
*Irrelevant fact, 1137084, was my family Co-op store member number back in the days when you got a rebate for shopping there. I’m amused that I still recall the number.
Quotes from Rick Poynor’s masterful summation of the Bubbles’ genius:
succinct words about the Fulcher, known as Barney B, and his ways at: http//designobserver.com
Rick Poynor: “The intricately reflexive nature of his work made Bubbles a true original in his day. No previous Britishdesigner had produced mass-market graphic communications this playful, personal, freighted with allusion, or tricksy. Bubbles was a postmodernist before this new category of graphic design had been identified and defined, and he is as significant an innovator as his American contemporary April Greiman. His designs refer to art history (Mucha, Lissitzky, Van Doesburg, Kandinsky, Picabia, Mondrian, Pollock); to popular culture and kitsch (the wallpaper on Ian Dury’s Do It Yourself, the shagpile rug on the Attractions’ Mad About the Wrong Boy); to graphic processes and the nature of the printed medium (the color bars on Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model, the scuff marks on Get Happy!!); and — never letting us forget his “anonymous” authorship — to the designer himself. Two of these oblique self-portraits, showing Bubbles’ large nose, are well known (Costello’s Armed Forces and Dr Feelgood’s Fast Women & Slow Horses), but there are other graphic faces placed where you wouldn’t expect to find them, such as the image on the copyright page of the “Lives” exhibition catalogue (1979) designed for the Arts Council, and the monumental (block)head in Brian Griffin’s book Power: British Management in Focus (1981), which could be intended as cheeky substitutes for Bubbles’ inevitably absent design credit. When The Face asked to photograph him, he made them a picture out of fragments instead.
Barney Bubbles by Barney Bubbles, 1981Poynor: ”Attempts to hoist Bubbles out of graphic design and claim he was an artist all along do him a disservice by downplaying his achievement as a designer, and denigrate design by implying that anything this good must belong in another category. In reality, Bubbles’ work, like Greiman’s or Saville’s, revealed what can sometimes be possible within applied visual communication, in spite of all the constraints, when a gifted graphic designer finds imaginative client collaborators willing to allow some space to experiment. Compare his work with many classic late 1960s and pre-New Wave 1970s record covers: usually they are composed of a single commanding image with the artist’s name and title. Bubbles’ sleeves are graphic constructions, offering multiple points of interest, dispersing the viewer’s attention. He showed that the visual language of design — type, symbol, pattern, shape, often reassembled in unfamiliar configurations — could be a powerful, exciting and subtle medium for involving a popular audience. Although conditions often conspire against such freedoms now, he is a leading figure within the evolution of intelligently reflexive design. Known but unknown. It’s about time the slower moving design history books caught up with him.”•••
Photograph by the grace of Chris Gabrin
The following conversation was conducted in the Van Dieman’s Land of the comments dept. below, but is so central and interesting to the whole shebang of Barney’s work I thought to include it as an item. Enjoy. Nazar can be found here: Nazar Ali Khan
Nazar Ali Khan: The 1978 Hawklords tour programme makes interesting reading if you’ve read Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas (published in 1978). The text, which still has HW fans scratching their heads, has been posted here -
David WIlls: You can read Rem Koolhaas at http://www.scribd.com/doc/202962/Delirious-New-York
Here’s the intro from the Hawklords tour programme:
“Strong in Hygienic Industry Founded in 1953, by a dream concurrent with space flight to the moon, Pan Transcendental Industries, together with macroscale investment from the state and corporate capital, found it possible to embark on a wholesale megastructural rehabilitation of the globe. A dream which soon became an enlightened reality and one from which the majority of the world’s population benefit today.”
And here a quote from ‘Delirious’ in which Koolhaas is describing aspects of Coney Island:
“SPHERE The sphere appears throughout Western architectural history, generally coinciding with revolutionary movements. To the European Enlightenment it was a simulacrum of the world, a secular counterpart of the world, a secular counterpart of the cathedral; typically, it was a monument and, in its entirety, hollow. It is the American genius of Samuel Friede, inventor of the Globe Tower, to exploit the Platonic solid in a series of pragmatic steps. For him the globe, ruthlessly divided into floors, is simply a source of unlimited square footage. The larger it is, the more immense these interior planes; since the Globe itself will need only a single, negligible point of contact with the earth, the smallest possible site will support the largest reclaimable territory. As revealed to investors, the tower’s blueprints show a gigantic steel planet that has crashed onto a replica of the Eiffel Tower, the whole ‘designed to be 700 feet high, the largest building in the world with enormous elevators carrying visitors to the different floors.’ ”
Personally I can’t see much stylish correlation between the two, I chose this quote because of the reference to the Globe Tower. I’m fairly sure that the Hawklord text was a Burroughs type ‘cut up’ generated text, and the Koolhaas text a rational exploration of architectural principles, but I do know that Barney was excited by Dutch (I think it was) architectural ideas. The globe on a spike reminds me of Barney’s idea for a block of concrete pierced by a Phantom jet described elsewhere in these posts.
Maybe Naz could explain why he thinks there’s a connection?
Nazar: Barney certainly had a copy of Delirious New York, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, and was enthusiastic about the book and its ideas. Delirious New York was introduced to me by my tutor when I was a second year student at college, almost as a last resort, as my interests in Constructivism and Suprematism were considered deeply unfashionable at the time! Koolhaas is one of the most famous architects in the world now. A former screenwriter, his theory of ‘Manhattanism”, drew together Coney Island, the Rockefeller Centre, Dali, the Constructivist idea of the social condenser, and the formal 3D abstractions of the Suprematists. In the appendix to the book, there are theoretical projects based on this theory.
Some ideas from the book are woven into the Hawklords story. For example, Koolhaas’s proposition that the elevator enabled the stacking of horizontal planes that incubated their own ideological programme is reflected in the “elevator principle” of the Hawklords text. There are similarities in the text too -
Rem Koolhaas: “At these moments the purpose of the Captive Globe, suspended at the center of the City, becomes apparent: all these institutes together form an enormous incubator of the World itself; they are breeding on the Globe.”
Hawklords: “Projects developing under ideal and identical conditions have the right to expand indefinitely toward heaven. Together these institutes form an enormous incubator of the World itself. They are breeding on the Globe.”
rebecca and mike: beautifully put nazar. you’re talking about deep content here; not just the froth on the top of a cappuccino. some people just hone in on the bondage pics and think that’s the lot when it comes to the hawklords booklet, so it’s great to read you turning this stuff over.
Wills: Looks like I chose the right quote, ‘Sphere’ from ‘Delirious.’ I can see there there certainly is a word-for-word connection. I was in Rem’s library in Seattle a couple of months ago, a very ‘cool house’ as they say up there. As you come down an elevator there’s a hole ‘broken’ in the wall where you can see all the internal wiring and insulation stuffing.
Hmm. I think I may have seen ‘Delirious’ at Barney’s studio, does it have pictures of Coney Island with drawings on top, narrow newsprint with squared-up half tones in space?
Later… Yes Barney definitely did show me Delirious New York, in ’83, handed it to me as I was sitting on a couch for me to look at while he went off someplace. I’d seen other art like it, maybe by Rem, but also at the Royal College of Art and in my ignorance thought it second hand. Asked what I thought, I indicated with eyebrows i was less than enthralled, Barney said as how it was funny how we could be so “turned on” by different things.
Maybe Hawklords was a cut-up of ‘Delirious’ with ad ons?
Playing the part of Barney
Fulcher became Barney Bubbles as a permanent thing between ’67 and ’68. The name was first used in the credits for Oz 12 which I wrote down after I asked him, “Hey, what do you wanna be called?” It happened organically; slowly over the months as ‘Fulcher’ became a ‘Barney.’ During his San Francisco adventure the name was emphasized partly as ref to ‘Barney’s Beanery’ an LA roadside food-shack notable for it’s sign refusing custom to gays. The Bubbles was a riff on his light show.
In San Francisco artist, Bruce Connor’s obituary, by Kenneth Baker in the Chronicle, I read that Connor famously said, “On the 12-step program of Artists Anonymous, the first is never acknowledging any of your work, after never signing it… ”
Connor also made a movie of clips from found old newsreels and flicks with a music backing that some say was grandmother of all music videos. In 1991, it was selected for the Library of Congress, by the National Film Registry. There are definite direct connections between the Connor ethic and the Bubbles show.
I can recall the always plugged-in Fulcher mentioning him and the 1958 movie. The movie would be a natch for him to enthuse over – found object, industrial, and collaged. Barney did see the Connor movie in 1966, he made sure I watched it too, “It’s very important.” he said. He called my mum to tell me. I saw it on TV at my parents house in Teddington, while he watched it in Whitton – there was no TV at our A1Good Guyz HQ, at Leigh Court.
From the NY Times, “A key figure in the San Francisco Beat scene in the late 1950s, Mr. Conner first became known for his assemblages made from women’s nylon stockings, parts of furniture, broken dolls, fur, costume jewelry, paint, photographs and candles. These works, created between 1957 and 1964, had the aggressive appearance of avant-garde sculpture but at the same time seemed old and musty, like broken-down junk found in a forgotten attic or props for a scary Hitchcock-like movie. They were a vehement rejection of the optimistic, consumerist spirit of mainstream American society.
The Grandfather Of All Music Videos
In the late 1950s, Mr. Conner also began an influential parallel career as an experimental filmmaker. Under the influence of his friend and fellow filmmaker Stan Brakhage, he created collages of found and new footage.”
Like I say, a big influence. Fulcher did meet Bruce Connor in 1968 in San Francisco, but he had an awful time, he said Connor’s wife kept him talking for hours in this dismal junk ridden apartment. Barney said you shouldn’t get too close to your heroes.
Barney was the wittiest and most talented of designers. Beginning fifty years ago, we were the best of friends. From September of 1958, when we first met at art school and he was called Colin Fulcher; through the time when he changed his name to Barney Bubbles in 1967; to May of 1983 when I last saw him – before he killed himself that November.
I do know one reason for Barney changing his name was to protect his very suburban family, from what he reasoned was going to be a wild ride; he was careful to maintain their respectability and reputation in the face of his wild creativity and possible publicity.
Although I did occasionally sign my self ‘Eric Stodge’ or ‘Sid Squeek,’ I wasn’t really all that careful with my family reputation, and my ‘Wills’-named work may have had some negative effect on my aeronautical-engineer dad’s security clearance and his civil service career. Three months of the Oz trial on the front page of the Daily Mail would have been a problem for my dad at the Air Ministry. And the Lord Chamberlain’s office was after me, too.
So it’s gratifying, despite all the drama, to see how, after we left college, our jolly fun in the flat at A1 Leigh Court, in West Kensington, London, so long ago, has morphed into the stuff of the history of graphic entertainment. Our saga of droll adventures back then, with its multiple layers of intrigue, art and possibly stolen Adam fireplaces, has entered the consciousness of this age.
A1 GoodGuyz bus
The scene in the old Taxi garage on Avonmore Road at Lisgar Terrace, in West Kensington, London in June, 1967: In black ‘All Star’ sneakers, Colin Fulcher at left, is wielding a paint rag, cleaning the radiator grill; TV person, Malcom Muggerage’s nephew, John, paints an orange wing feather; dancer Mary Lexa, adjusts her fax; Twickenham art school grads class of ’63, Jennifer and Roy ‘Bumps’ Burge discuss relationships; and standing in the shadows a Jamaican good time music DJ, Rudy (later to be famous as the subject of the song ‘Rudy’ by somebody or other in 1966 or so) as we work on painting the A1 GoodGuyz bus.
Inspired by Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm ‘Furthur’ bus, ours was an old Bradford ambulance with very swishy suspension. We painted it, over the summer of 1967 on the street and in the garage. I painted the Tom Mix and entwined snake on the back, and Fulcher painted the lettering “The Poor Sisters Of St. Francis of Assisi of Perptual Adoration,” (Barney chose the name, which, as it happens, is very similar to the name of one of the two convents, a Belgian sect and those Carmelite nuns who don’t talk, then on Ashbury Street in San Fancisco), in black and yellow Barney Bubble script with a fat orange shadow, all way round the rim of the roof.
Photo copyright 2008 David Wills.