Reproduced with thanks courtesy of Rebecca and Mike (RandM), from their extensive collection.
Sticker for Chilli Willi by Barney Bubbles. This dates to circa 1972 when the band were with Revelation. Revelation were the label who released the Chilli Willi LP ‘Kings of the Robot Rhythm’, and the ‘Glastonbury Fayre’ triple LP set, both of which were also designed by Barney.
David Wills writes…
I’m really hazy on this – it’s all a dream, now, so I’m going to try to recall by writing. Many of the items have already been mentioned in various postings and repeated here. Facts may diverge from reality, but you’ll get the idea.
Middle of May, 1983 – I’d arrived in London from San Francisco and on my third day in town I was off to visit Barney. Sunny day, cherry trees in bloom, being a south Londoner I got lost walking up what I think was Cannonbury road to St Paul’s Road, unsure of the streets thereabouts in Islington, just over from bro’ Peter’s place in Camden Town. Oddly, brother Peter’s address is on similarly named, St. Pauls Crescent (It didn’t have an apostrophe in Paul’s back then) which in turn was similar to another of Barneys’s old addresses Paul Street, near Fleet Street. A diet of Paul’s.
An 1823 Georgian house in of row of similar houses, I walk up the six steps with a railing that had not been used for the scrap metal war effort by Lord Beaverbrooke. But the railing on the street to protect unwary walkers had been and was replaced with two pieces of bendy wire – a passer by might easily fall into the light well.
There was a big black Georgian door, with a heavy knocker, that may have been a hand holding a ball, but was a simple Regency knocker, there were two plasic white bell-pushes on the left, of which I had been instructed to ring the uppermost, Barney opened the door and we walked up the stairs (where he later hung himself) to the kitchen and I was introduced to a lady who shook hands. Polite conversation, along the lines of “Hello” and B and I wander about the tidy, open plan, spacious house. Such a difference to the studio in the old coal-haulers stables off Scrubbs Lane. We walk into a room with a sideboard on which there is a copy of Oz, I say, “I liked that issue, Pearce did that, you have anything to do with that then?” I walk to sit on a couch where he hands me Rem Cool’s Coney Island New York.
Barney grins, “Yeah. Oz, I don’t tell too many people though. I like it to be secret.” He didn’t want to pay tax on his earnings.
There’s an unfinished painting on an easel in one room (that may or may not have been the ‘Mary had a little lamb’ I’ve read about someplace). No, I think he had it back for repair or addition, and it had been partially dismantled when I saw it.
Sitting on the couch he showed me the Koolhaus book, “Coney Island,” raved about it. Said it was a huge influence. Seems a bit second hand to me, I’m less than enthused, not realizing it’s the original for the style. I was already familiar with it from Architectural Digest, C.1958 or so, Barney says it’s funny how two people so much alike could have such different views about something so central to his vision. He’s enjoying showing off his style, I expect like me, he first read about Rem in AD.
Barney says let’s go downstairs, down two flights of stairs into a fairly cramped space, where we sit and talk. I have snippets in my head…
“I got called from Japan, they wanted me to work there.”
“Nah, couldn’t speak the language”
“I don’t expect you remember those wallpapers books you gave me? I used them for a set of covers for Ian Dury.”
“I’m going to be famous one day.”
“One of the guys I work with, Dave Edmunds, he’s real cool, I like to hang out with him, you’d like him, reminds me of you.” Which is a funny sort of odd, says I, ‘cos my mum’s great granny Edmunds, in south Wales, fancied her self as posh she did, family had shops in Tradegar and stuff, was a real character, went nuts, saw apparitions at the foot of the bed, my ma used to like listening to her go on.
Barney says another guy he liked working with was Chilli Willi, I think he said he’d been to art school, really got it.
Barney took off upstairs, left me there to look at his portfolio as he said, “I get to do all the things we ever dreamed about in the old days.”
While he was gone I swapped t-shirts, gave him the shirt off my back, my 7:7:77 t-shirt, screened in purple on black in wood letter, that I hand-set at Hercules press, commemorating the sequence of numerals in that date, in exchange for an ‘If it aint Stiff, it aint worth a fuck’ shirt – one of my favorite Barney designs because it is so blatant. When I first saw it in 78(?) it made me realize that Barney was the spirit of the times manifest.
(Just tried to find an image of that t-shirt on line but the only one I found had the FUCK Bowdlerized as !*#%.)
Gave him my 1982 Haight Ashbury poster of an architecturally collaged watercolor painting.
He wanders over to a thick walled windowsill shelf, uncovers up a white cardboard box filled with photograph scraps from back in the day, and a silver Mylar mask, that he says he picked up after a concert by that hellfire fella, whatshisname, Arthur Brown, King of the Hellfire, says,”Here, these are for you, they’ll be really interested in these. This’s one of his actual masks.”
Talk of old times, how Moulton was a crook. I ask if he had anything to do with the Bert Crowther, and the Adam Fireplace gang connection, Barney goes, “Yeah, something like that.”
He tells me me about how when Moulton ditched him with a big tax bill for money he never received. He was wandering desolate on the streets in Wapping or some place, ready to jump in front of a truck. All seemed at an end. Then he met Chris Higson out of the blue, who invited him in for a pub drink and that’s how he met up with the pub-rock scene. Co-incidences and old friends, including our old friend Dai Davies. I may be imagining this, but I’m hearing Barney say that this wandering episode gave him the inspiration for one Music video he directed, the award winning Specials Ghost Town
I ask if he knows any work around I might do, he says,”Furniture design, it’s really easy. I draw it and work with a guy who makes it.” He’d had his furniture work in Face magazine, which I’d seen it in the magazine rack by Camden Town station.
Since I no longer could smoke the godawful tasting hashish and tobacco mix I used to, Barney surprisingly, since neither of us were ever into it, offered me two lines of cocaine, which we sniffed up furtively with a rolled pound note like two kids behind a shed.
I tell how I’d been working on posters and shit with Margo St. James, a hooker in San Francisco, on the Hooker’s Ball, from 1973 to 79, my successor to the Oz Police Ball in London 1971, I designed the poster for that too.
Barney tells that his experience with prostitutes was not so much fun, as how he’d gotten volved with an rather elderly commercial sexworker woman who followed him around and bugged him on the phone forever.
We talked of this and that, old memories. He said he was planning to go to Australia, (or maybe he’d already been) I said I was there the year before. I mentioned an Aborigine, from the 19th Century, Wyndradyne of the Wirajuri, I’d learned about, who led a successful, for a while, skirmish against the settlers. Was clever enough for a while to arouse the sympathy of some liberal minded writers. We talked of killing stones. I said that just like always, all over the world, wherever you go, in Australia bad stuff happens. Wyndradyne died. Left a curse.
It got late, I asked if I could stay the night on a couch or something, but he said it was against house rules, I imagine he could easily fill the place with dossers and had strict orders not to do so. But he said some business blokes, but cool, were coming by, whom I now realize included Jake Riviera (sp?), and they gave me a ride back to Camden Town.
As I was leaving Barney and I both go, “See you” – and that’s the last I saw of him.
Driving, Jake says, “You known Barney long then? He’s the best.”