Barney was the wittiest and most talented of designers.
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.