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  • davidwills 12:55 am on April 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andrew Loog Olham, , , Colin Fulcher, Cookethorpe, , Journey Into Space, , uncategorized, Wooton Underwood School   

    I’ve just finished the biography, part 1, of the Rolling Stone’s second manager, Andrew Loog Oldham and remembered for the first time in fifty years that, amazingly we briefly, but concurrently. both went to the same school, I say amazing because of the over the top horror of the place. But also because it shows how two experiences of the same place could be so different.

    What a story. In the two terms I was there I experienced a nineteen-fifties’ version of Dickens’ Dotheby’s Hall up close. Cold meals in the cellar. A thrashing in the ornate common room for one unfortunate who was spreadeagled on the table and flogged for a night-time tryst with the cook’s daughter. A set of strange teachers who’d been laid off at other, more respectable seats of teaching, including Mr. Cowie who was rumored to be too interested in the younger lads, and Mr. Solomon the inventor of a recyclable heat retention system of flasks to hold soup on train journeys.

    The building is now renovated to its Grade 1 category sumptuousness, where a Mr. Gladstone (Queen Victoria’s prime-minister’s great-grandson) now lives, but then it was a peeling damp near ruin. An architectural triumph of 18th-century classical pomp, designed anonymously by the woman who taught Sir Christopher Wren to build. It had fallen on poor times when we were there. Grass in the gutters, trash in the carriage inspection wells, the rose garden with its arch of baleen whale jaw-bones, overgrown.

    I was there, with my nine-year-old brother Peter, when I was twelve, leaving the frigid place in December when I hit thirteen. Haw-frost in the top of the sixty -foot elms as we lined up for church at 8-am dressed in short pants and chilblains. Andrew left the school in “the spring” when he was eleven. Unlike me, Andrew recalls it as a glamorous place instilling in him his version of the private-school background that he used with such panache to flog the ‘Stones. But ‘Cokethorpe’ (always mispronounced as ‘Coke-thorpe’) was more correctly called ‘Wooton Underwood School’ (Andrew got the name of the village it was closest to wrong) and was the cheapest boarding school available outside the reform school Borstal. Borstal and Cokethorpe had a similar breed of pupil too. The ‘Cokethorpe’ name was not correct either, that name was appropriated by the crook who ran the show from another school of that name (properly pronounced ‘Cook-thorpe’), still extant, a well regarded, and real old-school school.

    No, this was the real deal school-from-hell story, stuck out in a marsh 5-miles it seems from the nearest village, with a secret experimental rocket base not far away. Ghosts in the night. The frequency of low-class garbage-disposal business men’s children in the class rooms was apparent. It is quite possible that relatives of Ted Moulton (the mentor-cum-fuck-up of famed fellow graphic designer, Colin Fulcher/Barney Bubbles’ ) also went to the school. I think the thug Charley Cray’s younger relatives were there too. So it was a bit short on glamour I suppose if you knew better, but to the lads of the thug class it was filled with it was a sort of flashy secondary-modern of private schools if you looked at it with your eyes shut and dressed warm.

    Shortly after we both left, the school’s creditors tried to catch up with the ‘owner’, who was a scam-artist from the East End. Heck it could of been Ted Moulton hisself for all I know. In something out of a funny/weird British movie like ‘If’, the pupils were put in buses and chased all over the country by their headmaster’s creditors. Front pages of the News of the World, Express, and Mail.

    When Barney and I started up in ‘business’ together in late 1962 he told me that the Stones’ manager had gone to the same school as I did, that I should contact him, but I didn’t see the point, unlike Barney, I had not the slightest wish to get involved in that crass biz. I thought he’d ruined the Stones with those stupid geeky suits and their velvet collars they donned for a few moments of rock history. I didn’t know it at the time, but it were him what got rid of their cool but dorky-looking stride pianist, Ian Stuart. But that’s what Barney really was interested in. Way to go.

    Andrew’s book I found to be really well done, good show Andrew. Though it could be better edited. Some hella writing there when he goes off. Andrew is now, or was, living in the center of the cocaine business in Bogota, Columbia.

    A the time I hated the school where I thought I’d learned little, but reading Andrew’s book gives me the idea that I really may have learned some worthwhile street-wise ways there. I recall Barney saying he could see how we’d both been to the same school, “You’re the same sort of show off .” he said.

    Anyway, back in 1953 Andrew and I got together in the common room with the fifteen-foot ceilings and the same cornices as in Buckingham Palace (it was built as the the Duke of Buckingham’s country estate), sitting around the antique stove, with its orange mica windows that I poked out in flakes, to discuss the benefits of having me draw space-ships for him to sell, and split the profit. At that time we all listened to Journey Into Space with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop which set the scene, Some weeks one of the kids in my dorm was chosen to listen to the spooky show – hidden under the floorboards in the crawlspace. Also the Eagle comic’s exploded views of technology by Frank Bellamy(?) were an inspiration.

    I left the school before Andrew and I never got to realize the full potential of Space-Ship Arts Ltd. – though I did sell one drawing of a bulbous transport inter-planet transporter (plus a free nude) for half-a-crown (known as half-a-dollar or ‘arfer nicker) and a Mars bar. One and sixpence, about 65% of the cash, went to Andrew and I got the Mars bar, petty fair deal considering his later career. The half-a-crown (50-cents or so) was worth more than face value in that cut-off from civilization economy, where a loaf of bread was legal tender.

    • every record tells a story 10:25 pm on April 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Great story!

    • julian swinglehurst 7:59 am on September 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I went to the same school, I remember we were always starving, and would stop the bread van to get bread.I also remember we would terrorize Mr Solomon, by doing things like tying an inner tune to the tap, and gradually let it fill with water, gradually getting bigger and bigger, as mr Solomon tried to teach us science., and we tried to pretend we were listening, as the tube got bigger and bigger.

      And there was Miss Douglas who lived on the top floor of the building by the stables, I had to take her her evening meal once when she was ill. A terrifying experience,

      When I tell people about it, they think I am making it up. It was called the fly by night school, from there we went to the old Rothchilds house on the other side of Aylesbury, and then to Stow on the Wold, where the Ministry of education descended on us, and closed the show down.

      Don’t remember the names of any of the boys that were there, except on that was called Blunt, we looked up to him as he was always escaping, coming back as a hero, of course.

      • Michael Cosby 3:15 pm on January 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Goodness me! I was there too, staring off at Ducklington, then Wooton Underwood, then Aston Clinton, finally Stow on the Wold. The South Pavillion at Wooton house is now owned an occupied by the odious Tony Blair.

  • davidwills 8:51 am on March 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Colin Fulcher, dave robinson, , , if it ain't stiff, , original, , shirt, , t-shirt, vintage   

    Barney Bubbles – Stiff Records Stiff Sentence 

    Classic Barney Bubbles Stiff Records “If it ain’t STIFF, it ain’t worth a fuck” t-shirt.

    This t-shirt illustrates nicely the music hall/vaudeville aspect of Colin Fulcher/Barney Bubbles’ work and is probably influenced, if not actually composed or passed on by his dad, who was a working class man of the people sort of bloke. Dad had a fairly extensive mental joke book. He was a fan of Max Miller the radio joker who was banned from the BBC for 5 years for telling a bawdy tale of which Lord Reith (founder and director of the BBC) did not approve. Goes like this, ” I was walking along a narrow mountain pass, so narrow that nobody else could pass you, when I saw a blonde walking towards me. A beautiful blonde without a stitch on, yes lady, not a stitch. Cor blimey. I didn’t know whether to toss myself off or block her passage. ”

    There is some confusion as to whether it was a Max Wall or a Max Miller joke, but I’m fairly certain it was Miller. Don’t matter either way, Mr. Fulcher, a News Of The World sort of man, liked ’em both. I can remember the day in 1962 when Barney showed me his Paolotzi lookalikes standing in the entry to their house on Tranmere road, and ol’d man Fulcher telling that very same joke along with the story as how Miller got banned by the Beeb.

    (I got my copy of this t-shirt in ’83 when I swapped with Barney for my T-shirt celebration of the repeat integers date 7 7 77.)

    Note to readers unfamiliar with colloquial English, “Cor blimey” is a cant phrase derived from the medieval curse “God blind me if I tell a lie.”

    It is amusing that until recently there was no Googlable picture of this t-shirt except for an inferior Bowdlerized knock off.

  • davidwills 10:13 pm on February 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Colin Fulcher, death, , , , in search of barney bubbles, , ,   

    Barney Bubbles – In Graphic Detail 

    Barney Bubbles artwork (detail)


    Today I’m in a mixed time awareness of the ages, reading a slew of overlapping novels, from 1948’s 1984 Orwell to the 1996 or so Ladbroke Grove of M. Amis. I’m also reading Northanger Abbey, by the eighteen-year old Jane Austen of 1799 and sitting on a fold-out mattress in the company of my eighteen-year old daughter Alessandra and her Chinese friend Dghzou here in 2012. The young women discuss the boys in the Occupy Oakland demo they were at last night, “They should have left when we did. No sense those men. I expect they got arrested. Let’s send them pictures of our food.”

    As they chat, I listen to the now six week old recording of The BBC Radio-4 programme about Colin Fulcher, alias Barney Bubbles, on Dghzou’s lap-top, a show about how my ol’ friend Barney went nuts.

    It’s a clever and emotional piece of detective reportage from the front lines of Barney’s life.

    Such a revelation, I had no idea he was so troubled. We were the best of friends but in the style of blokes of the time we shared no intimacy of the sort that might lead to telling it all in such a forthright way. Not like in California today when every body tells their woes.

    During my visit to his place in Islington in May of 1983, six months before he died I didn’t hear his hidden voice telling me his troubles. Not so hidden in retrospect, he said it to me out loud, something like, ‘I have a date with death.’ But I took it as metaphor at the time.

    No matter that death stared us down, that both of our parents had gone in a moment, his the year after mine, we’d never admit such a sentiment as loss to each other, no, not cool. No, he wryly looked away as I asked, “So. How did your parents die?”

    He dismissed me with, “They just died, di’n’t they.” Not a flicker of emotion.

    But he went on to say that the Australian Aborigines had given him a death, had put a stone on him and that he would die to protest the ways of the world, did I believe such things?

    “Yeah, they work, I’m sure.” We both agreed that how killing stones worked was that they were believed in, and that objects were alive, like shapes, a conversation we’d had over the years.

    On the radio show Fulcher’s sister, Jill, was astonishingly and appealingly forthright, so dramatically different than my remembered youthful fear of her, of what I imagined was her dangerous wrath and disapproval of me, her brother’s odd friend. No, Jill showed, through her clear telling, some of her brother’s hidden emotion. She sounded so real and poignant, with that radio sound effect of a ticking clock in the background, giving off a powerful whiff of the suburban, glassy-tiled fireplaces of Whitton, as I sat eight-thousand miles away on a fold-out here in San Francisco.

    What a great piece of BBC magic, of emotional and you-were-there detective work this is. I grew up listening to the radio and this show is as good as it gets. Now all this telescoping of time muddles the world of radio and novels into a confused memory, with Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister, editing a movie of Barney Fulcher slicing his face mask, all the while adding adding bits of Burrough’s Naked Lunch to the mix.

    A minor point of fact about the radio programme, I don’t think ‘Colin Fulcher’ become ‘Barney Bubbles’ in 1963, He adopted ‘Barney’ in maybe ’66(?) and it wasn’t until 1967 when he started his light show that he adopted ‘Bubbles’. Hmm, I seem to recall I am wrong by a couple of years.

    Another thing of which I’m less certain, but do feel, is that I don’t think Barney was ever really in ‘fashion’, so I don’t think he ever really went ‘out of style.’ He was always too far out in front to be really accepted for the seer he was by his paymasters. I think the reason he got used so much was because his employers were connived at by Barney’s force of personality. His “Cheap and Cheerfiul,” won the day despite their misgivings about his ideas. But when things went wrong for him in ’83, probably I now realize because of a bad cocaine and speed habit, he was less able to cope, and so off he flew with the Australians.

    Colin Fulcher went in a ritual which was Barney Bubbles’ ‘Look what you made me do’ to the music industrial-complex. Plus I think warmonger Margaret Thatcher had just been or was going to be re-elected. His arch-enemy, Town mag publisher Michael Heseltine, then Minister of Defence, was weaseling for PM. Elvis Costello. HM Govt. There were many reasons to protest but his seedy metaphor turned deadly. It wasn’t just the disease, as Wiki calls it, that killed him, he was saying something. The bag and the cuts were masks in a performance.

    Stupid idea. Don’t do it Barney.

  • davidwills 8:38 am on November 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 2012, , , , Colin Fulcher, , , , , january, , , radio   

    Barney Bubbles – Turned On, Tuned In, Dropped Out 

    Barney Bubbles artwork detail

    Mark Hodkinson’s BBC Radio 4 documentary about Barney Bubbles now has a broadcast date: 2 January 2012 at 16:00 GMT. Or for us folks in California, 8:00 PST. Also available at other times in other locations around the world. Turn on, tune in, drop out. The visual accompaniment to this newsflash shows two antennaed daschunds, and are of course, a product of Barney’s tripped-out imagination.

    (Thanks to R&M for the image.)

    • Rebecca and Mike 6:23 pm on January 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      The Radio 4 documentary by Mark Hodkinson is currently available online. Go here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018wh7h

    • Rebecca and Mike 6:09 pm on January 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Review in The Guardian, 8th Jan 2012:
      “Back to Radio 4, where us grey-hairs should be, for a revealing documentary on Barney Bubbles, the legendary album sleeve artist. Presenter/producer Mark Hodkinson was excellent, sensitively interviewing Bubbles’s sister Gill (sic) and son, asking the hard questions – “How did you feel immediately afterwards?”: to Gill (sic), on finding her brother dying – as well as keeping in telling detail. (“He looked like he came out of the ground,” said Brian Griffin, a friend.) And I liked the blasts of music from Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Nick Lowe, without the tedious “and that was…” back announcements. Lovely, careful, touching stuff.”

      Review in The Telegraph 3rd Jan 2012
      In Search of Barney Bubbles (Radio 4, yesterday) was sad and strange. Mark Hodkinson was tracking down a man who designed brilliant sleeves for record albums in the 1960s and 1970s. Barney Bubbles was the pseudonym of Colin Fulcher, clever, inventive, sensitive, influential, born in London in 1942. He did covers for albums by Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, Hawkwind, was the in-house designer for Stiff Records. He also did drugs, was a manic depressive, self-harmed, committed suicide in 1983. You could tell how it was all going to end and, to be honest, I did start thinking “oh, I don’t want to hear any more…” but then Hodkinson did that essential radio magic trick. He turned his dreams and memories into something we could share so that, just for a second, you could feel what it was like to be him, a teenager on a Lancashire housing estate, looking up at the night sky, listening to Hawkwind, being taken to unexpected places of the heart and mind’s eye. A second or two is all it takes when the radio is this good.

  • davidwills 8:18 pm on November 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Colin Fulcher, , , , , ,   

    Barney Bubbles – Are Y’ Courtin’? 

    Barney Bubbles Chilli Willi sticker (courtesy R and M)

    Here we see Barney Bubbles in cheap and cheerful mode, rapidographing up an image with references.

    There’s Walt Disney’s Pluto’s bent ears – but with four fingers and thumb style hands, deliberately non-Ub Ewarks-like (Ub was the originator of the Disney three fingered hands).

    The Harris Tweed jackets are amusing, each with their own weave. Improbably for a time of experiment in all things garment, we were still wearing such things back then, a tweedy jacket with elbow patches being useful for its pockets. In ’73 I was featured in the Times on the fashion page doing a layered clothing strip tease in Covent Garden by Ed Bell, in which I believe I was wearing two such jackets as well as an overcoat or two, and many underlayers.

    Talking of layered clothing, it was Barney, back in his ‘Colin Fulcher’ days who preached the no-underpants style of dressing, with a view to avoid the presumably unseemly seam lines viewable through skin-tight denim trousers (OK, ‘Levi’s’) that he shrank wearing them in the bath so he said (I don’t believe he did). This was a person at Conran Design inspired piece of fashion sense.

    The border lines are drawn sharp (real sharp!), in contrast to his oft-used wiggly jagged line that was deliberate and not the product of a shaky hand. His ‘shaky hand’ drawn line was evident in the drawings he did for the Book of Egg Cookery in 1967, but which I in my innocence redrew, much to his annoyance.

    Hand lettered, the type seems to vary in weight with ‘Chilli Willi’ perversely appearing lighter, I wonder if that was intentional? It was quite likely a product of not particularly caring if it was or wasn’t, just the way it came out of his fingers.

    The line up of jolly chaps is a tip of the hat to Music Hall’s ounce of flash and wit, which influenced him in his BBC radio Light Programme Arthur Askey “Are y’ courtin’?” mode. He did enjoy that pounding the boards scene.

    • davidwills 10:45 pm on November 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Didn’t notice afore, but I like how the Chilli Pepper closest to us has two ears, but to simplify matters the other four have only one ear apiece.

  • davidwills 6:29 pm on August 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Book design, Colin Fulcher, , Directory 1979, , John Cooper Clarke, journalist, Mark Ellen, New Musical Express, NME, , rock, Smash Hits, Word   

    Barney Bubbles – Damned Review in NME 

    Seems like not all folks thought much of Barney Bubbles’ work at the time, particularly NME journalist Mark Ellen who in a review of the ‘John Cooper Clarke Directory 1979’ book which Barney designed, slammed it with criticisms such as “dreadful punk-chic composition”, “cheap geometric artworks”, “hung at irritating angles”, “simplistic overtures”. Surprised readers of this blog will be happy to hear that four years later, the NME did write Barney a glowing obituary.
    Further. This review reminds me of all the other space blind writers and publishers I’ve worked with, who payed cash for paper or space and proceeded to waste it.
    Thanks to the ever-helpful R&M for a copy of the original article that can be read below.
  • davidwills 11:22 pm on July 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Colin Fulcher,   

    Just read in Barry Miles book on Elvis Costello that the song ‘Alison’, was written about ‘Mary’, which is contrary to what Barney Bubbles/Colin Fulcher (the designer of Costello’s early albums) had told me in 1983, when he said it referred to our mutual friend, Alison, the cffice temp at Conran Design in 1967. Maybe the song used her name – but was not written about her. But hey, what the f’ do I know?

  • davidwills 3:18 pm on July 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Colin Fulcher, , , , , , , oz 12, , oz12, ,   

    David Wills and Barney Bubbles – Blow Up Oz 12 

    Welcome to a digitally inflatable copy of Oz 12. Click on an image once, and then when it has opened in a new screen click on it again and it’ll go supersize XXXL as never seen before on the world-wide-web.

  • davidwills 1:28 am on July 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Colin Fulcher, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Many of Colin Fulcher’s (AKA Barney Bubblles) album covers to be seen 

    I just found this
    Which means it’s probably been around a while. ‘Tis a view of much of the Colin Fucher (AKA Barney Bubbles) ouvre, I could correct one or two things in the biography, but a it’s good show and worth a visit.
  • davidwills 4:39 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Colin Fulcher, , , , ,   

    The glossy, brightly coloured illustrations by Denis McLoughlin in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual 

    The glossy, brightly coloured illustrations by Trent Magreggor ? (no – see below) in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual of 1958 were a big influence on Colin Fulcher. I’d been looking for the artist for a while and came across the reference to the book in Kieth Richards’ book ‘Life.’

    • davidwills 4:52 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think the editor was John Groom, but who was the illustator?

    • david wills 5:11 am on July 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      The Comic Art of Denis McLoughlin No. 1: A Comics Monographs Special Issue ~ Book ~ Stated first edition, 2007. Perfect bound, 102 pages including covers, illustrated in black and white.

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