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Barney Bubbles

[Photos © Phil Franks]

Doug Smith:
"After the first Hawkwind album we started getting involved with Barney Bubbles for the design. Barney was probably, as far as media and media direction of the youth of this country [the UK] probably the most important artist of our generation. His influence on the band was substantial. Once he did his first one, "In Search of Space", we became very close to him. And his life was really tripping out of his head and painting."

Jonathon Green:
"Steve and Eddie installed us [Friends] in 305 Portobello Road. . .
Next door was Teenburger, which was Barney Bubbles operating a freelance design studio out of one tiny room. Every week or so he'd put on an ageing rucksack, stick his thumb out and vanish to the country, where he'd drop large amounts of acid and then wander in a few days later. We knew nothing about Barney, other than that he'd been to San Francisco and worked with Stanley Mouse, who designed the posters you couldn't read for the Fillmore."

Keith Morris:
"I worked with him for yonks. He only ever used about three photographers: Phil Franks was one and I was another. Apart from brilliantly being able to use text and pictures and satisfy both the writer and the photographer and any other cunt who was going to get involved. . . he was an ultimate designer. He was probably the most original and innovative designer that's worked in London bar none. I know that sounds very extravagant but I really believe it.
[Photos © Phil Franks]

Now I am very good at making people's dreams come true. If someone has a picture in their head, I'm very good at interpreting it and making the scene work. I'm not the greatest guy to make the initial picture. And one of the great things about working with Barney was that in literally 30 seconds he could just generate great visual beginnings. I probably creatively miss him more than anyone in London. There are very few designers you'll ever come across who are actually going to spark like that. And not just with me. He could do it with anybody.

He was incredibly nervous, he lived on the edge of sanity. At one point he gave up and we found him in a supermarket stacking shelves. He was always like this, from art school days. Always worried about his weight, swigging `Wate-On'. He was a bit aware of being little and physically inconsequential and he was always trying to put weight on. Like a lot of very very bright, very talented people he did live on this edge of insanity.

But people who worked with him, whether they were clients, or people like me or even straight, hard-nosed printers, they all had incredible respect. He had an enormous talent, he was a terrific visionary and his design now is ahead of its time. There's a whole cult of collecting Bubbles going on now."

Jonathon Green:
"Barney was an inveterate hippie. Drugs with everything. He's made an arrangement with a caff, I think the Venus, in Golbourne Road. He'd give them a lump of hash and every time we went there for lunch, which was most days, they'd crumble a little over his steak and chips."

Keith Morris:
"Barney was great. I'd known Barney since Ginny Clive-Smith first introduced him to "OZ" and I was with him only two or three days before he finally killed himself. He was called Colin Fulcher then."

[Photos © Phil Franks]

Andrew Bailey:
"I was in awe of Barney because I recognised even in my unformed mind of the time that he was a bona fide talent, that he was seminal to a whole school of design that you can still see aspects of today. The sort of things he did in print are still around in magazines like "The Face" and god knows what. All that stuff he did for Stiff a bit later. Always a sad character but a genuine hippie."

Update February 10 2021:For more information and previously unseen documentation and images than you'll find in any book currently available on the legendary Barney go see Barney Bubbles? What a laugh. The history of Barney Bubbles, as told by a life-long friend and designer, David Wills.

Update March 23 2000: Will Birch's book, "No Sleep Till Canvey Island", is an in depth history of the British Pub Rock scene of the '70s and contains a wealth of information on Brinsley Schwarz, Famepushers, Barney Bubbles, Stiff Records, Friends magazine, and other stuff mentioned on these pages. Now available in association with Amazon.co.uk.

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The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green

All Images Copyright © 1969 - 2023 Phil Franks, All Rights Reserved.

contact: Phil Franks (freax AT philmfreax.com)
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