Under the covers... Elvis Costello Armed Forces Catching Bubbles

Catching Bubbles

Colin Fulcher preferred to work anonymously, hence his pseudonym. But 'Barney Bubbles'' allies on early 1970s underground magazines such as Friends and Oz were aware of his talents, and these contacts led to his first truly iconic sleeve, for Hawkwind's 1971 LP In Search Of Space. Barney gave the album its title and created a gatefold cover that opened out into the shape of a bird with outstretched wings.


In 1976 Bubbles hooked up with Stiff records, just as punk was exploding. He understood the label's irreverent philosophy and produced eye-catching visuals for records such as The Damned's Music For Pleasure (1977), juxtaposing modernist and constructivist art techniques; Ian Dury & The Blockheads' logo and the sleeve of Do It Yourself, replete with gruesomely kitsch wallpaper-style decorations; and the arrestingly Soviet-style sleeves of Billy Bragg's debut duo of LPs, Brewing Up With… and Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy.

Alas, by the time the second of those albums hit the shelves, Bubbles would be dead, having committed suicide in November 1983, aged just 41. He is said to have become disillusioned at being short of work and having fallen out of fashion.

'Barney Bubbles was the first important post-modern designer to work in the music industry', said V&A curator Glenn Adamson, who included Bubbles' work in a 2011 exhibition. Another addition, then, to the list of artists only appreciated fully long after their own time…