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The Work of Barney Bubbles is a Reason to be Cheerful

by allison • May 9

Updating the office's iTunes library led to some serious thought about the album art of Elvis Costello. His early covers were always so clever, so layered, so detailed. And there are so many! Singles, EPs, promos... All colorful and cool and striking. Further research revealed they were all designed by Barney Bubbles.

Barney Bubbles (née Colin Fulcher) was involved in London's underground music and art scene in the mid-60's. He renamed himself Barney Bubbles in 1967 as he began designing album artwork. During the 70's he worked for Stiff, Radar, and F-Beat records, designing well-known covers for Nick Lowe, The Damned, Ian Dury & the Blockheads, and most famously, Elvis Costello. Reasons to be Cheerful, a book dedicated to the work of Barney Bubbles was published last year.

It was really fun to check out the vast and varied output of Barney Bubbless. Below are some samples.

Armed Forces, Elvis Costello

It's always been mysterious as to why there are so many covers attributed to this album, and this is why. Above is the cover (left), the interior (center), and the back (right). The sleeve opens up somewhat like origami to reveal a contrasted-yet-complimentary interior. (see detail below)

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Cracking Up / Basing Street, Nick Lowe

King Rocker, Generation X. Two different versions.

Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick, Ian Dury & the Blockheads

Music for Pleasure, The Dammed

Get Happy, Elvis Costello

Seemingly crude printing along with the appearance of a worn-out center on the sleeve recalls favorite classics from your collection. The cassette, which has a different design, is equally detailed.

B Stiff, Devo

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Further Reading:

Reasons to be Cheerful (official Barney Bubbles Blog)

Barney Bubbles' Wikipedia entry

David Wills' blog (Wills is an Barney enthusiast with extensive work examples and information)