Guy Peellaert, 1934–2008


Diamond Dogs (1974).

Many people know this classic album sleeve even if they don’t recognise the name of the Belgian artist who painted it. Guy Peellaert died this week and this is easily his most famous picture. I remember being very struck by its appearance in the local record shop window which always displayed gatefold album sleeves opened out as above. By then the notorious dog’s genitals would have been removed from the picture to protect the delicate sensibilities of Bowie’s listeners; the copy here is from a later CD reissue.


Taxi Driver (1976).

Peellaert’s work was very visible in the 1970s, especially his book of rock star portraits, Rock Dreams, a ubiquitous pop culture item along with Roger Dean’s Views and Alan Aldridge’s psychedelic whimsy. I always liked the Bowie cover, it hinted at weirder music than the rather mundane post-Velvets/Mott the Hoople rock which the album contained, but much of the work in Rock Dreams seemed garish and awkward. Far more successful was Peellaert’s painting for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, undoubtedly commissioned on the strength of his earlier work but superior to nearly everything in his book.

Peellaert’s official site has several galleries of his paintings.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive
The illustrators archive

Alan Aldridge: The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes


I’ve never been all that keen on Alan Aldridge‘s brand of psychedelic art but it’s worth noting here the (London) Design Museum retrospective which runs from 10 October to 25 January, 2009. Aldridge’s work as a designer and illustrator for Penguin Books in the Sixties impresses me more than his subsequent illustrated Beatles lyrics and The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper Feast (1973), a pair of books which seemed ubiquitous in the 1970s. Flickr has a decent selection of his book covers which included a run of sf paperbacks in 1967. Ballard’s The Wind from Nowhere is the very slight debut novel which the author prefers to forget. Where Ballard in Penguin is concerned, David Pelham’s work a few years later was a far more suitable match.

Seeing Aldridge honoured with a big retrospective make me wonder why Roger Dean hasn’t yet been given the same accolade. Dean for me is by far the better artist in terms of distinctive and memorable imagery; he’s also a better draughtsman and far more imaginative designer (not to mention having always been a speculative architect). I suspect Dean’s reputation is still blighted by his associations with Yes and the general antipathy which that band’s name generates in a certain middle-aged sector of Britain’s cultural commentariat. Ballard’s name was equally blighted in literary circles by his science fiction associations and it was Barcelona, not London, which honoured him with a major exhibition recently. There may be some home-grown reappraisals in the offing but I won’t hold my breath.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ballard in Barcelona
The New Love Poetry
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Penguin designer David Pelham talks
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

Barney Bubbles: artist and designer


Image-heavy post! Please be patient.

Four designs for three bands, all by the same designer, the versatile and brilliant Barney Bubbles. A recent reference over at Ace Jet 170 to the sleeve for In Search of Space by Hawkwind made me realise that Barney Bubbles receives little posthumous attention outside the histories of his former employers. Since he was a major influence on my career I thought it time to give him at least part of the appraisal he deserves. His work has grown in relevance to my own even though I stopped working for Hawkwind myself in 1985, not least because I’ve made a similar transition away from derivative space art towards pure design. Barney Bubbles was equally adept at design as he was at illustration, unlike contemporaries in the album cover field such as Roger Dean (mainly an illustrator although he did create lettering designs) and Hipgnosis (who were more designers and photographers who drafted in illustrators when required).

Colin Fulcher became Barney Bubbles sometime in the late sixties, probably when he was working either part-time or full-time with the underground magazines such as Oz and later Friends/Frendz. He enjoyed pseudonyms and was still using them in the 1980s; Barney Bubbles must have been one that stuck. The Friends documentary website mentions that he may have worked in San Francisco for a while with Stanley Mouse, something I can easily believe since his early artwork has the same direct, high-impact quality as the best of the American psychedelic posters. Barney brought that sensibility to album cover design. His first work for Hawkwind, In Search of Space, is a classic of inventive packaging.

Update: BB didn’t work with Mouse in SF, I’ve now been told.


Hawkwind: In Search of Space (1971).

It’s fair to say that Hawkwind were very lucky to find Barney Bubbles, he immediately gave their music—which was often rambling and semi-improvised at the time—a compelling visual dimension that exaggerated their science fiction image while still presenting different aspects of the band’s persona. In Search of Space is an emblematic design that opens out to reveal a poster layout inside. One of the things that distinguishes Barney Bubbles’ designs from other illustrators of this period is a frequent use of hard graphical elements, something that’s here right at the outset of his work for Hawkwind.

This album also included a Bubbles-designed “Hawklog”, a booklet purporting to be the logbook of the crew of the Hawkwind spacecraft. I scanned my copy some time ago and converted it to a PDF; you can download it here.

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