Tag Archives: Barney Bubbles

My Aim Is True

22 Jul

On this day in 1977, Elvis Costello’s audacious debut My Aim Is True was released by Stiff Records and if the music was ahead of its time, so was the design and marketing.

Elvis Costello dartboard (pic credit Dick Wingate)

A dartboard produced by CBS to promote the album in the US

Except from Be Stiff:

If one record perfectly encapsulated the ethos of Stiff Records, it is My Aim Is True. Combining Barney Bubbles’ iconic designs, Riviera’s ingenious marketing slogans, Stiff’s irreverence and a unique artist, it did what the major labels had failed to do for years. It acknowledged that music fans deserved better and tapped into Britain’s deep-rooted culture of buying and collecting records. The Stiff template had been created and the bar set high.

Photographer Chris Gabrin had produced the black and white shots that had adorned the sleeves of ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Alison‘. However, it was Keith Morris who was invited to do the shoot for the album under Barney Bubbles’ direction. Bubbles reportedly threw Elvis Presley-like shapes around the room as the other Elvis struck a variety of poses against a pale backdrop. A picture of awkwardness in a jacket, open-neck shirt and tie, turned-up jeans, and National Health glasses, Costello was a geek years before it was chic. A vibrant yellow screen was placed over him for the initial run of 10,000, ensuring it would stand out in the racks and window displays of record shops. Then, when the album began to catch fire, Stiff made a discovery that would result in a collector’s dream. Riviera had gone with Bubbles to oversee the first run and found out that using different coloured inks wouldn’t cost more. He then demanded that every run of 5,000 copies be printed in a different colour.

Costello poster

Punks that got the cream

18 Jun

Damned_-_Damned_damned_damned_album_cover

From an interview with Brian James for Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story
“We didn’t do it for an album cover, we just did a session with this guy called Peter Gravelle, who was married to a girl called Patti Palladin, and Patti was best mates with my girlfriend at the time, Judy Nylon. Unbeknown to me, because I work up next to the girl in the morning, and I had a discussion in the afternoon, but they concocted this little surprise for us to happen during the photo session. So out comes the whipped cream and they started getting into this stuff and chucking it, and Judy in particular because I was going out with her, she had a ball, she loved it, although she didn’t get me that much! When Barney Bubbles saw the contact sheet he said, ‘That’s the album cover, that has got to be the album cover’, and we couldn’t agree with him more. It was just too bizarre, no one had ever done that.”