Paul Gorman


Photograph by Ivan Jones

What is your name and where are you from?
Paul Gorman, from London.

Describe your style in three words
All in place.

How did you first discover Barney Bubbles’ work?
I used to follow this band called Hawkwind who were very underground.

Barney Bubbles designed for them and I liked their posters and visual imagery just as much as their music. A couple of years later, when punk broke in ’76-’77, Barney started designing for Stiff Records. He designed the Damned’s first albums and Generation X’s first single. He designed a lot for punk back then and he seemed to me to be really interesting.

What did you find most compelling about his work?
The thing that grabs people about his work – and I only learnt this retrospectively – is its immediacy. It really grabs you. And what he trained as was a commercial artist, which was basically to sell products, so he designed packaging mainly. So in a weird way, he flipped that in a very underground way and so to sell records or to grab listeners’ attention, he drew on that experience.

What made you begin to trace his story for the Reasons to be Cheerful book?
I’m a collector and a hoarder and I’d kept stuff from my early to mid-teens when I first started going to gigs and consuming music. I had a body of work which were Barney Bubbles designs. It seems one of my missions is to throw light on activities and people which are I think are important but may be under-appreciated. I think it’s been proven that he was really important to the development of graphic design in this country.

Talk me through the process of gathering together all the information.
Initially, I thought an exhibition would be better, but it became apparent that a book was needed. He didn’t sign anything, his work is incredibly diverse, across furniture, to paintings, to album sleeves, so without really decent, substantial information, an exhibition would be a bit diffuse. So the book came about. And the first person I knew I had to talk to was someone that I’d always admired. Jake Riviera is an extraordinary bloke who shook things up from the mid-70s onwards. He formed this revolutionary record label called Stiff and employed Barney. He was basically Barney’s patron. He and Bubbles worked together a lot and were very close.

Do you have a favourite Barney Bubbles piece?
I do! It’s a poster that I clearly remember seeing in Camden Town in North London, in 1975 because I went to the gig. It’s a gig for Hawkwind and this band called the Pink Fairies, who were really hairy.

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