Paul Gorman

Writer — London

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.

What was the first song you played on repeat?
'Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing' by Stevie Wonder.

What sort of music defines the teenage you?
Probably quite eclectic. I listened to a lot of Bowie, Alice Cooper, but I also listened to reggae. My brother bought me my first Wailers album for my 12th birthday. I listened to a lot of soul because I’ve always liked dancing.

A song from your favourite album?
My favourite album is a compilation album called 'Your Last Chance: Frontline 2'. Frontline was the reggae label set up by Virgin in the ‘70s. The song is by The Gladiators, called 'Jah Works'.

A song you wished you’d written?
A drama-laden disco song from ’77 which was remixed by Frankie Knuckles and became big on the Voguing scene: 'Let No Man Put Asunder' by First Choice. Mary J Blige covered it later and Hot Chip have sampled it.

Which British icon inspires you?
Anthony Burgess, the great British writer. I just really admire him and think he’s very funny. He’s my hero.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
'Bad Liar' by Selena Gomez.

Best song to bring people together?
'Let’s Make a Better World to Live in' by Dr John.

Your all-time favourite gig?
Frank Sinatra at the Albert Hall in 1970, or Nina Simone at the Palladium in 1978. 

Best love song of all-time?
'She Makes My Day' by Robert Palmer.

A song that you like that people wouldn’t expect?
'Roar' by Katy Perry.

Any new musicians that you’re into at the minute?
A New York artist called Delia Gonzalez. Her latest album is just amazing. She’s an artist, sculptor, performance artist. It’s kind of contemporary classic, but it really gets its claws into you.

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.

What was the first song you played on repeat?
'Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing' by Stevie Wonder.

What sort of music defines the teenage you?
Probably quite eclectic. I listened to a lot of Bowie, Alice Cooper, but I also listened to reggae. My brother bought me my first Wailers album for my 12th birthday. I listened to a lot of soul because I’ve always liked dancing.

A song from your favourite album?
My favourite album is a compilation album called 'Your Last Chance: Frontline 2'. Frontline was the reggae label set up by Virgin in the ‘70s. The song is by The Gladiators, called 'Jah Works'.

A song you wished you’d written?
A drama-laden disco song from ’77 which was remixed by Frankie Knuckles and became big on the Voguing scene: 'Let No Man Put Asunder' by First Choice. Mary J Blige covered it later and Hot Chip have sampled it.

Which British icon inspires you?
Anthony Burgess, the great British writer. I just really admire him and think he’s very funny. He’s my hero.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
'Bad Liar' by Selena Gomez.

Best song to bring people together?
'Let’s Make a Better World to Live in' by Dr John.

Your all-time favourite gig?
Frank Sinatra at the Albert Hall in 1970, or Nina Simone at the Palladium in 1978. 

Best love song of all-time?
'She Makes My Day' by Robert Palmer.

A song that you like that people wouldn’t expect?
'Roar' by Katy Perry.

Any new musicians that you’re into at the minute?
A New York artist called Delia Gonzalez. Her latest album is just amazing. She’s an artist, sculptor, performance artist. It’s kind of contemporary classic, but it really gets its claws into you.

It was just about excellent design matching excellent music and that’s why I liked him.

Paul Gorman - Full Interview

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