The iconic bubble writing that adorns the front of The Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul album is about to go on sale at Bonham’s, valued at £10 000.
The trademark stretchy font, which has been credited with launching a swarm of imitations, was created in 1965 by Charles Front, a young advertising executive who accepted the job on the side from his friend, the photographer Bob Freeman.
Freeman was responsible for the photo on the cover of Rubber Soul, which inspired Front with its slightly stretched look. ‘I had in my head the shape of a glob of latex or something viscous,’ explains the now-retired illustrator. ‘So I sat in my studio and drew the letters on cartridge paper using brown gouache, which I thought matched John Lennon’s jacket in the photo.’ He was paid 25 guineas for his trouble and never credited for the design.
The mocked-up album cover was taken by the pair to Abbey Road for inspection by ‘the boys’, who unanimously approved. While the album went on to be named one of the 100 best albums by Time magazine in 2006, the original lettering sat in a box at Front’s house for more than 40 years until his wife suggested he sell it, rather than having to decide which of his two children to pass it on to.
‘To me it was just another job,’ says Front, who went on to design album covers for Peter, Paul and Mary and Cliff Richard. ‘But I hope whoever buys it will have a love of Beatles’ memorabilia.’
Bonham’s Beatles specialist, Stephen Maycock, says it’s rare to sell just the lettering from an album cover. ‘Everyone uses computers now, but in the old days, albums were built up from mixed media, adding several different components,’ he explains. He adds that it is possible that Front’s lettering went on to be copied around the world. ‘It was certainly the first time the UK had seen this style,’ he explains.