Better Badges

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Better Badges
Founded 1976
Founder(s) Joly MacFie
Headquarters London, England
Products Badges

Better Badges was a London button-badge manufacturer, started in 1976 by Joly MacFie. During the years 1977-1984 it became the leading publisher and merchandiser of 'punk badges' - exporting millions worldwide from their offices at 286 Portobello Road. Better Badges was a major player in the punk and postpunk scenes from 1976-1983 - a pioneer viral marketer, fueling the independent labels' fan-based promotional successes of the time.[1]

History[edit]

1976 4 July, first punk badges sold at The Ramones and Flamin' Groovies show at The Roundhouse, London. The Better Badges stand went on to become a fixture.[1]

1977 May, First mass-production of punk badges for sale at Mont de Marsan festival in France.[2]

Commenced weekly badge top ten ad in NME.[3]

1978 Better Badges expanded from its original location in a lock-up garage[1] in St. Stephen's Mews into the top floor of 286 Portobello Road.

Better Badges published sets of badges for both U2 - their first ever commercial product,[4][5] and Rob Gretton's first act as manager of Joy Division was to order a set of badges from BB.[6][7]

Later, after discussions with Gretton, MacFie ended BB's unwieldy royalty system, moving to one where bands just got a flat donation of badges.[8][9]

1979 MacFie purchased in-house printing equipment which, in addition to badges, was used to produce many fanzines which BB also distributed.[10] Titles included Jamming!,[11] No Cure and Panache[12] Promotional materials were also made for budding UK labels such as Mute Records and Rough Trade.[13][14] Some artists, such as The Raincoats[15] and Young Marble Giants[16] used BB to publish small booklets.

MacFie bought an AM radio transmitter so that music could be broadcast from the top floor to the printers in the basement. These pirate radio broadcasts of mainly reggae eventually led to the formation of the Dread Broadcasting Corporation, which, under the leadership of Lepke, became the first major London urban pirate radio station,[17] for which Better Badges created merchandise and served as the official address.[18][19]

1980 Fanzines published included i-D,[20] Kill Your Pet Puppy,[21] and Toxic Grafity, which included a flexi-single "Tribal Rival Rebel Revels" by Crass.[22]

MacFie bought a cassette tape-duplicator and started offering a cheap tape publishing service which was utilized by pioneering DIY labels such as Fuck Off Records[23]

Staff[edit]

Many musicians, notable or otherwise, worked at Better Badges including Wayne Preston of Youth In Asia.[24] and Hamish Macdonald of Sex Beatles/Sexbeat.[3]

MacFie sold the business and moved to the United States in 1983.[25]

Recent activity[edit]

In the early 2000s Better Badges produced over half a million anti-war badges as part of the UK campaign against the Iraq war.[26]

Recently the firm has been renamed to 'A Better Badge'.[22]

In his 2013 memoir "A Boy About Town" Tony Fletcher dedicates an entire chapter to how Jamming! came to be printed and published at Better Badges.[27][28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 1980 article in The Face -Pt.1 | Pt.2 | Pt.3
  2. ^ "Festival Punk de Mont de marsan 1977". FR3 Aquitaine. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Vague, Tom (1980). "Vague 4". Vague. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "SHE IS REGINE...". Issue 7. Propaganda. 1 October 1987. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  5. ^ http://pinstand.com/pins/u2.html
  6. ^ Time Travel: From the Sex Pistols to Nirvana: Pop, Media & Sexuality 1977-96, Jon Savage, Vintage 1997, p. 363
  7. ^ Gretton, Rob (14 Oct 2008). 1 Top Class Manager - The notebooks of Joy Division's manager 1978-1980. Anti-Archivists. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  8. ^ "Innovate/Activate". New York Law School. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  9. ^ The Clash at Lyceum Ballroom 1981 scroll halfway
  10. ^ Catherine McDermott (1987). Street style: British design in the 80s. Rizzoli. p. 66. ISBN 9780847808038. "the first — Sniffin' Glue — and by the end of the 70s hundreds had started up, many printed by Jolly of Better Badges." 
  11. ^ Jamming Magazine Covers 1-12
  12. ^ Scissors and Glue:: Punk Fanzines and the Creation of a DIY Aesthetic Teal Triggs Oxford Journals Journal of Design History 2006 19(1):69-83.
  13. ^ Taylor, Neil (2010). Document and Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade. Orion Books. ISBN 9781409112211. 
  14. ^ "first editions & ephemera". Item #61, Rough Trade Distribution catalogue. Big City Books. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 578. ISBN 9780879306076. 
  16. ^ Young Marble Giants: Words and Pictures. Google Books. 
  17. ^ "Miss P". BBC. 4 May 2005. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  18. ^ "Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC)". HFUnderground. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  19. ^ Vague, Tom. "Notting Hill Timeline". 16 Notting Hill Babylon Early 80s. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Trebay, Guy (2001-05-21). "Front Row; Chronicling 20 years of renegade fashion as captured through the defining lenses of i-D magazine.". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  21. ^ "Interview with Tony Drayton of Kill Your Pet Puppy!". Invisible Guy. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Felicity Kinsella (18 January 2013). "A Better Badge". i-D. 
  23. ^ Birth of the uncool Bob Stanley, The Guardian, 31 March 2006.
  24. ^ Glasper, Ian (2007). The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984. Cherry Red Books. p. 161. ISBN 9781901447705. 
  25. ^ Motia, Shahryar (28 Oct 2003). "Bootlegger's Banquet". Village Voice. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  26. ^ Andrew Murray & Lindsey German (2005). Stop the war: the story of Britain's biggest mass movement. Bookmarks Publications. ISBN 9781905192007. "Over half a million badges of various designs have been produced (by Better Badges — who are only still in business because of us)" 
  27. ^ Fletcher,Tony (4 July 2013). Boy About Town. London: William Heinemann. ISBN 978-0434021673. 
  28. ^ Jennings, Dave (4 July 2013). "Louder Than War Interviews Renowned Biographer Tony Fletcher". Louder Than War. Retrieved 21 July 2013. "The knock backs came... ...from the problems with printers, right up until I came across Joly at Better Badges." 

External links[edit]