Better Badges

Better Badges

Better Badges was a London,UK, button-badge manufacturer, started in 1976 by Joly MacFie. During the years 1977-1984 BB became the leading publisher/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. 1980 article in The Face - [] | [] | [] ]

Brief History

1976 July 4, First punk badges sold at The Ramones and The Flamin Groovies show at The Roundhouse, London. The Better Badges stand went on to become a fixture. Mail order service started. Slogan: "Image as virus, disease as cure"

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

MacFie purchased a process camera, which, apart from badges was used by various artists for record cover art including Jamie Reid (Sex Pistols) and Stewart Copeland (Klark Kent). Commenced weekly badge top ten feature in NME.

1978 Better Badges expanded from its original location in a lock-up garage 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 [ [ WWWhatsup U2 Pins ] ] , and Rob Gretton's first act as manager of Joy Division was to order a set of badges from BB. [Time Travel: From the Sex Pistols to Nirvana: Pop, Media & Sexuality 1977-96, Jon Savage, Vintage 1997, p. 363]

Later, after discussions with Gretton, MacFie ended BB's unwieldy royalty system, moving to one where bands just got a flat donation of badges [ [ WWWhatsup Joy Division Pins ] ] [ [ The Clash at Lyceum Ballroom 1981] includes former BB employee's reminiscenses of working the show. (scroll down about halfway).] .

1979 MacFie purchased in-house printing equipment, which as well as badges was used to produce many fanzines which BB also distributed. Titles included "Jamming!" [ [!Magazine.html Jamming Magazine Covers 1-12] ] , and "Panache" [ [ 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.] Promotional materials were also made for budding UK labels such as Mute Records and Rough Trade. Some artists, such as The Raincoats and Young Marble Giants used BB to publish small booklets.

MacFie bought an AM radio transmitter. 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. [ [ DBC story] ]

The Victoria and Albert Museum asked for, and received a practically complete set of the badges to date. 1980 Fanzines published included "i-D" [cite web | title = Front Row; Chronicling 20 years of renegade fashion as captured through the defining lenses of i-D magazine. | last = Trebay | first = Guy | publisher = New York Times | date = 2001-05-21 | url = | accessdate = 2007-03-25 ] , "Kill Your Pet Puppy", and "Toxic Grafity", which included a flexi-single "Tribal Rival Rebel Revels" by Crass

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 [ [,,1742844,00.html Birth of the uncool] Bob Stanley, The Guardian, March 31, 2006. ]

1981 Better Badges gained an agent, Nancy Breslow of "Short Newz", in NYC and started distributing both fanzines and badges in the USA.

1982 Suffering cash flow problems, BB was forced to vacate Portobello Road and move to premises in Bethnal Green.

1983 MacFie sold the business to the staff and left for the USA.

1985 The staff, in turn, sold it to the current owners, who ceased publishing, restricting activity to manufacturing only.


Many musicians, notable or otherwise, worked at Better Badges including Duncan Sanderson of the Pink Fairies, Neneh Cherry, Gabby Glaser of Luscious Jackson, Wayne Preston of Youth In Asia, Hamish Macdonald of Sex Beatles/Sexbeat, Val Haller of The Electric Chairs, Eric Débris of Metal Urbain, Nick Godwin of Zounds, and John Walker of Warsaw Pakt.

Designers included Megan Green, Slim Smith - recently with Artrocker, and Derek Harris.


ee also

* [ STATE OF INDEPENDENTS] Chapter 7 (pages6/7) of Tom Vague's history of Notting Hill. [ pdf]
* [ NOTTING HILL BABYLON] Chapter 8 (page5) of Tom Vague's history of Notting Hill. [ pdf]
* [ Veg Wedge] Essay by Steven Wells in NME, 23rd May 1987, references BB as punk establishment.
* [] includes many of Better Badges original designs.
* [ old badges]
* [ Better Badges Ad ]
* [ Badges office] Marlene Zampelli's photo of Joly MacFie at work in 1982.

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