The Kevin Cummins photography exhibition in the Northern Quarter is brilliant. If you like Manchester music or even if you just like photography, check it out at the Richard Goodall Gallery on High Street before it closes on 26th September.
The exhibition is called MANCHESTER: Looking for the Light Through the Pouring Rain. It features Cummins’ photographs of Manchester’s music scene taken over a period of more than 30 years. It coincides with the release of his book of the same name.
I was an avid reader of the NME in the 1980’s and Cummins’ band photography was one of the standout features of the music paper. In fact, my first post for the Forever Manchester blog featured his brilliant front cover of the Stone Roses drenched in paint.
That picture (taken at a studio in Stockport, I think) is one of the 50 on display in the gallery. Others feature Joy Division, The Fall, Buzzcocks, The Smiths, Happy Mondays and Oasis.
Of these, the pictures of The Buzzcocks are probably the best. Those of the Happy Mondays probably the weakest – not much material to work with there, let’s face it. The cover shot of the book is an early snap of Morrissey, but it doesn’t grab me.
Occasionally, an out-of-town act gets a look-in too, and the picture of a young Madonna at the Hacienda is wonderful, as is the one of The Clash playing at Belle Vue – yes, The Clash really played at Belle Vue.
I’m probably drawn to these shots because of the crowd appearing as a backdrop and helping to date and place the picture in context. If I recall correctly, the crowd visible behind Madonna are all static blokes with bad 80’s haircuts. The Clash in the late 70’s obviously inspired a more dynamic response.
The pictures outside the Electric Circus in Collyhurst are also brilliant. It is 1977 and the crowd on their way to see The Ramones have long hair and a complete lack of punk-rock regalia – yes, The Ramones really played in Collyhurst. The shot includes a Hillman Imp and two lads offering a V-sign to the would-be David Bailey – perfection!
For my favourite shot though it is back to the Stone Roses – although they are not actually in it. Cummins has taken a sensational shot of the crowd at Spike Island. He has captured so much movement that the picture gives the impression that the crowd are dancing/girating at an incredible speed. It reminds me of a C17 painting of the souls of humanity consigned to hell on judgement day and trying to escape from the burning pit. But then, thinking about it, Spike Island really was that good!
Nice one Kevin.
A great accompaniment to Kevin Cummins’ book is John Robb’s The North Will Rise Again, published earlier this year. John Robb relates the experiences of those that lived and breathed the Manchester music scene from 1976 based upon interviews with them. One of the contributors is Kevin Cummins who is quoted as saying; “In Manchester we weren’t dressed up like London punks. At the time we were wearing old school shirts, cutting the tie shorter and writing slogans in biro on the shirts”.