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Rockarchive Exhibition Celebrates the Manchester Music Scene

Classic early shot of Joy Division at TJ Davidson Rehearsal Room, Manchester in January 1979 ©

The Manchester music scene has, without question, gifted the world with some pretty incredible bands. And by pretty incredible I mean the sort where mere adjectives don’t do them justice. From the 60s with bands like The Hollies and Herman's Hermits to The Smiths and Morrissey, Joy Division, The Fall, The Stones Roses, Happy Mondays, New Order, The Buzzcocks and Oasis—it’s a place steeped in music history.

Taking a visual dive into this abundant pool of creativity is a new, free exhibition currently on at Manchester Central Library. It’s called There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and it’s a collaboration between Rockarchive and music writer Jon Savage, with Savage and Rockarchive founder Jill Furmanovsky curating the show.

Early shot of The Fall at Central Station Car Park, Manchester in August 1978. © Kevin Cummins

Using photos from Rockarchive’s own collection and the Manchester Digital Music Archive, there are over 90 photos on display. Taking in punk to the Madchester scene and newer acts like Bugzy Malone and The Courteeners.

And we get to see some iconic acts hanging out in the city that created them, like The Fall in a Manchester car park in 1978, Shaun Ryder chilling on a sofa at Factory Records or The Buzzcocks tearing it up at Manchester’s celebrated Band On The Wall music venue.

Punk group Buzzcocks performing at the legendary live music venue Band On The Wall, Manchester on 2nd May 1977. Band members were bassist Garth Smith, drummer John Maher, singer Pete Shelley and guitarist Steve Diggle. © Kevin Cummins

And the photographers behind the great pictures include Jill Furmanovsky, along with Manchester-based photographer Kevin Cummins and his colleague Pennie Smith. Cummins’ images alone could define the city’s music scene. From Morrissey performing upside down on a monitor to early shots of Joy Division in silhouette rehearsing at the TJ Davidson's Rehearsal Room or walking in the snow.

Along with Shaun Ryder in the recording studio or the Stone Roses performing to a huge crowd at the legendary, generation-defining Spike Island gig or looking out at the viewer in the iconic NME cover shot of the band covered in dripping paint like one of John Squire's artworks. The latter Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft called the “defining moment of the era and the greatest NME cover of all time.”

The iconic Stone Roses NME cover, taken in November 1989. Photographer Kevin Cummins says, 'I’d wanted to photograph the band (Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni) as a John Squire painting for ages. We finally set it up - they could only do it on a Sunday - in Manchester. I spent the morning turning the studio into a polythene cube - I hadn’t told the owner our plan and I was worried about his studio looking like we’d played paintball for 24 hours in there. John brought the paint - we started with blue and white - for Manchester City - my team. Each time he added another colour he would paint himself then lie in the shot. After two hours without heating - lying in cold wet paint we’d got the shots. That’s when I broke the news to them that there were no showers in the studio. They all had to walk through Manchester City centre dripping in multi coloured paint and go back to Ian Brown’s flat to shower it off. The handprints are still down the stairwell of the building.' © Kevin Cummins

Other photographers on show include ones that lived locally to shoot the various scenes and bands as they emerged or took a special interest in Manchester’s music scene and the bands that  made it. These include Paul Slattery, Peter Walsh, Steve Double and Howard Barlow.

Steve Double has shot some great pics of James, The Stones Roses, The Happy Mondays and Oasis, all looking fresh faced and ready to take on the world. While some of Howard Barlow’s pics include Tony Wilson looking gleeful riding a dodgem at the Hacienda back in 1992 when it was set up like a fairground. Along with candid shots of Mark E. Smith, Shaun Ryder and New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

Oasis pictured at Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire in June 1994. © Steve Double

Speaking about the exhibition, Furmanovsky says, “We decided to concentrate on showing gritty images of those bands and musicians whose music is so deeply rooted in Manchester, one cannot imagine rock music or the city itself being the same without their contribution. Many of these are the bands and musicians that formed in the wake of punk, at a time when Manchester’s music scene was expanding in a unique and inimitable way.”

You can find out more about the exhibition here. It’s on at Exhibition Hall, First Floor Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square Manchester, M2 5PD now until 22 February 2019.

Happy Mondays messing about in Clerkenwell, London in 1986 © Steve Double

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these and many more iconic images for sale from the exhibition which you can buy here, along with images by Kevin Cummins, Steve Double and Howard Barlow.

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