Sound and Vision

Francesco Mellina
National Conservation Centre, Whitechapel (1st May – 31st August 2009, 10am - 5pm)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is a fascinating photography exhibition of a vital time in the history of rock and pop music in Liverpool.

Francesco Mellina was born in Calabria in southern Italy, but moved to Liverpool in his early twenties to study photography at Liverpool Art School. All his pictures are in black and white, and although the subtitle of the show states that they were taken between 1978-82, there is one of Joey from the Ramones captured at the legendary Eric's club in 1977.

As well as the shots of bands on stage at various venues in Liverpool, there are a number of other equally captivating photographs of clubland crowd scenes of punks, goths, New Romantics, etc., often in hand-me-down attire. The hip venues included Cagney's, Rotters and Kirklands.

The pictures that caught my eye included Bono playing at Brady's (formerly Eric's) in the early days of U2. They were supporting Pink Military and Wah Heat, and Mellina - who normally did not photographs act appearing first - due to the cost of film, did so because, “Even then they had something special".

The founder of Eric's, Roger Eagle is also pictured, pictured standing outside the Crash rehearsal studio in Davies Street. "If Eric's had not been set up by Roger as a venue, a lot of bands would not have had a place to play and develop," Mellina stated.

Mellina expresses his adulation of Siouxsie Sioux - he does have good taste! - even taking pictures of her soundchecking at Brady's. "She was the pin-up girl in punk”, commented Mellina. "With war paint on the transformation from normal girl to stage was warrior-like."

There are two bizarre shots of Pete Burns from Dead Or Alive. In one he is on stage wearing black contact lenses ("performance-wise he was captivating" said Mellina), and in the other he is walking across the road in London wearing exotic clothes in complete contract to the drab attire of the people around him.

Mellina adds some wry comments beneath his photographs. The most amusing referred to an image of Bryan Ferry on stage with Roxy Music at the Apollo in Manchester.

"It is the only time I have come out of a gig smelling of perfume instead of sweat. There were so many women in the audience throwing flowers at Ferry."

Included in the exhibition is a slide show of all the photographs displayed, plus a number of other images not shown on the walls.

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