45 Year Old Records At The John Rylands Library: the Kevin Cummins Archive

Dave Goulding looks back on his first punk rock gig, inspired by the Kevin Cummins Archive, part of the British Pop Archive.

by David Goulding

Recently, leafing through the pages of Kevin Cummins book ‘Manchester: Looking For The Light Through The Pouring Rain‘, I was drawn to one of Kevin’s photos because I realised it had been taken at a hugely significant turning point in my life – my first punk rock gig.     

Image of the band “Slaughter and Dogs” from the Kevin Cummins Archive

This captures ‘Slaughter and the Dogs’ as they launch into their set with an explosion of energy and talcum powder. Kevin had seen them previously and knew this moment was coming, positioning himself to get the best shot. If you look in the background there is hardly anyone in the hall – most of the audience were far more interested in what was on offer in the bar next door. 

Ticket to “The Heartbreakers” performance from the Kevin Cummins Archive

Much has already been written about the bands, and I find it hard to describe objectively about how much that night at Warrington Parr Hall shaped my life. I know I did not imagine that forty five years on I would be enjoying a late onset career at the venerable John Rylands Research Institute and Library, where we now hold the Kevin Cummins Archive. Part of the problem writing about my punk past is that I will qualify for my state pension next year. This doesn’t mean I am to be booted out of my job with a gold watch – no, instead I get to enter a time capsule in the form of a shoe box full of tickets from all the gigs Kevin has clocked up over his long years as a music photographer and fan. 

Examining the Kevin Cummins Archive in the Modern Reading Room at the John Rylands

You can tell Kevin is a music fan as well as a professional photographer – he saw all three of Roxy Music’s shows at the Kings Hall, Belle Vue in 1971, and the same for Rod Stewart a few years later. He bought tickets for The Faces in ’71, David Bowie twice in ‘73, and Lou Reed in ’74, but his epiphany was going to the legendary Lesser Free Trade Hall event with the Sex Pistols supported by Slaughter and the Dogs and The Buzzcocks in 1976.

Of course for me the biggest thrill was finding Kevin’s rare intact Parr Hall ticket. Most tickets were torn in half to prevent re-use, and the half I kept didn’t show that the venue was licensed until 2.00 a.m.    Due to a romantic disentanglement I’d left early, heartbroken before the Heartbreakers set, so I missed out on all the lively beer-fuelled ‘action’ my friends enjoyed later on, but I was not downcast for long as I had an exciting new passion in my life! 

The quaint pink ticket type was not uncommon – a 50’s style ‘dinner and dance’ design which could be cheaply self-printed on a college Adana press.  Here’s one for another local ‘Live Group’ playing second on the bill to the DISCO.  You can see the price has been hastily and heavily discounted to 20p. Happily The Fall managed to survive and thrive.

Ticket to “The Fall” performance from the Kevin Cummins Archive

By May 1977 Kevin had been commissioned by the music paper NME for the first time, spending the rest of the year photographing punk bands, many of whom went on to create music which defined and transcended the ‘punk’ label.

At the John Rylands Library we also have the archive of Slaughter and the Dogs manager Rob Gretton who went on to manage Joy Division and New Order, alongside the Ian Curtis Archive and other significant collections making up The British Pop Archive, which opens with an exhibition this week. Details can be found here:

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