Sound and Vision of Liverpool life in the hedonistic 1980s

Joey Ramone in rock god pose

New Romantics at Cagney's in 1981

Francesco Mellina

First published in News Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Editor

FOR any Wirral folk who used to enjoy back-combing their hair, slapping on the eye-liner and heading over to Eric’s Club in the 1980s, there’s an unmissable exhibition taking place in Liverpool.

Atmospheric images of Liverpool’s youthful and exhilarating post-punk era feature in a new exhibition by photographer Francesco Mellina at the National Conservation Centre. Sound and Vision: Music and Fashion photographed by Francesco Mellina, Liverpool, 1978-82 showcases 60 photographs – most of them previously unseen.

The exhibition reveals a unique visual record of the city’s music and fashion scene, capturing the striking individuality and self-expression of gig-goers and acts in this pivotal era from New Wave and Northern Soul to the New Romantics and Rockabillies.

Featuring iconic Liverpool bands and artists such as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Pete Wylie and Pete Burns, Mellina’s photographs document key gigs and music spots of the time, along with many more names who went on to achieve worldwide status including Roxy Music, The Clash, The Ramones and The Smiths as well as artists such as Mick Hucknall and U2 who were still opening support acts at the time.

Italian-born Francesco Mellina trained in photography at Liverpool Art School in the 1970s and went on to manage Liverpool band Nightmares in Wax, which later became Dead or Alive.

Francesco said: "I am so thrilled with this exhibition.

"The images here represent just a tiny fraction of the full amount. I must have around 7,000 photographs from the 70s and 80s, but I think the selection here is an excellent representation of what it was like to be in Liverpool back then.

"It's been very interesting to see people coming into the gallery to have a look for themselves.

"For some, it has been very emotional. It's like a massive flashback for them, and I have seen a couple of people staring at pictures of themselves they never even knew existed and they have tears in their eyes.

"Liverpool was the perfect place to be a photographer back then. It was an extreme example of what was going on all over the country and, of course, Eric's played a huge part as the focal point for all of it.

"In those days, if you had a bit of bottle, you could get yourself backstage and capture some incredible pictures.

"You wouldn't get away with it today of course. Everything is so controlled and corporate now."

Francesco set up Black Eye Records, establishing himself on the Liverpool music scene and becoming a familiar face with bands and gig-goers alike. He was also nationally recognised and regularly contributed to magazines such as The Face, Smash Hits, Melody Maker and NME.

His popularity resulted in him being uniquely positioned to intimately capture the edgy fashion and music trends that were created, nurtured and encouraged in the city during the late 70s and early 80s.

This closeness to his subjects offers exciting glimpses and rare insights into a time that many still try to imitate but can never truly replicate.

The exhibition runs until August 31.

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