An ode to old photos

Johanna and Anya were rummaging around through a box of old photographs tonight when they came across a piece of family history – which was the cause of much merriment. It was a flier created for the short-lived death metal band in which I “played” bass guitar in the late 1980s.

Monolith was a glorious mess. We had one song, Evil Death — a doom-laden slow burner in which improvised and unintelligible lyrics were gargled over a looping three-note riff.

The four members balanced the scales quite perfectly. The brothers Glynn — Duncan and Martin — provided the musical talent which our song hid quite well. Brain-on-a-stick Mark Wallwork and I could offer little more than great enthusiasm.


The moment that Anya entered the room brandishing a faded piece of A4 paper and exclaiming, between tears of laughter, “look what we found!”, I knew what it was.

27 years disappeared instantly as I stared at the photo, with its collage of newspaper headlines and black and white images.

I remembered them all.

The pig in wellington boots. The mouse which had been copied from an against animal testing campaign leaflet. The story of a drunken man who had nailed himself to a bench on a seaside pier, for fear of falling off.

And the carefully curated words, chosen to instil terror into the reader: Butcher, Gunman, Fear, Demolish, Arson, There’s Nothing Left, Attacking, Chemical Leak, Piercing Sound, Pain, Man in Pylon Horror. And, randomly, in the top left hand corner: “Builders of Distinction”.

And, of course, there was our own photo: Duncan – with sock on ear, no doubt influenced by Faith No More and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Martin, channelling his inner “lost boy” with shades and vampirish pose; Mark – ever the contrarian – facing away from the camera, gazing into the distance. And me, defying all death metal convention and posing with my batman-stickered bass guitar, a big grin spread right across my face.


There is something special about rooting through old photos – in fact, the whole process of creating them was quite magical, too. Taking a roll of film to be developed, opening the pack a day or two later to find that half of them are useless – red-eyes, closed-eyes, shrouded in darkness.

Inconvenient, true, but many of those that we used to keep in a box are nowadays be more likely to be deleted immediately, or ignored forever on a dusty old laptop.

I hope that isn’t the case.

To combat that, we have undertaken a project at home to create photobooks of our favourite pictures from each year since we became digitised.

One recent image which will take pride of place was taken just a few weeks ago. Having only just turned eleven, Leo is already a more accomplished musician that I. He plays in a folk band called Little Folk, and also attends the local music service “Rockschool” for more meaty fare.

It was with Rockschool that he was allowed the privilege of representing Rochdale Music Service in a showcase at the legendary Manchester venue Band on the Wall with his band The Skull Krushers.

And here they are. Note the little fella with the guitar and a beaming face. A chip off the old block.






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Stuart Howard-Cofield

Freelance writer.

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