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the official distractions website

Welcome to the official Distractions website. We will be aiming to record the history of one of the greatest, but least heralded, of all Manchester beat groups.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Manchester's best kept secret

Here we have one of the earliest pieces of Distractions history, courtesy of Stuart Murray and Mark Windsor of those other legendary Manchester post-punk groups, Fast Cars and V2. It was in Sounds in late 1978 or early '79, featuring TJM Records, Tony Davidson's famous Manchester label. 

Tony takes up the story. "The advert was in Sounds music paper and it was of the first 5 releases on the TJM label. It was a half-page advert and cost £600 plus VAT. At this stage of the record company it was all systems go, to get as much profile and sales for TJM as possible. Looking back, I was taking the profits from the rehearsal rooms and pouring them into the record label. Many thanks to Stuart Murray for the memory."

Note how The Distractions' debut demanded more copies than Mick Hucknall's Frantic Elevators!

announce the inception of a Manchester based Record Company.
The label for the discerning record buyer.

The sound of tomorrow
made for today

35 Little Peter Street
Knott Mill
061 236 2717

Distributors: Virgin Records, Rough Trade, Small Wonder Records, Bonaparte Records, Lightning, Discount Records, Wind-up Records

Watch out for the TJM tour this spring

"Manchester's best kept secret"



"You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That"

4 tracks, Limited edition of 6000

12 inch EP, Availble Feb 1st

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The stuff of legend

The Distractions' 'Kindly Leave The Stage' has appeared on a number of Best of 2017 lists. Here's the first, thanks to Dave Steinfeld (Staff Writer / Archive Creator) at Blurt. The eagle-eyed will also see The Granite Shore's extraordinary album, 'Suspended Second', and The June Brides' 'Three Wishes - Part Time Punks Sessions' (with Aberdeen and 14 Iced Bears), listed by Tim Hinely (Senior Editor / Zines & 45 Ed. / Mile High Club). These wonderful records feature the Distractions' Nick Halliwell, Stephen Perrin, Arash Torabi and Ian Henderson on 'Suspended Second', and Arash plays bass in the June Brides. 

5. The Distractions — 'Kindly Leave the Stage' (Occultation Recordings)  

The Distractions are the stuff of post-punk legend: an obscure band from Manchester, England who made one critically acclaimed album in the early '80s and promptly vanished. The title of their third long-player says it all. 'Kindly Leave The Stage' is their swan song from singer Mike Finney, guitarist/songwriter Steve Perrin and their mates. While the opening track, “A Few Miles More”, is catchy, it isn’t happy. And after that, the album is basically one long farewell. But few bands do sadness as well as The Distractions.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leaving them wanting more

* * * * *  

Leaving them wanting more... much more
The Distractions - Kindly Leave The Stage

J. Fennessy, 14 September 2017 

It hardly seems fair that this is the last Distractions album. After all, there have only been three of them since the first one came out in 1980. But if there is any truth in that old showbiz adage about leaving them wanting more, this is the album to go out with. Many long-time fans may find it hard to believe but this may just be a better all-round long-player than that much-loved first album "Nobody's Perfect".

When the Distractions released their also excellent second album "End of The Pier" in 2012, veteran fans were overjoyed and there was even talk of a re-release of Nobody's (criminally no longer available) and a career-long retrospective with rare tracks. The feeling of optimism was boosted by songs of the quality of "Wise", "Boots", "100 Times" and "Girl of the Year". The classic combination of Mike Finney vocals and Steve Perrin on guitar was enhanced by Nick Halliwell in particular - the band was hot and the future looked bright. It is not quite clear what has happened since and it is very sad that this is their last album, particularly because the whole band are on top form on this record.

Those expecting brash and noisy punk singalongs will be surprised by this album if they did not buy the last one, as there is nothing like the faster tracks (e.g. Paracetamol Paralysis) on "Nobody's Perfect" on this album. The mood is closer to that of classic slower songs from that album like "Stuck In A Fantasy" or "Still It Doesn't Ring". Mike Finney's soulful, emotion-drenched vocals are as striking as ever as he rings every ounce of passion from these songs of loss, regret, love and defiance. You can hear every word - none of that posey rock star snarling or slurring - and the words are well worth hearing because these are a great set of lyrics. It would be tedious to quote examples because there are so many good lines to choose from and you really need to hear them in context to get the full effect.

Steve Perrin and Nick Halliwell are superb throughout on guitar on their own compositions, which are catchy and melodic in the Marr/Morrissey mode. The bass guitar is also a constant brooding presence and I have not been so aware of such a gently probing bass sound on a new record for years. Musically, this band do not make a false step and you will find these songs nagging away at you for days afterwards - a good sign in my book. Also worth noting are the superb backing vocals, which enhance the atmosphere carefully created by Mike's precise singing. The only thing I find slightly irritating is the brief band comments between songs - maybe one or two quips would have been okay but I think they overdid it here - sorry, guys!

Like quoting lyrics, it seems wrong to single out songs because this album works so well because it is a cohesive whole and the songs complement each other. "Kindly Leave The Stage" demands to be listened all the way through and then, as we used to do in the old vinyl days before CDs, stuck back on the turntable and played again. However, I have to draw attention to the first track "A Few Miles More" - a storming, brilliant opener that you really have to hear. If there was a Distractions Greatest Songs album, this would be on it along with early singles like "Time Goes By So Slow" and "Doesn't Bother Me" (Incidentally, if anyone from The Distractions is reading, if there ever is a re-release of "Nobody's Perfect" I would love to see these two tracks added to the playlist of the original album!) Finney's voice soars confidently into the stratosphere on this song and the guitars are upfront too, joining him in the heavens. And that bass, there is always that bass!

Also worthy of mention is the song "Nowhere" which neatly looks back at the band's past with a sly reference to "Time Goes By So Slow" in the lyric. "Wake Up and Kiss Me Goodbye" is a positive song amongst all the plaintive wordplay on this CD, a simple but touching expression of love. And the final song "The End of The Pier" not only harkens back to the second album of that name but also brings the whole record and, perhaps, the whole career to a fitting conclusion. You can almost hear the curtain fall.

Cue applause. End credits.

But, guys, you surely, surely cannot call it a day after such a great record. The "Bring Back The Distractions" campaign starts here!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It's just right

Although the third and final Distractions album, 'Kindly Leave The Stage', was released earlier this year, its predecessor, 'The End Of The Pier', is still getting some rave reviews.  This one is from 2004, and while this five-star review was kindly published by the reviewer at Amazon, the LP (just £10 with free CD and download!) or CD (a bargain £5) is best purchased from Occultation directly.

Deserves to be more widely heard

By spineynorman on 6 January 2014

I saw the Distractions supporting someone in Birmingham many many years ago (was it The Members?). I was so impressed I then went out and bought 'Nobody's Perfect'. I can't think how I would ever have chanced upon such a gem had I not seen them that night, purely by chance. What a find. The only area where I disagree with the previous reviewer is favourite songs from Nobody's Perfect - "Still it doesn't ring" and "Stuck in a fantasy" for me ! Or was it "Looking for a Ghost" or "Leave you to dream"

How do you follow what, for some, was as good an album as they have ever heard? It must have been difficult to decide how to play it, update the sound, the style, the lyrical ideas? It could have been a disaster but thankfully no chance of that. It's just right. The sound and style obviously wasn't in tune with whatever the majority wanted then and it certainly won't be now but it ought to be. It takes a few listens for it to develop. Remember when all the great albums did that? Great songs, great singing, great playing. 

Mike Finney had such a vocal talent, I wondered what he would be like now. Well he's just as good. A bit different, a bit older, a bit growlier but how this man's singing isn't rated up there with the best is a complete mystery to me. Think of a cross between John Lennon and Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops. Probably not right but hopefully you get how highly I rate him. And it isn't anaesthetised by production like some "X Factor" winner. This is real heartfelt singing. In fact the Beatles comparison also extends to the guitar playing. Just as George Harrison embelished Beatles songs rather than trying to sound flash, so does Steve Perrin here. Please please give it a try!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A superb farewell

Here's a glowing review of The Distractions’ third and final album, 'Kindly Leave The Stage', from Manuel Borrero in the Spanish magazine, Ruta 66.  We've just seen a follow-up interview piece with Steve Perrin and Nick Halliwell in this months' magazine, which we'll feature and translate soon.

Kindly Leave The Stage

“I’m absolutely hooked on the final record by this now disbanded - amicably and innocently - combo who first stepped out in the turbulence of Manchester in 1980. Back in that dim and distant past, amidst all the upheaval of punk/new wave, they released their debut album, 'Nobody’s Perfect'. The follow-up took thirty-two years to arrive and was called 'The End of the Pier' and, by comparison with that temporal abyss it’s only taken them a few years to release what is their final goodbye, according to Mike Finney and Steve Perrin, who have always been the heart of the band. They say that resignation is the word that best sums up this finale, an outstanding group of ten songs breaking through the dark shadows rather like the weak sunshine of the first few days of spring. There’s a dense layer of intimacy to these tracks, sung up-close-and-personal, delicately wrapped in subtle instrumentation where the strings of the acoustic played by Perrin back Finney’s slightly soulish voice, with traces of forerunners such as Scott Walker and more recent comparisons like Edwyn Collins cutting through the arrangements of huge songs such as “The Fire” with its evocative whiff of the best British folk, the innocent atonement for sins detailed in “Talking to Myself” and the hidden happiness produced by “A Few Miles More”. A superb farewell. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

A band you love beyond all reason

A few months ago David Quantick wrote about "his band", The Distractions, in his first Record Collector column. I think there's a few of us out that think the same of this wonderful group...


The debut of our new columnist David Quantick

I don't know if you have a band that you love beyond all reason. I'm sure you do. Mine is The Distractions, a Manchester group who emerged during punk with a melodic genius, a way with wry lyrics and, in Mike Finney, the great blue-eyed soul voice of its day. The Distractions, who had great singles like Time Goes By So Slow and It Doesn't Bother Me, always sound to me like Buzzcocks on Mowtown, and I love their sole album from the time, 'Nobody's Perfect'.

They also wrote, but never recorded, a beautiful, sad and powerful song called Nothing Lasts, which you can't get anywhere. When they re-formed a few years back to make their second album ('The End Of The Pier', only 32 years after their debut), I asked them about Nothing Lasts. They made polite noises, but it was from the end of their early career and it seemed they didn't really want to talk about it. (Mike did find me an old live recording of it, which was wonderful.)

One night I went to see The Distractions in Salford, where they were playing two nights at Paul Heaton's pub, The King's Arms. They were brilliant, the years falling off them like leaves from a mighty oak. And then Mike introduced a song, and Steve said, "This one's for our friend Dave," and they played Nothing Lasts. And I could barely hear it for the tears. So that was all right.

The Distractions' third and final album, 'Kindly Leave The Stage', is out on Occultation Recordings on 12 May 2007.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A musical legacy - their finest moment

Here's a long and lovely review of 'Kindly Leave The Stage' by Malcolm Carter at Penny Black Music. Both Malcolm and Penny Black are long-time supporters of The Distractions, and their wonderful online fanzine comes highly recommended (sign up here).

The Distractions - Kindly Leave the Stage

Occultation Recordings, 2017 

Malcolm Carter 

“I know we used to think that time went by too slow/Now there’s nothing left to do and there’s nowhere left to go”. 

It’s not unusual to interpret lyrics differently than the way they were intended by the artist. But lines like the above, taken from ‘Nowhere’, on The Distractions' third album, ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’, are crying out to be deciphered in a way other than composer Steve Perrin had in mind. 

Most of the Manchester band’s songs deal with matters of the heart, in their own particular way. Many long time fans will smile or find themselves welling up at the closing lines of ‘Nowhere’ (even if it was tongue in cheek). Especially as this album is being touted as the last The Distractions will ever make. The point is that The Distractions do have somewhere to go; their new songs better even those on their classic debut from 1980. 

It took The Distractions some 32 years to follow up ‘Nobody’s Perfect’; a brace of warmly received EPs and a change in line-up resulted in 2012’s ‘End Of The Pier': ten original songs in which original Distractions vocalist Mike Finney and guitarist and main songwriter Steve Perrin were joined by The Granite Shore’s Nick Halliwell (who produced the set), Mike Kellie on drums, Arash Torabi (June Brides and The Granite Shore) on bass and Nick Garside on keyboards. Halliwell’s understanding and love of The Distractions earlier work resulted in possibly the best track on ‘End Of The Pier’, the melancholy ‘Wise’, which was surely inspired by the demise of the original Distractions. We noted at the time that ‘End Of The Pier’ was like the older brother of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’; that punky edginess had diminished. That said, Mike Finney’s soulful vocals had aged well and sounded even more expressive on the new album. 

Five years later, and Finney, Perrin, Halliwell and Torabi are back this time with Ian Henderson (The Puddle) on drums. The legendary Mike Kellie sadly passed away in January of this year and was too ill to take part in these recordings, (this writer can still just about remember, as a very young teen, seeing Mike play as part of Spooky Tooth, R.I.P. Mike). 

Because Steve Perrin now resides in New Zealand, it’s more than likely that the claims that this will be The Distractions swansong will be proven to be true. Mike Finney is currently playing some gigs with original Distractions drummer Alex Sidebottom, but as for new recordings, this looks like the end. 

The guitar sound that Halliwell, as producer, captured on ‘The End Of The Pier’ is prevalent here, and the bass is forward in the mix again. There are times when the bass is the focal instrument, ‘Last To Leave’ being a prime example. You find yourself following the bass line long before Finney’s longing vocals (and those heavenly backing vocals) come in. 

While none of the tracks speed along like ‘(Stuck In A) Fantasy’ from their debut, everything that made and still makes The Distractions so important shines through. The melodies that both Perrin and Halliwell craft are addictive, and lyrically both writers express affairs of the heart in a way that is distinctively their own. Halliwell’s production is perfect; the way the backing vocals are recorded is a work of art itself. The choir of ghosts that repeat the line“image from a half forgotten dream” on ‘Talking To Myself’ is a fine example of the care and love that has been put into this project. 

Although in many ways ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ is a natural continuation of the work The Distractions did on ‘The End Of The Pier’, it appears to be a more resigned collection of songs and performances than those they presented five years ago. The knowledge that this is the final time they will record together obviously informs this album. 

Where there was once frustration in Finney’s soulful interpretations of Perrin’s lyrics, there now sits the wisdom that comes with age. Finney is still one of our most underrated singers, time has not dimmed the emotion in his vocals, the opposite has happened; he’s even more convincing now. Without underplaying the input from drummer Henderson and, as touched upon earlier, bassist Torabi lends so much to the overall sound of the album the combination of Finney, Perrin and Halliwell is one made in musical heaven. 

While not even their biggest fans would have expected The Distractions to ever recapture the edgy pop that made ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ so special, the mere fact that the principal players got together 30 years later and made a brilliant second album that took their music to another level (helped in no small part by Halliwell) was more than we could have hoped for. ‘The End Of The Pier’ matches their debut song for song, so to declare ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ as the best Distractions album is a bold statement. But it is. 

We’ve not had the chance to live with these songs for 35 years, or even the five years for which ‘The End Of The Pier’ has been a part of our lives, but in just a few weeks this latest collection of songs, despite the sadness that hangs over it, has shown itself to be an album of solid, intelligent pop music that will last the test of time. When two talents such as Perrin and Halliwell get together and produce songs of the calibre of ‘Wake Up And Kiss Me Goodbye’ (complete with brass from Probyn Gregory), we can’t help but think what the results would have been if The Distractions stayed together as a band and made further recordings with this line-up. 

The darkest song on the album, ‘The Connection’s Dropped Again’, a Halliwell song, shows once again how Finney’s vocals have matured; it’s a spine-chilling performance and the song allows the band a chance to experiment a little; imagine if there was more of this to come. 

The gentle ‘Tell Them I’m Not Here’ is the last Perrin contribution on the album. Again, the lyrics can be taken a number of ways; a letter to a lost love or a goodbye to band members? Finney turns in one of his best ever vocal performances, and those heavenly backing vocals again add so much to the song. 

The album ends with a Halliwell song, ‘The End Of The Pier’; more appropriate here than on the album it shares a name with. Perrin also uses those words in his preceding song; it appears that the band want to hammer the message home that this will definitely be the last Distractions album. But there’s also the feeling that there’s some regret felt. Again, the lyrics can be taken as directed at a failed relationship or the break-up of a band; it’s a lovely, understated performance and a perfect way to end the album. 

As usual with Occultation Recordings releases the album is beautifully presented and available in a number of options. There is a 10” vinyl mini-LP limited to just 250 copies bundled with some copies of ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ and only available on the Occultation website (http://www.occultation.co.uk) and through the New Zealand label Fishrider Records which features six songs unavailable elsewhere. Three are acoustic versions of songs that appeared on the ‘The End Of The Pier’ album; one of which, ‘Too Late To Change’, features Mike Kellie on bodhran, the last recording he ever made with the band. 

The other three songs are outtakes from ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’; an 18-string version of ‘Last To Leave’, a Steve Perrin lead vocal on his song ‘Skin’ and most surprisingly, a track written by original Distraction Adrian Wright titled ‘Nothing Lasts’. At the time of writing, this mini-album wasn’t available to listen to, but the acoustic version of ‘Wise’ has been up on YouTube for a week or two. 

It’s sad that The Distractions have chosen this time to leave us; ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ is their finest moment, but they’ve left a musical legacy that few bands will ever match. 

Track Listing: 

01) A few Miles more 
02) Last to leave 
03) Talking to myself 
04) What the Night does 
05) The Fire 
06) Wake up and kiss me goodbye 
07) Nowhere 
08) The Connection's dropped again 
09) Tell them I'm not here 
10) The End of the Pier 

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