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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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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Close (to the Edit)

Close (to the Edit) 7" (ZTT). (c) www.discogs.com.

Close (to the Edit) was a number 8 hit single by the Art of Noise in May 1984. The group was a kind of muso-celebrity collaboration comprising journalist Paul Morley (of course a big fan of The Distractions), producer Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, Gary Langan and JJ Jeczalik. Close... has long been a favourite track of mine but little did I know that it almost included a lead vocal from none other than Mr Finney. Apparently Mike's vocal version actually received some airplay on Mark Radcliffe's show on Piccadilly Radio - we've tracked down some lost Distractions-related tracks already but this one might be beyond us! (Less interestingly, the female "hey" at 0:20 was sampled in The Prodigy's Firestarter in 1996). Mick Middles hailed The Distractions and Time Goes By So Slow in particular in his review of the Factory Records Communications 1978-1992 Box Set on The Quietus, and in his review of the ZTT Box Set, explains all:

"In 1983, amid all the colour and fizz of the last golden age of pop, two friends of mine were asked to provide lyrics and vocals for a new track, intended to be the pilot for a new kind of record label.

The label was not quite ZTT at that point and it was NME journalist Paul Morley, who desired the vocals from the "boy with the bow tie" (the boy being Mike Finney, cherubic ‘anti-star’ at the helm of Manchester’s The Distractions and his singing partner, Julie Middles, close relation of yours truly). A tape duly arrived in the post and, after two days of frenzied lyric scribbling, the pair booked into Stockport’s Cavalier Studios to lay down the vocals. That was where I first encountered The Art of Noise’s sublime Close (to the Edit). I was immediately dumbstruck and somewhat saddened. It was a record like none I had ever encountered before and I have not come across anything remotely like it since. My sadness was simply for my friends.

“I doesn’t need you,” I told them. “Paul Morley is wrong. This is a perfect recording as it is and any vocals would simply be complicating it.” I guess I was correct. Despite receiving enthusiastic playing by Marc Radcliffe on his Piccadilly Radio Show, ‘Transmission’, the vocal track would never emerge. Close (to the Edit) of course, would become a huge hit in several guises and the label set up by Trevor Horn, his wife Jill Sinclair and Paul Morley - who, in his brilliant sleeve notes here, admits to working in the ‘dream department’ - would be famously named ZTT…or Zang Tumb Tuum and could be spelled any way you wished [1]."
Mick Middles, 2008

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Dr Filth

Dr Filth, 1981. Alex on the left. (c) MDMArchive.

One of the many intriguing post-Distractions projects that involved band members (this one involved Alex and then Mike) was Dr Filth/Full Circle/Sundiver, who sound like they also struggled for commercial acclaim despite some stellar names being involved along the way. John Nuttall recounts them over at the Manchester District Music Archive:

"I managed Dr Filth for a while. We later renamed them The Serpents, as we mistakenly thought that might make them more commercially viable. The line-up was Don Durham (songwriter/vocals), Mark Coley (bass), Dave Holmes/Paul 'Rosie' Rosenfelt (guitar) Ella/Dave Carroll (keyboard), Alec Sidebottom (drums). Don Durham was the songwriter.

Dr Filth at the Cyprus Tavern, Manchester, 1979. (c) MDMArchive.

"Don Durham then wrote a country-influenced set for Mike Finney and Dr Filth became 'First Circle' with Mike on vocals. After Mike left First Circle carried on with ex-Yes Sir vocalist, Dean Frost. "There were various other line ups with Don on vocals. Those who served included: Anthony Behrendt (guitar), Victor Freeman (bass), Aziz Ibrahim (guitar), Paul Fairweather (guitar), Paul O'Sullivan (bass), Craig Gannon (guitar), John Bohan (ex-Biting Tongues; drums), Tony Small (ex-Biting Tongues; bass)."

Of these, Aziz Ibrahim and Craig Gannon leap out as significant names in Manchester and British musical history. Ibrahim was guitarist with Simply Red and perhaps more famously, took over from John Squire at the end of the Stone Roses' career. He played their last ever ill-fated show at the Reading Festival in 1996. Ibrahim most recently provided spoken vocals on Paul Weller's excellent double album, 22 Dreams [1]. Gannon was also rather ill-fated in that he was the "fifth Smith", joining the band to replace sacked bassist, Andy Rourke. The Smiths' bassist was soon reinstated so Gannon backed Johnny Marr on rhythm guitar, featuring on singles Ask and Panic as well as other classics such as London and Half a Person.

[Back to Full Circle] "Eventually we recorded an album under the name of Sundiver [the impossible-to-find 1993's Cautionary Tales on Chrome Records]. The line-up then consisted of Don (vocals), Richard Steel (ex-Ghost Dance and later Spacehog; guitar), Andrew von Melchior (keyboards), John Grant (ex-ghost Dance; drums and production) and Pat Grant (bass) [2]."

The Distractions also at the Cyprus Tavern, Manchester, 1981 (soon-to-be members of Dr Filth, Alex and Mike). (c) Mark David Cooper.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Coming soon

Whilst we wait with bated breath for the first Distractions release in almost 30 years, here's a few other releases from label mates at Occultation to whet our whistles:

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The Granite Shore - Flood of Fortune
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Jonathan Beckett - She's A Vampire
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Friday, May 14, 2010

1995 reunion

Steve & Mike, The Roadhouse, 1995. (c) Mark David Cooper at Facebook.


In 1995 Mike Finney and Steve Perrin briefly joined forces once again under The Distractions' banner. Mike takes up the story: "In 1995, Steve and me got together with Nick Garside (Manc producer), on bass, Bernard Van Den Berg (The Distractions after Alec left, then Secret Seven) on Drums, Kevin Durkin (ex-Direct Hits, who we knew from TJM records at the beginning, and Escape Committee) on guitar (bass on Good Girls Don't Get To Paris) and played half a dozen gigs in and around Manchester and Liverpool."


Mike, The Roadhouse, 1995. (c) Mark David Cooper at Facebook.

"All these songs (from the 1995 demos) were in the set, with many other new songs, but only Still It Doesn’t Ring and It Doesn’t Bother Me from the old stuff. We were tempted to do Looking For A Ghost for an encore, but settled for Valerie and a few Lou Reed songs, which is in keeping with what we would have done originally. Good Girls Don’t Get To Paris was written in 1979, but unrecorded until 1995 at Chiswick Reach (Joe Meek’s Studio where Telstar and My Generation were recorded). The other four tunes were recorded at Manchester’s Out of the Blue Studio in 1995" (the original ‘Madchester’ studio, owned by Nick Garside).


Steve, The Roadhouse, 1995. (c) Mark David Cooper at Facebook.


Thanks to Mark David Cooper and Facebook we have a glimpse of one of these shows, at The Roadhouse on Newton Street (a few yards from where The Distractions played their New Years Eve 1979 gig with Joy Division for Factory Records in an Oldham Street warehouse). Join up to The Distractions facebook page for many, many more great images of the band from 1995 and the first time around.


Steve, Mike & Kevin Durkin, The Roadhouse, 1995. (c) Mark David Cooper.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Student friendly

Pals of mine who were fans of The Distractions at the time were students; one an obsessed Factory (and pretty much every other significant indie label as well) aficionado, the other a friend of the band. At times it does seem like The Distractions' fan base consisted of their label mates, the gushing music press and students. Good job as The Distractions plied their trade around the university circuit like all budding bands worth their salt. Thanks to Dave from The Zans who sent us this flier from the band's 28th March 1981 gig at Leicester Polytechnic with the Hit Men, Zanathus (now The Zans) and Stress, as well as details of several extra local dates for our gigography - Hazel Grove Youth Club, Bowden Vale Club and Stockport College.


The Distractions at Leicester Polytechnic, 28th March 1981.


We've also been lucky enough to hear a recording of The Distractions' gig at Newcastle University on 17th March 1980, supported by The Members. An advert for the event in City Fun magazine shows some cracking old venues that hosted bands of the day in Manchester and further afield - Britons Protection, Portland Bars, Russell Club, Cyprus Tavern... St. Austell.


The Distractions at Newcastle University, 17th March 1981. (c) MDMArchive.


Even the other flier we've come across on the Manchester District Music Archive, for the 1978 gig at the New Electric Circus in Collyhurst just north of the city centre, mentions the student discount on offer.


The Distractions at the New Electric Circus, 1978. (c) MDMArchive.



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