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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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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Arrow Studios

Jackson's Row, off Deansgate, Manchester - former location of Arrow Studios. (c) googlemap.


Arrow Studios were at No. 6 Jackson's Row off Deansgate in central Manchester.  Sadly nothing remains of Arrow - not even a Blue Plaque - and Evans Cycles sits in a new build where the studios once stood.  Today Jackson's Row is best known for the Old Nag's Head, one of Manchester's oldest pubs, established in 1777.  Arrow Studios were owned by Greendow, who also owned Indigo Studios on the other side of Deansgate where, amongst others, the seminal Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP was recorded in 1976 [1].


Jackson's Row, off Deansgate, Manchester - former location of Arrow Studios. (c) googlemap.


The recording sessions for Joy Division's proposed RCA album were held at Arrow Studios in May 1978 but this record was never released; of course Factory Records put out their debut album [2].  A few months later in November, Joy Division's future label mates and touring mates, The Distractions, recorded their debut release, You're Not Going Out Like Dressed Like That for TJM (this was by no means their first studio material committed to reel though... watch this space for more on that).

You're Not Going Out Like Dressed Like That producer, Brandon Leon, gave The Distractions some free overnight studio time, during which they recorded their signature track, Adrian Wright's Time Goes By So Slow, plus the Perrin/Finney flip-side, Pillow Fight.  The Record Mirror "Sign of the Times" feature on 8th September 1979 describes Mike trotting down Deansgate to Arrow-Indigo.  If he'd done this 130 years earlier, he'd have been passing a Quaker Burial Ground that was on this corner and, presumably, eventually beneath Arrow Studios!


Jackson's Row, off Deansgate, Manchester - former location of Arrow Studios. (c) Alan Godfrey [3].


3. Manchester City Centre 1849, Alan Godfrey Maps (2008).


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Distinctively Distractions

This review of Nobody's Perfect from the December 1980 issue of Trouser Press references, amongst others, Love, fellow Mancunians The Hollies, and the usual Undertones:




DISTRACTIONS

Nobody’s Perfect

Island ILPS 9604

“Recycling vinyl dross” or “tomorrow’s sounds from yesterday?”  Bands which mine ‘60s pop and rock for inspiration are particularly vulnerable to being gobbled up by just such tedious debates.  But if, instead of slavish and inferior rehashes, a band is capable of infusing new life into the genre, why carp?  Here’s a pair that can.

[The Lambrettas]

The Distractions’ basis in ‘60s pop-rock is broader than the Lambrettas’. Whether they’re tearing their hair out on “Waiting for Lorraine” (“…to go drop dead!”) or chasing after “Valerie”, the Distractions recall the melodic spirit of Invasion-era groups like the Searchers and Hollies, as well as American bands like Love (circa Forever Changes) and even the better bubblegum records.  The “modern” tempos and lyrical twists, though, as distinctively Distractions.

Phil Chapman and Jon Astley’s production is full of smart touches, except when they’re too heavy on sweetening.  Mike Finney’s vocals, a huge plus, are as wonderful in their own way as Undertone Fergal Sharkey’s.

How many Searchers or Tommy James & the Shondells albums could you listen to all the way through?  With the Lambrettas and the Distractions, the only time ya gotta lift the needle is to turn over the record.

- Johnny DesEsseintes




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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One fine album

This little piece on The Distraction's first two 12-inch records - the You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That EP and the Nobody's Perfect LP - is on the website of the New York magazine, Trouser Press, founded by Ira Robbins.  Distractions articles appeared in the February and December 1980 issues, but this article appears to have been written more recently.


Trouser Press, issue 57, December 1980. (c) www.trouserpress.com/magazine/index.php.


THE DISTRACTIONS 

You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That EP (UK TJM) 1979

Nobody's Perfect (UK Island) 1980

Decades from now, rock historians will scratch their heads in bewilderment that the Distractions' fine body of work didn't ensure the Manchester quintet a longer lifespan.  The 1979 EP (which contains rougher versions of two songs [Doesn't Bother Me and Nothing] that would later turn up on Nobody's Perfect, plus a live pair — "Too Young" and "Maybe It's Love" — unavailable elsewhere) hints that the group was working from an abnormally broad palette, a sense confirmed by its one fine album.

A lot of records belong to a specific time, but Nobody's Perfect continues to measure up as an ace slab of educated pop rock, right in tune with the ground rules laid down by Blondie, Squeeze and others of that ilk.  Part of the problem may be that Nobody's Perfect is too weighty to be passed off as a simple diversion.  The band's eclecticism draws on everything from Chuck Berry to Phil Spector to psychedelia — often within the same song — and the vocals tend to be more somber than carefree.  "Boys Cry" comes on like a Ronettes tune but delivers none of the upbeat emotional release seasoned pop listeners are trained to expect. Regardless, Nobody's Perfect very nearly is.

[David Sprague/Jon Young]


Trouser Press, issue 47, February 1980. (c) www.trouserpress.com/magazine/index.php.


Trouser Press, issue 47, February 1980.  (c) www.afka.net/mags/Trouser_Press.htm.


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Friday, August 5, 2011

Something for the weekend?

While we wait for the new Distractions LP to be mixed, dubbed and readied, why not revisit another of the earlier records, their third (and last) single on Island in 1980, Something For The Weekend b/w What's The Use? (WIP 6650).  The single is a re-recorded and predictably more polished version of the stomping album track recorded without the recently departed Steve Perrin.  The B-side, What's The Use? is a funky number with a kettle drum style beat that hints at Alex Sidebottom's future ventures.  Here's 'The Poor Ditching Boy's' take on it:




The Distractions - Something For The Weekend

"Because I should probably post something before the weekend and because this one seems the most relevant but mainly because I just scored the picture sleeve 7-inch of this a couple of weeks ago for a steal, here’s one from a group who were probably a bit out of sorts with their original label mates on Factory Records.  The Distractions were one of those new wavey type groups who received all the critical hype but had little, if any, commercial success.  A move to the more appropriate Island Records in late 1979 did little to alleviate this predicament, even after the 1980 release of their lone album, Nobody’s Perfect, which, again, received all kinds of favourable reviews but little mainstream airplay.  This is really quite a shame as anything I’ve heard by this group is worth your time to seek out."




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