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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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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Definitely going somewhere

The third and final part of Dave McCullough's brilliant Sounds article from June 1979:



THE BAND's background lies in the roots of the Mancunian new wave pastures.  Steve and Mike formed the band in '75 when Yes were playing Manchester's Belle Vue, discovered or as they put it "found" the Buzzcocks a year later and started taking things seriously.

"I wanted to get things out of my system," Steve reflects.  Steve worked as a social worker in those days ("Spot the loony, that sort of thing...") while the burly Mike was in Customs and Excise white collar work ("You get it drummed into you that, you know, these people are The Enemy and I couldn't accept it.  I still can't after being there for seven years").  The band shifted through the usual variances in line-up before the TJM single came along.

"We had a single night to do it in 'cos T. J. (Davidson, the entrepreneur at the head of TJM) didn't like spending too much"  We'd all been to work that day and we went in at nine that night and came out at eight the next morning with the thing finished, ready to go to work again..."

Irony of ironies, their current recording boss, Tony Wilson of the newly instated Factory Records, offered them a deal just a week after the fatal TJM blow.

"We're not expecting any money out the TJM single.  It did what was needed.  It got us noticed..."

Since then the Distractions have attempted to no avail to "get around the country".  They got as far as Sheffield.

Constant gigging around their own parts has however steadily tightened and honed them to their present sweetly purring power.  Quietly the Distractions have become a major band.  The temporary lull in action has been to their advantage.  As Steve puts it, "When we get to London now we'll be more or less ready to do it.  We've a better chance than if we'd gone down as soon as the single got those rave reviews.  Yeah, we're ready..."

The music has changed as the band has matured as people, though the base of darkly soft rock has remained always.  Mike:

"Fashions changed and it went our way a bit I think... people were more willing after a while to listen to something other than the Pistols, perhaps the Buzzcocks opened it up... that's arguable."

The Buzzcocks influence was inevitable, Steve and Mike seeing Shelley's heroes in action at so many early gigs that, as Steve puts it, "something must have rubbed off."

But a much truer base for the band lies, I feel, in Mike's love of old Stax singles and the rest of the band's fondness for disco.  Steve likes Alicia Bridges, Evelyn 'Champagne' King, Anita Ward and others; "Maybe it'll creep into the music in the future more obviously.  We've already recorded a disco track which I expect will come out sometime..."

He goes on: "People don't seem to quite know what to do with us.  Like in '77 we were playing to a pure punk audience and we were doing the same things we're doing now.  Like 'Still It Doesn't Ring', one of our slower numbers... people said 'you can't do that, you'll get killed'."

And as we smoothly glide around Manchester I'm thinking that the Distractions are definitely going somewhere.  Brandon keeps up the chat and tells me that the new single, 'Pillow Talk' / 'Valerie' will be out in a few weeks on Factory.

"I think they're great, a really fantastic band" he says, steering into the searching, seeking headlights, like hungry wolves looking for food, like an industry looking for the band fodder and finding it in the very wieldy Distractions.

"Yeah, fantastic," I answer mechanically, feeling sad and thinking of the photo of Prince The Wonder Dog and his beaming master.

"Sausages..." I bark and laugh like the rest of the spastics.  More meat is on the way.

Dave McCullough, Sounds, 1979.

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