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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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Friday, September 20, 2013

Angst in an East Lancs wasteland

The first half of Jon Savage's review of the Leigh Festival in Melody Maker on 8th September 1979, courtesy of NME's History of Rock and Roll.  Photos by Kevin Cummins.

Angst in an East Lancs wasteland

ZOO met Factory half-way (between Liverpool and Manchester) and very few came.

Blame it on the site - hastily prepared fields a mile outside Leight, surrounded by an East Lancs landscape of collieries, slag-heaps, bare hills sloping into dull 1930s estates and the inevitable Victorian mill.  Inaccessibility and uncertain weather, plus inadequate promotion / media coverage, resulted in a turn-out (200) a tenth of the original estimate.

Apart from a more relaxed, intimate atmosphere, this meant a top-heavy and intrusive police presence (a ratio of about 1:5) which didn't go away; preferring instead ti impose searches on as many people as they could get their hands on . . .

Eight bands: all, save openers Crawling Chaos (from Durham; a punk Hawkwind), from the North-West, all involved with either Factory or Zoo.  The earnest and slightly exaggerated coverage afforded to both labels would have led you to expect a large turnout, whatever the weather: obviously people don't always take the press to heart (thank God).

Sometimes - to - they miss what's on their doorstep.  Both Manchester and Merseyside are centres - important, still alive and innocent; both labels are exposing and servicing a gap in the market with care, style and panache.  So don't overburden it!

Their crunch comes soon: any of the bands playing today (bar Chaos) could be very successful - with the usual tangibles: promotion / leasing / management / bribery / whatever hype - and so pass outside the labels' current capabilities.  Distribution deals and advances . . . is an intermediate and position possible and tenable?

Due to organisational inefficiency, things ran late from the outset; curtailed sets were necessary throughout.  A Certain Ratio played five numbers: inverted funk with an amusing visual anomally.  Four rationed and undersized Forties youths concentrating furiously in front of an extrovert black drummer in baseball cap and shorts; the music is a similar (and effective) mix of functional, drab, grey thrashings - trebly guitars scrubbed rhythmically and stylised, crooned vocals - and a massive, blarring rhythm section - booming melodic bass and pounding drums.  Titles: "I Fail", "Crippled Child" and the (revamped) 45 "All Night Party".

Moving out of embryo, ACR hint that they might clean up - get marketed and rich - in an area (an art/disco crossover) where The Pop Group's qualms left them high and dry.

[next: The Distractions]

Gathered round the stage (clockwise from top right): Teardrop Explodes, 
The Distractions, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division. All pics: Kevin Cummins.

(c) Jon Savage - NME's History of Rock and Roll.

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