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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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Monday, September 23, 2013

Innocence and energy

Here is the second half of Jon Savage's Melody Maker review of the Leigh Festival in the 8th September 1979 issue, thanks to NME's History of Rock and Roll.  Photos by Kevin Cummins.

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


Leigh Valley Festival

Angst in an East Lancs wasteland

The Distractions, next, are a perfect youth-club band.  Amateur flash, jokey off-the-cuff introductions, fresh beat music with the unselfconsciousness of Sixties punk/folk plus sharper lyrics.

They run through a batch of great pop songs: "Maybe It's Love", "Waiting For The Train", "One Way Love", and the new 45, "Time Goes By So Slow".  Innocence and energy.  They cocked-up the break in their disco stab, "Sick & Tired", and it didn't really matter at all.

THE sun went in: it was Teardrop Explodes' unenviable task to counteract the increasing cold and late-afternoon lethargy.  Their careful, bright sound of precise guitar, fish-and-chip organ and attacking rhythm section seemed to freeze in the cold air and the distance between the (oversize) stage and the (undersize) audience.

Initially, they could sound contrived, but a warmth quickly shows through on record; live this came through near the end of their set - "I Go Crazy", "Sleeping Gas" and a more dynamic version of their new 45, "Bouncing Babes".  I think the elements are all there - but the spark?  Perhaps in a more sympathetic situation.

Due to the (unavoidable) attentions of the drug squad, your reviewer missed most Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.  What he did see - a song called "Mr Reality" with taped saxophone, the future hit "Electricity" and a passable electronic version of "Waiting For My Man" (which, at least, came out into the open about the frank Velvets influence of most bands playing) - didn't alter his impression that he'd rather listen to the nice record, thank you.  A good live sound - the two members playing keyboards and occasional bass, the rest of the instruments on reel to reel - a reasonable if gawky presence, and awful clothes (that's important!).

The Distractions (Adrian Wright left, and Mike Finney). Pic: Kevin Cummins.

Echo & the Bunnymen caught a quickening of mood, exploiting the drama of darkening sky and simple but effective stage lighting, and played an excellent set: ringing, passionate pop Velvets - endless rhythm guitar and crossing lead slashes, electronic percussion - with Ian McCullough's strong vocals, hinting at Neil Young's romantic melancholy.  Fuller versions of their current single than on record - "Read It In Books", "Pictured On My Wall" - and new, equally memorable songs, "All That Jazz" and "Star On Stars".  A new romanticism.

Joy Division come into the dark like a late-night horror movie - scary but right.  Sabotaged to an extent by poor sound - the interplay between instruments needs more careful preparation than the time allowed - they exorcised the increasing cold with cinematic, metallic blocks of noise.

Songs from the album - "Insight", "She's Lost Control" among others, the new single "Transmission", and the unrecorded "Colony", "Dead Souls" (with a stunning chorus) and the final "Sound Of Music".  Two encores, and general dancing.

Apply the truism: you should have been there.  - JON SAVAGE.

Leigh Festival. (c) cityfunfan at tumblr.

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

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