Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Distractions play a small but not insignificant role in the early history of Factory Records. The beautiful coffee table book, Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album (FAC 461), by the late Tony Wilson (foreword) and Matthew Robertson (Thamas & Hudson) has a number of pieces of Distractions artwork, all in designed by Peter Saville.
Index: X-O-Dus, The Distractions, FAC 7, Sex Pistols, Crawling Chaos, A Certain Ratio
Fac 4 The Factory Club No.3 / Poster / 1978 / Des: Peter Saville
Fact 10 + 4 Poster / 1979 / Des: Peter Saville
Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, X-O-Dus, The Distractions
Fac 12 The Distractions. Time Goes By So Slow / 7-inch / 1978 / Des: Peter Saville
(c) Matthew Robertson.
(Thames & Hudson, 2007).
Saturday, October 26, 2013
The original Distractions may have fizzled out in 1982 but that didn't stop Mike Finney and co. This Bronze Records biography of Mike's new group, The Secret Seven, was distributed with promo copies of their splendid single, Hold On To Love b/w Up In Smoke. (7" standard and 12" 'club' versions).
THE SECRET SEVEN
The Secret Seven are in fact four - Mike Finney (vocals), Julie Middlehurst (vocals), Bernard Van Den Berg (keyboards/drums), and Alan Usher (bass).
The nucleus of The Secret Seven took shape in February of last year following the demise of Finney, Van Den Berg and Usher's previous band, The Distractions. Looking for raw talent they recruited Julie Middlehurst, a former nurse who had worked in an old peoples home. Initially called The Famous Five, the band's original idea was to take a cabaret approach to the ultra-hip rock clubs and ultimately, to take some of the ultra-hip to the cabaret audience.
Demos were completed which resulted in The Secret Seven playing their debut gig with Delta Five at Manchester's Hacienda last August. It was a bizarre event, with Mike and Julie holding hands, gazing into each others eyes and opening with a soft, twee version of "I'll Be Your Mirror" in front of a drunken Saturday night audience. The show worked and resulted in considerable press acclaim.
Since then The Secret Seven have adopted a policy of only playing the occasional selective gigs; always provoking a strong audience reaction.
The band have signed to Bronze Records; releasing their debut single "Hold On To Love". Produced by Martin Hayles - currently enjoying chart success with Orange Juice - "Hold On To Love" sees a new dimension in The Secret Seven's sound with the augmentation of three guest musicians - Danny Cummings (percussion), Don Garbutt (keyboards) and Martin Hayles (guitar).
April 1983.Simon Porter.
BRONZE RECORDS LIMITED, 100 CHALK FARM ROAD, LONDON, NW1 8EH, ENGLAND
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
This rather glowing review of The Distractions live at Dingwalls (London) comes from Charles Shaar Murray, in the 12th July 1980 issues of NME.
IF MIKE FINNEY did not bear such as unnerving resemblance to a young Harry Worth, it might be necessary to commence an account of a Distractions performance by some sort of assertion to the effect that the band are more than capable of providing a high spot in anybody's pop week.
The screaming incongruity of Finney's ostentatious normalcy - he could also pass for the type of comedian who will sing 'He'll Have To Go' at the end of his spot - and his voice - a rough, anguished affair that shows its Northern Soul roots with every syllable - makes him the ideal front man for The Distractions, a group whose principle stock-in-trade is Yorkshire pop that is simultaneously frothy and mordant. The band's principle songwriter, Steve Perrin - the young man with the Wilko fetish - is allegedly on the verge of departure from the band, which gives the occasion a note of added poignancy.
While Finney blustered and performs timidly exhibitionistic dance steps and Perrin Wilks away on his side of the stage, Adrian Wright - the band's other guitarist, being seemingly constructed entirely of bones and veins - turns his back on the audience and mulls over some ancient grudge. Alec Sidebottom, one hand in a splint, meanwhile demonstrates that the ideal drummer is one who actually listens to the rest of the group and Pip Nicholls underpins the proceedings with some exceedingly deft and adroit bass lines.
"Wiko and Howard Worth. Pic: Tom Sheehan."
The material that Perrin and Finney have composed for The Distractions fuses rhythm and impeccable melody - they know what works - with some exceptional lyrical twists. The way the lyric of 'Waiting For Lorraine' develops is little short of masterly, and 'I'll Leave You To Dream' is one of the most effecting pop songs of the '80s (thus far). In addition, the evident pleasure which the band take in presenting their material irresistibly contagious.
The only moments of doubt - apart from when I was informed of Perrin's possible departure - came when they played their newest material. 'What's The Use' introduced as "One of the new songs which Island don't like" seemed considerably dowdier than its surroundings, and placed one in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with an Island executive.
One of the most enduring touches was the haste with which they rushed back to do their encore - which included a riotous version of Roxy's 'Remake/Remodel' - almost as if they weren't sure that they'd get to do 'em at all. They needn't have worried: after the renditions of 'Lorraine' and 'Sick and Tired' with which they'd wound up the set, they could've hung on for another two or three minutes without the level of applause diminishing in the slightest.
May The Distractions always get encores; may they always play as if they have to work to get them.
Charles Shaar Murray
(c) Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 1980.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Mick Middles's piece in Sounds on 12th July 1980.
I DON'T LIKE the album. What could and should have been a bundle of gleeful, granite-like, fresh-faced soul gems has turned out to be a merging mixture of gutless girl-hungry but passionless sorrow. It's still a cut above the average but it has unfortunately missed greatness.
The album weeps where it should have screamed. Another record company mistake, another case of dilution.
Nobody likes to knock the band, they are still beautifully wide-eyed and hopeful, but perhaps also a trifle worried as they find those magical chart placings so elusive. If The Distractions can continue to write energetic painful whinings like 'Waiting For Lorraine' then success is (almost) inevitable.
As a live act, The Distractions always entertain. Who could possibly fail to smile and move and enjoy? Who could resist such innocence? Even though it is a touch contrived.
Every number contains a gripping hook and a jagged dance beat as strong as anything around in this era of confusion. The Distractions haven't changed much over the past two years, their confidence has increased, they now move around a lot more. They appear to enjoy themselves despite a heavy touring schedule. However, they still fail to experiment.
It seems strange that a band who, in the past, have played so many support sets to the likes of The Fall still seem terrified to take a gamble.
Even in Manchester where they have developed into the city's largest local draw, they stick like honey to the smugness of a standard format. It's almost annoying, they can't even surprise a violently involved local audience. Be safe, be comfortable, be a Distraction.
For the unsussed, The Distractions make instantly memorable music that crosses The Undertones with Buzzcocks with Atlantic soul. Their music is rough (live that is, not on the album where the edges have been smoothed down and covered with a sickly production gloss), raw but always cute.
Over the top flows the thick fruity voice of slim (30 inch waist eh?) Mike Finney. One of the most distinctive voices in modern pop. Their sound is completely timeless. The Distractions could have appeared at any time over the last 25 years and not been out of place. That's partly why devotees believe them to be unique. It's also why they seem able to appeal to anyone from would-be left field revlutionaries to my mother. Perhaps they are the final proof that the gap between the Dooleys and Throbbing Gristle is really very narrow indeed.
Go and see The Distractions. It's a pure guaranteed satisfaction. Why take a chance?
(c) Mick Middles, Sounds, 1980.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
These extracts are from the great piece on the 'Stuff The Superstars' event in July 1979 in Belle Vue by Paul Hanley of The Fall fame, in their recommended Reformation! Webzine site.
Stuff The Superstars
By Paul Hanley
Nominally top of the bill were The Distractions, who I’d previously seen supporting The Fall at Kelly’s, a tiny venue in Manchester, and who were earmarked (if only by City Fun) as the next big thing, though of course they never were. We (naturally) were ostensibly there to see The Fall, although Joy Division were also a major attraction. They’d also made significant headway since I’d seen them earlier (at Bowdon Vale youth club) and they were on the verge of next big thingdom themselves.
City Fun Fanzine was definitely Manchester’s magazine-du-jour (if magazine is the right word). Sold at virtually every gig (as well as Virgin and Piccadilly records) it occupied a hallowed status among the concert goers of Manchester. It wasn’t a bad read either. Admittedly it was as humourless as The Passage playing at a Funeral, but in its defence, they were humourless times. Bands these days are so desperate to convey their wit and sense of fun you tend to forget that in 1979 most bands (or certainly most Manchester bands) were primarily anxious to convey their solemnity. The Joy Division of the NME and the Joy Division in the café next to Davidson’s rehearsal room were two very different beasts, believe me.
[there then follows reviews of the Glass Animals, Hamsters, Armed Force, Frantic Elevators, Joy Division, Ludus, The Liggers and The Fall…]
The Distractions could only ever be a footnote, after that, though it’s a shame their lovingly-crafted pop vignettes never reached a bigger audience. The big problem was they never looked like the part, the singer and drummer especially (respectively the wrong side of 34” waist and 34 years old. It’s a tough gig this pop malarkey.) They had a male guitarist and a female bass player who wore matching outfits, I remember. They should have formed a duo, they looked great. Interesting side-note - Legend has it that there was once a cash crisis at Island Records and a last minute meeting was called to decide whether to drop The Distractions or U2. (They went with Distractions, by the way).
The evening (from the walk to the venue onwards) was imbued with the kind of tension and unease that you don’t get at gigs these days (or at least I don’t). The venue was filthy in the way that only Manchester clubs in 1979 could be. The sound was muddy, and to describe the organisation as amateurish is to be over generous. One of the best gigs I ever attended, in summation. The Mayflower no longer exists, of course. The last gig I ever saw there was ‘Nik Turners Inner City Unit’. On that occasion me, Steve, Marc and Craig, and Bob and Moey from The Hamsters were the entire audience. Shame there’s nowhere to put the blue plaque."
(c) Paul Hanley at Reformation! Webzine.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
This review of the It Doesn't Bother Me single came from Dave McCullough in the 24th November 1979 of Sounds.
THE DISTRACTIONS - 'It Doesn't Bother Me' (Island)
The Distractions are one of the best young pop groups to have emerged this year, and this could well be The One, though it's disappointing seeing them retread a song off their first 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP. Nonetheless, it's fast, zippy, terribly wordy, and asserts that The Distractions are moving into their own pop niche in much the same way as The Undertones have done, only Finney, Perrin and co's scope is much broader and long lasting. This isn't as fine as their Factory 45, the brilliant 'Time Goes By So Slow', and suggests that the band might have teething problems with Island in the production area (more keyboard, more bass in future maybe?), but even then it's superlative modern pop. The Distractions remind me of Hovis adverts and Trevor Griffith's play Comedians, so there's still acres to be discovered in there somewhere, and The Distractions are gonna be on your sister's wall in 1984, so be prepared.
(c) Dave McCullough, Sounds.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
This live review from the Russell Club in Hulme - where Tony Wilson's Factory Club was held - by Steve Forster is rather more complimentary of The Distractions than Adam and the Ants. It appeared in the largely forgotten New Manchester Review.
The Distractions / Adam and the Ants
There are certainly no musical reasons for The Distractions distinct lack of success, they emerged when the new wave needed something newer to inject some life, and they provided it; they preceded power pop by several months, yet still don't even seem to enjoy cult status. This state of affairs surely must change soon as the band improve each time.
Fronted by the charismatic figure of Mike Finney, his distinctive vocals effectively typify the band, simple and direct with no unnecessary embellishments. They have influences, notably the Buzzcocks and even Dr Feelgood ("Sick 'n' Tired") but it becomes their own sound, and as such is one of the best.
Adam and the Ants however are strictly last year's thing. They play their punk songs well and are one of the few of their type that can play well but their material sounds very dated - a sad pointer to the way that the excitement of 1976/7 allowed itself to dissipate so quickly. The audience, made of the remnants of the leatherette P.V.C. punk nouveau, predictably lapped it up and sure the Ants played well but without the variation needed to succeed.
(c) Cerysmatic Factory.