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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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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gloriously Mancunian

We recently featured Martin Crookall's piece on Parabolically Yours, and the mid-priced complete download option now being offered on PledgeMusic for the forthcoming boxset. Martin had written a long but superb piece on Nobody's Perfect previously, and here is the first part.







Posted: October 20, 2013 in Soundtrack of a Lifetime

Once upon a time there was a Manchester band. There have, of course, been many Manchester bands. Many of them got the success that they deserved. Many of them got the obscurity that, despite being Manchester bands, they deserved. And not a few got the obscurity that they definitely did not deserve.

One such was The Distractions.

The Distractions were, at the outset, a five piece band, consisting of Mike Finney (vocals), Steve Perrin and Adrian Wright (guitars), pipnicholls (bass) and Alec Sidebottom (drums). They got together in 1977, during the punk era, though as punks they were something of an unlikely lot. Finney, the singer, had a more soulful voice than most, and looked a bit like a schoolteacher, nicholls was a tiny blonde with a pudding bowl haircut in the mould of Tina Weymouth and Sidebottom was in his late thirties, a veteran skin-pounder with dozens of Manchester outfits. And Perrin and Wright, both of whom wrote songs for the band, were much more tuneful in their efforts than most of their contemporaries, even if such contemporaries, such as Slaughter and the Dogs, Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, and the wonderful Buzzccks were much better known than these five.

They made their vinyl d├ębut with a 12″ EP, released through the tiny TJM Records label (I know of no other releases by TJM). Under the gloriously Mancunian title of “You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That”, the band presented four of their early songs, including two superbly fresh, poppy efforts with compulsive choruses, “Doesn’t Bother Me” and “Maybe It’s Love”.

This got them a deal with the nascent Factory to release a one-off single, which turned out to be the band’s most perfect song, the wonderful, catchy, impossible-to-resist “Time Goes By So Slow”. Peel loved it, I loved it, the radio criminally ignored it, and “Time Goes By So Slow”, with its lyrics about sitting in Albert Square, its mixture of sadness and joie de vivre, and its beautifully balanced energy placed it very high in the list of records that should have been, but never were absolutely mega.

Nevertheless, the single’s reputation, and the band’s continuing live popularity in Manchester prompted a deal for an album from Island Records, resulting in the Distractions’ one and only contemporary LP, “Nobody’s Perfect”. It would be a disastrous experience for the band, with fissures arising as to the direction of their music. Finney, nicholls and Sidebottom seem to have been behind a general move to soften the band’s overall sound, to emphasise keyboards and acoustic sounds, instead of the Distractions’ original, guitar-based, abrasive approach. Their notions were more commercial in aspect, if not, ultimately, in outcome, but Perrin was left dispirited and upset by the move, and shortly after the album was released, in 1981, he left the group.

As the band’s leading songwriter, either alone or in tandem with Finney on lyrics, this was as much a disaster as John O’Neill leaving the Undertones in 1979 would have been, especially when Adrian Wright followed, shortly after. And whilst the band’s reputation is built around the partnership of Finney and Perrin, it should be noted, as few seldom do, that it was Wright who had written “Time Goes By So Slow”.

The Distractions recruited Arthur Kadnam on guitar and continued as a four-piece into 1982, when I saw them live for the only time, doing a pub gig in Romiley, Stockport. The new line-up released a three track 7″ EP, of which the lead track was “Twenty Four Hours” but this was the band’s last release, and they split up later in the year.

I’ve never heard anything as to the futures of Wright, nicholls, Kadnam or Sidebottom, but Finney went on to form the Secret Seven, a pop/soul oriented band, with twin singers (Finney and a young lady with a fresh voice). They released the superb single “Hold on to love”, a sweet concoction ideally suited to Finney’s voice, with a b-side of equal quality, but then disappeared without making any other records.

This was the story of the Distractions as I’d always known it, but a few years ago, I learned that Finney and Perrin (the latter of whom was now living and working as a teacher in New Zealand) had reconciled, and had met up in 1995 to record three tracks which were released as an EP under the leading track “Lost”. These included a remake of the Distractions’ original track, “Still it doesn’t ring”. That was all until 2010, when the due again teamed up, with outside assistance, to record another three track EP, featuring the title track “Black Velvet”.

And just last year, the Distractions recorded their long-awaited follow up, thirty-two years on, “The end of the pier”. Sadly, though the sound is familiar, it lacks the sonic texture of their early days and the songs are old men’s songs, looking backwards into an infinity of regret for what didn’t happen.



[to be continued]

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