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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, August 17, 2019

Stage left

This splendid review of The Distractions' third album, 2017's 'Kindly Leave The Stage', was published by the Fear and Loathing fanzine.

THE DISTRACTIONS - 'Kindly Leave The Stage' (Occultation)

The Distractions originally emerged as part of the early Manchester punk scene, releasing their first EP, 'You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That' on the local indie label TJM in 1978, before the ‘Time Goes By So Slow’ 7” on Factory Records in 1979. They subsequently signed to Island for the excellent ‘It Doesn’t Bother Me’ 7” and debut album, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, developing a great sense of pop accessibility while maintaining their own style and integrity. The album received critical acclaim but failed to achieve the sales that it deserved and the band eventually split in 1981. 

Founding members Mike Finney and Steve Perrin first attempted a reunion of sorts in the mid-90’s, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the results of this brief period of songwriting emerged with the release of the 'Come Home' EP in 2010. This time, their sound had matured in a more soulful direction, although Mike Finney’s distinctive vocals ensured that the continuity was clear. Their second album ‘The End of The Pier’ was finally released in 2012, more than three decades since the first, so it now feels as if, in comparison, their third and final album has followed fast on its heels! 

Again, it contains a more soulful approach, this time with an almost mournful sense of loss, perhaps in response to their decision to make this their final project together. But whatever the case, the range of emotions are convincing and have the genuine feel of a band who doing this for no other reason than they want to do it. Musically, this is a band who may have moved a long way from their punky roots, but the same intent is still there. This isn’t an album for those only interested in nostalgia, this is there for people who want to follow the possibilities. This is a fine album and you should definitely hear it, but only if you are open to the genuine vision of the band now rather than just expecting the past.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Simplicity and contrast

Something a little different as we wait for more news on the Nobody's Perfect reissue. Here's Luke Vickers, a graphic designer's take on Peter Saville's iconic artwork for Joy Division's debut, FAC 10 Unknown Pleasures, and The Distractions' FAC 12 'Time Goes By So Slow'. Then there's Jimmy Edgar's take on the same artwork over at Insomniac, where 'Time Goes By So Slow' is listed amongst his most coveted record covers. These are the first of several FAC-related pieces that will be featured as part of Factory Records' 40th birthday.


"Time Goes By So Slow" by The Distractions, designed by Peter Saville 

The Distractions are a punk rock band from Manchester. They were mainly active 1975–1981. This is one of my favourites from Peter Saville, as the simplicity, contrast, and typography really stand out. 

Looking at the cover from the front, over half of it is black and the rest is a white/cream colour. Straight away this suggests something odd about the cover, as it is not split 50/50 like you would expect. It also looks like there is a woman’s face carved unto the black section. It looks as through it is scratched into the black section because her face is the same white/cream colour, and has very rough edges. This gives the cover unusual depth, as I imagine the black covering the white section. 

The typography used is capitalised and thin. The lettering is also spaced out unusually with large gaps, and composed in the top and bottom left hand side of the cover. 

Overall it gives the cover an almost eerie feel, as in everything feels like it is off. This may be a reflection of the punk rock movement, where artists wanted to be different and stand out.

(C) Luke Vickers.

Peter Saville is one of the best designers to ever live. If you don’t know him, then look up everything he has done. This is one of his less obvious covers, but I love this chalk-drawn outline vibe that was so popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s — it’s along the lines of lipstick on a mirror, or a casual note written from your secret lover. The composition and use of space with the typography is perfect; it makes you want to read it. At first they appear as meaningless symbols, and then it makes sense after initial study. The color of the black really works for me because of the low contrast and grainy quality, but this could be an effect from a vintage record, which is part of the whole appeal.

(C) Jimmy Edgar at Insomniac.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

We'll never know

The Distractions' final release before the 1982 split was a slightly odd affair. Released with the mysterious 'THAT1' catalogue number and distributed by Rough Trade, the beautifully shot cover photos were by Kevin Cummins. The post-Perrin sound of the band had changed rapidly but remained intruiging, and this review comes from the US and Rarebird9, who's previously written about 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' and 'Nobody's Perfect'.

The Distractions “And Then There’s…” EP (Rough Trade THAT1) 1981

After Nobody’s Perfect proved to be a commercial failure, the Distractions were dropped from Island Records, reportedly in favor of a promising young Irish band called U2. Original guitarist Steve Perrin left the band, and was replaced by ex-Ludus guitarist Arthur Kadmon. The Distractions were on their last legs, but they did record one more EP titled And Then There’s… This 3-song, 7-inch EP was distributed independently by Rough Trade in 1981. 

On this EP, hints of ska and reggae were added to the Distractions’ ‘60’s-influenced pop. The guitar and drums exude island-style rhythms, as do the horns on the Kadmon-penned “Ghost Of A Chance”. Although the songs are still not exactly uplifting, they have a less melancholy tone than the songs on the album, with slightly quicker tempos and less sadness suggested in Mike Finney’s vocals. In fact, it’s hard to tell for sure if “Love Is Not For Me” is meant to be sad or funny, as it takes the point of view of a man afraid to enter a relationship for fear of experiencing real emotions.

“Ghost Of A Chance” describes a fear of rejection without sounding quite as hopeless as its lyrics. And the A-side track, “Twenty Four Hours”, actually sounds quite hopeful, if not necessarily confident, that romance may be in store for its main character. How would a full-length album by this Distractions lineup have turned out? Alas, we’ll never know.

 Track Listing:

a. Twenty Four Hours
b1. Ghost Of A Chance
b2. Love Is Not For Me

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Still and always

Here's the rest of that lovely article on Time Goes By So Slow by Martin CrookallThe first half is here, and be sure to check out Martin's essay on Nobody's Perfect - we look forward to bringing you news of the forthcoming LP and expanded CD reissue of that album very soon.

The Infinite Jukebox: The Distractions' "Time Goes By So Slow"

Though the Finney/Perrin partnership was The Distractions’ main source of songs, it was Adrian Wright who wrote “Time Goes By So Slow”. It’s a typically Distractions mournful lost love song, conducted with great vigour, in a rush of bass and drums, guitar and organ. Never has misery sounded so much of a rush.

And at a time when I was conscious of living in another city, where I had no roots, Finney was singing about places with which I was wonderfully familiar. They put your statue up in Albert Square, he sings to the girl who has blown him out and about whom he still dreams. And all the people standing by just stare. But Albert just won’t do, Finney sings, I don’t need him but you. When Nick Lowe had gone to the Heart of the City that was it, just a generic place, every city’s got one, but Mike Finney singing Adrian Wright’s words was in the heart of a real city and I could picture its streets and, when I came home, I could drive those pre-pedestrianised streets and pass by and not care. 

But it was more than the call to home that led me to take this song to heart. I was in love, and had been for a long time, with a woman from whom I was forced to conceal my feelings, and melancholy was my place, my Albert Square. I loved the brashness, the simplicity, the energy of punk whilst never foregoing my love for the stunning chorus, the line that pulls you in to lend your inadequate voice, to find a space inside the song that makes you a part of it. 

If I’ve a criticism of the record at all, it’s that it’s ending is a little weak. In the first use of a trick the band would later make a regular part of their repertoire, after the second chorus the music drops out, leaving only the bass and drums, lowering the tension. Well I wonder why you had to go, Finney croons, repeating himself, and again, as the music crashes back with the timeline, but only so that it can lead the record to a definitive end instead of one more valedictory rush. 

Interestingly enough, “Time Goes By So Slow” was originally meant for the b-side. It and the song “Pillow Fight” had been recorded after the 'You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP and were the only other recordings in existence when Factory offered the deal. “Pillow Flight” was offered as the a-side but the single was flipped at Tony Wilson’s suggestion. But “Time Goes By So Slow” had been treated as a b-side in the studio, recorded almost live, with minimal overdubs added and harmonies that simply consisted of following Steve Perrin’s lead. 

Apparently, the whole thing took about three hours total, and that just adds to the purity of the song. Maybe a more polished version might have been better, but I doubt it, because this song has no sag, no weariness, no over familiarity. It’s pure, it’s complete, and it’s raw edges complement the rawness of the feelings. 

Nearly forty years later, the song is still as fresh as ever, the loss is undiminished, and when she has to go, time still and always will go by so slow.

Friday, July 26, 2019

A perfect pop-punk single

Here's the first half of a wonderful recent article on The Distractions' most well-known and well-loved song. It's written by Martin Crookall, who wrote a similarly superb piece on Nobody's Perfect, as well as commenting on the ill-fated Parabolically Yours set. Happily, that project appears to have come to some sort of fruition with the news of the forthcoming reissue.

The Infinite Juke Box: The Distractions' "Time Goes By So Slow"

Despite the existence of Oasis’s extensive back catalogue, there are remarkably few specific references to Manchester scenes and places in pop music. One splendid exception is an obscure Graham Gouldman song, written for and recorded by Herman’s Hermits. “It’s nice to be out in the morning” namechecks places like Ardwick Green, Irlam o’th’Heights and Besses of the Barn before finishing up at Old Trafford with the Holy Trinity of Bobby Charlton, Best and Law. Off the top of my head, the only other song to reference a Manchester landmark is The Distractions’ legendary “Time Goes By So Slow”, one of the best singles of 1979 but, of course, a flop. 

The Distractions were a five-piece band and a much mixed bag. Singer Mike Finney looked like a schoolteacher and sang like a white soulboy, Steve Perrin and Adrian Wright played guitars, Pip Nicholls, a tiny wee lass who styled herself pipnicholls, played a solid and pounding bass, and veteran skinsman Alec Sidebottom pounded the hell out of the drums. 

The Distractions were incredibly popular around Manchester when I was living in Nottingham, which didn’t believe in punk. They were inspired by the energy and rhythm of punk but also the melody of Sixties music and, with Finney’s voice ultimately too good for the purely raucous, their sound evolved as a fruitful mixture of the two roots. Their first release was a 12” four track EP on TJM Records (which I never heard of releasing anything else) that I had to buy when visiting home. It’s rough, it’s crude, the production is unpolished to say the least, but in “Doesn’t Bother Me” and “Maybe It’s Love” it contained two bloody good, energetic songs, full of urgency, melody and compelling choruses. For their second release, whilst already formulating a deal with Island Records, the band signed a one-off single deal with Factory Records, and came out with “Time Goes By So Slow”. 

In a summer of great new music, The Distractions stood out for producing a perfect pop-punk single, with a glittering melody line, a surging beat, an air of undefinable melancholy in the heart of bright, joyous music that was the band’s trademark mood, and a killer chorus. They were acclaimed on all sides. Everyone loved it. Except Radio 1, of course, which didn’t play it, the splendidly essential John Peel aside. 

Though the Finney/Perrin partnership was The Distractions’ main source of songs, it was Adrian Wright who wrote “Time Goes By So Slow”...

To be continued

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Nobody's Perfect reissue

We are pleased and excited to announce that plans are now in place for the, ahem, long-awaited reissue - on vinyl LP and its CD debut - of The Distractions' debut album, Nobody's Perfect, originally released by Island Records in May 1980. 

Whilst full details are yet to be confirmed, we can reveal that the plan is for the album to be reissued by Man In The Moon Records, the label established by former Island man, Nick 'The Captain' Stewart. It was, of course, Nick who signed The Distractions to Island from Tony Wilson's Factory Records, almost 40 years ago.

More details on tracks and timings will follow in due course, so please check in on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news on this eagerly anticipated release. We've had a couple of false stats with the Parabolically Yours and Age+Geography sets, which just couldn't work out, so here's to third time lucky...

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