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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, October 12, 2019

The future looks quite rosy 

Here's the first half of a terrific article by Brian Davies in the Irish fanzine, Positive Reaction. It covers the huge 1979 Rock Against Racism gig where The Distractions were joined by their soon-to-be-Factory Records label-mates, X-O-Dus. Thanks to Brian for the scans and permission to republish.



MANCHESTER POLY - TUESDAY 3rd Apr. 1979.

DISTRACTIONS / EXODUS / BLACKSTONE

ROCK AGAINST RACISM GIG

MANCHESTER HERO BRIAN DAVIES WAS THERE!!!

The original bill was THE ONLY ONES / ANGELIC UPSTARTS / ASWAD / and local reggae band EXODUS. The Only Ones pulled out (no idea why!), so did Aswad 'cos one of them had a nervous breakdown, and apparently because Aswad couldn't appear so Angelic Upstarts followed suit. At one stage THE FALL were  supposed to appear but that was pure speculation on the organisers' behalf.

After their lengthy sound-check, watched by most of the multi-racial audience (reaching a peak of about 5,000-6,000), EXODUS appeared on stage at about 9pm. Theirs is a brand of totally unique reggae, the lead guitarist often employing out of date guitar-hero solos. But when they played straight-forward reggae they were great, the bass and drum meshing beautifully and the male singer had a really melodic and tuneful voice. The first number ("Racial Problems"?) was really good, the musicians in the group (two guitars, bass and drums) played alone for about five minutes and were then joined by a male and female singer. The next number "World In Action" was pretty ordinary but "English Black Boys" was really excellent. 

I then left my brother who was impressed by the rest of the set, in search of a few words with THE DISTRACTIONS. This group will probably be a new name to most Irish readers but they have released one record, a twelve-inch on TJM Records, "You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That". The music is fast-pop, but that classification does not do them justice. I would say they write better pop tunes than Pete Shelley or Blondie (is there any higher praise?).

Anyway, after much messing, asking different people (hi Ann!), their manager (ex) took me to the dressing room, where I met the band and assorted girlfriends. Not really being prepared, I came away something patchy, so what I'll do is give you a brief history of the band, their future plans and a few other interesting items that came out of conversation!

The group formed about two years ago, when (I think) lead singer Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin put an advert in NME, and from this, they got another guitarist Adrian Wright. He brought with him ex-Purple Gang drummer Alec, who had just returned from America. After they hassled Pete Shelley for a bass player they got Pip Nicholls. Tony Davidson, owner of the wealthy TJM label saw them and asked them to record for him. Within a week they had been in the studios and recorded the four tracks which make up the EP: "Doesn't Bother Me", "Nothing", "Maybe It's Love" and "Too Young". It was Single of the Week in NME and almost received the same accolade in 'Sounds'. The future looks quite rosy for one of Manchester's brightest hopes, with a gig in London soon at either the Marquee or Music Machine. The EP was a one-off and the band had signed a production deal with Arrow for the next single, possibly the brilliant "Still It Doesn't Ring".

(C) Brian Davies

To be continued 




Monday, September 30, 2019

Never mind the Buzzcocks

Another extract from Martin Ryan's recommended Friends of Mine - Punk in Manchester 1976-1978. You can buy the book direct from the publisher here.

This time we're in September 1977, a year before either the unreleased Cargo EP or the debut TJM2 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP were recorded, yet The Distractions are supporting the next big thing, Buzzcocks.


Thursday 1st September 1977

The ink having dried on a contract with United Artists, it was a thriving Buzzcocks who took their turn to play Rafters. Like the Dogs, a deal afforded them new and better equipment, most notable Garth's exalted Gibson Thunderbird bass that was replaced early in the set to make way for its less cumbersome predecessor. The precise worth of the deal with UA was the subject of much speculation in the music press but Shelley would quantify the value at three quarters of a million. To this revelation Mick suggested that they had better be good to which Shelley countered, "I am good".

More promising than the money of Shelley's bluster, was a tape that DJ Rob Gretton played between sides described by Shelley as "just mucking about". The four tracks premiered were "Orgasm Addict", "What Do I Get?", "Whatever Happend To?" and "No Reply" that not only confirmed a forceful pop sensibility but assuredly demonstrated that Shelley's voice was not the obstacle to delivering Buzzcocks' music that I had feared. 

As well as The Prefects, who had brought their raucous bluster along in support and were to have their Mancunian cult status rewarded with an NME interview that Paul Morley was ready to conduct, Rafters was to witness an early showing of Stockport's own Distractions. Pete Shelley had described himself as more a "punk Mod" than a "punk rocker" and like Buzzcocks, The Distractions' music was unashamedly pop oriented with bespectacled singer Mike Finney offering a strong singing voice that steadied the nerves of the apprentice musicians behind him. They in turn seemed slightly unsure of the worth of their short sharp bursts of soulful pop music that had a familiar ring even on first hearing.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tonight belonged to The Distractions

Last year's excellent Friends of Mine - Punk in Manchester 1976-1978 by Martin Ryan covers the period just before The Distractions' debut album. However, it still features the band several times as they supported some notable local bands including Buzzcocks and - as in this extract - The Fall. Buy Martin's highly recommended book direct from the publisher here.


Saturday 21st October 1978

Another date with The Fall, who tonight headed a bill playing a benefit for The Leveller magazine at Manchester Polytechnic. It was also an opportunity to reacquaint  with Jeff Noon who had recently returned from time in London displaying a more luxuriant hairstyle than his former punk look. Jeff had always been a devotee of The Fall and, for his part, Mark E Smith had praised Jeff's fanzine Noisy People suggesting "he should have done another".

Despite their one single release to date, The Fall had developed a level of assuredness where they were not above indulging an audience, they played a set that evolved between their inception and late '78 and would furnish their debut album that appeared early the following year.

But tonight belonged to Stockport's Distractions. Described by Steve Forster of the New Manchester Review as "one of Manchester's best kept secrets" and praised by Mark Smith following a support slot to The Fall at Droylsden's Concorde Suite back in June where Smith suggested the band's set was "primarily covers but delivered with considerable power and prowess".

Here The Distractions played an original set with a strong commercial flavour that may have suggested a recognisable familiarity to Mark Smith's ears. But the factor that set The Distractions' well-crafted pop sound apart was the formidable vocal of singer Mike Finney. Described at the time by Mick Middles in a Sounds review as "a superb rock 'n' roll singer" the sound of Finney's finely-tuned voice resonated around the venue.

Kevin Rowland and Mick Hucknall had both played in punk groups prior to forming bands whose calling card would be soul music. The Distractions should have been ahead of the game having no need to reinvent themselves but sadly the rise to pop stardom never materialised despite the best efforts of the music press.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

A kind of perfection

It feels like an appropriate time to include an approximate translation of this French love letter to Nobody's Perfect and in particular 'Leave You To Dream'. We are getting closer to an announcement about the reissue of Nobody's Perfect, and it has been revealed on social media that a new remix of the album has been undertaken. We can confirm that the remix of 'Leave You To Dream' sounds very special - as does the whole album. With apologies to François Gorin at Telerama for the translation...


The Distractions 

François Gorin 

A kind of perfection: the band that springs out of nowhere, leaves an immaculate album, unaffiliated, out-of-the-box, and disappears. Behind this drawing dreamed by any honest critic, one or more broken destinies perhaps, with personal dramas to the key. The Distractions: their very name has something of the slip, ephemeral or evanescent. The year? 1980. Nowhere, it was Manchester, from where a single at Factory Records in the middle of Joy Division trauma, then signing for Island Records and maybe Mike Finney (the voice) and Steve Perrin (the guitar) are in the big league. Their songs collect bits and pieces of various origins, before and after '77, but listening to them we forget all concern for genetic code. The hundred facets of the mosaic glisten softly in the dim light. An evening album, from the middle of the night, even. At the heart, this summit of sleepwalking music "Leave You To Dream". It goes to walk on the roofs, it comes down on the pillow, it flutes and it bites again the same bitterness that we hear in the most edgy moments of the album (there are, for fans of The Cars or The Cure). "Leave You To Dream" is the one that remains when we have exhausted all the other charms of Nobody's Perfect. 


She has the evidence of the surf and the shimmering brightness of the moonlight. She leaves pensive. We went home in the classic silence of the early hours and we lit his flashing nightlight. On the cover, the club of five stuck his reels in small format, filtered colour zebra. The Distractions are almost anonymous. Perrin wrote almost everything, if I remember correctly. He left the group in 1981 and his departure created a meteor. I would never be separated from this album for anything in the world. There is a kind of secret society around its discrete cult, members are so few (or distracted?) that they meet more than intermittently. 

To new wave boys

(C) François Gorin at Telerama.




The Distractions

François Gorin

Un genre de perfection: le groupe qui surgit de nulle part, laisse un album immaculé, non affilié, hors-vague, et disparaît. Derrière ce dessin rêvé par tout critique honnête, un ou plusieurs destins brisés peut-être, avec drames personnels à la clé. The Distractions: leur nom même a quelque chose du lapsus, d'éphémère ou d'évanescent. L'année? 1980. Nulle part, c'était Manchester, d'où un single chez Factory en plein trauma Joy Division, puis signature chez Island et voici possiblement Mike Finney (la voix) et Steve Perrin (la guitare) dans la cour des grands. Leurs chansons ramassent des bribes et morceaux de provenances diverses, d'avant et après 77, mais à leur écoute on oublie tout souci de code génétique. Les cent facettes de la mosaïque scintillent doucement dans la pénombre. Un disque du soir, du milieu de la nuit, même. Au cœur, ce sommet de musique somnambule: Leave You To Dream. Ca s'en va se promener sur les tits, ça revient se poser sur l'oreiller, ça flûte et ça mord encore de la même âpreté qu'on entend dans les moments les plus énervés de l'album (il y en a, pour amateurs de Cars ou Cure). Leave You To Dream est celle qui reste quand on a épuisé tous les autres charmes de ce Nobody's Perfect

Elle a l'évidence du ressac et l'éclat frémissant du clair de lune. Elle laisse songeur, littéralement. On rentrait chez soi dans le silence classique des petites heures et on allumait son clignotant de veilleuse. Sur la pochette, le club des cinq planquait ses bobines en petit format, filtrées de couleur, zébrées. Distractions pas loin d'être anonymes. Perrin écrivait presque tout, si je me souviens bien. C'est lui qui a quitté le groupe en 1981 et son départ a fabriqué un météore. De cet album à jamais mineur, je ne me séparerais pour rien au monde. Il existe une sorte de société secrète autour de son culte discret, les membres en sont si peu nombreux (ou distraits ?) qu'ils ne se réunissent plus que par intermittence.

aux newwave boys

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.


PETER SAVILLE (UNKNOWN PLEASURES BY JOY DIVISION & TIME GOES BY SO SLOW BY THE DISTRACTIONS)



"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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