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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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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



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