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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, January 11, 2020

Paul Slattery on The Distractions

An extract from Paul Slattery's new photobook, Joy Division at Strawberry Studios.


In the evening we went to the Funhouse at The Mayflower to see Joy Division play along with The Distractions, The Fall and Ludus at a gig entitled 'Stuff The Superstars'... tickets were £1.50. I thought Joy Division were excellent - they came on very early in the programme and I remember them sounding so much better and far more powerful live than on the album.

Everything about Joy Division seemed to stand out - Steven Morris's electronic drum sound... Peter Hook's low-slung bass driving the rhythm... Bernard's clanging guitar... and amazing baritone vocals and dancing from ian Curtis... this was new and special.

I had to be careful about the amount of pictures that I took as I only had a few frames left to photograph the rest of the gig - The Fall and The Distractions, who had just signed to Island Records, were bigger bands and I had to save some film for them. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

   * * *

From another interview with Paul Slattery: "There were some great bands on there – Ludus, The Fall, The Distractions were a really great pop band from Manchester, and Joy Division. I never knew whether Joy Division’s band of music would surpass The Distractions. I’d seen the Distractions a few times and I like that kind of pop music."

And on this audio interview with Paul Slattery: "The headliners of the night were The Distractions - Manchester pop band, The Distractions - who I loved. I thought they were fantastic."

   * * *


On 26th Ocrober 1979, I'd been asked to do a photo session with The Distractions, backstage at the Electric Ballroom - Joy Division were headlining that evening.

Unknown Pleasures had already become a cult record and Joy Division's status and reputation had grown considerably since I had met them at Strawberry Studios three months earlier.


The place was really packed and the photographers had to fight their way to the front. I had about half a roll of film left I  the camera, and after I finally managed to get a reasonable place in the crowd, I was able to take these images.

I didn't realise at the time that my pictures would be so poignant, and in many ways, moving.


Monday, December 16, 2019

Mancunian Ramones

This piece from Prof David Quantick appeared in April 2019's Record Collector magazine. A month or two later, it was announced that his wish would be granted!


PLEASE RELEASE ME

A new, regular look at albums crying out for reissue

The Distractions 
Nobody's Perfect 
(Island ILPS 9601, UK LP, 1980) £15

1980 was a cusp year for guitar music as punk and new wave finally gave way to post-punk, 2-Tone, and new romantics. Which may partly account for the lack of success of Manchester band The Distractions' Nobody's Perfect, one of the great lost pop albums of all time - that, and the fact that the band signed to Island roughly when U2 did; far from ideal timing. Despite strong reviews, Nobody's Perfect did nothing commercially, and the band lost one of its members (guitarist Steve Perrin), were dropped from the label, and sputtered out shortly after.

The Distractions were an odd mix. Described as "Buzzcocks [if they] had been on Motown", they boasted Pete Shelley-type melodies, lyrics and racing guitar, and the vocals of Mike Finney, one of the best pop-soul singers. They began their career with the brilliant EP You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That (which posited them as the Mancunian Ramones), briefly swerved onto Factory to make the revered Time Goes By So Slow single, and were then signed by Island.

Nobody's Perfect is one of those albums that creates its own world, from the wry title and matching front cover to the songs, which range from the skittering paranoia of Waiting For Lorraine to the choral doom of Looking For A Ghost. Brilliant songs of frustration and melancholy, the near-hit single, a cover of Eden Kane's Boys Cry, showcased Finney's voice but not the band's gift with guitars and melodies; at times this record could be the work of a very wired Searchers, so well does it combine its tuneful roots with the modern era. True, it suffers from a slight lack of oomph in its production, but turned up loud, it's glorious.

Still unavailable in any form (though there is talk of a crowd-funded release for all The Distractions' work), Nobody's Perfect could have been a forlorn tombstone, but Finney and Perrin reunited in 2012 and released two superb albums of middle-aged brilliance, The End Of The Pier and Kindly Leave The Stage. These, thankfully, are still in print.

David Quantick

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Hit album qualities

This short piece was published on Pop Diggers last year under 'Nearly forgotten pop classics of the '80s' by Peter Jonsson. Since then, the retrospective referred to is now, of course, the 40th anniversary 2CD deluxe and LP reissue of Nobody's Perfect - the former containing 48 tracks. These are scheduled in 2020 as joint release by Man In The Moon Records and Occultation Records. Full details soon. 



THE DISTRACTIONS 

(Stuck In A) Fantasy 

[Nobody’s Perfect track; Island, 1980]

Not long after the expectations of The Distractions’ marvelous – but at that time much overlooked – debut album Nobody’s Perfect [1980] failed to materialize, the group started to fall apart. Quite understandable, since Nobody’s Perfect displayed all hit album qualities you can imagine. It was even sweetened (to no avail) by a jangling cover of Eden Kane’s UK # 8 hit from 1964, Boys Cry, released as the first of two singles from the album. 


Formed in 1975, The Distractions drew attention in their Manchester-area right from the start. They recorded some really good songs for minor companies before they were signed to Island Records in 1979; the punkier 12” EP You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That [1978] and the pop pearl Time Goes By So Slow [1979]. Line-up changes just after the release of Nobody’s Perfect did not make things better, and they disbanded in 1981. Steve Perrin (guitar) and Mike Finney (song) constitutes the driving force behind the band and they re-united the band in the 1990’s and again, twenty years later, this time with new material on Occultation Records

Despite their recent gigs in 2017, the last album is called Kindly Leave The Stage [2017]; giving a hint of where they think they are heading. Hopefully, successful crowd funding for the planned retrospect Parabolically Yours can make them change their minds. 


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

One of those voices

Here's the rest of the great Brian Davies article in the Positive Reaction fanzine from 1979. The Distractions and X-O-Dus - soon to both be signed for single deals by Tony Wilson's Factory Records - play the Rock Against Racism gig at Manchester Polytechnic.


MANCHESTER POLY - TUESDAY 3rd Apr. 1979.

DISTRACTIONS / EXODUS / BLACKSTONE

ROCK AGAINST RACISM GIG

MANCHESTER HERO BRIAN DAVIES WAS THERE!!!

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".

Anyway to the gig. Brilliant with a couple of reservations. The band write superb tunes, but tend to play everything at 100 mph. This tends to blur the subtleties hidden away in the music, but the band's overall competence virtually makes up for this. 

The set was composed of 17 songs, all original apart from the Small Faces classic "Whattcha Gonna Do About It?". Unfortunately, the band had to curtail the set, due to the fact that time was running out, and there was another group to come on. Singer Mike looks like he would be more at home as a bank clerk, but he commands attention, in the middle of the stage and he has "one of those voices". 

Similar to Jake Burns, in that it makes you think that he can't sing like that all the time, but he does. Other stand out songs were "Paracetamol Paralysis" (nice title), "Time Goes By So Slow", all of the EP apart from "Doesn't Bother Me", which they wouldn't play due to time restrictions, the new single, and the much requested "Valerie". As their manager said, "They're the best pop group in the country!". You know, I think he's right. They don't lack a sense of humour either, especially Steve: "This is an anti-in tune song"! 

He says he is influenced by Velvet Underfround and the Bay City Rollers? I don't want to end with the usual "check 'em out" conclusion, but that's exactly what applies. They're a hard-working and extremely friendly band. CHECK 'EM OUT!!! 

Went home happy, and missed Blackstone, sorry!  

BRIAN DAVIES 

NEXT MONTH! 

 Possibly another article on THE DITRACTIONS, V2 interview, NOT SENSIBLE, more gig reviews. 

BRIAN in MANCHESTER!


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.


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