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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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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Black Velvet digital EP

From the news section over at Occultation Recordings we bring you...

"[Catalogue no. TBC] - The Distractions: Black Velvet digital EP

Another digital EP, this time from one of Manchester's greatest pop groups. You'll know their classic Factory single Time Goes By So Slow and we hope to be releasing a compilation featuring that and their other earlier recordings later in the year. In the meantime we're putting out 3 tracks recorded by a reformed version of the band featuring both singer Mike Finney (one of THE great pop voices) and guitarist/songwriter Steve Perrin from 1995. Many fans who've heard it feel that lead track Black Velvet is among the finest work they ever recorded and the EP will also feature a new version of Still It Doesn't Ring, which appeared on their 1980 album Nobody's Perfect, plus If You Were Mine, featuring a truly astonishing vocal performance by Mr Finney. Release: summer 2010.

Although the formats are strictly as stated above, there is a possibility that we may have a limited quantity of promo CDs of one or more of these releases and, as we know that some of you like these, we'll try to make some available, keep an eye on the website for details."

Occultation have recently released two superb comeback singles from The Wild Swans, as well the debut from The Granite Shore. Before the release of The Distractions' first EP since 1981's And Then There's... we have She's a Vampire from Jonathan Beckett and The Granite Shore's second single, Flood of Fortune b/w Highway Code on 7" to look forward to, not to mention the eagerly awaited Wild Swans album.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rafters RIP

Hearing about the closure [1] of a heavy metal / goth club (Jilly's Rockworld and Music Box, below) would barely raise an eyebrow to most Mancunian music aficionados. However, originally this venue was arguably one of the centres of the creative bursts that spawned Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths, etc. in the wake of Buzzcocks in the late 1970s.

Fagin's first opened on Oxford Street in 1970, hosting the likes of Cliff Richard, Lulu and Scott Walker, the club downstairs opening a few years later as Rafters. By 1977, Rob Gretton was a promoter at Rafters, putting on Slaughter & The Dogs, The Drones, Magazine, Warsaw etc. The following year, on 17th April 1978, the Stiff Test / Chiswick Challenge was held at Rafters. This was a country-wide tour by Stiff Records and Chiswick Records, who were hoping to find the next New Wave bands to sign up. They didn't end up signing anyone... but another music label was about to start, and did.

Joy Division were seventeenth on, watched by Anthony H Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton. Rob remembers "...they went on about ten to two and they were blazing madmen. And I just watched them. Great! Best band I've ever seen - and they sent a tingle up my spine. And I was dancing all over... I went up at the end telling them how brilliant I thought it was... And I went raving about them all next day [2]."

Also at this event performing were a couple of young fellas who would go on to great things in the music industry - though not as musicians (their group The Negatives were a band hastily thrown together just for the night!) - as immortalised in Jon Savage's evocative Joy Division film. Paul Morley and Kevin Cummins would also go on to write and photograph some significant things for The Distractions.

Paul Morley & Kevin Cummins, Rafters, 14th April 1978 (from 'Joy Division', 2007).

Of course, The Distractions had a gig or two at Rafters themselves. On 1st September 1977 The Distractions opened for Buzzcocks and the Prefects at Rafters, following which, Mr Morley interviewed the latter band [3]. As the flyer below shows, The Distractions also played Rafters a few years later - the week after Bauhaus in August 1980, along with another great but forgotten Manchester band, The Cheaters.

Rafters, 1980. "Next week The Distractions". (c) Mcr District Music Archive.

Rafters eventually closed in 1983, taken over by Jilly's, a small but popular rock club that had been across town near Piccadilly Station during the '70s. Though not before some Rafters regulars had been snapped supping at the bar.

The bar in Rafters, 1983. (c) Manchester District Music Archive.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Steve Perrin Interview Part 3

The third and final part of Steve's interview:

We’ve loved listening to the unreleased 1995 demos. What made you briefly reform The Distractions after so long?

SP: I’d been living in Italy for a while and had just moved back to Manchester. Mike suggested that we do some stuff and I said OK as long as we did new material. The idea of being an oldies act has always horrified me.

You mention a few gigs in Manchester and Liverpool in 1995, where were these and how were they?

SP: The gigs were good. We sounded a lot better than in the early days, partly due to the fact that technology had moved on and we could actually hear each other. It also helped that there was a considerably better chance of everybody on stage being sober. There was an issue, however, in terms of context. In the '70s we emerged from our audience. In the '90s it was very difficult to say who our audience might be.

You’ve said in previous interviews that you were influenced by the Velvet Underground, Beatles, Bowie and Roxy Music. While the 1995 demos are unmistakably The Distractions, were you further influenced by any scene or band in the 14 years that had elapsed since the group split up?

SP: Influences are always hard to spot. In a way you get influenced by everything and nothing. I mean, two of my favourite bands are the Cramps and Mazzy Star but we don’t sound anything like either of them. Similarly, there was a period (and I’m talking about something between two and five years here, I can’t really remember) where I refused to listen to anything other than Scott Walker and Miles Davis but I don’t really see that coming through. I admire Stephin Merritt and Jarvis Cocker as song writers so maybe there’s something there but, basically, if Mike and I start playing together, for better or for worse, it sounds like the Distractions.

Given the famous names who’ve commented favourably on The Distractions over the years, how frustrating was it that sales didn’t match the critical acclaim poured upon you around the time of Time Goes By So Slow and Nobody’s Perfect?

SP: At the time it was very frustrating given the fact that good reviews have no nutritional value so you can’t eat them. Luckily I’ve found other things to eat since.

What music do you find yourselves listening to these days?

SP: It goes through stages. I’m very fond of French and Italian pop music from the 1960s and '70s but sometimes I’ll go through long phases of listening to Western or Eastern classical music or jazz. What I’ve heard of the new Magnetic Fields album sounds good and I think Timbaland’s a really interesting producer though he may have passed his best now. This could go on and on so I’ll stop.

Realism - Magnetic Fields (Nonesuch, 2010). (c) Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stuff The Superstars (reprise)

Stuff The Superstars at the Mayflower, 28th July 1979. (c) iheartmusic.

On the same day that The Distractions were playing alongside The Fall, Joy Division et al at Stuff The Superstars, they were featuring in a BBC Radio 1 Manchester Music hour-long special (perhaps scheduled to coincide with the event?). Not surprisingly this programme focussed on Joy Division, with Ian Curtis, Steve Morris and Martin Hannett interviews separated by Interzone and Shadowplay. Presenter Tommy Vance started off the show playing "The Donkeys' single 'What I Want', our tip for the top, but the music press seem to reckon that the next big thing from Manchester will be Joy Division... You've probably heard something from their new album, 'Unknown Pleasures'". Vance then plays New Dawn Fades and She's Lost Control. Also played were tracks from Buzzcocks, The Distractions, Slaughter & the Dogs, Jilted John, Blah Blah Blah, The Fall and John Copper Clark. Interspersed between these tracks was an interview with Tony Wilson. At one point Wilson was asked about Joy Division, but he said he doesn't need to talk about Joy Division any more as the press have finally decided that they are the next big thing, and thus "the next big Manchester band will be The Distractions [1]."

1. Information from PatTeasdale on http://lwtua.websitetoolbox.com/post?id=1305516 (note how several copies of this show are owned by Joy Division fans)

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