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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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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.

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