YNGODLTbutton TGBSSbutton DBMbutton BCbutton NP2button SFTWbutton ATTbutton






Sign up for news




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.

Click here to sign up for occasional newsletters


Saturday, January 29, 2011

English soul singer

An approximate translation from an article on the Lennart Persson website on pop classics of the 1970s that weren't hits.  In amongst good company with Big Star, Television, Undertones...

The Distractions 
Time Goes By So Slow 
[Factory, 1979] 

The music of The Distractions is fleeting, sensuous, difficult to describe.  A melancholy that is spread by wind, a sad longing and sensuality.  One listen to "Time Goes By So Slow" and hopefully you will understand what I mean. 

Sung by a real English soul singer, written by guitarist Adrian Wright - though it says otherwise on the label - and was originally intended as a B-side.  Instead it became a very obvious A-side and one of those rare singles that has everything. 

You can play it a hundred times without finding a weak point, and it stands out completely from the time and the trends.  Play it now and re-discover innocence. 

And for goodness sake - find a copy of "Nobody's Perfect," their only and much loved album!  

Lennart Persson (originally published in Fever #2 in 1990)


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post-punk-era originals

Another fine review from Jack Rabid at The Big Takeover, this time for the Black Velvet EP.

The Distractions - Black Velvet EP (Occultation U.K.)

by Jack Rabid

Having just reviewed this reformed band’s new EP, here’s the other one also released this year — although in this case, the recordings date from the late ‘70s Manchester band’s first revival, back in 1995, but they were unissued until now.  If you’ve heard the gentle sway of the last two tracks of the Distractions’ new (genuinely new) Come Home EP, you’ll know what you will be getting from “Black Velvet” here, with a hint in its title: it’s a six-minute tickle ‘n’ tease post-Velvet Underground third LP pop tune.  Ditto the closing, five-minute “If You Were Mine.”  And while both are effective, even wonderfully lulling, these two are actually pale in comparison to the shorter, brighter, jauntier “Still it Doesn’t Ring” stuck in between.  This sandwich-middle track is a jangly-guitar tune that makes more urgent use of Steve Perrin ’s playing (hearkening back to the band’s ’79-’80 heyday) and Mike Finney’s unsettling vocals, unhappy over the unused phone number in question.  In fact, it’s not far from what Paul Collins has been up to of late.  (And Collins knows something about frustrated phone calls from his old ‘70s band The Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone.”)  Indeed, on all six of their songs on the two Occultation EPs, but this one song in particular, this pair of Manchester post-punk-era originals seems newly reborn with their more recent line-ups.  And a second LP, three decades after the debut, is surely in order. (occultation.co.uk)


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Post-punk melodicism

Yet another superb review for the Come Home EP, from Jack Rabid at The Big Takeover, the bi-annual music magazine.

The Distractions - Come Home EP (Occultation U.K.)

by Jack Rabid

The trend of bands from the late ‘70s/’80s reforming and doing work that doesn’t embarrass their halcyon days continues!  The latest exhibit is this unheralded but quite excellent pop group from the late ‘70s Manchester underground that made a sterling single for the famous Factory label at that label’s peak before heading off to major label Island for a few years and an LP, and then breaking up in 1981.  Along with a brand new Black Velvet EP (recorded in the mid-90s during a previous reformation), also for Occultation, Come Home represents the first time they’ve been heard from in 29 years, and principal members Mike Finney (vocals) and Steve Perrin (guitar) plug right back into their blend of their city’s original energetic post-punk melodicism mixed with 1979 Liverpool’s softer indie-pop romanticism.  They are also ably assisted by Nick Halliwell, whose own Granite Shore released 2010’s best single on this same label, “Flood of fortune,” working with Phil Wilson (having worked with Liverpool’s Wild Swans on his previous single — this younger orchestral-pop fan sure knows his U.K. music history!), along with a new rhythm section.  The second and third tracks, “Nicole” and Halliwell’s own “Oil Painting,” are both mellow in a light Orange Juice mode (albeit with Finney’s more drama-laced vocals), but the lead song “Lost” is the notable here.  With a mix of acoustic guitars strumming, lead guitar picking, warm and insistent piano, and a strident tempo, it should tickle fans of New Zealand’s Flying Nun label, and those who like their pop to tickle and tease a little behind a very strong chorus melody.  Welcome back Distractions! (occultation.co.uk)


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Factory Star

The Fall are true Mancunian post-punk legends and in their earlier days in the late '70s, were touring partners and pals of The Distractions (Arthur Kadmon played briefly for both bands).  "The Distractions latched strongly onto The Fall, and, to some extent, the respect was proven to be mutual [1]."  Mark E Smith: "I like the Distractions, because they're like a paradox to us [2]."

Founder members of The Fall were the legendary Mark E Smith and Martin Bramah, who later went on to found the Blue Orchids and release some classic records.  A return to The Fall and another Blue Orchids incarnation was followed by the formation of Martin's new band, Factory Star.  Occultation Recordings are proud to welcome Factory Star to the label, and this weekend sees the band in Parr Street Studios in Liverpool recording their debut album, due for release in March.

1. The Fall, Mick Middles & Mark E Smith (2003).
2. RTE Ireland's Dave Fanning show, 1980 http://gcoleman.tripod.com/sixplus.html.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Real substance

In amongst the Boomtown Rats, The Pretenders, Visage, AC/DC, The B-52s, Marianne Faithful and others, is this great little review of Time Goes By So Slow by David Hepworth in the 15-28th November 1979 issue of Smash Hits.  Thanks again to Brian McCloskey at Like Punk Never Happened for cataloguing these [1].


Time Goes By So Slow (Factory / Island)

Manchester's newest entries into the sensitivity stakes are five guys old enough to be Sad Cafe but, thank the lord, they're anything but.  Their hazy, tuneful approach could very well have come from the late sixties and I have a feeling that these guys could prove to have real substance.

David Hepworth



Friday, January 7, 2011

Registered historical artefacts

A few random but fascinating artefacts spanning 6 distracting years.  The first is this cartoon of The Distractions' bassist, Pip Nicholls, on the front cover of the October 1978, first issue of the City Fun, the famous Manchester music fanzine.  This was published in Joan Bimson's fascinating account of punk fanzines, Hard Wired for Heroes: A Study of Punk Fanzines, Fandom, and the Historical Antecedents of The Punk Movement [1].  This issue of City Fun also contained an in -depth feature on The Distractions which would have made interesting reading around the time that the debut EP was released:

(c) Joan Bimson [2].

"Like contemporary fanzines this issue focussed on music and features a Manchester band called The Distractions.  The front cover is an illustration by one of the regular City Fun contributors – known only as J.C. – of the band’s bassist. Instead of a face, the figure has a question mark.  There was no mystery about the bassist’s identity; her name was Pip Nicholls.  City Fun writer Liz Naylor suggests that the question mark in place of her face could be a reference to her androgynous appearance but she is not entirely sure as editorial decisions were occasionally unilateral [1]."

This mural behind The Distractions was on Oxford Road near the university in All Saints, Manchester.  The scan posted by dubwise-er on the Manchester District Music Archive is from a 'City By City' article in the Melody Maker, 28th February 1981:

(c) dubwise-er at MDMA [3].

This is a flyer for a 1st Circle gig at the International 1 in 1984, posted by Rooster at the Manchester District Music Archive.  Look closely as you'll see it features none other than Alex Sidebottom (third left), Mike Finney (second right) and Julie Middles (right; yes, the very same as alluded to in Mick Middles' recent article).

(c) Rooster at MDMA [4].

"Here's a flyer from what could be First Circle's first headline gig, after a few test gigs at pubs in Didsbury and Stockport and positive reviews in City Fun and the NME.  In this flyer First Circle are from left to right; Don Durham, Mark Coley, Alec Sidebottom, Paul Rosenfeld, Mike Finney and Julie Middles.  The picture was taken from a photo shoot for the NME by Kevin Cummins in the grounds of a now abandoned church on Wellington Road North between Stockport and Heaton Moor.  Mike Finney had come from The Distractions and both he and Julie had subsequently been with The Secret Seven.  Don, Mark, Alec and Paul were formerly with Dr Filth [4]."

1. www.joanbimson.co.uk/Hard_Wired.pdf.
2. www.joanbimson.co.uk/Fanzine_images.pdf
3. www.mdmarchive.co.uk/archive/showartefact.php?aid=6491&bid=290
4. http://mdmarchive.co.uk/archive/showartefact.php?aid=7014.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the Quietus - Come Home review

Here's the Come Home EP review from last months' excellent Mick Middles piece in the Quietus:

Does Mike Finney own the great lost voice of modern music?

The second EP, Come Home furthers that outrageous claim.  Here Perrin's song-writing has gained the depth of age.  The downside is that this comes at the expense of that lovely old naiveté but, well, that's nothing if not a perfectly natural progression.  'Lost' is a pure pop gem, written by Perrin under the New Zealand sun.  Again there are huge blocks of silence built into the production.  If only 'Nobody's Perfect' had been gifted such treatment.  The lyric will take you nowhere in particular – is a simple existential expression – but you can forgive that and ruminate on the fact that almost nobody is making pop music like this any more.  At least in 'Nicole', a girl is ushered swiftly to the spotlight.  Only in the glorious sprawl of Nick Halliwell's 'Oil Painting' are the realities of the band's advancing years appear to be approached.  "You may not be an oil painting..." sings Finney which, I strongly suggest is not something anyone wishing to retain manhood status should ever say to a lady of any age and, frankly, all is not retrieved by Finney's level admission "...and neither am I."  Nevertheless, and at the risk of encouraging the wrath of Steve Perrin, it is my personal favourite of the six songs on these two remarkable EPs.

For Mancunians of a certain age, witnessing the unlikely return of The Distractions will provide a touch of unexpected hope.  The fact that, despite the band being scattered around the globe, they have appeared in better shape than even warped nostalgia might allow, is simply stunning.

The hope is that Occultation can succeed where Island failed.  That is – to state the obvious – to link this to the audience that yearns for the touch, the warmth and, as we began, for the soul in the darkness of punk.  The great lost band of Manchester are back.

(c) Mick Middles at the Quietus

See the promo video, preview and purchase the 
Come Home 12" vinyl and CD promo 


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Looking back

2010 has been some year for The Distractions since teaming up with Occultation Recordings.  We've seen the first release since 1981, the Black Velvet digital EP with promo CD, comprising three tracks from the legendary mid '90s sessions.  These were the epic title track Black Velvet, a fine reworking of Still It Doesn't Ring, and a new song, the aching If You Were Mine.  Another track from these sessions - (I Thought You Were Dead) Josephine - was also available on the Scream City 5 compilation and as part of the Save The 100 Club campaign.

The Distractions - or rather founder members, Mike and Steve, plus prior Distraction, Nick Garside, with Nick Halliwell and Stuart Mann - were back together in the studio for the first time in 15 years this summer.  This lead to the Come Home EP, their first 12" release since 1978's debut EP and Occultation's first 12" too.  Halliwell, Occultation's founder, wrote the closing track to the EP, Oil Painting, which complemented beautifully Steve's pop perfection of Lost and the haunting Nicole, all delivered in stunning style by Mike. 

Some terrific pieces were written in praise of The Distractions in 2010, going some way to matching the critical acclaim which greeted the first incarnation in the late '70s.  The two EP press releases from David Quantick set the scene.  He also wrote a piece for the Scream City 5 magazine featuring new interviews with Mick Middles, Kevin Cummins, Cath Carroll, Liz Naylor, Kevin Hewick, Tracey Thorn and Neil Storey, as well as Mike, Steve and Alex Sidebottom.  Later, the notable writers Everett True, and Mick Middles and Neil Storey themselves, published wonderful articles which brought historical perspective to the 2010 releases.  

With the releases that Occultation are planning for The Distractions in 2011, we can surely look forward to further coverage for the great lost band of Manchester...


the Quietus - Black Velvet review

We've pulled out the Black Velvet EP review from last months' superb Mick Middles piece in the Quietus:

The Black Velvet EP kicks of with 'Black Velvet', a track drawn from those lost mid-'90s demos and the precise moment when the band finally discovered the depth of sound they had been searching for back in the Island days.  'Black Velvet' is simple lost love and, like 'Time Goes By So Slow', arrives from a place of heightened perception.  A man dreaming of a lost and fading love... wallowing perhaps but lifted by the rich Finney voice.  This is the music of a lost band, in a sense, as drummer Van Den Berg has been lost to the mysteries of South Africa while bassist Nick Gartside is now firmly encamped in LA, surfacing as mixer and polisher of the 2010 version of the band.  This truly international flavour has undoubtedly stretched the scope and is completed by the addition of a third songwriter in Nick Halliwell.  Confused?  Well, against the odds perhaps, The Distractions now sound more coherent than ever and these two EPs sit perfectly back to back... as a mini-album, perhaps.

The second track on Black Velvet, 'Still It Doesn't Ring' hails directly back to 1978 and yes, it is as obvious as the title suggests.  A touch of Undertones – always a close cousin, in so many ways – and a fresh attack at an aged tune.  A yearning pop blast... heartfelt although nothing... nothing in this ancient echo could prepare you for 'If You Were Mine', arguably Finney's greatest soulful moment...  I do not know of technical perfection but, in terms of sheer howl and angst, this links deeply to the Otis Redding who always sat so central in Finney's record collection.  Odd thing, I have to say, during the Secret Seven phase this was a voice that appeared to be weakening... not so now.  Does Mike Finney own the great lost voice of modern music?

(c) Mick Middles at the Quietus

Preview and purchase the Black Velvet digital EP & CD promo


Blog Archive


sign up for distracting news

YNGODLTbutton TGBSSbutton DBMbutton BCbutton NP2button SFTWbutton ATTbutton