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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, February 26, 2012

Loving, crafted, often brilliant

Part two of Dave McCullough's Sounds article from June 1979:



LATER that same night as the band tear through a quite brilliant set of songs, you can see the different personalities shining through in the corporate rock and roll band set-up... Pip standing like a proud little warrior just DARING somebody to make something of her still noticeably feminine features and hair, injecting seemingly so much heartbreak and pent-up emotion into every racing bass line she plays... Mike almost out-singing a Feargal Sharkey with breathtaking quivers in his voice and a crooning, impassioned delivery... while the other three luminous with energy, and yet more passion, work up a mighty lather.

The Distractions were so impressive, so absurdly READY to take on any competitors in the pure pop race and beat them after maybe just the few seconds of the Shangri-La esque intro to 'Maybe It's Love', brimming with versatility for nearly every current pop genre, including disco, welding each pointer of influence into a cemented image and range of music!

They sound like the Undertones (a similar blend of soft and hard, a similar image of emotion through comic surface), like the Velvets (the duel guitar sound is derived from spending their early gigs copying the sound of 'There She Goes' and 'Waiting For My Man'), like the Monkees (the band image is so perfect it's almost unreal).

But there's a solidity to the songs that's got more to do with Blue Oyster Cult or The Byrds than anything less substantial.  Take the new song they played at the Factory, 'Waiting For The Rain', reminiscent in structure of 'Don't Fear The Reaper', a song full of atmosphere and urgency that's just GOT to sound dynamic on record, given the subtle, shaded guitar belt and strong vocals.

'Still It Doesn't Ring' is typically sixties based and blessed with a hook to sharp it could skin a whale, Steve and Mike's vocals again combining powerfully.  Then there's the more obviously r'n'b based numbers, like the marvellously raucous 'Do The' which for sheer speed could leave the '79 Ramones scampering back into their gatefold double live album sleeves like old men.  The set could have lasted all night, I felt so stimulated and refreshed.

Loving, crafted, often brilliant, words that buzzed in me all the way back to London.  "Fuckin' amazin', man!..." seemed to be the crowd's verdict.

To be continued...

Dave McCullough, Sounds, 1979.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

All Dressed Up

Part one of Dave McCullough's article in the 23rd June 1979 issue of Sounds.  The Distractions are pictured by Paul Slattery near Arrow-Indigo studios which were in the shadow of Granada TV (home of Coronation Street):



THERE WAS this dog called Prince.  Liked doing the usual sort of things that dogs do, chasing after sticks, eating pairs of socks, running after cars, a fairly typical family mutt, much loved by his owners, a charming Mancunian couple, and living the sort of life-style that the less fortunate human beings in this cruel world would no doubt envy.

One evening, however, a very strange thing happened.  While giving Prince his usual helping of Winalot and Pedigree Chum, Prince's owner Charlie stood  agog with shock and, like a man possessed, stared glassily at the dog for several minutes, unable to move.  Charlie, you see, had heard Prince say something, he had heard the dog speak.

"Sausages" had in fact been the word uttered from Prince's slobbering jaws, and it was just the start of a series of phrases and wild sentences that rolled from the canine tongue in the ensuing months with growing assurity.

Soon, Prince became a regular guest on TV's Esther Rantzen Show and an EMI recording pup-star, complete with his debut single, which through cruelly scant promotion flopped dismally.

That's the story of Prince and it's a story that rolls around my head as we speed through the shiny darkness of the Manchester suburbs.  Prince's producer, Brandon, is the driver, and his wife is a companion who shares my intrigue in the talking wonder dog.  We've just seen Brandon's newest proteges, The Distractions, play Manchester's Factory club, and after a busy day of continual interviews they're at last heading home for some sleep in warm cosy beds.

Brandon Leon is a well-known producer at the city's Arrow-Indigo studios, a short, thin, dark-eyed little man who's deeply into The Business, the industrial rolling stock that is rock and roll in these parts, clearly a man with connections and, as the Distractions' lead-singer Mike Finney puts it, plenty of pull.

Brandon has been the Distractions manager for precisely one week, and obviously preparing to shake this particular outfit out of something of a rut and place them firmly on a smooth operative course to success.

The band are known chiefly for an EP they released last March on TJM called 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That', a marvellous quartet of pop songs of a quite staggering standard that were the first real fruits of a 'buzz' that had been ringing around the Distractions for some time.

Only four thousand had been pressed by TJM and the single has become intensely collectable.  I didn't own a copy.  Brandon didn't own a copy.  The band shared two copies between the five of them.  Earlier at the gig drummer Alec Sidebottom had stolen away to the band's van and had returned furtively with two fresh copies of the EP under his coat like dirty postcards, slipping one each to Brandon and yours truly.

'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That', uniformly Single Of The Week back in Spring I recall, was a very hot item indeed, reminiscent in many ways of the Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' scorcher in that it positively spilled-over with kicking, biting, hissing potential.

The Distractions clearly had exceptional songwriting skill-kids in Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin-Brown, and, moreover, a powerful enough backing fuel in bassist Pip Nicholls, drummer Alec Sidebottom and rhythm guitarist Adrian Wright to stoke the already considerable songwriting fires.

Over the Spring months and up until Brandon's assignation, it's been all quiet on the Distractions front and I came to Manchester to see what was happening.

Over the phone Brandon had told me that the band couldn't get gigs in London, dim promoters who are obviously as out to lunch as most other departments of the r'n'r bureaucracy, displaying a hesitancy that is currently all too rife in booking bands outside the major corporate London agencies (one prominent promoter told Brandon that he could only give bands gigs if they had had full-page ads in the music-press).

It had been Brandon's task in the seven days he'd been in control to surmount this warrant ignorance in the booking-field, and to sever all final connections with TJM whose, er, methods have earned that an, um, controversial reputation.

His first achievement in many ways, I suppose, was the fluke of myself choosing THAT week to pay the band a visit.  That gig at The Factory was indeed arranged through Tony Wilson, Factory owner and local media personality star, for MY benefit, the Distractions being slotted in at the last moment between support bands and the headlining Simple Minds.  A 'Sounds gig' as many were to call it with a chuckle later that evening.  I call it PULL. (Arrogant bastard. - Ed).

After bursting my way into the sound-check like Superman and checking the bodies I'd left in my path for Band Members, I team up with the rugby-ball shape of lead-singer Mike Finney.  Mike wears little clear-rimmed specs and tonight he is dressed to the nines in a stunning black velvet (I think) suit and shining black winkle-pickers that are polished in a way that leads me to inquire if he's getting married after the gig.

"No," he smirks, "I thought I'd wear something special, like..."  Mike is chubby and looks like your favourite northern comedian.  He laughs a lot and is an extremely likeable lad.

His partner Steve Perrin-Brown has neanderthal features and seems more serious, contemplative even.  Later that night he strolls around stage in a pink suit.  Drummer Alec, a veteran of the classic Jilted John album, is a dour professional and one of the very best at his trade.  He's married with kids they tell me.  Adrian Wright has Steve's seriousness and bears an uneasy resemblance to his partner Alec.  Adrian sits-in on the interview and appears to be challenging Mike and Steve's hitherto monopoly in the song-writing stakes.

Which leaves us with bassist Pip, who looks for all the world an eight year old boy but who is in fact more than twice that age.  Pip is one of the best young bassists I've seen this last year and is currently going through the terrible pressure of changing a girl's body into that of a guy.

To be continued...

Dave McCullough, Sounds, 1979.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hot Mancunians

Photos from Paul Slattery in Dave McCullough's article on The Distractions in the 23rd June 1979 edition of Sounds entitled ALL DRESSED UP AND SOMEWHERE TO GO.   This fine piece was published just as The Distractions signed to Factory Records; we'll reproduce it here soon...


Sunday, February 5, 2012

On the way

2012 releases on the way:

A January Moon / Cloud by The June Brides

The second Distractions album (a mere 32 years after their debut).  
Details to be confirmed but it exists, honestly it does...


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Late Seventies

Setting the scene before The Distractions appeared...

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The late Seventies punk/new wave scene was sparked off by a seminal Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Peter Street on 4.6.76. promoted by Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley.  The Buzzcocks made its official debut when the Pistols returned to the same venue on 20.7.76.  Most of the audience were inspired to form bands of their own.

Earliest groups on the punk scene included the Buzzcocks, Slaughter & The Dogs, The Fall, Warsaw (later Joy Division), Ed Banger & The Nosebleeds, and The Drones.

Hot on their trail were Durutti Column, Magazine, The Passage, Ludus, Manicured Noise, The Negatives, Spherical Objects, Dislocation Dance, Jilted John, The Diagram Brothers, V2, The Decorators, Bette Lynch's Legs, The Tiller Boys and John Cooper Clarke - not to mention Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias, who were the bridge between hippies and punks.

Best late Seventies city centre club was the Electric Circus in Collyhurst Street, off Rochdale Road - which was the primo punk venue until the authorities closed it over "fire regulations".  The Buzzcocks played there in November '76, and in July '77 signed their United Artists contract on the bar.  The Sex Pistols played there in December '76, on the notorious Anarchy tour.  Warsaw (billed as The Stiff Kittens) made their debut there in May '77.  Magazine played there the night it closed in October '77...

(c) Pete Frame's Rockin' Around Britain, Pete Frame (1999)

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