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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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Monday, December 30, 2013

That was 2013

The Distractions are mentioned in two of the best music books of 2013. In what must have been a popular Christmas present for anyone with interest in music, Manchester or Manchester music, Morrissey's autobiography mentions The Distractions' female bass player, Pip Nicholls. The full passage is about Linder from Ludus (of whom future Distractions, Arthur Kadmon, was a guitarist) and The Fall (who were founded by The Distractions' now label-mate and gig-mate, Martin Bramah).

 (c) Morrissey at Amazon.

"In the exploding Manchester scene, she was the only female, and although she fought fire with sword to render the unreceptive receptive, she is overlooked. The music scene of Manchester is a dark thread of maleness. The Fall have a keyboard player who is female, the Distractions have a bass player who is female, but Linder walks the line alone as the hunter of non-permitted dreams."

In an equally fine book released earlier this year, Tracey Thorn recalls her fondness for Time Goes By So Slow, at Christmas 34 years ago:

(c) Tracey Thorn at Amazon.

It's Christmas 1979, and you can tell Ade and I are the perfect post-punk romantic couple - he gives me The Cure single, and I give him 'Time Goes By So Slow' by The Distractions. I also get London Calling by The Clash, the Mekons LP and a book by Leonard Cohen."

2014 will see The Distractions' own book (of sorts) being published as part of the forthcoming 'Parabolically Yours' set. We aim to bring you news of that very, very soon in the new year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Distractions interview

Our friends at Penny Black Music have just published an interview with Steve Perrin, Mike Finney and Neil Storey of Hidden Masters.  They discuss the forthcoming retrospective set, hinting at the content and presentation, and even tease us with mentions of future gigs.  

Read it here, spread the word, and don't forget to keep up-to-date by 'Liking' the new Distractions Facebook page which has recently been established with the help of the folks at Pledge Music.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Deeply strange

Occultation Recordings chief and now Distractions guitarist, songwriter and producer, Nick Halliwell, was recently the subject of a Penny Black interview.  There were more than a few distracting snippets...

* * * 

Occultation owner Nick Halliwell is a songwriter, musician, producer and the front man with his own project The Granite Shore, whose long-awaited debut album is due for release next year.  He formed Occultation Recordings in 2008, which puts an emphasis on high quality packaging and, while it also does CD and download editions of most of is products, specialises in 180 gram vinyl.  Other acts on its small roster include The June Brides whose recent single ‘A January Moon/Clouds’ was their first in twenty-seven years; The Distractions whose second album, ‘The End of the Pier’, from last year followed on thirty-two years after their debut, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, and Factory Star, the new band of Fall founding member and ex-Blue Orchids front man Martin Bramah.

[Having to rush out The Wild Swans album] meant using the Granite Shore album budget because all the label’s other cash was tied up in Factory Star’s ‘Enter Castle Perilous’, our first LP which was just coming out,  plus I’d booked studio time to record The Distractions’ ‘The End of the Pier’.

* * *

I can’t say too much for obvious legal reasons, but the result was that not only was there no money for a vinyl edition but The Distractions album took a year to come out and the Granite Shore LP’s still pending. We simply didn’t have the money.

* * * 

Then there was The Distractions’ ‘The End of the Pier’, plus I’d ended up promoting the Distractions/Factory Star/June Brides gigs in Salford, as well as performing.  It was a busy year but, after the disappointments of 2011, a very successful one and we’d clawed ourselves back from the brink.

In the meantime the label’s fortunes were looking up in other ways.  The Distractions album did well, the back catalogue was ticking over nicely, the partnership with Fishrider was becoming established and we’d got other things in place so, all in all, the label was starting to get taken seriously.

* * * 

The only record I can think of that came out almost exactly as planned was The Distractions album, but The Distractions are deeply strange in all respects.

* * * 

We’ll also be doing the third Distractions album, and I’m involved in the Hidden Masters retrospective of their back catalogue which’ll be out in 2014.  That should be properly announced over the next few weeks and our friend Neil Storey has done an astonishing job in unearthing all sorts of gems.

It really is astonishing what can be achieved - as you say, our new vinyl and CDs editions are more lavish than the kind of thing even the majors have produced, and we’ve managed to pull it off, by a team effort.  It’s been by far the maddest thing we’ve ever done but there is always method in our madness and we’ve come a very long way.  Although Occultation still doesn’t have those offices, warehouses and staff, people take us seriously now.  We’re working with people who really know what they’re doing, building up something designed to endure.  Right from the very first day we’ve always had huge ambitions - I think back to the insanity of those first two 10” singles and it was all there in microcosm.  We’ve always reached for the skies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Hacienda

Although The Distractions played at Tony Wilson's Factory Club in Hulme, they had already disbanded by the time Factory Records and New Order opened the soon-to-be-legendary Hacienda in Manchester.  That didn't stop Mike Finney though...


The Hacienda,

THE secret's out: the Seven have risen majestically from the ashes of The Distractions and are now ready to stake their claims for the sovereignty of the new pop hierarchy.  And within a year The Secret Seven will surely be on a par with ABC and the Associates.

Since the Distractions split earlier this year, the Seven have strung together a remarkably strong set of songs which are already inscribed in my mind by the words "pure pop classics."

Pure is the important word.  The Secret Seven present  a form which draws its strength from a sweet mixture of subtle passion and contagious optimism.

Like ABC, they deal in a world where love is help up as a glorious standard by which to live your life.  Love is a bright beacon to follow closely - no a nadir of anger, upset and dirty despair.

This concept of love and life suggests that the Seven are working within a limited scope.  Of course they are: the scope of traditional pop music.  The Seven don't broach "hard" topical subjects and I doubt that they ever will.

Visually the Seven reply unashamedly on the antics of Mike Finney and his lovely female co-singer, whom he enigmatically introduced as Janet.

Together they plat out a predictable, but none the less cute drama - singing coyly to each other, looking lovingly into each other's eyes and generally giving the impression that they wouldn't object to be labelled another Dollar.

Then again, why shouldn't Finney manipulate and build upon a current trend to get a slice of the commercial action?  He's definitely done his first stretch of hard groundwork and the Secret Seven are now on the verge of the big time, as a result of it.

In fact, if tonight's adoring audience response is anything to go by, the Secret Seven will soon have to change their name to the Famous Five.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Soon to be familiar

This is the third and final part of Mick Middles' piece in Sounds, September 1980, after Steve Perrin had just left The Distractions and Arthur Kadmon stepped in.



FOR THE uninitiated, The Distractions have, for the past year, been Manchester's most likely looking chart contenders.  They seem perfect.  An endless stream of intriguing, original and yet unbelievably instant pop tunes poured out of the Finney / Perrin partnership.  The band should have broken the chart at the beginning of the year with the admittedly delayed 'It Doesn't Bother Me' but it didn't even cause a ripple.  Next came the band's godawful cover of 'Boys Cry', which, although it gained extensive airplay, still somehow failed to penetrate the charts.  I was almost relieved, had 'Boys Cry' succeeded we could have seen The Distractions moving away from their normal highly personal pop and into a much more bland musical environment.  Then, of course, the album.  Packed with the very best pop songs, the standard of which our pathetic chart never sees these days.  However, on the album the songs merged together in one large, sweet, sticky mess.  The production was like a layer of cotton wool, the effect muffled.  Although the album has sold well, no-one seems over pleased with the finished result.  The album contained everything except. . . .

Variation, experimentation and guts.  The more I think about it, the more I understand that the answer may indeed lie with Arthur Kadmon.  His brittle biting rhythm would have created a nifty diversion, added another dimension.

The three remaining band members, Adrian Wright, Pip Nicholls and Alec Sidebottom are the solid basic driving force of the band.  They create the 'soon to be familiar' Distractions sound and hold it firmly together.

And Mike Finney, who writes lyrics directly from experience.  Romantic depression, hopelessness, emptyness, coldness, loneliness.  All the emotive subjects were filtered through the thick, fruity soulful voice of Finney and delivered neatly and sweetly.  Are they still as excited about their future as ever?

Finney: "I'm very excited.  We are writing more and better now.  Steve was great but he wasn't particularly prolific."

The band, as you read this, are about to depart on a lightning five-day visit to America's East Coast.  Whether or not their brand of English pop will appeal to the Americans is a matter of some doubt.  However, Arthur is happy, he is going to finally realise one of his ambitions - to spend an evening inside a seedy New York jazz club.

I wonder if they'll serve him.

(c) Mick Middles, Sounds, 13th September 1980.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dexy's & Distractions

Part two of Mick Middles' article in the 13th September 1980 issue of Sounds.



DISTRACTIONS with new man Arthur ('Don't call me the Northern Captain Sensible') Kadmon, second from left (pic by Kevin Cummins)

...In Cork the band found themselves sharing the tiny town with Dexy's Midnight Runners.  Mike tells the tale.

"Dexy's were really cheesed off because we drew a bigger crowd.  It was ridiculous because every P.A. in Cork had gone to Dexy's and we had to make do with this tiny tinny thing.  Well, although they were big pop stars they only drew about two hundred compared to our six hundred.  It was so silly when we got back to the hotel.  One of their road crew kept ringing our managers during the night making false death threats, really silly."

According to rumour, the flamboyant Kadmon revelled in taking the piss out of Dexy's by playing in a donkey jacket and woolly hat kindly supplied by the towns youth.

BACK IN Manchester however, the feeling about Kadmon's arrival is strangely mixed.  His onstage brashness tends to alienate many of the band's most loyal followers.  This doesn't appear to worry him, although he does have a few misgivings.  Sitting in the pub, guzzling Guinness and flashing his newly acquired Bing Crosby album, he talks frankly about his doubts.

"No, I'm not worried about fitting in.  I'll last forever, but I'm very concerned about the whole popstar approach.  I'm concerned about you and what you'll cast me as.  I'm certainly not the new Captain Sensible or anything like that.  I hate those people, I really do.  Like Lou Reed, you say he is your idol.  OK, he may have made some great music, but his attitude is pathetic.  All this treating people like nothings, it's wrong and basically I'm worried that it might affect me.  On a much smaller scale of course.  I mean, look at Mike, it's unintentional but he's started to name-drop."

Mike:  "There's nothing wrong with name-dropping, it's harmless really and pretty unavoidable."

Arthur:  "But it's wrong.  It shouldn't happen because it makes other people feel bad.  It's wrong.  There are people walking about whose sole ambition is to meet Debbie Harry or Sting and when they hear someone name-dropping it makes them feel bad."

Mike:  "I agree to a point, but really, well, I really admire people like The Fall who just completely destroy the whole star system by turning their backs on it.  I wish I could do that, I think it's incredible.  It must be really hard to be that way."

Exchange over, Kadmon talks more about his mistrust of the workings of a pop band.

"Look don't get me wrong.  I love being in The Distractions, it's just that I also feel a little guilty.  I mean, I used to love working for a living, it was great fun.  But now I'm earning more for doing a lot less and having fun at the same time.  I'll just need time to grow accustomed to it.  But listen, you can't label me as a northern Captain Sensible."

Actually, I never had the slightest intention of labelling Kadmon as anything, but as long as he continues to wear ski pants, orange socks, golf shoes and long red earrings.  As long as he continues to remain hyper-enthusiastic, then he's obviously going to attract the kind of attention he deplores.

[to be continued]

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Manchester's favourite soul-pop outfit

Part one of Mick Middles' post-Perrin piece in September 1980's Sounds.



"I'M SORRY, but the landlord has told me not to serve you!"  I perfected my 'goldfish' expression before turning to the two Distractions with a look of exasperation and total disbelief.  "They won't serve us," I mouthed as Distractions' lead vocalist Mike Finney burst into laughter and pointed an accusing finger at the somewhat infantile new band member Arthur Kadmon.

"It's him, it's his fault," observed Finney rather cruelly, although I must admit I tended to agree.  Partly because Arthur naturally emits an aura of innocent stupidity and partly because of the large red earring that dangled from his left ear.  The Distractions, who recently have received letters from hotel managers complimenting the band on their good behaviour, are in danger of losing their nice boy image.

Twenty-four hours earlier, I'd met The Distractions in a grisly dark-oak ridden pub near their practice studios in Stockport.  They looked happy and with every right.  Only six weeks ago, following the release of their debut album, they suffered the loss of their main contributing songwriter and founder member, Steve Perrin.  This surprising departure caused many doubts in Manchester about the fate of the city's favourite soul-pop outfit.  Personally, in all respect to Steve Perrin, I wasn't over-concerned.  The band had hit a dull patch.  I found the album to be something of a disappointment and their live gigs were lacking in the bubbling charm that had made them such an exciting prospect.  Something had to change and, if their recent gig at Manchester UMIST is of any significance, Arthur Kadmon was a godsend.  I'd known him since his days spent in the sadly declining Ludus and, although his musical background seems ridiculously distant from the pop of The Distractions, a weird sense of belonging has already become apparent.  Mike Finney talked about their decision to introduce the, um, colourful Kadmon.

"We were just about to audition people when I chanced upon him in Stockport.  He agreed to come along for a trial and straight away we knew he was perfect.  He's writing songs as well, plus we've already started work on two of his old numbers, 'Nighttime' and 'Heaven Can Wait'".

Now, I'm familiar with both these songs, which are attractively meandering lightweight jazz injected tunes of a highly personal nature - hardly archetypal Distractions fodder.  However, after recently criticising the ban for displaying a lack of invention, I can see a neat half-way stage between the thick soul that is the band's norm and the thin coldness of the Kadmon material.  Finney sounds happy with the prospect.

"I think they suit us perfectly.  It's a much needed new direction certainly and the new two styles should blend together well."

Kadmon's acid test came when the band recently travelled to Southern Ireland for a short tour.  The gigs were, apparently, the best The Distractions have played for some time.  In Cork the band found themselves sharing the tiny town with Dexy's Midnight Runners...

[to be continued]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Parabolically Yours

As may now be coming clear, much work has been going on in the background regarding the eagerly-awaited Distractions retrospective.  Here, Neil Storey from Hidden Masters gives us the latest via this thread at the Steve Hoffman Music Forum:

Rumour and conjecture on The Distractions project has been fairly public for quite some while.  Here's what we can confirm right now.

The set – and it is a set, not just a reissue of 'Nobody's Perfect' – is now at a fairly advanced level of preparation.  Preparation...? Yep... we've been working on this for approximately two years now; 'cos to get 'em right takes time... a lot of time. 

Much of the analog / digital work is complete; although there is probably just another day, maybe two days worth of that still to do.  And, what remains are the live tape transfers.  Live tapes?  Oh yes... we've got desk tapes from places like The Venue and Dingwalls (in London); a show in Newcastle and others. 

A couple of things simply don't exist on analog reel(s).  They've either been lost, skipped or maybe even taped over.  Annoying, but hardly the first time this has occurred.  One example is the original reel that should contain the four tracks from 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That'.  The tape box exists and there is a 1/4" reel inside it, but what's on that reel doesn't correspond to... anything that it should.  There's just the one track on that reel and it isn't The Distractions.  Quite what happened (all those years back) is anyone's guess.  Perhaps one reel got substituted for another, who knows?  But, we do have a virgin vinyl copy and, if needs finally must, needs must.  We're still quite a ways away from mastering so, the missing reels may turn up in time... maybe. 

Oh... and IF anyone who comes by this page knows of where a copy of the one and only BBC session (three tracks / Autumn 1980) is, I really would like to know!  (It doesn't exist in the BBC archive and is presumed to have been taped over – grrrr). 

Anyhow, the artwork – as Mike Finney has confirmed elsewhere here – is now at an advanced stage.  And, yes the set will be titled 'Parabolically Yours'. 

The whole package will be contained in a 12" casebound hard-back volume and the inside booklet is currently running at 80 pages.  Substantial... yes!  Also, the first edition will also be strictly limited – 500 copies only, worldwide. 

Release date?  There is a strong possibility that we'll be starting the pre-order process on Pledge Music before [and just in time for] Christmas.  From which, my best guess right now is that we'll have finished copies probably May, or thereabouts, 2014.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A free hidden master

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the widget (a technical term) above.  By simply signing up to the mailing list for The Distractions Hidden Masters project on Pledge Music, you'll be able to download a free mp3 of a previously unreleased track.  You won't be bombarded with emails, just occasionally kept informed of the progress of the project, whilst enjoying 'Something For The Weekend'.

If you so wish, the widget can be used freely elsewhere on your site or blog by using this link or the embedding code therein.  You'll see an option to get the widget once you've downloaded the track too.

Finally, if you aren't a member of The Distractions Facebook group, you might have missed that the curator of the project, Neil Storey, recently revealed the title of the book-set... Parabolically Yours.

The image adorning the widget and the front cover of the book-set (there's a sneak preview on the Facebook page) will be explained soon, for those of you who don't recognise it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hidden Masters & Pledge Music

By way of a taster, here's a reminder of who will be involved in making the soon-to-be-announced Distractions retrospective collection a reality:

Hidden Masters explained

HiddenMasters is a pioneering contemporary music archive service – established to serve an important but neglected market.  

Many artists who were popular 30 to 40 years ago have extensive musical legacies that have never been properly documented. Indeed, in many instances, only a small proportion of their recordings have ever been digitised.  

By combining specialist knowledge to exhaustive research and digital renovation, HiddenMasters facilitates the discovery of long-forgotten music within these artist’s catalogues that masters’ rights holders in many instances don’t even know exists.  

Further to which, by working exclusively with PledgeMusic’s direct-to-fan pre-order methodology, HiddenMasters are able to create limited run 1st Editions...

HiddenMasters ‘legacy sets’ are career defining, with exemplary design and packaging being standard.  

Following the release of HiddenMasters | The Jess Roden Anthology earlier in 2013, further limited run 1st Edition sets include – Gemma Hayes, The Distractions omnibus edition and a major Chris Wood career retrospective, among others in development.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Front ranks

This short but very complimentary review of The Distractions' debut LP, Nobody's Perfect, appeared in the somewhat unlikely location that is Vogue magazine.

The Beat are from Birmingham, and they share honours with Manchester's The Distractions for best debut album of the month.  Nobody's Perfect (Island ILPS 9604) is light but serious: frothy, melodic pop with a stimulating, bitter after-taste.  Vocalist Mike Finney has a deep, pained voice which provides an intriguing contrast with the sweetly psychedelicised backdrops concocted by the rest of the band and at least two of the songs, Waiting For Lorraine and Leave You To Dream, contain sufficient passion and ingenuity to catapult The Distractions into the front ranks of British pop.

(c) Vogue, 1980.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Factory Records graphic album

The Distractions play a small but not insignificant role in the early history of Factory Records.  The beautiful coffee table book, Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album (FAC 461), by the late Tony Wilson (foreword) and Matthew Robertson (Thamas & Hudson) has a number of pieces of Distractions artwork, all in designed by Peter Saville.

Index: X-O-Dus, The Distractions, FAC 7, Sex Pistols, Crawling Chaos, A Certain Ratio

Fac 4 The Factory Club No.3 / Poster / 1978 / Des: Peter Saville

 Fact 10 + 4 Poster / 1979 / Des: Peter Saville
Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, X-O-Dus, The Distractions

Fac 12 The Distractions. Time Goes By So Slow / 7-inch / 1978 / Des: Peter Saville

(c) Matthew Robertson. 
(Thames & Hudson, 2007).

Saturday, October 26, 2013


The original Distractions may have fizzled out in 1982 but that didn't stop Mike Finney and co.  This Bronze Records biography of Mike's new group, The Secret Seven, was distributed with promo copies of their splendid single, Hold On To Love b/w Up In Smoke. (7" standard and 12" 'club' versions).




The Secret Seven are in fact four - Mike Finney (vocals), Julie Middlehurst (vocals), Bernard Van Den Berg (keyboards/drums), and Alan Usher (bass).

The nucleus of The Secret Seven took shape in February of last year following the demise of Finney, Van Den Berg and Usher's previous band, The Distractions.  Looking for raw talent they recruited Julie Middlehurst, a former nurse who had worked in an old peoples home.  Initially called The Famous Five, the band's original idea was to take a cabaret approach to the ultra-hip rock clubs and ultimately, to take some of the ultra-hip to the cabaret audience.

Demos were completed which resulted in The Secret Seven playing their debut gig with Delta Five at Manchester's Hacienda last August.  It was a bizarre event, with Mike and Julie holding hands, gazing into each others eyes and opening with a soft, twee version of "I'll Be Your Mirror" in front of a drunken Saturday night audience.  The show worked and resulted in considerable press acclaim.

Since then The Secret Seven have adopted a policy of only playing the occasional selective gigs; always provoking a strong audience reaction.

The band have signed to Bronze Records; releasing their debut single "Hold On To Love".  Produced by Martin Hayles - currently enjoying chart success with Orange Juice - "Hold On To Love" sees a new dimension in The Secret Seven's sound with the augmentation of three guest musicians - Danny Cummings (percussion), Don Garbutt (keyboards) and Martin Hayles (guitar).

April 1983.
Simon Porter.
01-267 4499.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Always get encores

This rather glowing review of The Distractions live at Dingwalls (London) comes from Charles Shaar Murray, in the 12th July 1980 issues of NME.

The Distractions


IF MIKE FINNEY did not bear such as unnerving resemblance to a young Harry Worth, it might be necessary to commence an account of a Distractions performance by some sort of assertion to the effect that the band are more than capable of providing a high spot in anybody's pop week.

The screaming incongruity of Finney's ostentatious normalcy - he could also pass for the type of comedian who will sing 'He'll Have To Go' at the end of his spot - and his voice - a rough, anguished affair that shows its Northern Soul roots with every syllable - makes him the ideal front man for The Distractions, a group whose principle stock-in-trade is Yorkshire pop that is simultaneously frothy and mordant.  The band's principle songwriter, Steve Perrin - the young man with the Wilko fetish - is allegedly on the verge of departure from the band, which gives the occasion a note of added poignancy.

While Finney blustered and performs timidly exhibitionistic dance steps and Perrin Wilks away on his side of the stage, Adrian Wright - the band's other guitarist, being seemingly constructed entirely of bones and veins - turns his back on the audience and mulls over some ancient grudge.  Alec Sidebottom, one hand in a splint, meanwhile demonstrates that the ideal drummer is one who actually listens to the rest of the group and Pip Nicholls underpins the proceedings with some exceedingly deft and adroit bass lines.

"Wiko and Howard Worth. Pic: Tom Sheehan."

The material that Perrin and Finney have composed for The Distractions fuses rhythm and impeccable melody - they know what works - with some exceptional lyrical twists.  The way the lyric of 'Waiting For Lorraine' develops is little short of masterly, and 'I'll Leave You To Dream' is one of the most effecting pop songs of the '80s (thus far).  In addition, the evident pleasure which the band take in presenting their material irresistibly contagious.

The only moments of doubt - apart from when I was informed of Perrin's possible departure - came when they played their newest material.  'What's The Use' introduced as "One of the new songs which Island don't like" seemed considerably dowdier than its surroundings, and placed one in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with an Island executive.

One of the most enduring touches was the haste with which they rushed back to do their encore - which included a riotous version of Roxy's 'Remake/Remodel' - almost as if they weren't sure that they'd get to do 'em at all.  They needn't have worried: after the renditions of 'Lorraine' and 'Sick and Tired' with which they'd wound up the set, they could've hung on for another two or three minutes without the level of applause diminishing in the slightest.

May The Distractions always get encores; may they always play as if they have to work to get them.

Charles Shaar Murray

(c) Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 1980.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Completely timeless

Mick Middles's piece in Sounds on 12th July 1980.

The Distractions


I DON'T LIKE the album.  What could and should have been a bundle of gleeful, granite-like, fresh-faced soul gems has turned out to be a merging mixture of gutless girl-hungry but passionless sorrow.  It's still a cut above the average but it has unfortunately missed greatness.

The album weeps where it should have screamed.  Another record company mistake, another case of dilution.

Nobody likes to knock the band, they are still beautifully wide-eyed and hopeful, but perhaps also a trifle worried as they find those magical chart placings so elusive.  If The Distractions can continue to write energetic painful whinings like 'Waiting For Lorraine' then success is (almost) inevitable.

As a live act, The Distractions always entertain.  Who could possibly fail to smile and move and enjoy?  Who could resist such innocence?  Even though it is a touch contrived.

Every number contains a gripping hook and a jagged dance beat as strong as anything around in this era of confusion.  The Distractions haven't changed much over the past two years, their confidence has increased, they now move around a lot more.  They appear to enjoy themselves despite a heavy touring schedule.  However, they still fail to experiment.

It seems strange that a band who, in the past, have played so many support sets to the likes of The Fall still seem terrified to take a gamble.

Even in Manchester  where they have developed into the city's largest local draw, they stick like honey to the smugness of a standard format.  It's almost annoying, they can't even surprise a violently involved local audience.  Be safe, be comfortable, be a Distraction.

For the unsussed, The Distractions make instantly memorable music that crosses The Undertones with Buzzcocks with Atlantic soul.  Their music is rough (live that is, not on the album where the edges have been smoothed down and covered with a sickly production gloss), raw but always cute.

Over the top flows the thick fruity voice of slim (30 inch waist eh?) Mike Finney.  One of the most distinctive voices in modern pop.  Their sound is completely timeless.  The Distractions could have appeared at any time over the last 25 years and not been out of place.  That's partly why devotees believe them to be unique.  It's also why they seem able to appeal to anyone from would-be left field revlutionaries to my mother.  Perhaps they are the final proof that the gap between the Dooleys and Throbbing  Gristle is really very narrow indeed.

Go and see The Distractions.  It's a pure guaranteed satisfaction.  Why take a chance?


(c) Mick Middles, Sounds, 1980.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lovingly-crafted pop vignettes

These extracts are from the great piece on the 'Stuff The Superstars' event in July 1979 in Belle Vue by Paul Hanley of The Fall fame, in their recommended Reformation! Webzine site.

Stuff The Superstars

By Paul Hanley

Nominally top of the bill were The Distractions, who I’d previously seen supporting The Fall at Kelly’s, a tiny venue in Manchester, and who were earmarked (if only by City Fun) as the next big thing, though of course they never were.  We (naturally) were ostensibly there to see The Fall, although Joy Division were also a major attraction. They’d also made significant headway since I’d seen them earlier (at Bowdon Vale youth club) and they were on the verge of next big thingdom themselves.

City Fun Fanzine was definitely Manchester’s magazine-du-jour (if magazine is the right word).  Sold at virtually every gig (as well as Virgin and Piccadilly records) it occupied a hallowed status among the concert goers of Manchester. It wasn’t a bad read either.  Admittedly it was as humourless as The Passage playing at a Funeral, but in its defence, they were humourless times.  Bands these days are so desperate to convey their wit and sense of fun you tend to forget that in 1979 most bands (or certainly most Manchester bands) were primarily anxious to convey their solemnity. The Joy Division of the NME and the Joy Division in the cafĂ© next to Davidson’s rehearsal room were two very different beasts, believe me.    

[there then follows reviews of the Glass Animals, Hamsters, Armed Force, Frantic Elevators, Joy Division, Ludus, The Liggers and The Fall…]

The Distractions could only ever be a footnote, after that, though it’s a shame their lovingly-crafted pop vignettes never reached a bigger audience.  The big problem was they never looked like the part, the singer and drummer especially (respectively the wrong side of 34” waist and 34 years old.  It’s a tough gig this pop malarkey.)  They had a male guitarist and a female bass player who wore matching outfits, I remember.  They should have formed a duo, they looked great.  Interesting side-note - Legend has it that there was once a cash crisis at Island Records and a last minute meeting was called to decide whether to drop The Distractions or U2.  (They went with Distractions, by the way).

The evening (from the walk to the venue onwards) was imbued with the kind of tension and unease that you don’t get at gigs these days (or at least I don’t).  The venue was filthy in the way that only Manchester clubs in 1979 could be.  The sound was muddy, and to describe the organisation as amateurish is to be over generous.  One of the best gigs I ever attended, in summation.  The Mayflower no longer exists, of course.  The last gig I ever saw there was ‘Nik Turners Inner City Unit’.  On that occasion me, Steve, Marc and Craig, and Bob and Moey from The Hamsters were the entire audience.  Shame there’s nowhere to put the blue plaque."

(c) Paul Hanley at Reformation! Webzine.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Superlative modern pop

This review of the It Doesn't Bother Me single came from Dave McCullough in the 24th November 1979 of Sounds.

THE DISTRACTIONS - 'It Doesn't Bother Me' (Island)

The Distractions are one of the best young pop groups to have emerged this year, and this could well be The One, though it's disappointing seeing them retread a song off their first 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP.  Nonetheless, it's fast, zippy, terribly wordy, and asserts that The Distractions are moving into their own pop niche in much the same way as The Undertones have done, only Finney, Perrin and co's scope is much broader and long lasting.  This isn't as fine as their Factory 45, the brilliant 'Time Goes By So Slow', and suggests that the band might have teething problems with Island in the production area (more keyboard, more bass in future maybe?), but even then it's superlative modern pop.  The Distractions remind me of Hovis adverts and Trevor Griffith's play Comedians, so there's still acres to be discovered in there somewhere, and The Distractions are gonna be on your sister's wall in 1984, so be prepared.

(c) Dave McCullough, Sounds.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Distractions in Hulme

This live review from the Russell Club in Hulme - where Tony Wilson's Factory Club was held - by Steve Forster is rather more complimentary of The Distractions than Adam and the Ants.  It appeared in the largely forgotten New Manchester Review.

The Distractions / Adam and the Ants

Russell Club

There are certainly no musical reasons for The Distractions distinct lack of success, they emerged when the new wave needed something newer to inject some life, and they provided it; they preceded power pop by several months, yet still don't even seem to enjoy cult status.  This state of affairs surely must change soon as the band improve each time.

Fronted by the charismatic figure of Mike Finney, his distinctive vocals effectively typify the band, simple and direct with no unnecessary embellishments.  They have influences, notably the Buzzcocks and even Dr Feelgood ("Sick 'n' Tired") but it becomes their own sound, and as such is one of the best.

Adam and the Ants however are strictly last year's thing.  They play their punk songs well and are one of the few of their type that can play well but their material sounds very dated - a sad pointer to the way that the excitement of 1976/7 allowed itself to dissipate so quickly.  The audience, made of the remnants of the leatherette P.V.C. punk nouveau, predictably lapped it up and sure the Ants played well but without the variation needed to succeed.
Steve Forster

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Factory product

In this article, in the 29th September 1979 issue of Melody Maker, Mary Harron discusses Factory Records and their bands - Joy Division, Orchestral Manoeuvres, A Certain Ratio and The Distractions.  Article thanks to NME's History of Rock and Roll; photos by Kevin Cummins.

Factory Products: food for thought

Lots of people thought that Operation Julie was a bit of an anachronism.  Who, in the late Seventies, could be dropping all those tabs?  It almost certainly isn't the folks at Factory Products, but MARY HARRON knows it's no accident that they called their company after Andy Warhol's legendary Sixties sweatshop.  Is granny taking trips all over again, this time in Manchester?

Tony Wilson thinks The Distractions are like one of the early psychedelic bands that sprang up in Austin, Texas in 1966 - the ones found on the "Nuggets" albums - but I think he's letting his theory run away with him there.  They are much more of a new wave version of Merseybeat.  Mike Finney, the lead singer, says: "When we started, everyone saw us as post-Hamburg Beatles, but we didn't intend it to be that.  We hoped we were doing something original."

On stage Finney looks like an engaging junior bank clerk, in his glasses and three-piece suit; the bass player, Pip Nicholls, looks like Tina Weymouth's kid sister.  Seeing them perform in Manchester was a reminder of how different the atmosphere is in clubs up North.  There, unlike in London, you find the true Saturday night - the undercurrent of excitement that comes from dressing up for the week's evening out.  On the dance floor, a froup of teenage boys went through a strange, ritual scrimmage - pretending to attack but touching only lightly - like cubs play-fighting.

The group have only been playing a year, and the inexperience shows.  The first half of their set was clumsy and boring; the second half confident and exciting.  At their best they are full of energy and charm, with only one danger ahead: if they get any more charming, they will be cute.

The Distractions are the only group on Factory records who can say, without hesitation, what their songs are about: "They're all love songs, ranging from disappointment to hatred."

Guitarist Adrian White [Wright] explains that "everyone has this perfect image of love.  It's like an image of paradise that can never be.  And when it doesn't work out, you hate it."  Mike Finney adds that "in real life - which none of us know much about, apart from signing on - there's no way you can make love last forever.  But it was be nice if it did, which is why we sing about it."

Their modern love songs include "Waiting For The Rain", about bi-sexual love, and "One Way Love" - "When we sing that everyone thinks it's about this imaginary girlfriend.  Actually, it's about masturbation."

The Distractions. (c) Kevin Cummins.

What makes The Distractions more than just charming, and more than a revival, is the rawness in their music and the fact they deal with aspects of life that the early boy/girl songs wouldn't touch.  "Pillowfight", the B-side of their new single, is a song about infidelity that manages to pack a whole range of conflicting emotions - jealousy, hurt, curiosity, pity, resentment - into a few words:

     What did you waken up to find lying next to you
     Just a man whose taken up your time is that really you
     Did you fall for sympathy made you easy game
     Is he your kind I bet you don't know his name.

AFTER this single, Factory Records expect The Distractions to sign with a major label, and hope the same for all their groups, as only the major companies can pay musicians a living.   Factory sign no contracts, and say that so far mutual trust has worked out.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Innocence and energy

Here is the second half of Jon Savage's Melody Maker review of the Leigh Festival in the 8th September 1979 issue, thanks to NME's History of Rock and Roll.  Photos by Kevin Cummins.

Gathered round the stage (clockwise from top right): Teardrop Explodes, 
The Distractions, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division. All pics: Kevin Cummins.


Leigh Valley Festival

Angst in an East Lancs wasteland

The Distractions, next, are a perfect youth-club band.  Amateur flash, jokey off-the-cuff introductions, fresh beat music with the unselfconsciousness of Sixties punk/folk plus sharper lyrics.

They run through a batch of great pop songs: "Maybe It's Love", "Waiting For The Train", "One Way Love", and the new 45, "Time Goes By So Slow".  Innocence and energy.  They cocked-up the break in their disco stab, "Sick & Tired", and it didn't really matter at all.

THE sun went in: it was Teardrop Explodes' unenviable task to counteract the increasing cold and late-afternoon lethargy.  Their careful, bright sound of precise guitar, fish-and-chip organ and attacking rhythm section seemed to freeze in the cold air and the distance between the (oversize) stage and the (undersize) audience.

Initially, they could sound contrived, but a warmth quickly shows through on record; live this came through near the end of their set - "I Go Crazy", "Sleeping Gas" and a more dynamic version of their new 45, "Bouncing Babes".  I think the elements are all there - but the spark?  Perhaps in a more sympathetic situation.

Due to the (unavoidable) attentions of the drug squad, your reviewer missed most Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.  What he did see - a song called "Mr Reality" with taped saxophone, the future hit "Electricity" and a passable electronic version of "Waiting For My Man" (which, at least, came out into the open about the frank Velvets influence of most bands playing) - didn't alter his impression that he'd rather listen to the nice record, thank you.  A good live sound - the two members playing keyboards and occasional bass, the rest of the instruments on reel to reel - a reasonable if gawky presence, and awful clothes (that's important!).

The Distractions (Adrian Wright left, and Mike Finney). Pic: Kevin Cummins.

Echo & the Bunnymen caught a quickening of mood, exploiting the drama of darkening sky and simple but effective stage lighting, and played an excellent set: ringing, passionate pop Velvets - endless rhythm guitar and crossing lead slashes, electronic percussion - with Ian McCullough's strong vocals, hinting at Neil Young's romantic melancholy.  Fuller versions of their current single than on record - "Read It In Books", "Pictured On My Wall" - and new, equally memorable songs, "All That Jazz" and "Star On Stars".  A new romanticism.

Joy Division come into the dark like a late-night horror movie - scary but right.  Sabotaged to an extent by poor sound - the interplay between instruments needs more careful preparation than the time allowed - they exorcised the increasing cold with cinematic, metallic blocks of noise.

Songs from the album - "Insight", "She's Lost Control" among others, the new single "Transmission", and the unrecorded "Colony", "Dead Souls" (with a stunning chorus) and the final "Sound Of Music".  Two encores, and general dancing.

Apply the truism: you should have been there.  - JON SAVAGE.

Leigh Festival. (c) cityfunfan at tumblr.

(c) Jon Savage - NME's History of Rock and Roll.

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