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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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Friday, April 26, 2013

'Nobody's Perfect' remastered

Over at the revamped Hidden Masters site, the latest update on The Distractions page reveals the possible formats of the forthcoming Retrospective: two or three CDs - giving an indication of the amount of material unearthed during deep research over the last few years - plus a remastered 180 gsm pressing of Nobody's Perfect.  We told you it'd be worth the wait...

Currently untitled, the Distractions retrospective is being planned for release Autumn 2013 as 1 x vinyl + either 2 or 3-CD set, presented in a 12″ hard back, casebound book format and will include their one and only Island album as a re-mastered 180gsm pressing – about which, the final line in Paul Morley’s July 3rd 1980 lead review for the NME stated | This is heart beat music that bruises the soul.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The antithesis of Factory

A further extract extract from Mick Middles' essential book, Factory: The Story of the Record Label.

The Distractions, being quite the antithesis of Factory's undeservedly greyish image, were therefore perversely suited to the label.  Joy Division enjoyed performing after them, believing the lightness of the support band to be the perfect precursor to their dark intensity.  The prevailing logic, however, was that The Distractions would only gain the pop success they craved by hopping on to a major label, and their managers, Brandon and Bernie Leon, kept a constant rhetoric with the A&R departments on the boil.  Wilson, however, displaying a desire to encourage and nurture artists that would not, ultimately, be of benefit to himself, finally and unselfishly managed to secure a deal for the band with Chrysalis.  Curiously, Brandon Leon rejected this vigorous and promising offer and instead took the band to Chris Blackwell's Island Records, a move that seemed to present them with a reasonable chance of cracking the charts.  Unfortunately, the moment The Distractions stepped away from Factory, their power began to diminish.

A couple of singles led into an album, Nobody's Perfect, which, produced by John Astley, saw a gathering of The Distractions' nugget songs almost completely drained of their innocence, their naivete, their essential edge.  When pushed through the smoothness of hi-tech production, The Distractions sounded depressingly ordinary.  How sad, perhaps, that Island Records couldn't understand that the true strength of the band actually lay within those raw edges, within that sense of naivete.  Sensationally - at least within the pages of City Fun - Perrin quit the band, to be all to hastily replaced by the talented but unsuitably Bohemian Arthur Kadmon, who had recently departed from Ludus and the rickety umbrella of New Hormones.  Inevitably, the band were dropped from the label and, simultaneously it seemed, lost their grip on the Manchester scene.  Nevertheless, before their spectacular fall - from playing to local audiences of over 1,000 to enticing just 65 people into Rafters one year later - The Distractions would play an important role in the evolution of the Manchester scene and, as the following pages will testify, would seem to be present at most of Joy Division's more intense performances.

(c) Mick Middles (2009). 
Virgin Books: London. p.168-169.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wonderful moment in time

The second part of a superb extract from Mick Middles' book, Factory: The Story of the Record Label.

The Distractions' Factory single was to become a tragically lost classic, a record that would remain, undoubtedly, close to the hearts of most who would trundle down to the Factory.

[Tony] Wilson: "I just think The Distractions were a wonderful moment in time."  Failing to make waves, despite its simmering poppiness, the song, 'Time Goes By So Slow', became as locally anthemic as 'Transmission' later, or The Fall's 'Totally Wired', or Buzzcocks' 'What Do I Get?' or Magazine's 'Shot By Both Sides', but it just couldn't seep into any kind of mainstream.  The fault lay, most definitely, with Factory's idiosyncratic approach towards promotion.  I recall, just as a typical case, attempting to prise a white label of the song away from Wilson's clutching hands.  "I've only got two copies," he would scream, and scamper into the Factory Club's appalling 'dining area'.  [Rob] Gretton's statement summed up the event neatly.

"I understand your problem," he said.  "Here you are... about to go to London to write a singles column for a national music paper, and Tony won't even give you a copy of The Distractions' single to review.  It will probably go down in the mail, to some skinhead cunt at Sounds next week, who will thoroughly slag it off.  Tony will then complain and refuse to speak to Sounds.  It is stupid, I agree with you, but I sense that just about sums Factory up."

Gretton, it seems important to point out, was just as perplexed by Wilson's behaviour as yours truly - although I did manage to scrounge a copy and make it joint Record of the Week.  It was Record of the Week in the NME too.  Was this a case of Wilson deliberately intensifying the press fervour, or just being cheekily awkward, or dangerously evasive because rock journalists are a pretty stupid and unforgiving bunch?

The Distractions were more than just a group.  In Manchester, at least, they represented a central axis of the scene, a scene which flourished in the poorly produced, reduced type which splattered inelegantly across the pages of the Manchester fanzine, City Fun...

(c) Mick Middles (2009). 
Virgin Books: London. p.165-166.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The greatest hopes of Manchester

Over the next few weeks we'll be featuring some Distracting highlights from Mick Middles' highly-recommended Factory Records history, Factory: The Story of the Record Label.  The original book was  entitled From Joy Division to New Order: The True Story of Anthony H Wilson and Factory Records in 1996, and was fully revised, updated and re-titled in 2002 and 2009.  Mick has, of course, recently written about The Distractions in The Quietus in 2010 and 2012.

Factory would, in truth, dominate the scene.  Only Tony Davidson's TJM Records, which never quite managed to gain the same degree of kudos, or Rabid, who, despite Jilted John, would soon metamorphose into the esoteric, though ubiquitous Absurd Records, could stake any real claims for making any impact on the new scene.  At the heart of this new scene, it may be justifiably argued, lay, not really Joy Division at all, but the pop band, The Distractions - the only band to swing from TJM to Factory and then later on to Island before imploding horribly just as they were expected to break into the charts.  The Distractions were lovable and great fun.  Their lightweight pop tines actually created much-needed relief in a scene generally occupied by dour raincoated 'arties'.  Fronted by the rotund, trendlessly besuited figure of Mike Finney, an ex-soulboy blessed with the kind of voice that would later inspire his TJM labelmate Mick Hucknall onto finer things, The Distractions would, more often than not, be seen happily supporting The Fall in the Manchester satellite college halls of Oldham, Rochdale, Bolton and Bury.  When supporting joy Division, they made the most perfect antithesis.  Paul Morley captured this in these two sentences.  "Joy Division are the perfect rock band for the eighties... and The Distractions are the perfect pop band."

For a while, and only for a while, the greatest hopes of Manchester would be perfectly captured by that particular phrase.  For while Joy Division were intensifying by the day, The Distractions bopped along with unnerving ease, their support spots at the Factory attracting as many punters as, say, top-of-the-bill Simple Minds.  Refreshing, soulful and occasionally joyous, The Distractions waltzed onto Factory Records and into local 'hipness' with consummate ease.  Tony Wilson, in particular, had no qualms about the 'signing' of a traditional pop band, a band rather more akin to the Everly Brothers than Throbbing Gristle.  Finney's counterpart, and the band's main songwriter, was Steve Perrin, an angular-faced, schoolboy figure blessed with the rare talent of being able to produce sharp, bright, sex-tinged teen anthems straight out of a pub rock r'n'b base - and make them seem important and fun.  The TJM EP's lead song, 'It Doesn't Bother Me', for example, was a wonderful slab of indignant angst.  Less incisive than, say, The Undertones, but maybe just a little more risque. 

(c) Mick Middles (2009). 
Virgin Books: London. p.164-165.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Older and wiser

A recent mention in Readers' Digest, of all places, thanks to David Quantick, who reckons Bruce Springsteen is overrated, whereas The Distractions...


A New Wave band who wrote great fast love songs.  The story goes that they were signed by Island records on the same day in 1979 as U2, who then got all the label's attention.  The Distractions fell apart and vanished for 30 years, though they recently made a new record, The End of the Pier.  They're older and wiser, but still very good.

David Quantick, Readers' Digest

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