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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, 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.

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