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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, 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.

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