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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, April 28, 2014

Major record companies...

This is the second half of the blog post from Nick Halliwell of the Granite Shore that, five years ago, brought us new Distractions songs.  The stand-out track, Black Velvet, went on to be The Distractions' first EP since 1981's "And Then There's...".  The links to the MP3 downloads are still live, so if you haven't already, fill your Boots.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

I Thought You Were Dead...

What you really want to know, though, is this: are they any good? Well, as Mike has given me permission to upload the tracks here, you can judge for yourselves. For my money the first of them, Black Velvet, is among the very finest things in the Distractions canon. It's unusual in that it's roughly twice the length of anything else they ever did but it is absolutely stunning. It has that apparent simplicity which is the hallmark of all the band's work, even though it actually takes a great deal of subtlety to get anything sounding that simple. Mike remains one of the all-time great pop voices, there's something about his singing that sends shivers up and down my spine. The lyric is very much in the classic Distractions tradition too. As Mike says, this is perhaps the logical extension of a track like Looking For A Ghost; and it reminds you just how special this band were, how different from their contemporaries. As a result their records have barely dated at all, and even though these demos were recorded 15 years later they fit seamlessly into the canon.

Although Black Velvet is the clear standout, the other four are also pretty terrific; they're much more similar to earlier Distractions in that they're short and oh so sweet. None of these would've sounded at all out of place on Nobody's Perfect. I'm also extremely fond of Good Girls Don't Get To Paris, but all five songs here are terrific.

It really is positively criminal that the Distractions' oeuvre has yet to be reissued, with the exception of their classic Factory single, Time Goes By So Slow, which has appeared on a number of compilation albums. Major record companies... Grrr…

Anyway, here are the five tracks which I've converted to MP3 for maximum compatibility. I'll try and write more pieces on this blog over the next few weeks and months.

The Distractions: 1995 demos (MP3)

Where Were You When I Needed You?

Thanks to Mike Finney and Steve Perrin for letting us hear these.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Thought You Were Dead...

It's nearly five years since we first heard that new Distractions songs existed from the mid-1990s.  Thanks to Mike Finney and Steve Perrin, we had the chance to hear them in this blog from future-Distractions songwriter, guitarist, head of Occultation Recordings and Granite Shore frontman, Nick Halliwell.  First, the back-story, which mentions the Granite Shore's future records - their long-awaited debut LP has just been recorded in Exeter with June Brides, Phil Wilson and Arash Torabi, and recent Distractions drummer, the legendary Mike Kellie..

Sunday, 6 September 2009

I Thought You Were Dead...

First of all, once again I do apologise for the long silence, but we're currently working hard on the second Granite Shore single and then more records after that. More news about this in the coming weeks. The new single will be Flood of fortune to be released on 7" vinyl on Occultation early in the New Year.

Now, to the matter in hand: last year I wrote a piece on The Distractions. One or two people got in touch to say how much they'd also loved the band and... well, that was that for the time being.


Then a couple of months ago a comment was left on that particular page from Mike Finney, the band's lead singer, intriguingly mentioning some demos he and chief songwriter Steve Perrin had recorded in 1995 and that he'd be happy to send them to me. Only he said he wasn't sure how to do so and would check the blog again for a message. I immediately posted one asking him to e-mail me and then... Nothing. I thought he must've forgotten all about this and resigned myself to missing out on the chance to hear these demos. Then finally, a few weeks later, out of the blue I got an e-mail from Mike to which he'd attached five songs.

Now we all know that generally speaking bands shouldn't reform. 10 years ago I'd've said this was pretty much a rule with hardly any exceptions. However now we know better, don't we? Look at third incarnation of The Wild Swans (who, incidentally, will be releasing a new single on Occultation over the next couple of months, I've heard it and it's another absolute corker, but more of that another time...) if proof be needed. Apparently Mike, Steve and some chums got together and played a few gigs in the North-West and then went into the studio. Some of the songs here were originally written for the Distractions first time around and performed by later incarnations live.

[to be continued]


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mancunian pop classicists

He's the second half of Dave Hammond's blog at Oh Mercy! Records on how he ended up presenting Smelly Flowerpot Show on Cambridge 105:

So, to that decision by Island Records. The music industry was having a bad time of it in the early '80s, pretty much like the rest of the country in those Thatcher led years. Many bands were being dropped by labels as they sought to streamline and cut costs. Island were a very successful label, but were no different to the rest on that score. One of the many decisions they had to make allegedly involved dropping either the skinny Irish rockers, or the Mancunian pop classicists. As most of the world’s population will know, U2 won out and The Distractions were dropped, just a few months after their critically acclaimed debut was released. One half of the rest of the story is history, the other half barely made a foot note in a little read fanzine.

U2 went on to conquer the world, but what happened to The Distractions? Well, disillusioned with the whole situation they eventually split up without any further releases under that name. Any attempts at world domination for them would have to come in an altogether different way- singer Mike Finney taking on a Customs job in Hull, guitarist and writer Stephen Perrin moving first to Italy and more recently to New Zealand and Australia. Less was known about other band members, though bassist Pip Nicholls still plays in the north west and drummer Alec Sidebottom plays big band samba music.

Then, about four years ago, I decided to start a page on Facebook for The Distractions. In the intervening 20 odd years I’d heard nothing more about them, hadn’t even come across anyone else who had heard of them. I guess I just wasn’t mixing in the right circles. I just wanted to see if there were any other fans out there. That set things rolling.

First there was a steady stream of people liking the page. Then there was a conversation with a work colleague who had, amazingly, heard of the band. And what’s more, he’d heard some of the band were thinking of getting back together again. Then came an email from one Nick Halliwell, owner of a fledgling label called Occultation Recordings and leading light of a band called The Granite Shore. He’d seen the page and wanted to get in touch to say, yes indeed Mike Finney and Stephen Perrin were communicating with each other from opposite sides of the world and were making tentative plans to record again. Incredible stuff to me, still smitten with those glorious songs they’d recorded nearly three decades earlier.

To cut to the chase, they released a couple of EPs and followed it up with a second LP fully thirty two years after the first. They even convened, with a little help from some friends, to play a magical gig in Manchester in 2012. I’ve never seen so many middle aged men with moist eyes! Further to this, a gentleman by the name of Neil Storey also announced that he was working with the band to pull together an archive of all the material recorded by the band in the '70s and early '80s with a view to a first ever CD release for these wonderful, timeless songs. This is due for release on HiddenMasters later this year, with the possibility of a third LP a mere two years after the second. These boys know how to work.

So what’s all this got to do with me being here now, typing excitedly with two fingers ? Well, the work colleague who told me about the band getting back together, realising we had an overlap in musical taste, invited me on his radio show on a local Community Radio Station. Things went so well, I was invited back to present my own show, which I now present fortnightly on Cambridge 105. The show is all about new and unsigned music, with the odd classic from off the beaten track thrown in. And that’s how I came across Oh Mercy and the merry band of musicians on the label. It’s how I eventually came to write a blog for their website.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tale. If you’ve got this far I guess you have. Give yourself a big pat on the back and ask me for a drink if you see me. I can’t promise I’ll get you one, but I’ll be mighty impressed with you. 

And the moral of this tale? Not sure there’s a moral, but there’s certainly something magical at times about the twists and turns in life, especially when it comes to music. I’ve experienced plenty of them, especially over the last couple of years on Cambridge 105. Here’s hoping we can all share a little of the magic of music together in the coming months and years.

8th March 2014

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