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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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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Much-needed Distractions

Here's a few much-needed distractions while we await the news that we've all been waiting for on the 'Parabolically Yours' set...

(c) Google Books, 2015.

There was a band called The Distractions, an extraordinary group - 'Time Goes By So Slow' was a great record. Some of these groups were almost like dreams, it's almost like they didn't quite exist.

(c) Amazon.

On the Piccadilly Records page for the excellent Manicured Noise reissue, 'Northern Stories 1978-1980' (Caroline True Records), an old Paul Morley quote from the NME:

“Factory have expressed an interest in The Distractions, The Negatives and current musicians’ favourites, Manicured Noise. (Ask Vic Goddard, the Banshees; Wire what they think of M Noise. Politely of course”. 
 (Paul Morley, NME Dec 1978)

Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt revealed that The Distractions records which Tracey Thorn bought him influenced his debut album, 'North Marine Drive':

"...The hectic tempo of a couple of the tracks was a direct influence of meeting Tracey [Thorn]; she played me pop bands new to me like The Distractions and Orange Juice."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tiger Lounge gig

Some more photos of the wonderful set from Mike, Alex and company at the Tiger Lounge last month. Thanks go to Wendy Clark for these.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jon The Postman tribute (pt2)

After the blistering Distractions set, a short break allowed Mike Finney and Alex Sidebottom to join friends old and new in the crowd, while Dave, Joe and Chris went straight into preparation for the main event, along with Ella Burton (keyboards) and Brian Benson (live drums).

Dave Holmes, Ella Burton, Tim Lyons.

The Things opened with Pleasures, followed by two very different but equally fine cuts off their brilliant new extended play, 'EP1'. The epic 1,000 Stars, a stone-cold classic, was followed by The Seeds' cover, Can't Seem To Make You Mine. The two other tracks from 'EP1' soon followed, Nobody Wonders and a new take on their legendary 1980 single, Pieces Of You. The other tracks, new to this reviewer, sounded great and also bode well for the forthcoming album, which was recorded earlier this year with founder member and Buzzcocks' John Maher on drums. 

The Things - EP1. 

As this was Jon The Postman's night, the set finished, of course, with a communal rendition of Louie Louie, which pretty much everyone in the venue joined in with. This was a great night and one that Jon would have loved. I had the pleasure of meeting Jon at the Kings Arms at the 2012 Distractions gigs, along with Tim, Joe and Chris... and rumours of The Things' reunion abounded then. It's great to see it happen, and what a fitting tribute to the man. 

Brian Benson, Joe Brehony.

After the set, it was left to the musicians to mingle with the crowd as the Tiger Lounge reverted back to its usual night. One of the last things I recall before departing was leaving Mike and Alex in conversation with Joe and Chris, and I'm pretty sure I overheard Mike asking: "fancy doing this again?"

The Things set list.

Pleasures Of The Mind
1,000 Stars
Can't Seem To Make You Mine
This Island Earth
If You're There
Nobody Wonders
Walking In The Sand
The Sound Of Sirens 
Pieces of You
Pacific Blue
Louie Louie

The Postman is the music scene

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jon The Postman tribute (pt1)

It was a fitting venue. A basement club, once owned by George Best, around the corner from Manchester Town Hall and Albert Square. Here two of Jon "The Postman" Ormrod's favourite bands, The Distractions and The Things, paid tribute to a Manchester legend with a fantastic double set.

Dave Holmes, Joe Brehony, Mike Finney.

First up, The Distractions' Mike Finney and Alex Sidebottom were joined by Tim Lyons, Dave Holmes, Joe Brehony and Chris Dutton of The Things. While Mike has been busy recording The Distractions' third and final album (to be released mid-2016), this was the first time Alex had drummed with The Distractions in over 30 years.

Joe Brehony, Mike Finney, Tim Lyons.

Mike and Alex rolled back the years with a terrific set of early favourites. The 1-2-3 burst of It Doesn't Bother Me, Too Young, and Maybe It's Love, were all from the TJM debut EP. It must be at least two decades since the latter two were performed live. It sounded like Alex, Dave, Joe and Chris had been playing together far longer than a couple of rehearsal sessions, and Mike was in fine voice with backing vocals from Tim.

Alex Sidebottom, Joe Brehony, Mike Finney, Dave Holmes.

Still It Doesn't Ring has been with The Distractions since the earliest days, and followed by the Factory Records classic Time Goes By So Slow, there were ear-to-ear grins all around. The short, sharp and superb show was closed with a stomping cover of The McCoy's Hang On Sloopy.

Mike Finney, Tim Lyons.

Thank you to Wendy Clark for the photos. Read the Jon The Postman obituary in The Guardian.

To be continued. Next, The Things...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Set list

Mike Finney and Alex Sidebottom, with able assistance from Joe Brehony, Dave Holmes, Chris Dutton and Tim Lyons, treated us to a terrific set of early Distractions classics on Saturday night. Full review of the gig with The Things - and what was a fitting tribute to Jon The Postman - to follow...

1. It Doesn't Bother Me
2. Too Young
3. Maybe It's Love
4. Still It Doesn't Ring
5. Time Goes By So Slow
6. Hang On Sloopy

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Distractions gig this Saturday

Further details of the Jon The Postman tribute gig this Saturday at the Tiger Lounge, Cooper Street, Manchester M2 2FW.  

19:00 - DJ, and local Distractions champion, Steve Doyle of Salford City Radio fame, starts his DJ set.  

20:30 - The Distractions (or rather Mike Finney and Alex Sidebottom with able assistance from Joe Brehony, Chris Dutton and Dave Holmes).

21:30 - The Things headline.

22:30 - Tiger Lounge's own night starts.

Admission:  FREE!

See you there.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Saturday 24th October

THE THINGS will be playing at the TIGER LOUNGE, Cooper Street, (off Princess Street), Manchester M2 2FW, on Saturday 24th October in tribute to the late Jon The Postman. 

Original members of THE DISTRACTIONS, Mike Finney and Alex Sidebottom, with guests will also play a set of classic Distractions songs. 

The Things and The Distractions were two of Jon's favourite bands. 

DJ Stephen Doyle will play some of The Postman's favourite tunes. 

Admission is FREE. Starts at 7pm. Get there early.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Keeping studio time

Here are few shots of The Distractions during the recent recording of their third (and final) album:

Steve Perrin sports his Johnny Marr T-shirt.

Mike Finney lubricates his vocal cords. 

Nick Halliwell, producer and songwriter, frets.

Arash Torabi plays it cool on bass.

Drummer, Ian Henderson, all the way from NZ.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Third and final album

Today Steve Perrin finally confirmed what had been mooted for a while - the third and final Distractions album will be recorded in Exeter, UK, in September. Like 'The End Of The Pier', this record will be an international affair, with Steve flying in from Australia, joining Mike Finney (still exiled in Yorkshire) and now-local lads, Occultation's Nick Halliwell (The Granite Shore) and Arash Torabi (June Brides, The Granite Shore, and more). 

This time, however, Dr Perrin will be bringing with him a new drummer, Ian Henderson, from even further afield. Many of you will be familiar with Ian as head of Fishrider Records in Dunedin, New Zealand, Occultation's sister label. However, Ian is also a renowned sticksman with The Puddle, the legendary Dunedin band who now reside on Fishrider. That's just shy of 50,000 miles combined for the round-trips the chaps will be undertaking.

There will be more news on the forthcoming Distractions album to follow (along with updates hopefully very soon on 'Parabolically Yours' v2.0)...

Keep track of the latest developments on Twitter by following @DistractionsMcr, and at Facebook at The Distractions - UK page, The Distractions (UK) group (head on over and try Steve's Pop Quiz!).


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Skinny tie

Thirty-six years on and Adrian Wright's Time Goes By So Slow on Factory Records is still receiving the love it deserves. This Manchester classic (and its lovely B-side, Pillow Fight) will of course be appearing in one or two forms on the 'Parabolically Yours' set (Take 2), which is currently brewing nicely. The below review of FAC12 appeared recently in the Unsung section of the Julian Cope Presents Head Heritage site.


Released 1979 on Factory
Reviewed by Lawrence, 21/05/2015

Had to write another review concerning another old '79 'skinny tie' favorite. And this one appearing on Factory, a label not really known for power pop at the time... Of course this wasn't the band's debut record as I think they had a previous 12" on TJM.

Anyways this record displayed a different side to 'skinny tie' pop than "Girl of My Dreams" by Bram Tchaikovsky which I reviewed previous. This has more of a melancholic style, but not really the same kind as Joy Division which was more desperate and emotionally damaged. I'm talking more wistful melancholia, as in seeing an established relationship slip away as well as other forms of loss.

So this 7" came with the usual understated-yet-elegant sleeve, with both the spacious production (by Brandon Leon) and the music matching the same approach. The a-side is a break-up song, the kind Greg Kihn said 'they don't write anymore' except with a bit more intelligence and sophistication. Basically a deep longing for a love that was lost and thinking of what could've been. "Oh I wonder why you had to go, the way you had to go, time goes by so slow..."

The flip, "Pillow Fight", is a bit more 50's-ish, particularly with the guitar -- I don't mean it being Rockabilly, think more Buddy Holly than Elvis Presley. But still with that bright power-pop style of melodic panache.

So this would be enough for the band to land a record deal with a major, put out a relatively critically well-received album but then suffer the loss of a key member. Their last single, "Twenty Four Hours" would be even more on a sad note than this single. Still, "Time Goes By So Slow" is the Distractions at their most memorable so far, although I need to find their album which I haven't heard to this day... 


Friday, July 3, 2015

The flank of greatness

The final part of Martin Crookall's fantastic piece about 'Nobody's Perfect' which naturally deals with the killer second side. 

Posted: October 20, 2013 in Soundtrack of a Lifetime

...Because we’re into a totally different sound as “(Stuckina) Fantasy” flies out as us on sheets of organ, underlaid by a pulsing rhythm, on which Perrin builds little guitar figures until the chorus hits like a dream. The story on this side of the album is different: where Finney sought love from girls who stood him up or were too good for him, now he’s found love, and lost it. They lived together and she left him: the fantasy he can’t leave is that she hasn’t.

Funnily, I didn’t think that much of this track in 1981 but, fifteen or so years later, I dug out this album and put it on a tape to play in the car whilst away on holiday in the Lakes and it hit me right between the ears. Its pace, the compelling chorus, the sheer drive of the song: just as the Bluebells’ “Young at Heart” had reappeared out of nowhere to hit Number 1, I could suddenly see the band performing this in Top of the Pops after a top Five entry.

It’s something in the balance between light and shade: that compelling intro followed by a starkness of sound, of mostly rhythm before re-engaging the full sound for the chorus. And such a painful lyric, as Finney recounts his crippling obsession with almost price: his sprinkling of her perfume on her pillow at night so he can dream of her is a painfully observant detail but it is the final lines, when he reveals that after he switches the TV off at night, her ghostly face appears to him, laughing like a clown, that push in the knife.

Stunningly brilliant, and so bloody commercial too. This, not “Boyscry”, should have been the single.

Next up is a re-recording of “Nothing” from the “You’re not going out dressed like that” EP, which polishes up the song without adding anything to its original version. Like “Fantasy”, it’s about lost love. Finney’s got it wrong and would like it to go back to the beginning, so he can try again, but it won’t happen.

He’s back in the hopeful mode of “Leave you to Dream” in “Wonder Girl”, worshipping from (not very) afar, in his corner at the dance, looking at his Wonder Girl, who’s got something she doesn’t seem to want to let go. How she’s come to have his heart when neither of them has let it show is an impenetrable mystery.

But the song offers an unseen moment of joy: Finney wakes alone, wondering if something was a dream, apologising for apologising. But the door lies ajar, and maybe even the lost and lonely who are too prone to fear can have satisfaction.

Love preys on his mind, and he’s once again waiting for her to call him, but “Still it doesn’t ring”. Finney’s in suspension, not knowing if he still has a girl or not. The music swirls around him, not going anywhere as much as we is: he can’t do anything until that phone rings, his life can’t resume and it’s not going to ring whilst the band weave smooth patterns around him.

There’s a sharp cut again to the punk edge that Perrin needed to espouse in “(Untitled)”, which might as well be called Don’t trust nobody but yourself. This has nothing to do with love, but life: Finney the awkward object that fits nowhere. In a side whose sound is directed to the mellow that would drive Perrin away, the song sticks out like a sore thumb.

And then there’s “Looking for a Ghost”.

And this album reaches out and strokes its hand against the flank of greatness, because this ethereal, 10cc I’m not in love-esque masterpiece, all easy, gentle, drifting guitars, and its soaring, swooping and diving voices filling the air with a sussuration of sound is gorgeous beyond belief. So much so that my sister, then aged 18 and with tastes diametrically opposed to mine, taped this for herself to listen to.

It’s “(Stuckina) Fantasy” moved forward. Finney sings without emotion, quietly, not flatly, but with utter calm, allowing the multi-tracked voices to cocoon, whilst he explains, with infinite care, by just how much he has accepted madness. All he wants to explain is why he smiles the way he does, though she’s left him and she isn’t coming back.

And it’s because he has her in his head. The girl never understood him, he only ever made her feel bad, so he’s replaced her with a fiction that floats by his side, ‘unable to feel good or bad’. The voices swell and rise around him as he gently sings that plain but powerful chorus, then they drop away, leaving Finney alone as he makes the final confession, without regret, in pride at how he’s conquered the universe of being alone.

My only lover lives encased inside my head/No-one can ever take her away/The Ghost now belongs to me and, if she ever knew/I wonder what the real thing would say?

And one last time the chorus swells again, the soaring voices louder and wider. And if you see me hanging around in places/where we always used to go/maybe its just because I’m looking/for a ghost I used to know. And the voices soar even higher then you could imagine as Perrin begins a liquid, reaching, despairing guitar solo that rips apart whatever tiny pieces of your heart that are still left intact.

Most bands would have left it at that, would have closed this album with that soulcrushing song, but not the Distractions. Not for them ethereal perfection, but with joyous energy they finish off with a minute and a half of raucous guitar and drums on their stage favourite, “Valerie”, which distils everything they’ve had to say in this album into ‘I love Valerie but now I think it’s true/I love Valerie but Valerie loves you’.

It shouldn’t work after “Looking for a Ghost” but it does, beautifully, because never has heartbreak sounded so much bloody fun! And it’s so short, you want more of it…

So: a mixed bag, in sound, with its switching between the past and the not-future of a band that deserved so much more, with its sad, grounded love songs and its exuberant melodies: the epitome of bittersweet. There are three stone-gone classics on this album, in “Leave you to Dream”’s melancholy melody, “(Stuckina) Fantasy”’s energy and drive, and “Looking for a Ghost”’s  soundscape of beauty and horrific pain.

As I said, musically it’s the missing link between the razor-edge melody of the Buzzcocks and the electronic aura of “Dare”-era Human League. If only more people had seen it as such.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pure pop moment

Here's the middle part of Martin Crookall's original piece on 'Nobody's Perfect', while we wait for the (more competitively-priced) 'Parabolically Yours' set to be be re-born. 

Stop grumbling at the back! You've waited 35 years for it to be be reissued... what's a few more months? Anyway, Martin's piece below deals with Side One.

Posted: October 20, 2013 in Soundtrack of a Lifetime

...it’s “Nobody’s Perfect” that I’m concerned with now, the only album recorded by the original line-up. It’s very hard to get hold of, having never been released on CD (nor are there any plans that it should ever be), and copies of the LP being rare, and consequently expensive.

Nor is it a major album, a lost cultural (or even cult) masterpiece, though I’ve always contended that its sound, marrying the energy and melody of the Buzzcocks to a softer, more keyboard oriented sound, makes “Nobody’s Perfect” the missing link between the Buzzcocks and the Human League of “Dare”. But it’s still an album worth listening to, and there are at least three solid masterpieces, all from the Finney/Perrin team, that deserve to be known widely.

The album begins with jittery guitar, skittering into your hearing, before a solid riff, having its roots in the band’s punk origins, leads the band on a busy hustle. “Waiting for Lorraine” is a love song, but it’s a peculiarly Mancunian love song, with its feet set firmly upon the ground. Finney’s waiting for Lorraine: she’s his girlfriend, he’s sat by the phone because she’s supposed to be calling him back, but he’s not hearing from her. The longer he doesn’t hear from her, the more he starts to doubt her. He doesn’t want her to love him forever, just to stop her telling lies. Perrin rips in with a fast guitar solo and Finney shoots back, washing his hands of untrustworthy, heartbreaker Lorraine, until he’s now waiting for her to go drop dead.

It’s a love song of disillusion, set to a fast, melodic sound, guitar based, with little snippets of voices behind Finney’s upfront tones, yet it’s only his side of things. The twist is that we have absolutely no idea whether Lorraine is a cheater or if it’s Finney’s anger at being stood up (even if it’s only a non-returned call after a phone argument) that’s creating this image.

As I said, Mancunian.

It’s followed by “Something for the Weekend”, an equally up-tempo, energetic song, driven by sharp organ riffs and an underlying pounded piano. Musically, it wears it’s rock’n’roll roots pretty close to the surface, especially in Perrin’s trebly solo, but the busyness doesn’t disguise a certain thinness in the song. The chorus repeats insistently, as Finney pleads for something to stop the pain, ease the strain, numb his brain, make it real again (so, nothing to do with drugs then). It’s all to do with his mysteriously unexpressed behaviour, that makes him an outcast.

The song also features a technique that the Distractions increasingly used over what little was left of their career, that is that guitars and keyboards would drop out, leaving only drum and bass to support Finney’s voice. It works here, because the percussion keeps the rhythm of the song, but elsewhere it tends to render the song choppy, disrupting its integrity.

Track three is the album’s biggest mistake. It’s a full-sounding, swirl of guitar and organ cover of Eden Kane’s 1964 hit, “Boyscry” (though Kane sold it as two words). This was the only single to be pulled off the album (“Something for the Weekend” was re-recorded as a single) and though the sound was representative of the band in this album, the archaic nature of the song and the lack of confidence shown in the Distractions’ own music was a colossal own goal.

It slides into “Sick and Tired”, an uninspired retread of “Waiting for Lorraine”, heavily featuring synthesizers over a niggling rhythm that breaks out into a brief but vicious chorused title line. Once again, Finney’s waiting for someone who’s not showed, though this time he’s out in the rain, smoking a cigarette and trying to look cool. A vicious solo from Perrin overtakes the end of the song, but there’s a lack of conviction to the song, or perhaps the production doesn’t entirely believe in the rawer sound of the band’s origins.

It doesn’t matter because we now approach the first of the album’s three undoubtedly classic moments. “Leave you to Dream” is an airy confection, a pure pop moment, its lightness promised in its exuberant intro an confirmed in its first line, as Finney cut in, effortlessly, his voice floating over a beautifully smooth keyboard riff that frolics and gambols.

It’s again a love song, a hopeless and unrequited love. Finney’s found his girl, and she’s truly lovely. She’s asleep and dreaming: he holds back from waking her because he fears (knows?) that she’s too good for him, yet he dreams that in her dreams she dreams of him.

And yet… Though he’s stoical about it at first, accepting of his non-place in her affections, aware that his only recourse is to get pissed, but whilst he watches her and longs for her regard, he wishes for her the things she dreams of, and the hope remains in there that, in that unknown land behind her closed eyes, that maybe there is a place for him, by her side.

It’s a stunningly lovely, oddly hopeful song that should have been far better known.

It’s followed by “Louise”, a sharp-edged little song with another Mancunian take on the problems of love. Finney’s singing to his mate, who’s pissed off at the Louise of the title, who used to be his girlfriend, but they’ve broken up now. She’s with Finney now, and if this guy should blame anyone, it should be Finney, not the girl he never properly made his feelings known to, and whose name he’s been trying to blacken (you can just hear the sound of the unspoken words ‘slag’, ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’).

Finney’s stepped out of his own head now. Where, in “Waiting for Lorraine”, he could only see and blame the girl, now he’s looking at just such a guy, and telling him off.

Paracetamol Paralysis”, which closes side one, is very much The Distractions in full-out punk mode, riffing ferociously, with hard-edged guitars and pumping drums, in the middle of a night out. Finney’s been down the disco since quarter to nine, getting into the groove, and he’s taken this handful of pills someone’s slipped him. Heaven knows what he thought they were but they were actually paracetamol, and everything’s bloody strange.

It’s an intense, nervy, but almost comical track – I mean, bloody paracetamol! – that is a draining experience. The brief pause whilst we turn over the record is quite welcome.

[to be continued]


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