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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, September 30, 2019

Never mind the Buzzcocks

Another extract from Martin Ryan's recommended Friends of Mine - Punk in Manchester 1976-1978. You can buy the book direct from the publisher here.

This time we're in September 1977, a year before either the unreleased Cargo EP or the debut TJM2 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP were recorded, yet The Distractions are supporting the next big thing, Buzzcocks.

Thursday 1st September 1977

The ink having dried on a contract with United Artists, it was a thriving Buzzcocks who took their turn to play Rafters. Like the Dogs, a deal afforded them new and better equipment, most notable Garth's exalted Gibson Thunderbird bass that was replaced early in the set to make way for its less cumbersome predecessor. The precise worth of the deal with UA was the subject of much speculation in the music press but Shelley would quantify the value at three quarters of a million. To this revelation Mick suggested that they had better be good to which Shelley countered, "I am good".

More promising than the money of Shelley's bluster, was a tape that DJ Rob Gretton played between sides described by Shelley as "just mucking about". The four tracks premiered were "Orgasm Addict", "What Do I Get?", "Whatever Happend To?" and "No Reply" that not only confirmed a forceful pop sensibility but assuredly demonstrated that Shelley's voice was not the obstacle to delivering Buzzcocks' music that I had feared. 

As well as The Prefects, who had brought their raucous bluster along in support and were to have their Mancunian cult status rewarded with an NME interview that Paul Morley was ready to conduct, Rafters was to witness an early showing of Stockport's own Distractions. Pete Shelley had described himself as more a "punk Mod" than a "punk rocker" and like Buzzcocks, The Distractions' music was unashamedly pop oriented with bespectacled singer Mike Finney offering a strong singing voice that steadied the nerves of the apprentice musicians behind him. They in turn seemed slightly unsure of the worth of their short sharp bursts of soulful pop music that had a familiar ring even on first hearing.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tonight belonged to The Distractions

Last year's excellent Friends of Mine - Punk in Manchester 1976-1978 by Martin Ryan covers the period just before The Distractions' debut album. However, it still features the band several times as they supported some notable local bands including Buzzcocks and - as in this extract - The Fall. Buy Martin's highly recommended book direct from the publisher here.

Saturday 21st October 1978

Another date with The Fall, who tonight headed a bill playing a benefit for The Leveller magazine at Manchester Polytechnic. It was also an opportunity to reacquaint  with Jeff Noon who had recently returned from time in London displaying a more luxuriant hairstyle than his former punk look. Jeff had always been a devotee of The Fall and, for his part, Mark E Smith had praised Jeff's fanzine Noisy People suggesting "he should have done another".

Despite their one single release to date, The Fall had developed a level of assuredness where they were not above indulging an audience, they played a set that evolved between their inception and late '78 and would furnish their debut album that appeared early the following year.

But tonight belonged to Stockport's Distractions. Described by Steve Forster of the New Manchester Review as "one of Manchester's best kept secrets" and praised by Mark Smith following a support slot to The Fall at Droylsden's Concorde Suite back in June where Smith suggested the band's set was "primarily covers but delivered with considerable power and prowess".

Here The Distractions played an original set with a strong commercial flavour that may have suggested a recognisable familiarity to Mark Smith's ears. But the factor that set The Distractions' well-crafted pop sound apart was the formidable vocal of singer Mike Finney. Described at the time by Mick Middles in a Sounds review as "a superb rock 'n' roll singer" the sound of Finney's finely-tuned voice resonated around the venue.

Kevin Rowland and Mick Hucknall had both played in punk groups prior to forming bands whose calling card would be soul music. The Distractions should have been ahead of the game having no need to reinvent themselves but sadly the rise to pop stardom never materialised despite the best efforts of the music press.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

A kind of perfection

It feels like an appropriate time to include an approximate translation of this French love letter to Nobody's Perfect and in particular 'Leave You To Dream'. We are getting closer to an announcement about the reissue of Nobody's Perfect, and it has been revealed on social media that a new remix of the album has been undertaken. We can confirm that the remix of 'Leave You To Dream' sounds very special - as does the whole album. With apologies to François Gorin at Telerama for the translation...

The Distractions 

François Gorin 

A kind of perfection: the band that springs out of nowhere, leaves an immaculate album, unaffiliated, out-of-the-box, and disappears. Behind this drawing dreamed by any honest critic, one or more broken destinies perhaps, with personal dramas to the key. The Distractions: their very name has something of the slip, ephemeral or evanescent. The year? 1980. Nowhere, it was Manchester, from where a single at Factory Records in the middle of Joy Division trauma, then signing for Island Records and maybe Mike Finney (the voice) and Steve Perrin (the guitar) are in the big league. Their songs collect bits and pieces of various origins, before and after '77, but listening to them we forget all concern for genetic code. The hundred facets of the mosaic glisten softly in the dim light. An evening album, from the middle of the night, even. At the heart, this summit of sleepwalking music "Leave You To Dream". It goes to walk on the roofs, it comes down on the pillow, it flutes and it bites again the same bitterness that we hear in the most edgy moments of the album (there are, for fans of The Cars or The Cure). "Leave You To Dream" is the one that remains when we have exhausted all the other charms of Nobody's Perfect. 

She has the evidence of the surf and the shimmering brightness of the moonlight. She leaves pensive. We went home in the classic silence of the early hours and we lit his flashing nightlight. On the cover, the club of five stuck his reels in small format, filtered colour zebra. The Distractions are almost anonymous. Perrin wrote almost everything, if I remember correctly. He left the group in 1981 and his departure created a meteor. I would never be separated from this album for anything in the world. There is a kind of secret society around its discrete cult, members are so few (or distracted?) that they meet more than intermittently. 

To new wave boys

(C) François Gorin at Telerama.

The Distractions

François Gorin

Un genre de perfection: le groupe qui surgit de nulle part, laisse un album immaculé, non affilié, hors-vague, et disparaît. Derrière ce dessin rêvé par tout critique honnête, un ou plusieurs destins brisés peut-être, avec drames personnels à la clé. The Distractions: leur nom même a quelque chose du lapsus, d'éphémère ou d'évanescent. L'année? 1980. Nulle part, c'était Manchester, d'où un single chez Factory en plein trauma Joy Division, puis signature chez Island et voici possiblement Mike Finney (la voix) et Steve Perrin (la guitare) dans la cour des grands. Leurs chansons ramassent des bribes et morceaux de provenances diverses, d'avant et après 77, mais à leur écoute on oublie tout souci de code génétique. Les cent facettes de la mosaïque scintillent doucement dans la pénombre. Un disque du soir, du milieu de la nuit, même. Au cœur, ce sommet de musique somnambule: Leave You To Dream. Ca s'en va se promener sur les tits, ça revient se poser sur l'oreiller, ça flûte et ça mord encore de la même âpreté qu'on entend dans les moments les plus énervés de l'album (il y en a, pour amateurs de Cars ou Cure). Leave You To Dream est celle qui reste quand on a épuisé tous les autres charmes de ce Nobody's Perfect

Elle a l'évidence du ressac et l'éclat frémissant du clair de lune. Elle laisse songeur, littéralement. On rentrait chez soi dans le silence classique des petites heures et on allumait son clignotant de veilleuse. Sur la pochette, le club des cinq planquait ses bobines en petit format, filtrées de couleur, zébrées. Distractions pas loin d'être anonymes. Perrin écrivait presque tout, si je me souviens bien. C'est lui qui a quitté le groupe en 1981 et son départ a fabriqué un météore. De cet album à jamais mineur, je ne me séparerais pour rien au monde. Il existe une sorte de société secrète autour de son culte discret, les membres en sont si peu nombreux (ou distraits ?) qu'ils ne se réunissent plus que par intermittence.

aux newwave boys

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