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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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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Infectious pop songs - Record Collector

The biggest mainstream music magazine coverage of the reissue of Nobody's Perfect came in the wonderful Record Collector. Tim Peacock's generous review was accompanied by a Q&A with Man In The Moon's Nick Stewart, one of the main movers behind the long-awaited 2CD and LP reissue. So before the review, here's the Q&A with the former Island Records A&R man.



Q&A


Man In The Moon Records’ Nick Stewart on signing The Distractions to Island and the making of Nobody’s Perfect


You’re famous for your A&R work, signing U2 among others. Is it true you were trying to sign Joy Division to Island when you first heard The Distractions?

Yes. I heard Unknown Pleasures and A Certain Ratio’s 'All Night Party' shortly after I joined Island’s A&R department in August 1979 and thought they were both fantastic, so I met with Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton at Factory’s HQ in Palatine Road, Manchester, in September ’79. I already rated Tony because of his work with Granada TV and I soon found out how single-minded Rob was. When I attempted to sign Joy Division to Island, he made it abundantly clear they weren’t for sale. However, Tony asked if I’d heard The Distractions’ recent Factory single, Time Goes By So Slow. I was a sucker for jangly '60s pop and The Distractions reminded me of The Byrds, so I was smitten as soon as he played me the record. By the time I returned to London, I was determined to sign them.


You originally wanted Gary Usher to helm the Nobody’s Perfect sessions?

I thought Gary Usher was a genius, because he’d done those classic Byrds albums, Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers. To their credit, Island were up for it, but Usher hadn’t made a record for a decade – he’d retired and bought a sweet shop in Seattle! He wanted to produce The Distractions, but he also wanted Island to fly his entire family to London and put them up for a month, which was impossible financially. Eventually Phil Chapman and Jon Astley, who later worked with The Who and Eric Clapton, produced it. I gave them a copy of The Notorious Byrd Brothers and told them I wanted Nobody’s Perfect to sound like it. It didn’t, but they did a great job regardless.


The Distractions came out of Manchester’s punk scene, but they obviously stood apart from the era’s three-chord chancers…

That’s right. I was a big fan of Brinsley Schwartz and Nick Lowe’s music in general and I felt The Distractions had more in common with them and that late ‘70s power pop thing. I didn’t see them as punk at all. Their antecedents were definitely The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and some of the Nuggets acts like The Standells. They harked back to the melodic pop/rock from the mid-to-late ‘60s with West Coast Californian inflections.


The band had a wealth of infectious pop songs and a terrific vocalist in Mike Finney, so why did Nobody’s Perfect fail commercially?

In a sense, The Distractions were like The Only Ones, who also signed to a major label [CBS] and had quite a lot of money thrown at them. They obviously weren’t a “punk” band, either, so like The Distractions, they didn’t fit in with the times – and remember there was also a huge turnover of musical styles back then. For example, 2Tone was big news in 1980 and the new romantics were about to break through. Even so, I was convinced 'It Doesn’t Bother Me' and 'Boys Cry' would both be hits, but Radio 1 just weren’t interested. The album came out and the band toured, but it just never caught fire.


How do you feel Nick Halliwell’s new mix of Nobody’s Perfect compares with the original?

It’s a whole lot brighter and punchier and it’s certainly very 2020. I think he’s done a fantastic job with it and it has a good chance of picking up some of that elusive airplay this time around. Nobody’s Perfect is returning 40 years to the month of its original release in 1980 and it’s never been out on CD before, so the timing’s right and it will be very interesting to see how well it does. It’s been away for a long time, but I think it’s going to get a lot of love at last.

As told to Tim Peacock


Friday, July 17, 2020

Unknown pleasures - Uncut


On to the larger reviews from the music monthlies. This Uncut magazine review from Daniel Dylan Wray in the April 2020 issue scores our reissue at 8/10 and 9/10! Stocks are starting to run low so if you're yet to pick your 2CD and/or LP up head, head to Occultation or Bandcamp.


REDISCOVERED

Uncovering the underrated and overlooked


THE DISTRACTIONS 

Nobody's Perfect

MAN IN THE MOON

8/10

Unknown pleasures from forgotten Manc band

1979 was a musically fertile time for Manchester, and Factory Records were at the centre of it all. That year they put out records by the likes of Joy Division, OMD and A Certain Ratio, and also a 7" by a significantly less feted group, The Distractions. If "Time Goes By So Slow" today sounds like a connecting bridge between post-punk and the jangly indie that followed, in 1979 the group's focus was somewhat antithetical to the post-punk rhythm of the times. Swiftly signing to Island, the group, led by vocalist Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin, released their debut album the following year. Despite some critical warmth, however, Nobody's Perfect sold poorly and just a year later The Distractions disbanded.

Forty years on, though, this curious and charming record, now being reissued, remains unshakably infectious, from the buoyant, almost Blue Oyster Cult-esque skip of opener "Waiting For Lorraine" to their soul-drenched cover of Eden Kane's 1964 hit "Boys Cry". Defying easy labelling, the group wriggle around between new wave, punk, post-punk and soul, and there's an inescapable "wrong place, wrong time" feeling that emanates from these 14 tracks. For a start, there's something inherently and inescapably Liverpudlian about this Mancunian group, with Finney's vocals possessing a touch of Ian McCulloch and their jangle-heavy sound almost like a long-lost blueprint for The La's or The Coral.


Just a few years after Nobody's Perfect's release, the unwinding guitar solos, creamy vocal deliveries and melody-drenched hooks that fill the album would come fully into fashion via the likes of Orange Juice and C86. Perrin would later comment that the band were, "Out of time rather than ahead of it - The Distractions have never seem to fit in with a particular period." As a result, they have fallen into place along with the likes of The Freshies and The Chameleons as somewhat forgotten Manchester bands from the era. Although, as this reissue proves, there's plenty of reasons why that should be remedied. 

Extras: 9/10. Original and remixed version of the album, along with 20 bonus tracks featuring rarities, demos and alternate versions. 

DANIEL DYLAN WRAY



Friday, July 3, 2020

Justified acclaim - Classic Pop


Back to the long round-up of the Nobody's Perfect reissue reviews. This is the first of the absolutely glowing reviews that the release had in the music monthlies: a four-star Classic Pop review by John Earls in March 2020's issue. Nobody's Perfect sits alongside fellow Mancunians, M People - only The Cure's Disintegration and Electronic's self-titled debut received higher scores, and we can't argue with that. The Nobody's Perfect 2CD and LPs are still available from Occultation or Bandcamp (get the 14-track download there too).





THE DISTRACTIONS
NOBODY'S PERFECT
MAN IN THE MOON/OCCULTATION

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Originally signed to Factory, Manchester indie popsters The Distractions were poached by Island's Nick Stewart, the A&R who signed U2. Forty years later, Stewart reissues his charges' debut album on his own Man In The Moon label. His long-standing faith that The Distractions deserve more acclaim is fully justified. 

Singer Mike Finney has the same mix of intense fervour and soulful beauty as Kevin Rowland, while guitarist Steve Perrin's melodies take in Undertones-style melodic punk (Louise), pre-Smiths wistful wonder (Stuck In A Fantasy) and Phil Spector dramas (Boys Cry). 

A lost classic, it may be The Distractions' diversity that proved their undoing as they tear through so many styles and cheerfully master them all. 

The reissue is lovingly done - the original LP on heavyweight vinyl, or a 2CD set featuring 34 bonus tracks compiled from five standalone singles, four demos, a compilation appearance and an alternative mix of the original album by The June Brides producer Nick Halliwell.

Touchingly, The Distractions reformed in 2010. They've released two further albums on Halliwell's label Occulation and still tour. If Nobody's Perfect is any judge, they deserve wider cult hero status. 





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