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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, 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


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