Using distribute 0.6.12 on Ubuntu 10.4 I tried to do the following.
It successfully installs version 1.2.3c1
However, when I try to actually import _mysql I get this error.
ImportError: libmysqlclient_r.so.15: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
On Ubuntu 10.4 libmysqlclient15 is a virtual package and libmysqlclient16 is what is actually installed. The 15 file does not exist on the system.
However, if I go and download MySQL-python-1.2.3c1.tar.gz directly from sourceforge, and then do python setup.py install by hand, it links to the correct library version, and works properly.
Because I can install the library just fine on its own, logically it must be a bug in distribute such that it is installing mysql-python improperly.
Also of note, I'm doing all this with virtualenv with --no-site-packages. If I weren't, I would just do aptitude install python-mysqldb, which also works.