Not really punk. Not really rock’n'roll. Not really New Wave. How the heck does one categorise the Only Ones? They have an enormous cult following, and CBS apparently never deleted their back catalogue. Formed from a motley crew (New York Dolls clone Peter Perrett, who had been laying down demos since 1973; Mike Kellie of Spooky Tooth; Alan Mair, ex of Scotland’s The Beatstalkers; and John Perry, who switched from bass to lead guitar, replacing Glenn Tillbrook, who went on to Squeeze).
Their music seems to owe more of a debt to 60s psychedelia than anything else, with references to drugs and Perrett’s casual intonation of lyrics such as, ‘I want to die in the same place I was born’ marking out a readily identifiable yet derivative style which I suppose we would nowadays call ‘power pop’.
Yet such an apparently disparaging label belies the depth of their vision. Songs such as ‘The Big Sleep’, while plainly precursing the Jesus And Mary Chain in their thinly-veiled descriptions of heroin’s effects, conjure up an other-worldly atmosphere that transcends the instrumentation. Drug problems sabotaged their career, yet like so many others, they bounced back with a new set of material, alongside playing the old favourites, and their entire studio recordings will be re-released in February of next year.
As in so many othe cases, it is for one song and one alone that they will be best remembered. Another Girl, Another Planet (FF 1978 #17, 1979 #20, 1980 #28, 1981 #41, All-Time 1982 #24 and All-Time 2000 #18), as can be seen, made an indelible dent in every chart for which it was eligible: the quietly unassuming plucked opening, then the thrilling build-up to a crashing, unforgettable melody are the hallmarks of a stone classic. With yet more drug references (‘I think I’m on another world with you…space travel’s in my blood’), it seems an inappropriate piece to use for a mobile phone commercial. However, the fact that they were worshipped and covered by another drug-fuelled combo, the Libertines, somehow indicates the increasing mainstream acceptance of such material.
They recorded four Peel sessions, all originally released on Strange Fruit and then deleted, but since re-released as Darkness & Light. Details below:
Peel Session 1977-09-13
1. Lovers Of Today
2. Oh No (featuring the sound of a guitar being thrown around the studio)
3. Telescopic Love
4. In Betweens
Peel Session 1978-04-05
1. Another Girl, Another Planet
2. The Beast
3. No Peace For The Wicked
4. Language Problem
Peel Session 1978-12-19
1. Miles From Nowhere
2. Flaming Torch
3. From Here To Eternity
Peel Session 1980-05-21
1. The Happy Pilgrim
2. The Big Sleep
3. Oh Lucinda (Love Becomes A Habit)
4. Why Don’t You Kill Yourself?