The immortal story
July 1, 2007 6:12 AM   Subscribe

Three well-received albums, but without selling many of them. One of the greatest singles ever, but it didn't chart. An acrimonious split after only four years amidst heroin addiction and charges of attempted murder. A lead singer and songwriter who descended into a quarter of a century of addiction: first heroin, then crack, just about staying alive, but only just. But The Only Ones are back, dubbed as cult heroes, and acknowledged as an influence on bands like Nirvana, The Replacements, Blur and The Libertines. Just a little haggard and worn, but playing live again (The Big Sleep, Another Girl) after twenty-five years.
posted by reynir (35 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Cool stuff. Thanks, rey...
posted by Samizdata at 6:25 AM on July 1, 2007

"Another Girl Another Planet" saved my life in 1979. I still play it all the time.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:30 AM on July 1, 2007

Yeah. Very cool. I have no recollection of this band whatsoever. Thanks for introducing me to them, reynir.
posted by psmealey at 6:31 AM on July 1, 2007

"Another Girl Another Planet" saved my life in 1979. I still play it all the time.

It never saved my life, but it is a near-perfect rock and roll song.
posted by jonmc at 6:36 AM on July 1, 2007

I found a £1.99 compilation tape in a bin in Woolworths, 6 years ago. I bought it on impulse (a tape! £1.99!) and it had Another Girl on it. I fell in love.
posted by Helga-woo at 6:39 AM on July 1, 2007

Thanks! Had the albums and went up to London to see them live (albeit their farewell gig).
posted by carter at 6:52 AM on July 1, 2007

Time to dig out that tatty old leopardskin top, tease up the hair and steal my girlfriend's eyeliner again. Great news!
posted by El Brendano at 6:53 AM on July 1, 2007

There's also a very good '4th' album, 'Remains,' which has some guests of the time (e.g. Glenn Tilbrook) and also completely different (and I think better) production.
posted by carter at 7:11 AM on July 1, 2007

...and yet Ric Ocasek lives...

what? that isn't the picture of a corpse?!

come to think of it, I really like the first Cars album

posted by Kattullus at 8:11 AM on July 1, 2007

Nice post, Reynir. You might also like the story of Adrian Borland and The Sound. (video history at gootube.)
posted by shoepal at 8:36 AM on July 1, 2007

Interesting that John Cooper Clark is also on the bill for Wolverhampton - another artist returning from obscurity. His career and bank balance must have gotten a huge boost from having 'Chicken Town' used in the Sopranos a few months back.
posted by Flashman at 9:22 AM on July 1, 2007

"Another Girl Another Planet" really is one of the greatest singles of the era. So great that it makes rest of their catalog seem a bit thin. I have a hard time playing a whole album from them becasue a few songs into it I just want to go back to "Another Girl Another Planet". The curse of hitting perfection so early in their career.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:32 AM on July 1, 2007

I just picked up a copy of Special View from the used CD bin a few weeks ago. It's a really good album, although the greatness that is "Another Girl" tends to overshadow the rest of the songs. "The Whole of the Law" in particular is another excellent example of Perrett's songwriting abilities.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:28 AM on July 1, 2007

I always just assumed "Another Girl Another Planet" was a Replacments song. Very cool.
posted by photoslob at 10:55 AM on July 1, 2007

Huh. I'm almost embarassed to admit that I've never heard Another Girl Another Planet before. After listening, I have to disagree with the 'greatest rock single of its time' thing: because the greatest rock single of that era, and possibly any era, was Still Little Finger's Alternative Ulster. (YouTubery from '79, the singer's shredded vocals tend to undermine the melody, it's played faster than the recorded version-- blame the tesosterone-- but hey! it has subtitles!)
posted by jokeefe at 11:00 AM on July 1, 2007

Oooh, scrap previous link, which was a rather disastrous performance. This is a video of scenes from Ulster and the Troubles set to the original single, waaaay better.
posted by jokeefe at 11:10 AM on July 1, 2007

Oh man. It still has the best bridge evah. *fills with nostalgic tears, jumps around room*
posted by jokeefe at 11:13 AM on July 1, 2007

Another Girl, Another Planet is a great song, but it's just a bit too close to the "Driving Song" category. I suspect Jeremy Clarkson puts it on his stereo, in rotation with Deep Purple and The Stranglers.

But it's one of those songs crying out for a music video to be made for it. It's got a kind of narrative force and fluency that cries out for moving images.
posted by humblepigeon at 11:30 AM on July 1, 2007

jokeefe - I like the sentiment, but "Alternative Ulster" isn't even SLF's best single. I'd put "Suspect Device" and "Nobody's Heroes" ahead of it.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:06 PM on July 1, 2007

I've loved "Another Girl, Another Planet" since college, and it had never once occurred to me that the Only Ones were British. For some reason that song just sounds like New England to me.

I'm not sure how we got onto "Alternative Ulster" but I think it doesn't make much sense to compare power-pop singles like AGAP with political punk. "Another Girl, Another Planet" is really up against "Just What I Needed" and "Ever Fallen in Love?" here. (And I might place it third out of these three, but only just.)
posted by escabeche at 12:07 PM on July 1, 2007

I'd agree with Slack-a-gogo about SLF having better tracks than (the admittedly ace) Alternative Ulster. My vote for top single out of Britain round that time would still probably be the Angelic Upstarts doing Teenage Warning. Read recently that Mensi finally left the band (amicably) last year.
Of course, none of the above ramble takes anything away from how good the Only Ones were and this post is. Thanks!
posted by Abiezer at 12:28 PM on July 1, 2007

Glad you all enjoyed the post. There's a holy trinity of perfect three-minute songs for me: Another Girl, Ever Fallen In Love, and Teenage Kicks.

I love The Only Ones so much, their music soundtracks some of the most memorable times of my life. I think that Peter Perrett is a hugely under-rated songwriter (and John Perry an under-rated guitarist). Songs like "Someone Who Cares", "Immortal Story", "Miles From Nowhere" and "It's The Truth" are as good as anyone else was writing at the time.

The Peel Sessions album is worth listening to, if you can find it. I used to have a copy, but it was nicked by the Little People who live in the skirting boards and obviously have a taste for post-punk sleazy romance as well as cotton reels for tables etc.

Got my Only Ones ticket for the gig in Newcastle, and I can't wait. I never thought I would get to see them play live.

Thanks for the pointer to the Sound, I'd not heard of them. Sad story. Quick listen to the Youtube links, and some of the songs sound interesting but slathered over with too much of that very Eighties synth sound, for my taste.
posted by reynir at 12:30 PM on July 1, 2007

I always thought the mats got it from Big Star. Cool post, great song.
posted by vronsky at 12:51 PM on July 1, 2007

What vronsky said.

This was fucking really a-ok. Thanks.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:15 PM on July 1, 2007

Never heard of the band. Never heard the single.

And now I like them both.

posted by Cyrano at 1:16 PM on July 1, 2007

jokeefe - I like the sentiment, but "Alternative Ulster" isn't even SLF's best single. I'd put "Suspect Device" and "Nobody's Heroes" ahead of it.

It's one of those personal things, for me: We're gonna change the world, man.

I'm afraid that I can't say that AGAP does anything for me, but I'm in the minority, so I won't say anything more... actually, one of my most powerful music memories of 1979 was being chased all over Europe and Israel by Dire Straits. Everywhere, the Sultans of Swing, in every cafe and coming out of the shops and on the radio.

It's a free associative kind of day.
posted by jokeefe at 1:42 PM on July 1, 2007

Did anyone notice the awful Blink 182 cover?
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:01 PM on July 1, 2007

Thanks for these links, reynir. I agree with you about the Peel Sessions album, & would very strongly recommend it to anyone who finds the production on the studio LPs a bit hard on the ears. At their best, they achieved a perfect balance of the beautiful & the bilious… I’m listening to Prisoners right now “Confined within a space so small / we helped each other over the wall…”
posted by misteraitch at 2:38 PM on July 1, 2007

jokeefe - I like the sentiment, but "Alternative Ulster" isn't even SLF's best single. I'd put "Suspect Device" and "Nobody's Heroes" ahead of it.

"Barbed Wire Love" is better than all three.
posted by jonmc at 4:21 PM on July 1, 2007

Great band, great album. They were also an influence on The Church. Well, Koppes anyway (sorry, no cites, just conversations I've had with him), not Kilbey.
posted by tellurian at 7:12 PM on July 1, 2007

Ummmm, I love threads like this since they never tempt me to seek out music...
posted by Samizdata at 8:49 PM on July 1, 2007

One of the greatest bands of all time! Great to hear about the reunion!

(The only good 'Another Girl Another Planet' cover is the Replacements.. though, Pete Doherty and Peter Perrett did a fine version.. though, that might not count as a 'cover', per se)

(Also, I have to wonder if something is wrong with me since my favorite Stiff Little Fingers song is 'Wait And See'.. All the others are great, too, of course)
posted by Mael Oui at 9:59 PM on July 1, 2007

Wow, thanks for posting this. I'd never seen the video. I love this song.
posted by litlnemo at 4:54 AM on July 2, 2007

one song? worth the price, one song?

when i think of all those stars
missing from the sky
those would-be meteors
i wish they'd been less brilliant
and still around

flared less for you and me
who cared less for them
than a fix
posted by Twang at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2007

Ah, they're really special. Somewhere I have a cassette bootleg of a performance in Amsterdam that's better than the records. Nothing else that they did has the precise pop urgency of "Another Girl," but there are easily half a dozen great Only Ones songs, including "The Big Sleep" and "Oh Lucinda."

They were a weird band, with the older-looking genius guitarist (ala the Voidoids, and btw, check out John Perry's excellent book on Hendrix) which the label and pop media didn't know how to market, especially alongside a seedy, wasted fox like Perrett. Amazing to think they're back, though judging by the attempted murder link, they won't be playing LA anytime soon.

You gotta give it to that schmuck Pete Doherty for getting Perrett up on stage. I've coaxed a couple of my idols out of retirement, and it's a delicate and selfless task, more than I'd have expected of someone like him. Great post.
posted by Scram at 7:47 AM on July 3, 2007

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