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This Weekend I’ll mostly be Listening Mostly to… The Only Ones, Remains September 3, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Cold days of winter have been and gone. Wonder what the summer will bring… Maybe a new love to carry me on… but first got to get through spring…
-Flowers Die

Wan vocals? Spartan musical arrangements? Ah, it must be the Only Ones.

And how appropriate given that we were discussing proto-punk just two weeks back because while not precisely proto-punk, more proto-post-punk, which is an unlovely formulation, the Only Ones are yet another group that straddled that watershed. But where the Pink Fairies were grounded in hard rock with flourishes towards other genres, the Only Ones were a more intimate and sombre affair, given to moments of punk-tinged exuberance [as on the peerless Another Girl, Another Planet] but also to a more moody romanticism.

Their first album was out in 1978, but in truth their roots stretched back to Spooky Tooth [from where their drummer arrived, IIRC]and other early to mid 70s outfits. And this album of demos and unfinished studio tracks produced in the 1975 to 1976 period and predates their first album proper by a year or so. Yet it’s very evident here that they had traces of Television in their genetic mix, and whose that assisting with some of them, why none other than Glenn Tilbrook, later of the sometimes wonderful Squeeze.

These sometimes skeletal, sometimes underproduced tracks are almost perfect as a vehicle for Perrett’s voice, simultaneously knowing and fragile – and at times perhaps the only truly punk component of their sound. Their country inflected arrangements have a real authority and there’s a surprising speediness to some of the tracks, take Devon Song for example which moves along sharpish. Or perhaps more obviously the punkish and camp Oh No! Or the Velvet’s referencing Flowers Die. There’s also an endearing clunkiness to some of the tracks. Watch You Drown perks up about 1 minute in only to slow down again. It shouldn’t work, but it sort of does, and it perhaps is indicative of how young the band was at this point. But then they were never afraid to throw something extra into the mix, as with the female vocals which see out My Rejection.

Some have argued that unlike later material these songs lack a certain degree of humor. Not so sure about that when I read the lyric sheet.

We all get punished for our sins
And everybody wants to do you in
Tide’s rising, you gotta start swimming
But these waters hold dangerous women

It begs the question as to how much of the time was/is Perrett being sardonic, if not indeed downright sarcastic? Mind you, listen to said lyrics and there’s perhaps one too many references to Georgia, given that Perrett sings in his original accent – though perhaps I’m missing something here.

It’s an interesting exercise to consider what these would have been like with better production, with the greater clarity that the later CBS recordings have, but I wonder if anything much would have been gained. The trials and tribulations of Perrett and two of the other three have been well charted elsewhere, often by a media which has seemed to take an unpleasantly vicarious interest in what happened. But none of that impacts in the slightest on a compelling musical artifact. Because for me, even more than their first album, this is the quintessential summation of the group.

My only gripe is that on the CD reissue, unlike the original vinyl pressing [which is in the attic along with an EP that came with it] an amazing cover of Steve Marriott’s ‘My Way of Giving’ is missing, a song Perrett managed to make entirely his own. I’ve searched high and low for it online and it simply doesn’t appear to be available which irks the completist in me. Anyone know where a version can be sourced?

Devon Song

Counterfeit Woman

Flowers Die

Watch You Drown

Baby’s Got A Gun

I Only Wanna Be Your Friend

Oh No

Don’t Hold Your Breath

River of No Return

Hope Valley Blues

My Rejection

Prisoners

Comments»

1. Crocodile - September 4, 2011

Good example, The Only Ones, of a band who are just plain unlistenable to some people because of their singer. Always liked them myself, but my brother found Perrett so mannered that he hit the ‘off’ button in seconds.
Re a recent post in this slot by yourcousin: Gillan Welch and David Rawlings play the Grand Canal Theatre on November 19.

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2. Peter Björkman - April 7, 2014

“My way of giving” is to be found on the first CD-issue from Closer records, aswell.

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WorldbyStorm - April 7, 2014

Thanks Peter. Not sure how but I got a copy of the song eventually!

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