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The Immortal Story

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Album Review

There are some great what-if stories in the history of rock, but few are as compelling as the sordid tale of the Only Ones. Blessed with a remarkably talented lineup, great songs, and a frontman — the doom-obsessed Peter Perrett — who exhaled charisma like so much carbon dioxide, the Only Ones were the proverbial can't-miss proposition. But miss they did. Plagued from the start by clueless marketing, squabbles with their record company, and Perrett's legendarily erratic behavior, the Only Ones managed to hang together for a scant five years (1976-1981), releasing three albums and the transcendent single "Another Girl, Another Planet," before they flamed out and Perrett left music to focus full-time on heroin. The band's memory is kept alive by a dedicated cult, but, for most casual fans, the Only Ones are notable only for "Another Girl, Another Planet." That's a shame because, as this 21-track collection illustrates, the band was much more that. Spanning their all-too-brief career, The Immortal Story is an amazingly consistent and varied set — which is a testament not only to the compilers but to the skills of a band frequently dismissed as a (barely) one-hit wonder. Although Perrett gets a lot of the credit for the enduring appeal of the Only Ones — and, certainly, his longing, tormented vocals and darkly evocative lyrics had much to do with it — the Only Ones were a lot more than a vehicle for their haunted singer. John Perry was a world-class guitarist, equally adept at melodic power chording and spiraling solos, and bassist Alan Mair and ex-Spooky Tooth drummer Mike Kellie comprised an unshakable rhythm section. Together, the foursome crafted a creepy but timelessly melodic brand of pop/rock — which is in abundant evidence on The Immortal Story. "Another Girl, Another Planet" is, of course, included, and while it's tough to match that song's classic, otherworldly rush, the rest of the material here hardly pales in comparison. "The Beast," highlighted by Perrett's languid told-you-so vocals and Perry's incendiary guitar fade, is possibly the most harrowing thing the band ever committed to tape, while the boppy resignation of "No Peace for the Wicked" and the reggae tropics of "Special View" reveal a jauntier side to the group. Another standout is "From Here to Eternity," which features some tasty licks by Perry and one of Perrett's most vivid lyrics ("All that glitters is not gold/And even serpents shine/She gotten bitten then/She'll get bitten again/While I'm sitting here watching her die"). Fan favorites such as "Lovers of Today," "Curtains for You," "Someone Who Cares," and "Why Don't You Kill Yourself" (featuring wonderfully sarcastic vocals by Perrett) are also included. To lure collectors, the compilers have thrown in the rare B-side "Your Chosen Life" and previously unavailable mixes of "Oh Lucinda (Love Becomes a Habit)" and "Baby's Got a Gun." The liner notes by Robert Sandall, though brief, are well-written and about as informative as one can expect in a budget-priced import. The performances here might not have the muscular clout of the versions on the long out-of-print Peel Sessions, but, nonetheless, The Immortal Story is the place to start to begin appreciating the legacy of one of rock's great what-ifs.


Formed: 1977 in London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '10s

Led by the raffish and slightly scuzzy romance-obsessed Peter Perrett, the Only Ones were one of the punk era's most underrated bands. Not as confrontational as the Sex Pistols, as politically indulgent as the Clash, or as stripped-down as the Ramones, the Only Ones played not-so-fast guitar rock that sounded deeply indebted to the New York Dolls and other mid-'70s proto-punks. Singing his intelligently crafted pop songs in a semi-tuneful whine of a voice and backed by a band that effectively combined...
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The Immortal Story, The Only Ones
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