Led by singer/songwriter Peter Perrett, England’s Only Ones combined the energy of the punk movement and a more traditional sense of rock craft, with Perrett singing his goodnatured tortured-romantic lyrics in a distinctive (and not unpleasant) whine. The quartet’s mix of youthful spunk and seasoned experience (drummer Mike Kellie was a member of Spooky Tooth and bassist Alan Mair’s résumé stretched back to the early ’60s) helped gain the Only Ones quick prominence, but only one song — the much- covered “Another Girl, Another Planet” — earned the highly touted group any lasting acclaim.
The Only Ones (which includes that stupendous number) is the best of the three original albums. Perrett’s languid vocals and songs provide the character and focus, while the band’s skills carry it off handsomely. Even Serpents Shine varies little from its predecessor and contains some captivating material, but lacks anything as great as “Another Girl, Another Planet.” Special View picks tracks off both albums and adds the two sides of the band’s self-released 1977 debut single for an introductory lesson in the Only Ones’ early oeuvre.
Although finally realizing simultaneous release in the US and the UK with the Colin Thurston-produced Baby’s Got a Gun, the Only Ones’ commercial success was still too slight to sustain them, and they called it quits in 1981. The group’s cult status has grown steadily ever since, as evidenced (or at least encouraged) by a stream of posthumous releases. Remains is a decent collection of non-album material. The songs on Live predate the CBS albums; it shows the band to have been firmly in musical control even at that early juncture. The Peel Sessions Album compiles sixteen BBC recordings from 1977 to ’80, and is actually a stronger representation of the Only Ones’ gifts than any of the band’s studio albums.
The England’s Glory disc offers ten 1973 demos by Perrett’s pre-Only Ones combo (including future Squeeze bassist Harry Kakoulli) and demonstrates nascent talent as well as an overriding Lou Reed fixation. Two of the songs, “City of Fun” and “Peter and the Pets,” later showed up on the Only Ones’ first LP.