Only Serpents Shine; two new bands; people I should love but don’t; best sets ever #3
It is the winter of 81 -maybe February- and I am at the half empty Ritz (now Webster Hall) standing next to my friend John, drummer with Bounce -another greatest band you’ve never heard of, with my mouth agape and my face a mask of terror. The greatest rock band in the world are a train wreck. The lead singer, Peter Perret, is a complete mess, he looks as if he hasn’t washed in days, he is slurring his words, he is shaking. “I’ve just had my hotel room broken into,” he explains. “They took all my clothes.”
How the heck could the Only One’s get mugged in their hotel room? Then Johnny Thunder’s walks out to sing along to “Like A Rolling Stone” and it begins to add up. I’d seen Thunders a coupla years earlier upstairs at Max’s. He mumbled three songs and passed out on the stage. Mr. Perret had some problems with highly addictive intoxicants.
Peter formed Peter and the Pets and had the nucleus of songs ready before renaming the band the Only One’s and releasing their eponymous first album in 78 and featuring their most popular song “Another girl, Another Planet” -a very influential song and a very influential album.
The Only One’s were lumped into the punk clan mostly because they wore skinny jeans and skinny ties . What the Only One’s were was a power-pop, hard rocking (almost heavy metal live) collegiate junkie doomed romantics. Perret was a cute rocker boy, all leather and eyeliner, the rest of the band were pub rock journeymen though the sum was absolutely more then the parts.
By their sophomore effort “Even Serpent’s Shine” (the first two albums were compiled into the US only “Special View” -I recommend the two British releases, yes, they are that good) Perret was a world class songwriter. And this is always the “x” factor that makes good bands great: they must have the songs. Perret whinges and twitches through his songs of lost love: “The Eternal flame,” “From here To Eternity,” “You’ve Got To Pay”. Song after song after song -every single one over both albums an absolute knockout.
And the lyrics: “I want to die in the same place I was born, miles from nowhere,” “I’ve learnt my lesson, I learnt it the hard way, if you want to be in love you’ve gotta pay,” “When time has left you scarred beyond repair I hope you find someone who cares.” Perret wrote the very best lyrics, lyrics to be sung along to: deeply personal and universal at the same time. “Hey, hey can’t you see what you’re doing to me…”!!!
Their next album, “Baby’s Got a Gun,” was also excellent but as they proved at the Ritz, drugs were destroying the band and this would be their final official release.
There is an odds and sods called “Remains” which is OK, a coupla live albums which aren’t OK, and a John Peel (the legendary Radio One DJ) sessions called “Telescopic Love” -that is as good as the three magnificent studio creations and…
Why was that all? Why is one of the greatest songwriters in rock history a footnote. From Nirvana to Blink 182 you can hear their influence… Just one song? No, not “Another Girl, Another Planet, rather, “Someone Who Cares”.
Speaking of bands you might not have heard of: these two were opening bands in NYC last week.
Lemonade, a very fun electronic band from L.A., try “Big Weekend”. And, winning the award for the thickest brogue since Big Country, THE TWILIGHT SAD!!! Moody, pretty indie rock, “That Summer At Home I Became the Invisible Boy” is not all about the title. Actually, it reminds me of Arms…
Led Zeppelin: I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried: and I get it up to a point but really, this is the honest roar of rock and roll??? I’ll give em I and II and “Kashmir” -and I did like Plant and Page when I saw em live but there is something so overdone about Led Zeppelin…
Frank Sinatra at Radio City Music Hall. I was in the last row with this real cute Italian girl whose name escapes me this minute. This was one of the last times he’d ever perform in NYC, around 94. Frank’s voice was shot and he couldn’t remember the lyric (reading the lyric to songs the audience knew as well as their own names); his vocals dazzled through phrasing; his grace and poise on stage were the products of a lifetime; his songs (mostly recorded for Capitol Records) the top of American standards. The only time I ever saw Sinatra. One of the best sets I’ve ever seen.