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Oldies But Goldies: from 2014, We Take A Special View With The Only Ones

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I don’t know

I don’t wanna know…

The Only Ones will always be remembered by the many for “Another Girl, Another Planet” and by the few for everything else they ever did. A hard rock Velvet Underground art band who slipped into skinny ties in time for the New Wave revolution back to the future in the late 70s, they had more than one thing in common with Lou Reed. Peter Perrett was a stone cold junkie who romanticized heroine to unforeseen proportions and in unheard of manners. Hell, he gave Johnny Thunders a run for his money. That’s what he meant on “Oh Lucinda” –love does indeed become a habit.

Scrawny and sexy before he wasn’t sexy any longer, Perrett looked like a thriftshop Edie Sidgewick backed by a really really great band. Especially bassist and producer Alan Mair. Perrett had a nasal tuneful whine of a voice, he seemed to be in constant distress, constant sorrow. In a world where rap would kinda kill the concept, he was an ultimate loser: though successful with women in ways Costello never portrayed himself to be, Perrett’s problems overwhelmed him.

And on “Special View” (or “Telescopic Love” as I always knew it) (the B side Of “Another Girl, Another Planet”) he fashioned whole new vistas of sexual and emotional degradation. It is one thing for Costello to sing to an unfaithful lover, “I’ve been at the video and I have been watching” something else for Perrett to sing “I can’t cope, I’ve got my telescopic” before concluding “don’t take this pleasure from me.”

“Special View” is the story of a guy who starts by ignoring his girls cuckolding of him and ends with him being the ultimate cuckold and the ultimate voyeur, begging her to let him watch her have sex with another guy. And with Perrett’s whine in full effect, he seems to revel in his shame, his disgrace serves to egg on his desire: “This is something really thrills me, but same time it kills me.” It goes round and round on him and he can find no exit for his love or desire. “You can’t hear me whisper words of love about you” he worries.

The song itself is a lilting lo fi calypso shuffle and it is mostly just Perrett with the rest of the band adding acoustic guitar and back up voices on the chorus but it is so unique. I can’t think of any other song that takes voyeurism to such obvious extremes. We were discussing losers before, can you imagine Jay Z singing about the pleasures of watching Beyonce fuck another guy in front of him? Or even Costello. I mean, Costello is the closest you can imagine a singer songwriter to revel in subjugation but even he never went this far. Lou Reed never came close. John Lennon would have gone insane with jealousy. But Perrett managed to write an ode to sexual perversion and more, something so human and so seldom discussed, but our sense of worthlessness. My sense of worthlessness.

Most of us feel we are Jay Z or even Costello (the truth is neither Jay Z nor Costello are immune to the battle between the Id and the Superego) while most of us live lives of abject degradation, grovelling to our bosses, our wives and husbands, our parents, we pretend we have some form of power that keeps us above the norm but we really don’t. Our lives are short, meaningless and wrapped in a daydream sense of self that has nothing to do (really can’t have anything to do) with who we really are. This goes to the heart of the question of the afterlife, whether you believe in an immortal soul or you don’t believe in an immortal soul you are delusional because you think your opinion matters in the slightest on any level whatsoever. Of course, you need the delusion to actually exist and your brain provides it for you.

Infidelity is no big shocker as a subject matter, but usually, to use Lennon as an example, it is either “you can’t do that” or “here I stand head in hand”, but Perrett gets sexual pleasure from his girls unfaithfulness and there seems to be only one possible reason: it is because he feels unworthy and she reinforces his unworthiness to him: she understands him and still stays by him (this is one reason why women stay with men who beat them). This is new territory for rock and roll. When a rocker claims to be worthless, a Drake for instance, it is usually because he can’t be faithful. He writes it from a position of power. Listen to Kanye’s “Runaway” -a sort of anti-“Special View”. The attraction to the hoodrats, the pick and choose, either leave me or live with it. This is standard issue id shit. Look at Jagger in “Miss You” -“some Puerto rican girls just dyin’ to meet you.” Or Bobby Womack “she used to run around with every man in town” sure but by the time the song has begun “Tables turn and now her turn to cry”

Perrett goes elsewhere and where he goes is through a great and terrible truth, people realize deep down they really aren’t very much matter. Rock and roll has problems with it, not least because rock is about an unleashing of the id not a wallowing in the superego. In “Special View” Peter does the impossible, he writes a song from the point of view of the Superego. And what we gain from this is the most important thing we can, we realize we are not alone. We may have no integral value but we are the same as everybody else and that must be enough.

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