sun 21/07/2024

The Return of Peter Perrett | reviews, news & interviews

The Return of Peter Perrett

The Return of Peter Perrett

One of the late Seventies' most talented but elusive returns

Out there in the night, the one and only Peter Perrett

Five songs. Five new songs is what we get. Not much on the face of it but this is still a very special occasion. Peter Perrett has resurfaced and in the basement of Rough Trade West he, with backing from his son Jamie, is performing. The place is entirely jammed, uncomfortable. There are people on the stairs listening despite not being able to see a thing.

I only know the names of two songs, “I’m Yours” and the final one, “Sea Voyager”, a beautiful, elegiac ballad honouring Perrett’s wife, muse, partner-in-all since 1969, Zena, who’s also here, small and blonde.

He does not play any Only Ones numbers, the band whose three albums defined him in the late Seventies, yet it doesn’t matter. Clad in a long, thin duster coat and shades, he strums a guitar, his voice still a wonderfully cracked, nasal and forlorn instrument. The lyrics too, attached to poignant, longing tunes, are pure Perrett gold: “My mother loved me but she went and died,” or “They’re coming for you/Missiles raining/I hear sirens wailing/Gotta delay the onslaught coming your way”.

The decades since have been filled with bands that aspire to their Byronic allure

Perrett is a lost prince of hedonic romanticism, known almost completely for one song, the Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet”, a blistering flash of soaring rock, but actually just one from a magnificent back catalogue of gems. When The Only Ones imploded in 1981, Perrett went off-radar, the drugs took over, first heroin and then crack. He became a reclusive figure lost in a narcotic shell, resurfacing briefly in the mid-Nineties as The One, when Nina Antonia’s biography Peter Perrett, Homme Fatale appeared, burnishing the myth, then again in 2007-2008 for a brief bout of Only Ones reunion gigs, including an appearance on Later… With Jools Holland.

Perrett never truly fitted with the times. The Only Ones’ dandy decadence and unashamedly skilled musicianship didn’t sit well with punk’s stern year zero ethos. They had enough Lou Reed-ish edge (and fantastic songs) to survive in the late-Seventies but not enough to thrive, a band out of time, barely supported by their record company. The decades since have been filled with bands that aspire to their Byronic allure – Suede, to name but one – but nothing has ever matched the damaged, aching beauty of the Only Ones’ output. Now Perrett is back again, free of drugs and ready to create more music. Theartsdesk is pleased to announce we have an exclusive and extensive interview with him. It will be appearing next weekend. Don't miss it.

Overleaf: Watch The Only Ones perform "No Peace For The Wicked" on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1978

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