I've been a huge Peter Perrett/Only Ones fan since the 1st time I heard "Lovers of Today" in '77. The Only Ones were a fantastic group, but when they weren't being dogged by bad luck or let down by their record company, they could usually be relied on to self-destruct. Nina Antonia tells this story with a great deal of empathy & insight, as well as putting in a serious amount of research in interviewing the key players (the ones who are still alive, that is). There are many anecdotes from the early days which I hadn't heard before - a projected collaboration with Keith Richards & early Only Ones/Squeeze connections (though' I don't think we'll ever see Peter P at the piano with Jules Holland on "Later")and on the afterlife of PP & the Only Ones.
This book also does a great job of evoking time & place - if you know yer SE London, you can almost touch the atmosphere at times, as with Nina's descriptions of gigs, faces'n'places in the punk era. This is no paste-up cuttings job.
As we know, apart from "Another Girl", the Only Ones never achieved the success they deserved. They didn't fit the ramalamadolequeue UK punk stereotype - long hair, musical ability, guitar solos: shock horror! Equally, with his pre-Raphaelite looks & Doomed Romantic vibe, Peter P was at odds with all the Rotten imitators of the time. Had they been American I'm sure they'd have been lauded in the UK music press like Television, Talking Heads & co - but equally they were too awkward & druggy to fit in with the artier end of UK punk like Wire & XTC.
Nina Antonia addresses frankly the reasons for their ultimate failure - and there were many - but in the end it comes down to one word: addiction. I was engaged in the same lifestyle as Peter P at the time of the Only Ones, and although' I've been clean 20+ yrs now, I found parts of the book very painful & disturbing to read, so well do they evoke the powerful attractions of drugs like h & coke, & how they'll always get you in the end. The stories of Peter's post-Only Ones freebasing nightmare is particularly unflinching, & features an interesting cameo from Johnny Thunders in the unlikely role of PP's drug counsellor. The 1st 2 albums feature, in my opinion, some of the most honest songs ever about hard drugs & their effect on a relationship, but by the time of their last album, the insight was missing & the group had lost their fire. I'd love it if I was writing this in the context of an Only Ones revival (beyond "Another Girl" being used in yet another TV ad) or a PP solo album - but the last I heard, about a year ago, was of him & Pete Doherty collaborating. I've got masses of music-related books, but few are as good as this one - it's not for the squeamish & easily shocked, but the story has a great momentum, & I found it impossible to put aside until I'd finished reading it.
SHOWS HOW MUCH I KNOW!/UPDATE... Well, glad to say I was as wrong as could be about current Only Ones activity. They've been playing gigs & festivals since the summer. Go to John Perry's excellent MySpace site for sounds, pix & Only Ones info. Dreaming of another album...- Den Browne