only one - JOHN PERRY
By: Jonesy Vigilante
Hi John How's things?
JP: You'd have to ask THINGS about that?
You are well known for being the guitar player in Only Ones. Which other bands have you played in?
In my earliest days we had to change the band-name after every show - only way we could get rebooked.
We were 17 years old, obnoxious and coming in with a mix of Hendrix and Eddie Cochran and trying to knock down walls with sheer volume. Our agent would tell the poor club owner he was getting a nice 9-piece Soul Band with a Hammond organ and a Horn Section and instead he got this awful 3 piece guitar noise!
We borrowed every amp in Bristol - AC30's, Selmer's, Marshall's all wired together, a glorious deafening racket. Half the time the club would refuse to pay us (I don't blame them) so we nicked crates of alcohol at the load out. Then we'd change the band name & repeat the exercise. That was my introduction to, and earliest lesson in, the music business - the keyword is 'Theft'.
Later -- during, and after The Only Ones I did work with Robert Palmer, Robert Hunter, Sisters of Mercy, Johnny Thunders ..and so on.
When did you decide to pick up the guitar? 12 or 13.
How did Only Ones come together back in the days?
Peter phoned me in late 1975 to do some studio sessions (5 of the songs are on 'Remains'). We spent all of 1976 trying out musicians. First Kellie, then Alan showed up and we knew we had the right players and we began doing shows January 1977.
What does it feel like playing together with Only Ones again in 2007?
We did all the groundwork in 1976 so it wasn't hard picking up where we left off.
Had you been missing it?
More than I ever realized.
Who's idea was it to reform?
I dunno about 'idea'. Alan was the driving force in making it happen. I'd just worked a couple of years playing with a mainly acoustic band so I was more than ready to plug into something LOUD. Alan and I sat down and worked out a way to get the ball rolling again.
Were you in touch with the other guys during the 26 years the band was inactive?
Yeah. I'd see Peter a couple of times a year, Alan a bit less. And Kellie was off in Birmingham
Why did you disband in 1982?
Got tired of banging our heads against a brick wall.
It was clear that the record company weren't behind us - they weren't even near us , and nothing we could do was going to change that. Constant infighting with the company while you're trying to play takes the fun away.
What's different compared to the 70's?
Ummm well for one thing, we're all much nicer to one another. The vibe around the band these days is really good. We used to be horrible, really horrible.
Too much touring. You reach a point on long tours where there's literally nothing else to do but bitch. Bitch bitch bitch.
Are you ever nostalgic when looking back?
No. Nor when looking forward.
What does the line-up look like in 2007?
You tell me! Same people.
Tell the readers one intriguing fact that they didn't know about each band member?
Don't tempt me. Get thee behind me Satan.
Who are your influences as a guitar player?
The obvious ones to anyone born in 1952.
Hank Marvin, cos to begin with he was the ONLY guitar player we saw. Then along came Townshend and Hendrix and Jeff Beck, and a whole different way of using volume and attack. Peter Green for his delicacy. Robbie Krieger from the Doors, for the beautiful way he had of painting pictures with a song instead of just playing blues guitar. Later on I started listening to horn players, Coltrane and Pharoah Saunders both played in a way that could be adapted to the guitar. The country pianist Floyd Kramer had a way of phrasing the major scale that he'd taken from pedal steel. I copied that and adapted it to guitar. The American West Coast bands as a whole were doing interesting stuff. Jorma Kaukonon's playing on the song 'Good Shepherd' still sends a shiver down my spine. Bert Jansch. Davy Graham. Keith's playing as a rhythm guitarist at the very heart of any song is an abiding influence. Richards does that as well as it's possible to do. I could go on for ages, but that's enough to give you an idea. When punk happened, they weren't influences, but I thought X Ray Spex made fantastic, original records.
Johnny & Jerry in The Heartbreakers showed a whole generation of younger bands how to do it properly. Jerry especially, he had a background in R&B and knew how to pace a show.
What equipment are you using?
Same white Stratocaster as always.
A Tele. Just got a 1956 Les Paul TV Jnr from Stevie Klasson in Sweden. Love the sound of the P90 pickup. I've also got a reverse Firebird and a 335 which I play open tuned. Marshall amps then I switched to Fenders. A pair of Fender Vibro Kings sound good. Ten inch speakers. Not twelves. Find a good Fender amp that matches the guitar and off you go. I've got a Martin M38 acoustic I've played for 20 years which is a sweetheart; and a 12 string Guild acoustic which records like a dream.
Q Magazine placed the song 'Another Girl Another Planet' at number 83 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. What song would be your number one pick on that list?
I can't narrow it down to one anyway my choice would change from day to day.
How did the song end up in a Vodafone commercial?
Oh thats just business ... ask the businessmen. I have no idea.
Unarguably it brings your music to new audiences. Do you have any personal hang ups about having your music in advertising?
None.Maybe 25 years ago, but not today.
There have been a whole bunch of bands since the eighties that has covered the song, including Blink 182, Greg Kihn, The Lightning Seeds, Belle & Sebastian etc, which one is your favourite version?
The Cure version is interesting.
If you could choose any band or performer to do the definitive cover version of that song, who would you choose?
Jimi Hendrix and Davy Graham. Terry Reid on vocals.
If it wasn't for your music career, what would you do?
Writing is the only other thing people seem prepared to pay me for.
Do you have any formal education?
I lost patience with school at 15 and thought I could do a better job myself. I read a lot.
You have collaborated with many great musicians over the years. Who have you enjoyed working with the most? Why?
At the risk of sounding creepy Peter Perrett, Mike Kellie & Alan Mair. We fit together better and the music comes about more naturally than any other combination I've found. And believe me, I spent a LOT of time looking for alternatives. I looked in London and NYC. Stockholm LA Nashville blah blah blah?
Tell the readers about the most embarrassing record you own?
I don't own many records, I keep the music in my head. 'm very fond of 'Mandy' by Barry Manilow. And I perform my own, very slow, very spaced, version of the Archie's classic 'Sugar Sugar' that would bring tears to you eyes. It brings tears to mine.
I have heard you have new songs in your live set. Will you be recording any new material with the band?
What can the audience expect from a gig with The Only Ones in 2007?
Thanks for your time John. Anything you would like to say to the readers of Punkglobe Magazine?
Hi Guys. Thanks for having me.
© 2007 JOHN PERRY First Serial Rights to PUNKGLOBE MAGAZINE
Photo: John Perry with Pauline from Penetration