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The Only Ones Live In Chicago 1979

January 27, 2020

Alona’s Dream Records ADR CD033

(also available on vinyl)

There have been rumours of a previously uncirculated soundboard tape from the 1979 US tour for some time, just before Christmas the evidence emerged. Twelve tracks, recorded at Mothers Club in Chicago on October 3rd 1979. Sound quality is excellent, the show having been recorded on the Metro mobile for the Sunday Morning Nightmares programme on Radio WZRD. Packaging is workmanlike, sleeve-notes uninformative and difficult to read, and my copy arrived with inset tray cracked. And it’s only available via mail order from the US so it’s expensive.

Which is where the criticism stops. The opening Inbetweens confirms we are in for a good time: a lively performance and an excellent recording, all instruments and vocals clearly audible and just enough audience reaction. The stops in Programme are hit with complete precision by all. John Perry’s guitar insinuates itself into The Big Sleep, taking centre stage by the end of the song. Peter Perrett’s vocals are strong and his rhythm guitar does not falter. The song itself would not appear until the following years LP Baby Got A Gun but it sounds finished here, Mike Kellie absolutely storms Lovers Of Today, driving the song forward, always in conjunction with Alan Mair’s ultra-melodic bass parts and backing vocals. Miles From Nowhere features an urgent Perrett vocal whilst the solo shows Perry’s masterful control of feedback.

Another Girl, Another Planet pops up halfway through the set but receives an enthusiastic rendition, slightly faster than the studio version but otherwise similar with Mair’s bass holding it together whilst Perry echoes the space travel lyric. Peter And The Pets gets an extended outro which really motors (lots of “whoos” from the crowd) then straight into the hugely-underestimated No Solution where thankfully the backing vocals are audible. The Immortal Story is another song that goes off like a rocket but the band easily keep up, Kellie crucial here. Traditionally an opportunity for Perry to get creative this is a relatively restrained and compact version. Creature Of Doom sounds far better here than on the Hope & Anchor LP. Then a delightful surprise – finally we have a high quality live version of The Guest, an early and very Velvety song that never made it onto a studio album. Finally The Beast which builds inexorably over 5:42. Peter speaks for virtually the first time to say “thank you” and after 40 minutes of total excellence they are gone.

The band played two sets that night and rest of the set sits in the Alona’s Dream archives, and on this evidence Volume Two would be welcome, John Perry has always claimed that the band were at their best on stage and here, halfway through a challenging tour they are honed to perfection. This is the most exciting live Only Ones recording I have heard, better than the official Live and BBC releases as well as the myriad of unofficial tapes that orbit digitally. It also forms a worthy testament to the late and much-missed Mike Kellie who is heard here at his performing peak.

If you have ever loved this band, you need to get this.

Photocredit: Mike Scott, taken outside Bruces’ Record Shop in Edinburgh 1977


From → Gigs, Music

  1. Mark permalink

    A great live recording of a great band! FYI: The date for this show must have been September 30 (a Sunday) or the early morning of October 1 (a Monday) as the band played the next two nights in Minneapolis at the Longhorn (a ticket stub for October 3 is searchable, but so is a poster that lists October 1 and 2)

  2. Would Mike Scott be Mike Scott of Another Pretty Face/Waterboys?
    M. Scott has to be quite a common name, but the city, the town, the vibe, is right.

  3. Only Ones’ Even Serpents… and Waterboys’ This Is The Sea… both epic albums! Cheers!

  4. stuart reed permalink

    Only just heard about this. Definitely the best live recording of the Only Ones I’ve heard (& I’ve got quite a few). Perfect playing that’s so clear and powerful that you could be right there in front of the speakers. This is the next best thing to seeing em in 1979

  5. Steve permalink

    A “must have” for all fans of The Only Ones

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