John Perry (musician)

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John Perry
JP chelsea.jpg
Perry onstage in 2019
Background information
Birth nameJohn M. Perry
Born (1952-06-04) 4 June 1952 (age 67)
Bristol, England, United Kingdom
  • Musician
  • Author
  • Composer
  • Guitar
  • Piano
  • Bass
Years active1971–present

John M. Perry (born 4 June 1952) is an English musician, songwriter, and author. He came to prominence in the mid-1970s as the guitarist for the English rock band the Only Ones.

The Only Ones came out of London during the first wave of punk (1976–77) and, rather like the New York bands the Heartbreakers and Television with whom they later toured, suffered from being too musical for lumpen-punk but too "new" for conservative record business sensibilities. Though they were lumped in with the new wave vanguard, the band were too musically literate - not to mention long in the tooth - to be punks. Rather they were sophisticated guitar rockers whose sound embraced all flavors of 50s and 60s rock.[1] Although never a huge commercial success, the band are highly influential.[2]

Perry's guitar style is noted for a combination of attack and melody, a mixture that the UK music magazine Sounds described as being "very superb".[3]

Music career[edit]

John Perry was born in Bristol and began to play the guitar at the age of 12.[4] In his early teens he played roles in BBC Radio Drama and for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Well paid, and a Beach Boys fan, he was torn between buying a surfboard or a guitar. He chose the latter and started his music career with local bands in Bristol. At 20 he joined a loose bunch of musicians centred on the Pink Fairies, Hawkwind and other UK Underground bands. After appearing at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre (the first with the pyramid stage), he played in a series of British and European tours and festivals in Pilton, Oxford, Trentishoe etc.

His bands include the Ratbites from Hell (pre-Only Ones) and Decline and Fall (post-Only Ones). He has also worked with Johnny Thunders, Marianne Faithfull, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Alejandro Escovedo, the Sisters of Mercy, Mick Green, Robert Palmer, Evan Dando of The Lemonheads, Martin Stephenson and the Daintees, Wayne Kramer, Screaming Lord Sutch, James Williamson, Nick Kent & The Subterraneans, Michael Nyman, JC Carroll, The Members, Freddie Stevenson and Jayne County,.[5] He acted as musical director on the Johnny Thunders/Patti Palladin album Copycats.

In late 1975, Perry hooked up with Peter Perrett, recording demos in South London. Over the next twelve months this collaboration evolved into the band the Only Ones. After a self-produced single, "Lovers of Today/Peter and the Pets," the Only Ones signed a recording contract with CBS in January 1978. The band also received offers from Sire, Anchor and Island.[6] According to reliable sources Island owner Chris Blackwell made several impassioned pleas to the band, culminating in a helicopter dash to a Midlands gig where he made a final appeal for the band sign to Island.

The band's first major label single, "Another Girl, Another Planet," appeared on CBS to immediate and almost universal critical acclaim but crawled no higher than the lower reaches of the Top 60, achieving only #56 UK. Despite frequent re-releases over three decades in various formats, sizes, and coloured vinyls the record never became a hit, even after frequent appearances in films and in a major European TV and cinema advertising campaign for Vodafone. The single appears in several critical volumes such as Paul Williams' Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles[7] but has remained a "turntable hit". Working with producer Colin Thurston, the band later achieved a top forty album with Baby's Got a Gun (#37 UK).[6]

Between 1976 and 1980, the band recorded three studio LPs for CBS Records (Epic Records in the US) and also made sufficient appearances on BBC Radio and TV to release two albums: The John Peel Sessions and a double CD, Darkness & Light: The Complete BBC Recordings.[8] John Perry cites The Peel Sessions as his favourite of all the bands' releases. "We were a great live band and the Peel recordings represent that. In bigger studios some band-members went overboard, filling all 48 tracks 'because they were there'; the Peel Sessions were live performances recorded on 8 track. Four songs in an afternoon. Less piddling around."[9]

The Only Ones split in 1980 during an eventful US tour supporting the Who, which saw the arrests of several band members in separate events in California. In late February 2007, the Only Ones reformed,[2] appearing at All Tomorrow's Parties and a sold-out show at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. That summer they played huge outdoor festivals; they were second on the bill in London's Hyde Park to The White Stripes, and appeared at Harewood House in Yorkshire, and Inveraray Castle in Scotland where they played with Big Star, Primal Scream, Johnny Marr and many others.

The band's tour schedule throughout 2008–10 took them to France, Spain, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and twice to Japan. They returned to play Japan for a third time in November 2014. Despite packed concerts and great reviews, sources close to the band confirmed that the new songs heard in concert were not scheduled for release. These shows in Tokyo mark the band's final appearance.

Perry, who played lead guitar on the Lemonheads' album Varshons, joined Evan Dando onstage at the Ben & Jerry's Summer Sundae festival at Clapham Common, London on 27 July 2008.[10]

More recently, Perry has played live and recorded with Martin Stephenson and the Daintees, Mark Keds' East London band Deadcuts, The Members frontman JC Carroll and Texan singer Alejandro Escovedo. Perry & Perrett appeared on Alejandro Escovedo's album 'The Crossing' and in January 2019 Perry joined guests Wayne Kramer (MC5), James Williamson (Stooges), and Joe Ely for the tour's opening night at The Paramount in Austin TX.


Perry has written three books of musicology. First "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy" on the Who's classic singles;[11] and second an account of the making of the Rolling Stones' double album Exile on Main St.. His third book, on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, was one of the earliest titles commissioned for the 33⅓ series of books on music topics. These books have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese language editions.

A new book on the influential acoustic guitarist Bert Jansch will be published in 2019 by Bloomsbury.

  • The Who: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1998)
  • The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street (22 December 2000)
  • Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland (33⅓) (31 March 2004)


  1. ^ Julian Cope Head Heritage (30/10/2009)
  2. ^ a b Petridis, Alexis (4 April 2007), "'Junkies today are disgusting'", The Guardian, retrieved 21 August 2015
  3. ^ Sounds, May 1978
  4. ^ Vigilante, Jonesy, "only one - JOHN PERRY", Punk Globe, retrieved 21 August 2015
  5. ^ "Lemonheads – Varshons", Uncut, 9 June 2009, retrieved 22 August 2015
  6. ^ a b Thompson, Dave (2000), Alternative Rock, p. 536, retrieved 21 August 2015
  7. ^ Williams 100, retrieved 22 August 2015
  8. ^ Unterberger, Richie, the Only Ones, AllMusic, retrieved 21 August 2015
  9. ^ Interview with Pete Makowski Sounds
  10. ^ Gandolfi, Marco (30 August 2008), The Lemonheads,, retrieved 21 August 2015
  11. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (15 December 1998), "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy: The Who", Salon

External links[edit]