Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
It is somewhat ironic that most people know only one song by The Only Ones— “Another Girl, Another Planet.” Originally released in 1978, it received minimal airplay and attention, but its reputation has grown exponentially over the years. The Allmusic review of the song asserts that it is “arguably, the greatest rock single ever recorded.” Of course, people will “argue” about anything, and choosing “Another Girl” as the greatest rock single ever is a bit of a reach, but you have to give the reviewer his due for taking a stand. It is a great song, and it is fitting that it ultimately received the acclaim that it deserved.
The Only Ones formed in London in 1976, led by distinctively anguished vocalist and songwriter Peter Perrett joined by guitarist/keyboard player John Perry, Alan Mair on bass, and drummer Mike Kellie. Featuring strong songwriting by Perrett and surprisingly (for punks of the era) competent playing by the band, they self-released a single, “Lovers of Today.” It sold well enough that a bidding war broke out among major labels looking for the next big thing.
While the label battles raged, the band took refuge at Escape Studio, run by producer John Burns, to record some tracks. The unlikely marriage of Burns – who had started in the industry engineering albums by bands like King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Humble Pie, and who had co-produced three decidedly not-punk Genesis albums – and The Only Ones somehow worked. They finished their efforts at Escape with three 16-track demos, including “Another Girl, Another Planet.” In fact, after signing with CBS Records, and re-recording “Another Girl” at a bigger, fancier, 24-track studio, it ultimately became clear that the “demo” was the right version, and it is the one that was released (with a bit of additional overdubbing to take advantage of the additional tracks).
Despite the quality of the song, it encountered resistance, in part because it was not punk enough for the purists and too punk for mainstream play, but also because the song was perceived to be about drugs. It wasn’t. As Perrett stated in a 2015 interview:
It was inspired by this girl from Yugoslavia. I didn’t go out with her, but she was like a total space cadet, which when I was really young I found interesting. She was just a bit weird – she’d say crazy things, and it just got me thinking that every girl has something different to offer.
As for the drug imagery? Perrett explains:
I put in drug-related imagery, but it wasn’t about drugs. At that time I was more addicted to sex and infatuation than I was to drugs.
Although the band’s three studio albums were generally well received, and they even opened for The Who, by 1982 The Only Ones had disbanded, in large part due to Perrett’s drug problems. When Johnny Thunders (who later, sort of, covered the song) suggests that you need to clean your act up, you know you are messed up. There was a short-lived reunion in 2007, and another in 2014. Perrett released an album, How The West Was Won, in 2017 to excellent reviews, and is touring (although his US and Canada dates were cancelled due to visa problems).
Despite its lack of chart success, “Another Girl, Another Planet” has become a regular part of Best Of lists, compilation albums, box sets, and soundtracks over the years, and has become an often covered song. Because this is Five Good Covers, though, we are going to have to leave out a perfectly fine version by Blink-182, a great, faithful rendition by the Mighty Lemon Drops, the cover by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, and a “classical” take by The London Punkharmonic Orchestra, among others.
Greg Kihn—Another Girl, Another Planet (Only Ones Cover)
The first commercially released cover of the song was in 1986 by Greg Kihn. Lovers of power pop fondly remember Kihn’s record label, Beserkley Records, home also to The Rubinoos, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, and Earth Quake, among others. Kihn had early success with “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” and “Jeopardy,” but by 1986, when he released his cover of “AG, AP,” he was already yesterday’s news. It is a good version of the song, but suffers in comparison to the barely controlled chaos of the original.
The Replacements—Another Girl, Another Planet (Only Ones Cover)
Another band that lived on the edge and had its own substance abuse issues, The Replacements obviously felt a kinship with The Only Ones, and often performed the song as part of their live set (as does Paul Westerberg, solo). They’ve released various live versions of the song over the years, and they definitely channel the spirit of the original.
The Coal Porters—Another Girl, Another Planet (Only Ones Cover)
On the other hand, The Coal Porters, an Anglo-American bluegrass band, completely reimagine it, imbuing the song with a little of the high lonesome sound, making it seems timeless. The original’s pain is turned into something like yearning, and it works.
The Valkyrians—Another Girl, Another Planet (Only Ones Cover)
Everyone’s favorite Finnish rocksteady/ska band, The Valkyrians, covered the song on their 2011 album of 70s and 80s punk and new wave covers, Punkrocksteady, and it is clever and charming. As are the names of the band members: Angster, Letku-Leroy, Mr. Moonhead, Gladiator, and Big Deal.
Misty Miller—Another Girl, Another Planet (Only Ones Cover)
Misty Miller is a twenty-something singer who initially made a name as a ukulele-toting folkie, sweetly singing songs like “Tiptoe Through The Bluebells.” But a few years and a bunch of tattoos and piercings later, she is more often compared to Chrissie Hynde, Anna Calvi or Laura Marling. Her father Dominic is a renowned studio musician, and has long been Sting’s favored guitarist (and brother Rufus has also played guitar in Sting’s band), but Misty generally favors harder fare. Her cover of “AG, AP,” though, is very different—a stripped down version featuring Miller accompanying herself on electric guitar. It is, if anything, reminiscent of early Billy Bragg.
The Only Ones have way more than only one song, as you can see on Amazon.