In the world of Spotify and other on-demand music services, I still get most of my music from the radio.
I get why services like Spotify are popular, but to make them work you have to decide what you want to listen to and then the streaming services play you songs as close as possible to your favourites until you tell it to stop.
Radio, however, outside the fairly predictable output of Top 40 stations, is a lot more random…especially if you don’t listen slavishly to a single station.
So it was the other day when I got into my car after a meeting and switched on the radio to hear the closing bars of a favourite tune of mine…a song I haven’t heard for ages.
Often described as a “one hit wonder”, “Another Girl, Another Planet” wasn’t even really much of a hit…more of a wonder, I suppose. It didn’t chart at all on its 1978 release and limped into the lower reaches of the charts a few years later partly, I’m sure, because it featured in John Peel’s Festive 50 for 1980.
For serious music fans, this was the definitive list of cool tracks complied annually by Radio 1’s coolest DJ. Considering the other people they employed at the time, unkind readers might think that wasn’t an especially demanding target. But John Peel was a music icon and his opinion really counted.
If he championed a track, you didn’t need to say any more about how good it was… John Peel’s endorsement was enough on its own.
When John Peel described “Another Girl, Another Planet” as “an artful little caprice”, then you knew something intriguing was on the way.
Although I adored today’s song the first time I heard it, for many years I didn’t fully appreciate what the lyrics were really about.
There is so much else to like in “Another Girl, Another Planet” though, even before I understood its lyrics.
The intro owes something to “Telstar” by the Tornadoes. The guitar part makes a lot of the “greatest guitar solos of all time” lists, with its soaring otherworldliness. And the tortured vocals lay almost casually on top of a hard driving track.
I say “tortured vocals”…that refers more to the singing style than the content of the lyrics…at least on the surface. For many years I thought the song was just a boy singing about a girl who had left him.
Turns out, the lyrics are in fact about the lead singer’s drug addiction and how each hit takes him into outer space, somewhere far away, like being on another planet.
There are a few great lines in “Another Girl, Another Planet”…which make a lot more sense when you realise what the lead singer is really singing about…
I always flirt with death
I look ill but I don’t care about it
I love lyrics because there’s a real skill to conveying big concepts in just a handful of words. In those two lines you have one of the best descriptions of a pathological addiction to make it into the lyrics of a popular song.
“Another Girl, Another Planet” goes on to describe the lead singer’s battle with his addictions…
You always play to win
But I won’t need rehabilitating, no, no
I think the playing to win idea is a great lyrical device…the idea that the singer is in a daily battle with this force that keeps him addicted, a force that plays a strong hand. The way he sneers out the word “rehabilitating” syllable by syllable seems to demonstrate his contempt for the very idea.
Of course, you could interpret all this…as I did for many years…as some kind of metaphor about a girl leaving a boy and the boy wanting her back because he can’t live without her. Just on that level “Another Girl, Another Planet” is a great song.
I’m grateful that my strongest addiction is to chocolate…it could be a lot worse. But, advertising jingles apart, I’m pretty sure there isn’t much demand for a song about Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. So I won’t be turning my addictions into a hit record any time soon.
“Another Girl, Another Planet” is a little gem of a song.
With music and lyrics by lead singer Peter Perrett, brilliantly tortured vocals, a classic guitar solo and an under-appreciated but highly energetic drum track, this song is a metaphor for whatever you want desperately, but can’t have.
It’s The Only Ones with “Another Girl, Another Planet” …