John Otway


One of the great eccentrics of our age, John Otway careers happily through a life that is an object lesson in controlled chaos.

The self-styled great rock ‘n’ roll failure may be limited in musical talent but his engaging personality and exuberant approach wins him fans galore.

 Way back in 1977 his first single Cor Baby That’s Really Free became a hit simply because it was fun and no one had ever heard or indeed seen anything like it before. It even earned him a five album deal after he was mistakenly identified as a punk rock genius. He’s been optimising his not too promising potential as a rock god ever since. There was even a second hit single, Bunsen Burner, in 2002.

This show found Otway throwing himself around the tiny Forest Arts stage, slashing at his guitar, nutting the microphone and kicking daft noises out of the fuzz box he bought to replace Richard his now departed guitarist.

Along the way he made much fun of his new roadie, a long suffering fellow known as Deadly, played his uniquely analytical version of The House of the Rising Sun with help from a boisterous heckler planted in the audience, recited Bowie’s Space Oddity in a broad Cumbrian accent (odd for a man from Buckinghamshire) and showed what the theremin was made for with an inspired, if slightly unhinged, reading of The Osmond’s Crazy Horses.

We also witnessed Otway, enlisting help from his old mate record producer Barry Upton on proper guitar, hurling himself off a step-ladder as he let loose on Bachman Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, flinging his guitar across the stage and even employing the ever-obliging Deadly as a surrogate left buttock. Don’t ask!

Let’s just say that Otway had observed earlier that the acquisition of a roadie was one of the few advantages of the current financial crisis. “People are so desperate, they’ll do anything,” he explained.

What can you say? “Cor baby, that was really weird” might just be appropriate. 

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2017