John Otway

John Otway

John Otway, (born 2 October 1952, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England) is a self-confessed unsuccessful singer-songwriter, who built a large cult audience through unrelenting touring, a surreal sense of humour and a winning underdog persona.


Arriving on the back of punk rock and a gymnastic performance on "The Old Grey Whistle Test", his first single, the half-spoken love song "Really Free" soared to number 27 in the UK Singles Chart. It would be his greatest success for some time. However, the song did earn him a five album deal with Polydor Records, who thought he was a punk rather than merely eccentric. His first album, recorded with Wild Willy Barrett, was produced by Pete Townshend but sold only fitfully. The follow up singles fared no better despite some imaginative promotion, which included an offer for Otway to come to a lucky buyer's house and perform the single if their copy was one of the few from which the vocal had been omitted.

Despite that, his live audience remained loyal, due to Otway's manic energy and the probability of physical injury during renditions of songs such as "Headbutts". His 1990 autobiography, "Cor Baby, That's Really Me" (subtitled "Rock and Roll's greatest failure") was a study in self-deprecation, and his touring continued to sustain him. By 1993 he could draw 2,500 fans to a gig in London and in 1998 4,000 celebrated his birthday with him at the Royal Albert Hall, coinciding with the release of "Premature Adulation", his first album of new material for over ten years.

By then, Otway had realised he could use his fan base, who were in on the joke, to engage in minor publicity stunts. A well orchestrated grassroots campaign saw his "Beware Of The Flowers Cause I'm Sure They're Going To Get You Yeah" voted the seventh greatest lyric of all time in a BBC poll, but his finest moment came in 2002. Asked what he wanted for his 50th birthday, he requested "a second hit". A concerted drive, including a poll, scrutinised by the Electoral Reform Society, to select the track, saw "Bunsen Burner" — with music sampled from the Trammps classic "Disco Inferno" and lyrics devised to help his daughter with her chemistry homework — reach the UK number nine on 6 October, and earned Otway an appearance on "Top Of The Pops", BBC Television's flagship popular music programme. To encourage fans to buy more than one copy each of the single, he released three different versions. The flip side of "Bunsen Burner — The Hit Mix" was a cover of "The House of the Rising Sun" recorded at Abbey Road Studios and featured 900 of his fans on backing vocals, each of whom was credited by name on the single's sleeve. Thanks to this second hit he has now been able to release his "Greatest Hits" album.

John Otway currently tours as a solo act; as a duo with Richard Holgarth (also of Eddie and the Hot Rods; and often with his Big Band which includes Murray Torkildsen, Seymour, Adam Batterbee and guest keyboard player Barry Upton.

Throughout 2005 and 2006 Otway teamed up with The Hamsters and Wilko Johnson as part of The Mad, The Bad & The Dangerous Tour. A DVD of the tour was released in 2007.

He also delivers occasional (humorous) lectures on the theme, "Making success out of failure".

A world tour was planned in October 2006. Otway, his band and 300 fans were to embark on a world tour with gigs in Las Vegas, Sydney, Shanghai and Dubai. However, due to insufficient numbers (150 signed up) the tour was cancelled.

John now has a motorcycle club of dedicated fans called Beware of the Flowers MCC. [] Members are all Otway fans that also ride bikes.


*"John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett" - John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett (1977) album
*"Deep & Meaningless" - John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett (1978) album
*"Where Did I Go Right" - John Otway (1979) album
*"Way & Bar" - John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett (1980) album
*"Gone With The Bin - The Best Of Otway And Barrett" (1981) compilation
*"All Balls and No Willy" - John Otway (1982) album
*"Bags of Fun With Buster" - Johnny Japes and His Jesticles (1987) - Single released by Viz comic featuring Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory of XTC.
*"The Wimp and The Wild" - John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett (1989) album
*"Cor Baby, That's Really Me!" - John Otway (some tracks w/Wild Willy Barett) (1990) compilation album to accompany Otway's autobiography of the same name
*"Cheryl A Rock Opera" - John Otway & Attila The Stockbroker (1991) album
*"Under The Covers and Over The Top" - John Otway (1992) album
*"Premature Adulation" - John Otway (1995) album
*"OT-AIR" - John Otway (2004) album
*"Bunsen Burner - The Album" - John Otway (2006) album
*"Scraps" - John Otway (2006) (triple) album
*"The Ultimate and the Pen-Ultimate" - John Otway (2007) album
*"The Mad, The Bad & The Dangerous" - with The Hamsters and Wilko Johnson (2007) DVD


*cite book | title= Cor Baby, That's Really Me! | last= Otway | first= John | publisher= Omnibus Press | year= 1990 | isbn= 0711921482


* Guinness Book of British Hit Singles - 16th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-190-X

External links

* [ The BBC Poll]
* [ Otway's news website]
* [ Otway's official website]
* [ John Otway World Tour 2006 official website]
* [ Beware of the Flowers Motorcycle Club]
* [ John Otway's Official MySpace Page]
* [ The Mad, The Bad & The Dangerous Official Website]

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