From the age of 9, John Otway knew he wanted to be a pop star. But even at thatyoung age, having listened to his sister’s Beatles and Stones records, he knew hewould never be able to do what they do. However, when his sister got the latestBob Dylan album, he knew there was a place for him and he set about learninghow to play guitar.
Otway had to wait until 1977 and the rise of punk before his dream of fame and fortunewould finally become a reality. Having caught the eye of the producers of the BBC’s OldGrey Whistle Test, Otway’s performance on that show would grab the attention of thewatching audience. Otway, ever the showman, decided to jump on to the amplifier ofhis colleague during a performance of Bob Lind’s Cheryl’s Going Home. (Un)fortunatelyfor Otway, he misjudged his leap and sent Wild Willy Barrett’s amplifier tumbling as hecrashed down straddling the box under the amp.
The full force of the impact was absorbed by the most tender part of his body, but indoing this one simple act of recklessness and his wanton disregard for his own safety,Otway was the talk of everyone who watched that evening’s programme.
Not only did he see a surge in his audiences, sales of Otway’s sixth single, the halfspoken love song Really Free increased dramatically and reached number 27 in the UKSingles Chart. An appearance on the BBC’s flagship music programme Top of the Pops,where Otway & Barrett were introduced by Elton John later, Otway was finally a star. Itwould however, be his greatest success for some time.
Despite numerous attempts to get back into the charts, Otway would have to wait 25years for his next taste of chart success. In the intervening years, Otway would becomean actor; write an autobiography (Cor Baby That’s Really Me: Rock and Roll’s GreatestFailure); perform sold out shows at London’s Astoria and Royal Albert Hall; makeregular appearances at both Glastonbury and Edinburgh Festivals; and write the nation’sseventh favourite lyric of all-time (beating Bob Dylan and Paul Simon in the process).
In 2002, Otway achieved what he desired the most – a second hit. A concerted publicitycampaign saw Otway reach number 9 with the disco pastiche Bunsen Burner and asecond appearance on Top of the Pops. Despite this success, a planned world tourcollapsed, but Otway continued to gig extensively around the UK either with his band,as a duo with Wild Willy Barrett or solo. A follow-up autobiography was penned in 2010and titled: I Did It Otway: Regrets I’ve Had a Few.
To celebrate his 60th birthday in 2012, Otway produced his debut movie titled Otwaythe Movie: The Story of Rock n Roll’s Greatest Failure. A screening for producers washeld at London’s Leicester Square with the final scenes from the movie filmed on thered carpet and edited into the film as the audience were watching. The film was thentaken to Cannes Film Festival and a 50-date tour of cinemas in both the UK and NorthAmerica. It was subsequently voted the 2nd best film of the year in a poll of its readersconducted by The Guardian newspaper.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Otway took his band to the Caribbeanisland of Montserrat to record a new album. The album would be the first to berecorded on the island by an international artist since The Rolling Stones recorded SteelWheels in 1989. Produced by Grammy-award winner Chris Birkett and recorded atOlveston House – the former home of Sir George Martin, it was released to criticalacclaim in May 2017.