About John Otway


John Otway is an English singer-songwriter who has built a sizeable cult audience through extensive touring.


Although his first single, "Gypsy"/"Misty Mountain" was released in 1972, Otway shot to fame on the back of punk rock and a gymnastic performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test. His sixth single, the half-spoken love song "Really Free" reached number 27 in the UK Singles Chart in 1977. It would be his greatest success for some time. The song earned him a five-album deal with Polydor Records, who viewed him as a punk rather than merely an 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 buyer's house and perform the 1979 single, "Frightened And Scared", if their copy was one of only three copies from which the vocal had been omitted. Otway's and Barrett's only other UK chart success came in July 1980 with "DK 50/80", a modest No. 45 hit.


When Otway turned solo, his audience remained loyal despite poor record sales, and perhaps because of the possibility of physical injury during renditions of songs such as "Headbutts". In the mid 1980s, he often appeared on Vivian and Ki Longfellow-Stanshall's showboat, the Old Profanity Showboat, in Bristol's Floating Harbour. He also appeared as the musical guest in the final episode of the British sitcom The Young Ones, "Summer Holiday".


His 1990 autobiography, Cor Baby, That's Really Me was a study in self-deprecation, and his touring continued to sustain him. In the 1990s, he toured as "Headbutts and Halibuts", with Attila the Stockbroker with whom he wrote a surreal rock opera called Cheryl. In 1992 Otway appeared at GuilFest. In 1993 he was able to 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 fanbase, who were in on the joke, to engage in minor publicity stunts. A 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. In 2002, when asked what he wanted for his 50th birthday, he requested "a second hit". A concerted drive, including a poll to select the track, saw "Bunsen Burner" — with music sampled from the Trammps song "Disco Inferno" and lyrics devised to help his daughter with her chemistry homework – reach number nine in the UK Singles Chart 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 featuring 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. Commenting on the fact that the title of this album is now in the plural, Otway said that he was very proud of it, having "finally got it on the right side of Hit".


Buoyed by the success of the hit campaign, Otway planned an ambitious world tour in October 2006. Otway proposed hiring his own jet to take his band, and 300 of his fans, to some of the most prestigious venues in the world, including Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House. Despite over 150 fans signing up, the tour was cancelled as the costs of the plane spiralled.


This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "John Otway", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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