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John Otway

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Biography

Armed with only a modicum of musical ability, a self-deprecating sense of humour and no apparent fear of public humiliation, this Cockney bloke carved out a modest recording career. Anything to avoid returning to his former calling as a garbageman.He first attracted notice with his frenzied live shows, in which he showed no respect for his personal safety. He parlayed the buzz generated by fans of his stage act into a single called "Cor Baby That's Really Free." Eager to cash in on a punk phenomenon it didn't really understand, Polydor signed Otway to a deal which would result in five albums for the label. His wilfully amateur approach was actually an asset with the ascendancy of punk.He's caught the attention of some of Britain's biggest rock stars. Pete Townsend produced and played on John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, the 1977 debut. Steeleye Span drummer Nigel Pegrum also played. Paul McCartney once asked Otway to open on a tour by Wings, but he had to decline due to other commitments.Otway didn't rely on only his whacked-out stage shows or loony-tune recordings to earn a reputation as one of rock's true eccentrics. On one of his albums, three tunes had only the backing vocal track. If your copy lacked the headliner's voice, he would volunteer to come round to your place and belt out his part while you played it on your stereo. Desperate for a hit at another time in his career, he refused to admit anyone for dates on a national tour who didn't have a copy of his latest single. This worked for fans because the price of the single was less than the cost of a concert ticket.When his music career faltered, the resourceful Otway diversified before the term became popular. Co-writing a play called Verbal Diary, he created a role for himself playing a disorganized, likable twit. By playing himself to perfection, he found other work playing the same character in commercials on the telly. Branching out still farther, Otway wrote his autobiography during a slow time for both his music and acting endeavors. Cor Baby That's Really Me (Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure) crystallized his strategy of marketing himself as a lovable loser. Within weeks the book outsold almost all of his albums.Encouraged by a crowd of 2,500 at his 2,000th concert in London in 1993, Otway spent the next two years to record new songs. Premature Adulation was his first album in five years.As the millennium ground to a halt, Otway continued to get music and acting work where he could find it.

Top Songs

Genre
Years Active:

'70s, '80s, '90s

Contemporaries