John Otway

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John Otway, (born 2 October 1952, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire) is an English singer-songwriter, who has built a sizeable cult audience through extensive touring, a surreal sense of humour and a self-deprecating underdog persona.[1]



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" reached number 27 in the UK Singles Chart.[2] 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.[1] His first album, recorded with Wild Willy Barrett, was produced by Pete Townshend but sold only fitfully.[1] 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 single if their copy was one of the few from which the vocal had been omitted.[1] Otway's and Barrett's only other UK chart success came in July 1980 with "DK 50-80", a modest #45 hit.[2]

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". When his music career faltered, the resourceful Otway diversified by co-authoring a play, Verbal Diary. He created a role for himself playing a disorganized, likable twit, and by playing himself to perfection, he found other work playing the same character in commercials on the television.[1]

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.[1] Within weeks the book outsold almost all of his albums. 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[1] 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.[1]

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