Sunday, 3 June 2018
John Otway - John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett (1977); Deep & Meaningless (1978)
Firstly, I have to declare in interest here, as I spent my teenage years in Aylesbury, home of John Otway. From 1973 through to the early 1980s I saw him live many, many times. Otway is known for his madcap live shows and has always had a small but dedicated cult following who lap up his somewhat contrived lunacy with endless appetite and enthusiasm. Fair enough. However, I have to say (maybe controversially) that the expected wackiness of it all used to irritate me, considerably.
"You miserable old whatever..." I hear you say - "he was great, really funny". Yes, maybe, if that is your taste. For me, though, I always felt the staged idiocy overshadowed the fact that Otway was/is a great songwriter and people really didn't give his songs the credit they deserved.
Listen to my own personal favourite, "Josephine". It is a beautiful, narrative song. So is "Geneve" (although I prefer the "full band" version to be found on the Otway anthology). The folk rock/early Rod Stewart influenced "Gypsy" and "Trying Times"; the catchy "Place Farm Way"; the romantic "To Anne"; the sad "I Wouldn't Wish It On You" and the tuneful and slightly humorous "I Can't Complain" are just great songs. They shouldn't be overlooked.
That said, it is probably equally important that I shouldn't overlook the fun stuff - the catchy, bizarre "Louisa On A Horse”, or "Ohwwn An 'Awwss" as he sings, with its Buckinghamshire location name checks; the loopy "Beware Of The Flowers"; the ludicrous "Oh My Body Is Making Me" and the semi-"hit" "Really Free". "Racing Cars" is also similarly nutty and "Misty Mountain" and "Murder Man" are examples of folky tracks gone slightly wrong somewhere.
I guess you had to be there to truly appreciate this, or else have seen him live, but if you want to give a try to a genuinely quirky UK oddity, then you will get something out of this two-album compilation, I am sure.
JOHN OTWAY & WILD WILLY BARRETT (1977) B-
DEEP & MEANINGLESS (1978) B