Sunday, 21 December 2008

Really Really Free

The story is with John Otway that Polydor Records signed him up on the back of a demo version of 'Really Free', believing that he was punk, and was going to become punk's answer to Neil Sedaka, or something.

The story concludes that Otway wasn't punk, but merely 'eccentric', so Polydor got bored and moved on to their next big thing (Penetration also suffered at the hands of Polydor, a label who really just didn't get punk at all!).

The truth is that Otway is really about as punk as you can get.
Okay, he may not have sported a mohawk or sputnik, donned bondage trousers or sang about smashing the state; but he was certainly DIY and very much the Situationist.

I first encountered him, as undoubtedly did many others, via a BBC television broadcast back in 78, accompanied by his long suffering on and off musical collaborator, the extremely talented Wild Willy Barrett.

It was an unbelievable performance.
I smashed my china pig that very night and the next day had in my possession the pair's 7" single: 'Really Free'.
And O bliss, on the flipside was 'Beware of the Flowers (Because I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You Yeah)'; I was hooked, and have been a fan of their music ever since.

So, hit upon some nostalgia here to see Otway & Barrett's amazing, now legendary BBC performance.
This really is the Situationist at work; someone really making the most of appearing on national television:

Just in case you can't be bothered to watch the whole of that incredible piece of TV, here's a seventeen second highlight from that performance of the bit where Otway looks as though he has done himself a quite serious injury - all in the name of art. Of course.

Watching this performance gives one an insight as to why it may have been the pair separated more times than any other musical unit - at one time they had an entry in The Guinness Book of Records for holding the record for an entertainment act splitting up and getting back together more than any other.

But Otway was always a great crowd pleaser; comparable to Jackie Chan in his stage antics.

I once saw him perform at London's Rainbow Theatre (RIP) in 1980 (without Barrett this time, they'd had a recent spat, so Otway performed with a full backing band [Polydor still believed in him at this time]), and he went through this number about meeting various people while walking down the street. Whoever he met, he became, and one of those he met was Olga Korbut (takes you back!), he then proceeded to throw himself around the stage, attempting cart wheels and back flips, resulting in what looked like he would never be able to walk again.

Notice the way in the BBC clip Barrett constantly has his eye on Otway, always ready to move out of the way when Otway spontaneously decides to include acrobatics as part of the song's delivery.

How Otway survived his self-inflicted physical punishment, he only knows - perhaps he has a rubber skeleton - but he did, and he's still performing - there's plenty of recent YouTube clips to prove it - do check out his double necked guitar, the like of which cannot be imagined!

Otway & Barrett's material has long been deleted; Polydor has failed to reissue the albums on CD, but this album, Gone With the Bin, really does capture the prime of their work; and for once the term 'Best of' is well used.

All the tracks bar one are selected from Otway & Barrett's collaborated albums, and that's certainly where the best Otway material can be found.
His solo albums... well... they never really did it for me.

Otway needed Barrett like Peters needed Lee or Karen needed Richard.

The only solo piece on this collection comes not from Otway, but from one of Wild Willy's solo albums, the excellent Call of the Wild.

An absurdest little number entitled 'I did it Otway'.
Here we hear Barrett playing a pleasant acoustic ditty, but sawing into the instrument as the tune progresses.
By the end of the track the guitar is totally dismembered, but it is amazing the extent of damage the instrument can take before finally becoming unplayable.
It's a great concept, and quite wonderful hearing the tune being played while slowly becoming sicker and sicker.

Apparently, the guitar belonged to Otway!

Otway & Barrett - Gone with the Bin (1981)

Beware of the Flowers
Racing Cars (Jet Spotter of the Track)
Oh My Body is Making Me
Running From the Law
Cheryl's Going home
Birthday Boy
Really Free
Louisa Riding on a Horse
Body Talk
The Man who Shot Liberty Valance
Baby's in the Club
I Did it Otway

Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs
Really really really free here


Wild Man Mikey said...

brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Otway is worth catching live anytime, anyplace anywhere - always exactly the same, always hilarious. Having had the pleasure of speaking to him a couple of times can also confirm that he's a really nice bloke as well. Thanks for sharing this - will put a big smile on my face at work tomorrow :-)

Anonymous said...

Top post!! A classic act - cheers a lot. Andy

Richard said...


newelectricmuse said...

Saw them supporting Squeeze in about 1981 - once seen never forgotten! Otway gives his all! This tracklist looks like the business.

Cardiacs, Calvert and other Hawkwinds, Gong...and now Otway and do have good taste, Sir. I've even got that Black Uhuru LP you just posted!


Kevin said...

I love it!!! Thanks!!

Beowulf said...

Brillent thanks, Otaway is living proof that there is only a slight difference between Genius and Insanity

roy rocket said...

Glad you all liked this post.

If anyone has any live recordings of Otway & Barrett circa late seventies, I'd really appreciate a copy - used to own some old BBC recordings, but long gone...

I plan to post Wild Willy Barrett's 'Call of the Wild' soon, so watch out for that one, as that's a great album.

Thanks for all comments.
Shanti, roy

dtikler said...

Great stuff.

We saw Willy Barrett play a year or so ago in a restaurant in Glastonbury - playing jigs and songs with a few friends. Wonderful night. The curry was good too.

roy rocket said...

Well a good Ruby is the perfect accompaniment to most things, is it not?
Glad to hear the Wild One is still at large; and I'm still planning on posting some of his solo material here in the near future.
When I get it together...
Shanti, roy

kami said...

the one and only time i saw barrett/otway was late nite on tv playing before ac/dc!!! it was amazing and i sang cheryl's going home for months after that... no one else had any idea what the hell i was on about :D (i'm in australia by the way) thanks for bringing back the memories of an innocent youth

roy rocket said...

Nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia...
Glad to reacquaint you with something wonderful. Enjoy.
Regards, roy