John Otway. Kings Head, Fulham 1983
After 6 months on the pig farm, post ‘A’-levels, and a morose Christmas in Scotland spent mainly walking in the woods, stoned on Black Leb, listening to sad Fairport Convention songs on a cheap Walkman, things had to change. A chance meeting in a pub after Xmas and suddenly I was sharing a flat in London with Christopher John Dry, The Vicar’s son. A disgusting basement bedsit in Earl’s Court with, no lie, an inch of fag-butts and cat-shit on the carpet, rented from a Mr Malty. Horace next door collected the rent and we scored hash off his girlfriend. By a weird quirk of fate, my brother ended up sharing an attic bedsit the following year in the same building. Half the size for the same rent.
Anyway, the first gig we saw was John Otway at the King’s Head. It was close, it was cheap and I had a copy of “Really Free”, his only hit. Otway was the original One-Hit Wonder to the extent his autobiography was named just that . His stage act hasn’t changed in over 30 years. He started on the pub-rock and College circuit and had his big break appearing on The Old Grey Whistle Test, where he climbed the lighting rig and fell off an amp. A water-cooler moment if ever there was one. Well, there were only 3 TV channels in those days…
We loved it. Jumping off step-ladders, somersaulting across the floor, head butting his mic, playing 2 top halves from different Gibson SGs screwed together, gurning. The ultimate geek, like a kid showing off with limited talent.
We went 4 weeks in a row and the audiences got bigger each week. Nice, friendly crowd, lots of beer and laughter. He played his 3,000thgig at the Royal Albert Hall in about 2000 and I took Sam, my wife, to see him at The Venue, Kentish Town in 2004. A pub venue with about 40 blokes of a certain age, with lots of beer and laughter. I got a great photo of a very sweaty Otway trying to kiss her. Nice.