John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett Durham Launderette 5 May 2023

Otway is a pop star. Well he must be because he says it’s true. After all he resigned himself to his future as a pop star icon when he otway tixwas young watching Top of the Pops. He didn’t dare reveal his true ambition to his mother who would not have believed him so he kept it quiet until he met his friend Wild Willy Barrett and the two of them embarked upon a lifelong career, all with the ultimate aim of making John Otway a true pop star. Sometimes along that journey the two would fall out but destiny would bring them back together again as they are today. The strange marriage has now reached its 50th birthday (wow! Can it be true) and the odd couple are travelling the roads of England singing their songs to cult followers old and new.

otway3Now it is long long time since I witnessed Otway and Barrett. I have seen Otway advertised solo many times over the years but have passed on the opportunity of joining our true pop star in concert until now. The last time I saw the duo was probably in Newcastle Cooperage on a tour where to gain entry, free, you had to take along their latest 45 rpm single. Or maybe it was at Maxwell’s nightclub in Tynemouth (long since gone). Whatever, it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. So, time to renew my acquaintance with the one and only true pop star, John Otway.

OtWAY 1Jackie, my carer, and I arrived early and on time to snatch a couple of seats close to the front (well actually everyone is close to the front in the Launderette). In fact, the kind man on the door made sure that I had plenty of room in my wheelchair and that we had a great view of the stage. Soon our heroes took to said stage and it was not long before Otway delivered his hit, which made him a pop star “Really Free” and brought the duo into our living rooms on the Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops. Otway was on top form, really getting into the angst of his ballads, ripping his shirt open, and being, well, a pop star.

otway 2After a short interval, during which I was pleased to meet my old friend Mitch, who would often comment on my blog, we were away again with “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, “Two Little Boys” (yes the song which became a hit for he who shall not be named, but Otway sang it before that) and the wonderful “Beware of The Flowers… Coz You Know They are Going To Get You… Yeah!”. Soon we are close to the end and Otway tears out his heart in front of us to the beautiful Bob Lind ballad “Cheryl’s Going Home “; I can feel the emotion in his voice and his typically over-the-top melodramatic performance is well; just wonderful.” Choo-Choo “goes the train down the track taking Otway’s love Cheryl away for ever. My heart goes out to my favourite pop star. Melodramatic magic.

otway4Now I must make mention of the many guitars and other instruments including a violin and a set of Bagpuss bagpipes played largely by Wild Willy and sometimes by Otway. And I just have to mention Wild Willy’s brown dustbin which he opens frequently to reveal a loud amplifier hiding within. Willy closes the set by sawing his guitar in rhythm to the music, hitting the same guitar with a claw hammer (I kid you not) and then stamping on it. He sells the guitar to a guy in the audience for £31.99 and promises that if you bring two of his smashed guitars along to a gig, you will be admitted free. And he means it. A couple of encores and then our two heroes are gone. Jackie is now convinced that Otway is indeed a pop star.
Thanks to Jackie and Mitch for the photos and Mitch for the set list (thanks, much appreciated)

Set List: Louisa on a horse; Gypsy; Really free; Best dream; If I did; Separated; Misty mountain; Bluey green; Body talk. INTERVAL. Somewhere over the rainbow; Two little boys; Real tears from both eyes; Beware of the flowers; 21 days; The snowflake effect; Come back darling; Cheryl’s going home.

Encores (sort of) – Racing cars; Geneve.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bryan on May 9, 2023 at 6:31 pm

    I remember John & Wild Willy playing regularly at The Favourite pub in Luton, early 70’s. Saw Willy playing piano in a pub a few years back. He was living on a canal boat on the Grand Union. He played some incredible honky tonk piano. A lovely guy to talk to with a deep understanding of music.


    • Posted by vintagerock on May 10, 2023 at 10:20 am

      Thanks for sharing Bryan yes he seems a nice guy. Great to see the pair together again. Happy days Peter


  2. Posted by Kevin Brewis on May 10, 2023 at 12:05 am

    just a question, wanna know how to get tkts for the FX in town, tried ringing box office directly they said Email eventim, this was for the Damned gig, been seeing them since 77, I’m in a wheelchair also, , can you tell me how to do this please.


  3. Nice read. Thanks. Has the pleasure of seeing this pair back in their pomp in the early 80s. Glorious stuff. Keep on truckin’ …


  4. Posted by Clive Swainston on May 11, 2023 at 5:19 pm

    WHAT no House of the rising sun ! Just listened to the Storybeat podcast enjoyed it, well done Peter & Laura


    • Posted by vintagerock on May 11, 2023 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks Clive pleased that you enjoyed it best wishes Peter


      • Posted by Clive Swainston on May 11, 2023 at 5:29 pm

        I hope im not infringing on copy rights here but I know you like Alan Hull, here is a link to Winter song I done a few years back hope you enjoy

      • Posted by vintagerock on May 11, 2023 at 5:35 pm

        Sounds great Clive happy days Peter

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