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But what we seem to have booked isn't the Studio room so much as the, er Otway, 53, is still best known for his hit, "Really Free". The "Otway World Tour" is without doubt the most audacious venture in the recent history of popular music. It's true, of course, that other performers - people such as Elton John and Elvis Costello - are endlessly crossing time zones between performances, but both of those artists have a more ificant global following than Otway, whose warm-up for the autumn excursion began at the Grey Horse in Kingston upon Thames.
The trip will offer residents of China the first opportunity to see the former dustman from Aylesbury play live in their country. He is taking his audience with him, on his own plane, chartered from Air Tahiti, repainted in the livery of Ot-Air. The Airbus will carry members of his omega maniacally faithful hardcore following. At the time of writing, 56 seats remain unsold. I considered doing it acoustically - backpacking, with a ticket from Trailfinders. Then it occurred to me that I could charter my own plane.
Moments later I started to picture the place names on the T-shirts. Once ideas of this kind have entered your head, it's terrible. I was on Ask Jeeves the same afternoon, checking the price of a plane.
Curiously for a man who has never concealed his lust for fame, Otway, off-stage, is diffident, considerate and unmistakably a decent person. An intense, highly intelligent man, he was an outstanding physics student who couldn't spell or add up. At one point he launches into an aside about the possible impact of quantum theory on future definitions of human consciousness. There's still enough ungainliness in his physical movements to see how he acquired his reputation as an idiot savant and to explain how some of his teachers suggested he might prosper at a "special" school.
In a business where performers traditionally exaggerate their ability, Otway - a gifted songwriter who is capable of captivating and deranged live performance - has repeatedly disparaged his own work and hyped himself as "Rock'n'Roll's Greatest Failure". He had his second success, "Bunsen Burner", inafter he told his network of supporters that he would like another hit as his 50th birthday present. He or she would be sitting at home in, let's say, Worcester. They'd see on the internet: stock in Nottingham. Then they'd drive north, buy the lot, and file the message: Nottingham cleared.
They see some performers on stage, crowing about how rich they are, and understandably it fills them with feelings of inadequacy and rage. I make them feel good. But then the second hit went to the head. I started to think - right. I've cracked the UK. But I have neglected ificant areas of the rest of the overseas market. The deated film crew - who currently make Monkey Business, a reality show that charts the intimate lives of a community of chimpanzees in Dorset - are, Otway assures me, consummate professionals, eager to expand their portfolio by collaborating with the higher primates.
This tour may be their boldest adventure to date, but the track record of Otway and his ingenious supporters is impeccable. They hired, and sold out, the London Palladium, more than a year before "Bunsen Burner" was released and held a party there to celebrate its triumph.
In OctoberOtway filled the Royal Albert Hall, having booked the 5,seat venue two years in advance. I have to declare an interest at this point. As a fan, I've watched Otway many times, right from the start of his career, when he played with his then collaborator Wild Willy Barrett at venues such as The Oranges and Lemons, a small pub in Oxford.
In those days, Otway approached the stage with the masochistic exhibitionism of the bullied schoolboy who'd drunk bottles of ink and hung off bridges by his ankles, while his tormentors laughed and girls screamed at him to stop.
Otway could barely play, but with his white shirt torn open, scattering buttons into the crowd, he would run along a scaffolding pole 10 feet above the stage, singing lines such as: "Look out Princes Risborough - I'm back. He still wears his trademark white shirt and black trousers when performing, though these days he looks less like a delinquent and more like a chemistry professor whose class have spiked his Earl Grey with Rohypnol.
Because I could see the sharpened points of the cymbals below. He brought down the speaker stack but fractured no bones when he landed on the sharp corner of a bass cabinet, as the impact was cushioned by his testicles. Because that was what I'd been doing for years. Suddenly I fitted in. The trouble was that eventually even the punks learnt how to play.
John Otway's curious mixture of wit, poetry and acrobatics was never well-suited to the rigid categorisation that colours the thinking of major British labels.
Had Otway been born in France, as Jonathan Rendall observed in this newspaper some years ago, he would never have had to work at being a legend. It's patently absurd, I suggest to the singer, to judge his career by counting the hit singles he's had. By that criterion, Randy Newman and Little Richard are failures as well. But his fondness for playing the clown has obscured the quality of the songwriting on his best albums such as Premature Adulation, a wonderful CD released, largely unnoticed, in The more that you talk to Otway, the more you realise that the impetus behind his whole career has been a desire for revenge - on the boys who tormented him, and the girls who abandoned him.
After Paula Yates stood him up, following their one date in Oxford, he famously told the late broadcaster: "That's your last chance to go out with a rock star. When he got his huge advance from Polydor, Otway, who can't drive, bought a Bentley and hired a chauffeur. The Airbus, the movie, and the Sydney Opera House incident are just the latest instalments in a history of celebrity as a form of payback.
His childhood humiliations in Aylesbury are never far from his mind. One of his most recent recordings, "A Revisited", definitively repudiates the theory that Americans have a monopoly on great road songs, and that English place names such as Amersham, Missenden and Wendover will automatically sound ridiculous in pop lyrics.
He says that Local shag wanted Great Missenden proudest moment of his life was the first "Otfest", a free concert in Aylesbury Market Square inwhen 4, people came to watch him. The bullies and the ex-girlfriends were all there. The performance was filmed for a television documentary, Stardustman. And that, you can see him thinking, showed them. A couple of days later we're sitting on the In the meantime, I've had the chance to talk to Chris France, who has brokered most of the artist's successful ventures. France, who spoke to me from his villa in Cannes, began by promoting bands such as the Clash, and made his fortune during the dance-remix boom of the mid- s.
Several of us are in this to the tune of five figures. We do have to sell the remaining tickets to break even, but I have absolutely no doubt that we will. This tour will be heavily covered by media companies in every country it visits. The entrepreneur was recruited "when it became clear that the cottage industry that is Otway wasn't quite geared to handle an undertaking of this size".
When our train stops at Great Missenden, Otway points out the office he worked in for six months as a booking clerk. Otway's late father was an ambulance driver. Of his four sisters, three are nurses, one's a social worker. His mother Pat, who serves us tea in her living-room, was a special-needs teacher. It's as well for Otway that he was raised in a family so thoroughly committed to nurturing the underdog.
I remember one omega person saying: 'This boy is just a spastic. He shouldn't be at our school. So we had his shoes built up and he had help with his speech. There may be people who never stopped thinking he was daft, but in the end, being daft has been his living. I had enough oddities that people tended to shun me.
If you were odd," he adds, "there was no refuge. Very scruffy indeed.Gabor Essentials Gratitude HeatFriendly Layered Shag Wig
His dress. His hair. Very ungainly. Very scruffy. Otway's attitude to his back catalogue is hardly that of a man who considers his work to be a joke, or can actually be comfortable with certain headlines the red-tops have inflicted on him, notably: "What A Prat I Am". He was still selling tickets at Great Missenden, in the early s, when Pete Townshend heard his work.
Mick Jagger was at the recording. I began to think it might be safe to leave British Rail. Around this time, John Otway went to consult a clairvoyant in Weymouth. Then she said it again: 'You have a blue van. And it will not be lucky for you. She said: 'I was serious about that van. The two musicians' close yet complex relationship inspired the song "Headbutts": after live performances of this piece, Otway, who takes what you might call a supporting role, has left the stage bruised and bleeding. I've met the two together once before - when I was a teenager, after a Manchester concert in the mid s.
Otway says he can remember that night because, as Willy drove him back to London afterwards, he put him out of the car at the Northampton turn-off on the M1, and told him to hitch the rest of the way. I didn't get back home till 10 in the morning. Inthe guitarist failed to appear for a gig. Barrett now performs with his partner Mary in a group called Sleeping Dogz. He has a perverse indifference to fame and lives on a barge with his Rottweiler.
The guitarist agrees. But he won't Steve Harley, Glenn Tilbrook and other guests on the world tour.Local shag wanted Great Missenden
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