Sunday, May 06, 2007


A bit of freestyle memory association this morning that ended up giving me half an hour with tears of absolute joy streaming down my cheeks. I love how this stuff works.

Earlier this morning I was shelling a hard-boiled egg. This in turn reminded me of my Grandad and the way he used to crack open his brekky-eggs; meticulously cracking and peeling off the top. Which brought back the memory of the last time I stayed with Grandma and Grandad in Yeovil, at Christmas 1977. I was a moody teenager about to turn 17 a few days after Christmas and I was bored. Nothing to do with my grandparents, they were lovely, but I was doing the rebellious bit, as one does at that age. I hadn't quite got the punk thing, though. Growing up in deepest Kent we only got to experience that vicariously through the pages of "Sounds" or whatever. Anyhow, Grandad sensed my mood and we had a long chat about responsibilities but also about doing what you believed in. It wasn't a lecture; there was a good deal of understanding on both sides; we had, after all, spent quite some time together on holidays over the previous couple of years and I'm sure he saw some of his own youthfulness in me. I wish I could have spent more time getting to know him but he would succumb to a dodgy heart 13 months later, still only 72.

The unusual result of that talk was that I went into town and bought a record to cheer myself up; something I'd been meaning to do for a couple of weeks - the surprise Christmas "hit" of 1977 (it got to 27). And I played it to death over the next few days on Grandma's old record deck (which was a cool thing that looked like a briefcase with the speakers in the lid). It was this, possibly the best single ever in the whole wide world. Ever. So of course, I've now been on a YouTube frenzy, hence the tears of laughter.

It's easy to over-work the word genius, especially if it's in conjunction with someone who is so plainly nutsticks as John Otway. But he is. Here's another version of the above done in a tiny folk club, earlier this year (he does work to a loose script as other videos will bear out, but it's brilliant nonetheless). Or how about this version from TOTP? With a clearly on-edge Hairy Cornflake, not quite sure about what was going to happen - because not only had they got Otway in the studio, he was playing live, a rare honour in 1977.

I've never got round to seeing him live. He does play the Limelight here in Crewe occasionally so there's still time. And as these videos bear out, he's a consummate live performer and comedian who adores performing and revels in the interplay with the audience. Long before somebody said comedy was the new rock and roll, here was someone proving it could easily be the other way round. He's a rock and roll Tommy Cooper with timing to die for and safe in the knowledge that he's absolutely peerless at what he does. Would he have been the same if he'd been mega-successful? I don't know. He's made a career out of being a one-hit wonder (now two after his fans gave him "Bunsen Burner" as a 50th birthday present) so going global would wreck his act. Just treasure him. Gloriously brilliant eccentric.

Have a couple more classics. "House of The Rising Sun", complete with audience participation. And the already mighty "Crazy Horses", one man and his theremin adding something The Osmonds could never have envisaged.

Laugh until something falls off.

2 Vegetable peelings:

Anonymous Steve Dix said...

Otway is singularly responsible for the lack of Gibson SG-Junior guitars in the UK. He used to go through them like mad, as his somersaulting usually knocked the headstock (which is a weak point on SGs) clean off. After sticking the headstock on several times there usually wasn't enough decent wood left to repair, so it was off to the guitar shop again.

Last I heard, he'd changed over to Gordon-Smith guitars, made in Manchester, and a lot cheaper than Gibson SG juniors - which now sell at a premium.

1:53 pm  
Blogger Robert Swipe said...

I wonder how much would you have to pay for Wild Willy Barret's guitar, Steve? It looks like the bastard offspring of an unholy union between Lennon's original spray job Ricky and Segovia's oldest guitar...

Great clip Richard - cheers for that..

L.U.V. on ya,


2:57 pm  

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