Singer-songwriter John Otway may finally get the worldwide recognition that he craves with a genuinely funny film about his attempts to make the big time, according to Bucks Herald entertainment reporter Andrew Kay.
Last Sunday the usual crowds of tourists in London’s Leicester Square were replaced by an army of around 1,000 fans of the Aylesbury-born two-hit wonder.
As he walked the red carpet at the world premiere of John Otway:The Movie, the man known as Rock N’ Roll’s Greatest Failure joked: ‘and my mum thought I would have to get a proper job’.
He came up with the movie idea while thinking of ways to celebrate turning 60.
The film even broke a record for being the first to be screened before the final scene had been completed. The ending, of him arriving and walking the red carpet, was edited while fans watched the movie and bolted on just before the closing credits.
It will inevitably be compared to spoof rock film Spinal Tap, but there is something about Otway’s character, outrageous attempts to rig the charts and lack of talent which could make it a hit. The laugh-out-loud archive footage includes Otway’s first national TV appearance in 1977, when he fell over the speakers and crushed his ‘male parts’ midway through the song.
It also charts his creative attempts to get to number one, such as getting fans to buy his records from the few stores which were used to compile the charts at the time, or making fans bring a vinyl copy of his latest single to the show rather than buying a ticket.
Other schemes included releasing three instrumental copies of his records, whereby those who bought one could have Otway turn up at their house to sing the vocals live.
There is footage of his 1978 show in Aylesbury’s Market Square, including the moment it all started to go wrong as the whole crowd stood silently in shock as he performed his new single Geneve which was nothing like his previous music.
The film also revealed that his record company had so much faith in him that he was given a £250,000 advance – they only handed The Jam £50,000.
At the premiere many of the fans turned up wearing ballgowns and tuxedos, and instead of having tickets they were given lanyards bearing the word ‘producer’. They also received an Otway face mask.
In the film he recounts the story of his life to pupils at his former Grange School in Aylesbury, in a lesson about how to get famous.
It charts his campaign against Woolworths, which refused to sell his 2002 #9 hit Bunsen Burner – based on his daughter’s chemistry homework. And his failed jumbo jet world tour, which did not sell enough tickets to hire the plane. It traces his life growing up in Aylesbury, where he was bullied at the Queens Park School and chronicles the moment a fortune teller told him that he would be famous. Otway’s parents also feature, stating that he has no talent whatsoever and they cannot understand how he achieved two hits.
Guitarist and the film’s sound producer Richard Holgarth joked: “It was a challenge as we had to make sure Otway was in every shot, you can’t have any dead footage.”
Fellow guitarist Murray Torkildsen said: “Some would say this is the culmination of his life’s work, but that would be stretching it.”
Aylesbury music promoter Stuart Robb said he was a ‘legend’ and now also ‘a movie star’.
Proudly wearing T-shirts which spell the name of their hero, five friends from Thame (pictured) caught an early train to London to watch the premiere.
Former Lord Williams’s School pupil Chris Williams said: “We saw him when we were kids at Friars in Aylesbury and have followed him ever since.
“We like the way it is still the same songs and same set and he’s never learnt to tune a guitar.”
Simon Munday, who had the idea of wearing the T-shirts, said: “We decided to wear them because John Otway is about having a laugh. After this we are off to the pub to see what words we can make.”
Fan Andrew Lawrence said: “It’s the comedy and cabaret and we get to be in a film with him. We hope he never gives up, but failure is at every corner.”
Speaking on the red carpet, a jubilant Otway said ‘it’s brilliant’ as fans sang happy birthday to him.
He also thanked everyone who came to watch the film, saying: “The fans feature so heavily in the movie. It’s their movie as well