John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett bring their hugely entertaining, funny show to The Crooked Billet, Stoke Row on Wednesday 7th September.
John and Willy’s roots were originally in acoustic, roots and folk. Otway was hugely influenced by early Bob Dylan, Otway’s early gigs were on the folk circuit. In the early 70’s Willy Barrett enjoyed an enviable reputation on the folk scene. Willy features on The Contemporary Folk Guitar album with Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Gordon Giltrap and Ralph McTell. He performed numerous times at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Willy also spent time as guitarist with George Hamilton IV.
Otway & Barrett’s grungy fast and furious fiddle, banjo and guitar with sweet and sour harmonies became pigeon-holed by the punk rock/new wave genre.
The duo have split and reunited umpteen times since their first gigs in 1971. The Who’s Pete Townshend produced and performed on their legendary self-titled debut album “John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett.
Otway has headlined Reading Rock Festival and played Glastonbury dozens of times
A legendary Old Grey Whistle Test performance where Otway’s failed amplifier leap saw him straddling the speaker, crashing on his most delicate bodily parts. The painful landing led to “Really Free” being a Top 20 hit and Top of the Pops appearances.
Over the years Otway & Barrett have headlined numerous festivals. Over 10,000 attended Otway’s home turf Aylesbury Market Square gig – filmed for the ITV documentary “Stardust Man” (Otway was originally a dustbin man).
Otway has headlined Reading Rock Festival and played Glastonbury dozens of times. Wild Willy Barrett is a regular at the Cambridge Folk Festival. The duo have performed main stage at Cropredy, and performed to 150,000 supporting The Police in Toronto.
Chart success has been sketchy. In 1980 the BBC cameraman’s dispute cancelled Otway & Barrett’s Top of the Pops performance of their single DK50/80 which consequently dropped out of the charts. The BBC banned their single “Headbutts”. Otway enjoyed a Top 10 hit in 2002 with “Bunsen Burner”, performed on one of the last ever Top of The Pops.
Otway clocked up his 5000th gig recently. The secret to John and Wild Willy’s huge cult following and popularity of their stage shows is down to an enduring, hilarious and utterly entertaining live performance and presence. Barrett is an incredibly talented musician and very funny, with the ability to swap from Django Reinhardt to punk rock in a blink. The ability to play blues slide guitar with an egg, play classical guitar (usually Otway’s) with a hacksaw and claw hammer. Otway is a brilliant songwriter, their set bounces from beautiful ballad to grunge-folk-punk to their hits: “Bunsen Burner”, “Really Free”, “Geneva” and the seminal “Beware of the Flowers (’Cos I’m Sure They’re Going To Get You Yeah!)”
Incidentally, in 2000 “Beware of the Flowers” was voted in at Number 7 by the BBC National Poetry Day poll to find the nation’s favourite lyric. The Beatle’s Yesterday comes in at Number 6.
Otway, Otway & Barrett have sold out the London Palladium, The Astoria, Hammersmith Odeon and the Royal Albert Hall (more people went to see Otway at the Royal Albert Hall than went to see Tom Jones at this year’s Henley Festival).
Hogs Back Brewery opened in August 1992 in Tongham, near Farnham, in 18th century farm buildings that at various times had stored wheat and housed cattle and, appropriately, hogs. The first casks to roll out of the original brewhouse – now the site of the Brewery Shop – and into local pubs were TEA – which was renamed Tongham TEA earlier this year.
Catch John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett at The Crooked Billet
Catch John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett at The Crooked Billet, Stoke Row on Wednesday 7th September. Pub chef and landlord Paul Clerehugh promoted many of Otway & Barrett’s big London shows. Paul played guitar on the original “Bunsen Burner” hit recording and took a choir of 1000 Otway fans to Abbey Road Studios to record the B side of the 2002 hit.
Otway & Barrett. National Treasures.