1977 – A year of hope for two aspiring artists. An opportunity looms – a guest spot on the famed Old Grey Whistle Test. John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett’s big break after slogging the pubs with their eccentric brand of self-penned rock. And what does Otway do? Falls off an amplifier, damaging his intimate bits, but ever the trouper, keeps going to the bitter end.
Thus was the legend of Otway and Barrett displayed to an astounded British public. Closely followed (after a hospital visit) by “Hey Baby that’s Really Free” on Top of The Pops, the legend of “Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure” has gone from strength to dubious strength, with a fiercely loyal and supportive fanbase that stretches worldwide.
The magnetic bond still holds after more than 50 years of attempted escapes and still loved for their total in-yer-face originality, the contrast between Barrett’s deadpan humour and mad onstage antics of Otway are hilarious to watch. Marvel at John’s lyrical genius and Willy’s outstanding musicianship (he plays almost every stringed instrument known to man, plus a few hybrids of his own making!).
Willy’s interest in making instruments began when he commandeered two guitars made by his dad in 1965 – One from an old guitar neck and a scaffold plank which became affectionately known as the Les Dawson, and the other branded the Mk1 Schitstik electric slide of similar pedigree. These were used on many of the early tracks, including Really Free and Racing Cars.
Was the Last Straw Tour of 2017 to be the end? Willy’s remark “this will be the last time that many of you will see us together again” was hastily misinterpreted as the final throw of the dice, but the reason given “it’s not us packing up, it’s you lot dying off, you know who you are!” is often overlooked by eager scribes. And so the rumours continue to abound and the duo endures…
For any Otway/Barrett virgins out there who don’t know what to expect, be prepared for everything from bare-chested theremin playing to the notorious Wah-wah wheelie bin as the duo jump from one hit and 40 near misses to another: An amazing and irreverent performance by two master entertainers.
For this very special occasion, Otway and Barrett are supported by the Forest’s very own Free Beetroots – a trio comprising Mike Edwards (bass, vocals), Graham Mizen (guitar, vocals) and Tim Buckmaster (guitar, vocals). A unique, original and eccentric songwriting partnership that explores such divisive subjects as aftershave, ecologically-aware polar bears, the concepts of doom and anger and why we all need belts and braces to cope. Expect the unexpected as the Beetroots prepare you for the Unforgettable!
Tickets available now, only £15 from the Town Hall box office.