Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 18 April 2015

John Otway forever on the fringe of success

John Otway plays Belfast's Black Box
John Otway plays Belfast's Black Box

The story began back in 1977 when John Otway's single Cor Baby, That's Really Free made an unlikely star of the singer – not least for a TV performance in which more than five million viewers watched him take a painful crash-landing on the stage.

He wasn't to have a hit single for another quarter-of-a-century. When it came, it coincided with his 50th birthday. But he remained on the periphery of fame all that time – and he's devoted a lifetime to ensuring we aren't able to forget him.

As his 60th birthday approached, Otway hit on the brainwave of making a feature film. So he asked his fans to dig deep to make his dream come true.

And here it is, folks: Rock And Roll's Greatest Failure: The Otway Movie. Coming to a Black Box near you this afternoon. Funded entirely by supporters, it's a crash course in how to survive the music industry. And the film's red carpet premiere even provides the climax of the production, with the director and camera team capturing footage of fans entering the cinema, before quickly editing it into the final reel.

"No one knew what the ending was going to be like until it appeared on screen," recalled Otway. "The projectionist said he had never seen anything like it – as the producer credit came up, half the audience stood up and pointed their mobile phones at the screen!

"The idea of starring in a movie came to me when I was about nine years old," he added.

"Someone would follow me with a camera when I thought I was doing something clever.

"I had a camera at my first rehearsal with the band, and I remember getting someone to film me as I came into the room and met them. For years I wondered why I had done that, I'd made an idiot of myself. It looks a real fake moment – but it's a gem!"

So look out for the cameras in the Black Box when the man himself arrives on stage this evening to talk about his life's work, and perform a bucket-load of songs.

He's nothing if not inventive. And you can be sure he'll be storing footage of his visit to Out To Lunch for future use.

Who knows what's planned for his 70th birthday...

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