‘John Otway is a triumph for perseverance’

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I AM sitting in a field near Longwick. And next to me is Aylesbury’s premier pop star John Otway.

It is half past 11 in the morning and Otway is drinking beer and telling me about the film premiere he is organising for the movie about his life.

“When I turned 50, people asked me what I wanted and I said another hit single” he tells me.

“So they got that organised and ‘Bunsen Burner’ got into the top 10 and I was on Top of the Pops.”

I remember it well; almost 25 years after his first hit ‘Really Free’ Otway was able to add an S to the end of his greatest hit CD. He became the first person ever to appear as a guest on Never Mind the Buzzcocks having previously been on as part of the identity parade round.

“So I am 60 next year and they asked what I wanted this time. I have always wanted a red carpet movie premiere in the West End so we are working on a movie of my career.

“Then we have hired the Odeon in Leicester Square for the grand premiere. I have been helping get the footage from things like The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops and it all looks like happening next year.”

I think about this as we sit in the sun. We are both here for Chinnor Bike Club’s summer meet. Otway is opening the mini-festival then zooming up to Lincoln for another gig that night.

I first saw him at Friars about 20 years ago and his mix of folk, punk and silliness has always made me laugh. I have seen him play everywhere from Reading Festival to Chinnor Village Hall. He once famously performed his song ‘House is on Fire’ in Thame while fire engines rushed to the Bird Cage which really was on fire. We thought it was an impressive new addition to his set.

As I sit with him and look out from the stage there is not a soul in sight. “Are you nervous?” I ask him. “No. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and people still enjoy it. More importantly I still enjoy doing it so I am sure it will be fine”.

An hour later he leaves the stage to an ovation from a crowd that has grown with every song. A triumph for perseverance, John Otway remains a true local hero. Go see him next time you get the chance.