In the olden days before the Internet, the only way to find out who was touring, releasing records or had died was to buy a copy of the weekly musical tabloids such as Sounds, NME (New Musical Express) or occasionally Melody Maker. In the late seventies or the beginning of the eighties there was an article in NME, where if you bought John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett`s new 7 inch single and turned up at the Golden Eagle pub in Birmingham on this particular night, the boys would let you in to the gig for free!!
Sadly, I didn`t bother and although I’ve seen Mr Otway live, I never got to see this manic duo together, so when the fellas announced a twenty-six-date outing called “The Nearly Free Tour” it was too good an opportunity to pass by.
The guys hit the stage to rapturous applause and head straight into `Louisa On A Horse` probably the only song that namechecks the Buckinghamshire town of Princes Risborough before WWB plays a steel guitar accompaniment to `Gypsy.` The faithful go into a bit of a meltdown when the boys play their 1977 hit `Really Free` which gained them not only and appearance on Top Of The Pops but also on The Old Grey Whistle Test. That`s music television programmes for the younger readers. The show progresses with the gentle love song `Best Dream` and `If I Did` their Europop song. JO`s mom encouraged a young Otway to write a song for the Eurovision Song Contest if he was going to have a career in music. Enough Said.
We get the melancholic `I`m Separated` before a song that Otway wrote after hearing Elton John`s cold war song Nakita called `Natasha, You`re a Smasher`, with lyrics such as “Natasha, You`re a Smasher, but you`re working for Russia”, a classic. To compete with Mr Barrett being a accomplished mufti-instrumentalist, Otway attaches some portable electronic drum pads to his body and plays a Theremin accompaniment to the classic `Body Talk.` `Two Little Boys` gets an outing, yes that one, followed by a new song the JO has written, his first in ten years called `Real Tears From Both Eyes`
“Beware of the Flowers Cause I’m Sure They’re Going to Get You Yeah` is shared which was voted for having the seventh greatest lyric of all time in a BBC poll. The set comes to a close with some microphone juggling, literally on `Cheryl`s Goin` Home`, `Racing Cars (Jet Spotter Of The Track)` which is played on a bizarre racing car type of guitar contraction which is wheeled onto the stage and a version of `Scotland the Brave` with WWB playing a set of bagpipes. Then it`s over.
This was an extremely enjoyable evening of stories and song from two cult personalities who really know how to entertain an audience. It`s also allowed me to tick off a couple of artists that would have been on my bucket list, if such an item existed.