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John Otway Interviews John Otway - New Zealand Tour

John Otway Interviews John Otway - New Zealand Tour

John Otway / Chris Cudby / Tuesday 24th October, 2023 10:50AM

John Otway is soon returning to Aotearoa for his second nationwide tour of 2023, bounding back after his February shows were disrupted by the watery wrath of Cyclone Gabrielle. Playing six gigs nationwide in November, a catchup was overdue, and who better for a tell-all chinwag with the cult UK rock 'n' roll songwriter than John Otway himself? He posed the tough questions about an incomparable career spanning two number one hits, over 5000 live shows around the world, seventeen albums, two books and a feature film celebrating his heroic status as Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure — addressing every interview curveball no matter how tricky. It's Otway or the highway, do not miss your second chance to experience the legend live at the dates following...

UnderTheRadar proudly presents...

John Otway

Tuesday 7th November - Meow, Wellington*
Wednesday 8th November - The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Thursday 9th November - Space Academy, Christchurch
Friday 10th November - The Crown, Dunedin
Saturday 11th November - Southland Musicians Club, Invercargill
Sunday 12th November - Sherwood, Queenstown

Tickets available HERE via UTR
*Wellington tickets at

John Otway: Tell me about how it all got started.

John Otway: I decided that I wanted to be a Pop Star when I was nine years old listening to Lonnie Donegan records on the radio. I would sing them in the school playground and the kids would laugh at me. I thought this was because I was talented.

My mum knew that I wasn't and tried to discourage me by not letting me have a guitar until I was 16 years old. Luckily I was allowed to play a violin so I learned to play the guitar pretty quickly.

Then when I was 18 I went to the Red Cross bazaar in Aylesbury and they had a fortune teller who told me that I would be a Pop Star and have a lots of success with a blonde-haired musician which turned out to be Wild Willy Barrett.

I knew that I would find it very difficult to get a record deal and so I did something which was very unusual in 1972. I pressed off my own records. One of the DJs on the BBC, who looked out for interesting new acts, played it on the radio a few times and — Pete Townshend heard it, liked it, and produced this Otway and Barrett song, and I thought “yep, I've made it”.

In fact I hadn't, and it wasn't until five years later in 1977 and the punk movement, when playing badly and being shocking became fashionable, that that I suddenly became a Pop Star overnight.

What happened?

Me and Willy Barrett were booked to play a television programme called the Old Grey Whistle Test, which had an audience of a 5 1/2 million I was quite desperate to make a big impression so I leapt onto Willy's amplifier but missed and instead of landing on top of Willy’s amplifier I landed a stride it, and that huge audience watched me in agony as I landed on my testicles. The upshot of all this led to a hit record and I became the Pop Star, I had always wanted to be.

I gather in the UK, you're known as rock 'n' roll's greatest failure. Why is that?

After my success, in 1977, Polydor records gave me a huge advance, which didn't last very long and over the following years, my career went in very much downward direction. When I didn't think it could to get any worse, I wrote a humorous self effacing autobiography about how I’d mismanaged my own career which led to my own downfall.

Funny enough, I've got a major publishing deal, “we're going to market you as rock 'n' roll greatest failure” they said. I found that I was very good at being rock 'n' roll's greatest failure and that actually turned my career around — I went from that awful pub gig when three people turned up, to my 2000th gig playing to 2000 Otway fans chanting “Can't sing can't play what's his name Otway”, then they chanted it at the Albert Hall. Then 25 years after my first hit I have another one, I was back in the charts.

What's happened since then?

Well, I made a movie of my life rock 'n' roll's greatest failure. Otway the movie and I recorded my last album in Montserrat in the Caribbean at Sir George Martin's place. Last year. I played by 5000th gig and February this year I was in New Zealand.

How was that?

It didn't start well, within hours of announcing on Facebook that I was coming to New Zealand, the Prime Minister resigned, and then I arrived at the same time as Cyclone Gabrielle which unfortunately meant I couldn't get to some of the gigs.

I really really hate cancelling gigs and I got quite upset about it. I kept thinking I was going to regret the fact that I never played Wellington and Christchurch for the rest of my life. So I bit the bullet, booked a flight and I’m coming back to do those gigs that I couldn't do in February. Plus — of course returning to Auckland, which I really did enjoy and was so much fun earlier this year.

BONUS: "the top 5 questions you don't want to be asked"...

What was the biggest mistake in your career?

Imagine having to search through all your worst nightmares and having to re-create those disasters in your head in order to discover the most painful one to remember.

If your house was on fire, what would be the one thing you would save?

I was asked this question once, and my answer was “The ten thousand pounds in cash I have hidden behind the cutlery drawer in the kitchen". So please don’t ask that.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Because the answer is John Otway — but that makes me sound narcissistic and I can’t think of a good answer that might not.

Would you have liked to be more successful?

It’s such a bloody stupid question “OF COURSE I WOULD”.

What are the lyrics of 'Beware of the Flowers' (cos I’m sure they’re going to Get You Yeh!) actually about?

It’s such a tough question, because I haven’t a clue.


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John Otway
Tue 7th Nov 8:00pm
Meow, Wellington
John Otway
Wed 8th Nov 8:00pm
The Wine Cellar, Auckland
John Otway
Thu 9th Nov 8:00pm
Space Academy, Christchurch
John Otway
Fri 10th Nov 8:00pm
The Crown Hotel, Dunedin
John Otway
Sat 11th Nov 8:00pm
Southland Musicians Club, Invercargill
John Otway
Sun 12th Nov 8:00pm
Sherwood, Queenstown