Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure: Otway the Movie (2013)

David Crabtree,
Billed as "rock and roll's greatest failure," musician John Otway offers a lesson in how to survive in showbiz.
  • 8.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Steve Barker, Director:
  • Denise Adams, Angela Ainsworth, Kevin Ainsworth, Jake Alfie's, Dawn Allaway, Producer:
9 / 10

A warm, affectionate, funny and honest look at the legendary Otway and his career

I've seen John Otway several times throughout the years after being introduced to his presence through viz comic in the 80s.

I often wondered if the manic, egotistical but musically limited man I saw perform both with his band and with wild willy Barrett was a front to a normal man who found a niche for himself in rock and roll with a unique act. But have no fear, he really is as mad and bonkers as his stage persona.

I saw this film while channel hopping recently, having no idea of its existence. However it is absolutely fantastic and one of the best music documentaries I have seen. In fact it is almost like watching a real life spinal tap type film, except this isn't him hamming it up, this the genuine article.

The film covers his career from when he first made a name for himself famously falling of a Marshall amp whilst performing on the BBC's legendary rock show 'The Old Grey whistle test' in the late 1970s through to right up to the films London premiere in the summer of 2013. For a man who saw himself as the next Bowie but fell very short it's amazing he's somehow managed to scrape a living with a very loyal fan base and lots of goodwill from people in the industry.

Otway is a genuine one-off. The anecdotes from his previous producers and band members are at times hilarious, with Otway both sometimes genuine and sometimes playing to the camera. Yet the film is never disrespectful to him or his fan base. It may acknowledge his shortfalls but his manic style is there for all to see. He has also been clever enough to surround himself with some genuinely talented musicians who are completely at odds with his bumbling amateur style. Plus it features one of the funniest takes on his song 'head butts' I've seen.

For a man who somehow has defied logic and scraped a living for forty years on the stage and with a couple of hit singles behind him, this film explains why he has appeal despite not being particularly talented (although occasionally he will surprise you like his ability to play the theremin). So just sit back and enjoy the show.

10 / 10

Failure? Not this film!

A very funny film featuring Aylesbury's Two-hit Twit and First Man of Failure, John Otway, conducting a masterclass for bemused schoolchildren, to show them How Not to Be a Success. A case of "Mothers, tell your children not to do what I have done", to quote the B-side of a certain Top Ten hit. This film quells any doubts that Otway might be in danger of becoming more sensible as he ages and is probably the only movie in history where nobody attending the premiere could predict the ending, which was still in production. This was a brilliant twist and a big gamble; full credit should go to the editors for pulling it off.

Otway the Movie should win awards. I can't wait for the DVD!

10 / 10

A step by step guide to creating success out of failure

John Otway is the most unlikely pop star of all time. Self deprecating and refreshingly honest (he constantly refers to himself as a prat)- this musically inept buffoon leaps around like a cross between Basil Faulty and Bob Dylan on acid.

After deciding at an early age he wanted to be famous, Otway initially teamed up in the mid 1970s with 'Wild' Willy Barrett an accomplished guitarist of some notoriety to form the ill fated duo 'Otway & Barrett'. Following a painful breakthrough performance on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' (where Otway fell from an amplifier crushing his testicles in front of millions of TV viewers) the pair scored chart success with their debut hit 'Really Free'.

Otway recorded a solo follow up (which flopped) and Barrett (unsurprisingly) left the act (this set a theme - Barrett re-joined Otway and left again numerous times over the next 35 years). After securing a huge signing on fee to his recording contract - Otway buys a Bentley motor car (he can't drive but as he tells us 'it looks great outside the house when I ride home on my bicycle').

The film charts Otway's endeavours to find the elusive second hit, and takes the viewer on a journey through one disaster after another as Otway attempts to catapult himself to super-stardom (only to fail again and again and again). Otway explains how he recorded a single with three 'mystery' copies that had no vocal track (whoever bought one was promised a live performance in their living room). How he wrote a book outlining his 'success from failure' model. We hear how he formed his Big Band (comprising Otway and 4 others).

And finally (to coincide with his fiftieth birthday).... when it seemed the second hit would never come... how he mobilised his loyal fan base to beat the 'stage managed' British chart system that refused to 'allow' him a hit - and saw him finally and triumphantly reach the UK Top 10 with Bunsen Burner. The 'B' side was recorded with 1000 fans heckling Otway through a hilarious version of 'House of the Rising Sun'. Each and every one of them were named on the record credits.(as Otway explains - 'if you're named as a performer on a hit record - you don't just buy a copy for yourself - you buy one for your mum and auntie as well').

Encouraged by this glimpse of the big time - Otway once again snatches failure from the jaws of success by attempting to organise a World Tour (complete with its own jumbo jet to carry 300 of his lunatic fans around the globe with him) playing venues from Sydney to Singapore, and on through Vegas and Tahiti! Unfortunately - only half that number signed up and Otway lost the huge deposit he had put down for the hire of the plane.

The film moves to an amazing climax when (coinciding with Otway's sixtieth birthday) the fans once again show their adoration for 'their hero' in producing and funding the movie. The closing sequences of the film were shot minutes before the film's premiere and edited in whilst the audience watched the main body of the film - and then themselves arriving some 2 hours earlier.

The film is interspersed with a brilliant soundtrack of Otway flops (plus 2 hits) and various celebrities offering comment on the eponymous micro-star. The closing titles lists the hundreds of fans who contributed cash as co-producers.............The DVD seems destined to sell well then!

10 / 10

Don't vote if you have not seen it

Funny how all the low votes come from the USA where it has never been seen , and at the time of writing is not even available on torrent. This movie is genuinely funny and totally incredulous and also true. Make up your own mind only after you have watched it.

This movie was made to expand the exploits of John Otway into the public domain. It is the story of a young boy bullied at school who took on all the bullies and rather than try to only gain acceptance set was determined to become their hero.

There is no backing from TV talent shows here only blind ambition.It's the story of over 40 odd years of constant touring and and fan base that identify with that.

The movie is totally unique in the way that Otway is unique.

If you have not seen the movie please don't vote

10 / 10

Pure Otway

This film was so much more than I expected. It not only charts John's career in the music business, but it gives a great insight into the man himself and what drives him. It also gives those who surround him a chance to share their opinions about the UK's favourite Micro-star. By turns this movie is funny, informative, thought provoking and even moving. I laughed out loud at some parts and very nearly cried at others. On top of the emotional roller-coaster, the story of John's exploits was for me, a trip down memory lane as I recognized events I had been to, as well as others I'd only heard about. Apparently, the original rough-cut was seven and a half hours long, and I can well believe it. Somehow, this was edited down into the final product, to create a fast-paced film which leaves you instantly eager to get your hands on the DVD, to see the bits they didn't use. I can't wait! All-in-all this is a fantastic film. Watch it - you won't be disappointed!