A couple of weeks into the tour, they arrived in my town and before that evening's gig at a local nightclub, they spent a good deal of the afternoon meeting and greeting fans, signing albums and generally hanging out, in the local record shop. I'd been working at that record shop for just a few months and it was my first experience of an 'in-store', as these events were invariably called by record company types.
Otway and Barrett had one of their many partings of the way at the end of the tour (perhaps not so surprising considering the hardships they no doubt had to endure with the unconventional accommodation involved), but together behind the counter that day, they entertained all and sundry like the seasoned double act they undoubtedly were. It was an extension of their stage show - Barrett the straight man and the gangly, flailing Otway, mad and funny with the ever-present danger of personal injury!
As the afternoon drifted on, their road manager tapped his watch to indicate that it was time for the duo to head off for a soundcheck. Customers were satisfied and all our stock had been signed, but we asked for something a little more personal to keep at the shop. Otway scratched his head and excused himself to use the toilet, grabbing a magic marker on the way. No sooner had he returned than the pair were whisked away leaving us to clear up the debris left behind.
(Otway & Barrett only had one real chart hit, 'Really Free', in 1977 and appeared endearingly and chaotically, on both TOTP and the OGWT at around the same time. The b-side (sadly nowhere to be found in it's original form on YouTube) was the epic, fan favourite, 'Beware of the Flowers 'cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah', which contained a much-loved spoken intro from our hero, Mr Otway.)
A short while after the duo had left the shop, I had occasion to visit the loo myself and discovered Otway's parting shot. On the inside of the toilet door, in huge magic marker print he'd transcribed that spoken intro. So if you happened to find yourself seated, concentrating on the business at hand, you'd read, 'OK, LET'S MAKE THIS THE BIG ONE, FOR OTWAY'!
Many happy returns to John Otway, singer, songwriter and death-defying entertainer, who turns 60 today.
Here's the Hairy Cornflake introducing 'Really Free' on TOTP in 1977 and the concert ticket to the 'Tent Tour', 'DK 50/80', from 1980.