In the summer of 1980, following the release of their third LP 'Way & Bar', John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett headed out on 'The Tent Tour'. The gimmick was that admittance to the gigs was by the purchase of the album's second single, 'DK 50/80', only. So, with no actual door money coming in, John & Wild Willy pitched a tent in a campsite near each evening's venue and spent the night under canvas, before moving on to the next town the following morning.
A couple of weeks into the tour, they arrived in my hometown 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 by then and it was my very first experience of an 'in-store', as these events were invariably christened by record company types.
Otway and Barrett had one of their many parting of the ways at the end of the tour (perhaps not so surprising considering the hardships they no doubt had to endure given the unconventional accommodation involved), but together behind the counter that day, they entertained all and sundry like the seasoned double act they undoubtedly were - Barrett the slightly grumpy straight man to the gangly, flailing blur of movement that was Otway.
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 as a memento of their visit. 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, appearing endearingly and chaotically on both TOTP and the OGWT at around the same time. The b-side was the epic, fan favourite, 'Beware of the Flowers ('Cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah!)', which contained a much-loved and oft-quoted 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 and, erm, concentrating on the business at hand, you couldn't help but read, 'OK, LET'S MAKE THIS THE BIG ONE, FOR OTWAY'!
Otway & Barrett - Beware of the Flowers ('Cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah!)
Otway & Barrett - DK 50/80
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