28 April 1977 – Otway and Barrett – Nag’s Head

Local duo John Otway and ‘Wild Willy’ Barrett hit The Nag’s Head stage in late April 1977 for a performance that pre-dated their brief rise to fame later in the year.

Cover of debut album by Otway and Barrett – re-issued by Polydor in 1977. Partly produced by Pete Townshend

Both born in Aylesbury (around 25 miles from High Wycombe), the eccentric performers were starting to ride on the coat-tails of the nationwide ‘punk’ explosion.  Otway (aged 24) had been performing since he was a teenager and had previously graced the High Wycombe stages as a solo artist.  ‘Wild Willy’ (real name Roger John Barrett) was two years older that Otway and had a then unique guitar style that could easily be described as ‘grunge’ –if that term had existed at the time.

The set list at The Nag’s Head gig would have included:

  • Really Free
  • Geneve
  • Beware of the Flowers (‘cause I’m sure they’re going to get you)
  • Cheryl’s Going Home
  • Racing Cars

The duo signed to Polydor records shortly after their performance at The Nag’s Head in a three year deal for a reported £250,000.  Early in the year they had signed The Jam for just £10,000.

In a interview with The Independent in August 2006, Otway said:

“It was a relief to me when punk started, with its reckless behaviour and musical incompetence. Because that was what I’d been doing for years. Suddenly I fitted in. The trouble was that eventually even the punks learnt how to play.”

It was their performance on BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test later in October 1977 that attracted the attention of TV bosses. Check out the YouTube  clip below for the full performance.

Really Free hit the singles chart shortly afterwards but proved to be their only success.  Otway would eventually concentrate on his solo career and would return to The Nag’s Head during the early 1990’s for a weekly residency to help out promoter Ron Watts.  Otway was quoted on the back of Watts’ biography ‘Hundred Watts – a life in Music’, saying:

“I had a perfectly good job as a dustman before I met Ron Watts. He put paid to that and I haven’t done a sensible say’s work since.”

Do you have any memories of Otway and/or Barrett at The Nag’s Head?

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