Is it the final straw for John Otway and Willy Barrett at the Balcombe Club?

John Otway. Picture by Judy Totton
John Otway. Picture by Judy Totton
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The tour is called The Final Straw, and yes, John Otway admits this really could be the last time he and Wild Willy Barrett hit the road together (Balcombe Club, March 26, 7.30pm).

But it might not be…

“I am saying ‘Of course, it’s not,’” John laughs.

“But Willy is saying ‘Of course, it is.’ But I suppose the ball is more in his court. He is working with some really good musicians at the moment. I suppose he thinks it is a much better option than working with me!

“I suppose I will just have to wait until he gets broke at some point and then there will be a nice big juicy gig! That’s what I think.”

The point is the duo has always thrived on a bit of friendly needle: “As we get older, we are getting terribly, terribly competitive. But I have got no idea what goes on in Willy’s mind. We have spent our career second-guessing each other. The tour before last we called it The Incompatible Otway and Barrett tour!

“That’s what keeps us going. We are like North and South Korea. God knows how many times we have split up. There must have been 15 or 16 times. We used to get together for a while and then go our separate ways.”

He continues: “We both come from Aylesbury. We were the most ambitious musicians in Aylesbury, not necessarily the most talented.

“Willy was two years older than me. Willy and his older brother used to beat me up when I was seven or eight. They lived up the road from me.

“We got together because Willy was an incredibly-talented musician, certainly out of the league of all the other people in Aylesbury. When I had written a couple of songs, I dragged him into the studio to play some fiddle and slide guitar on a couple of songs.”

Pete Townshend became interested. But a turning point was probably that famous appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test – the one in which John leapt on Willy’s amplifier only to slip and fall painfully astride it.

“The amps used to have reverb on the top, and if you banged them, you got this crashing noise. But I slipped. It was a slightly-different crashing sound to the one I intended.”

So is John really not worried when Willy says he’s calling it a day?

“Well, a bit worried maybe, but he has got this other band, and they are obviously better players than me.

“But I have got my own band and my own things. And I have got big plans to record an album in September. That’s my next big project. I am going to take a band over to Monserrat to record it.

“Nobody has recorded there since the Rolling Stones did Steel Wheels in 1989. The place then got hurricane and volcanoed. I am going over there as the third natural disaster!”

Call 01444 811226.

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