‘Half a Sentry’

Wild Willy Barrett and John Otway

Some pics and words from Alan Dearling on their anniversary tour celebrating the lads’ Half-Century

Fabulous to witness these two cantankerous, curmudgeonly gentlemen back on stage and on tour together again.

Wow…and what a show…what a great performance from the legendary Wild Willy Barrett (actually, Roger John Barrett – absolutely a musician’s musician and innovative wood-worker) and the extreme madcap chaos of John Otway. Together, collectively celebrating 50 years of on-and-off ‘togetherness’. Plenty of crowd-pleasers from ‘Louisa on a horse’, through their ‘hit’, ‘Cor Baby, That’s Really Free’ to Cheryl’s going home, and ‘Geneve’, plus a rather wonderful, if wryly sad song: ‘Separated’: “It’s great to be alone”, and the lovely ‘Snowflake’. Absolutely superb entertainment and thanks to John and Willy and all involved at the Golden Lion in Todmorden.

What makes these two so special is the unique ‘spark’ – infectious mischief. It seems like a spontaneous affair that is exceedingly combustible! Wild Willy takes the mischief-making to new heights or depths, poking fun at his partner, ‘The Pratt’, the idiot joker. And with malevolent glee and a cunning glint in his eye, John retaliates with lines like:

“I’m a master musician now…my violin solo (with theremin) just got more applause than yours did!!!”

The pair deliver the musical goods in bucket-loads of fun, frolics and naughtiness. It feels and looks wonderfully spontaneous. But, it also reminds one that there have been more than a few well-publicised ‘fall-outs’ over the 50 years since they started together in Aylesbury on their legendary (long and winding roads) to become ‘pop stars’. It’s all a long time ago, just before punk was beginning. Their on stage and on tour ‘instabilities’ were just a tad acrimonious. After their major split (it wasn’t their first), Otway entitling his solo album, ‘All Balls and No Willy’, didn’t help! But now in 2023, it all adds to the hilarity, the unexpected exchanges of words, actions and exuberance of a Barrett and Otway show par excellence. Otway has written some pretty good lyrics and Barrett can certainly play them…and some…including on his wah-wah wheelie bin!

Live recently – ‘Louisa on a horse’: https://www.facebook.com/wildwilly.barrett/videos/152103077810016

Here’s a link to an early-ish Old Grey Whistle Test Otway and Barrett performance of ‘Cheryl’s going home’, always one of the stand-out moments in their show: https://youtu.be/G8C-BwAbAdc

‘I’m Separated’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DfsOXCcELw

Deadly, the Otway Roadie, has just constructed a new website:


Meanwhile, Barrett’s woodworking craft skills have moved from making and inventing stringed-instruments to beautiful pieces of bespoke furniture.

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