Otway: The Movie review

The music industry is littered with one-hit wonders, people to be never heard from again after the hype has disappeared. It’s a vicious industry that takes no prisoners and only the very best stay there.

John Otway should, if the path of the failed music star is followed, be long forgotten, only telling tells to his family and friends in the pub about his six months at the top of the charts 30 years ago. However, Otway has never let his star fade even though most of the music-buying public do not know who he is. His notorious TV moment on the Old Grey Whistle Test where he fell off a speaker stack and crash-landed onto his testicles will be forever replayed, but this hasn’t stopped him continuing to make a living from making music.

Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure follows John Otway’s life story as he retells it to a music class at the school where he teaches. The big career moments are interspersed with footage and interviews from around that time – following each miserable attempt at getting another hit single for himself, constantly being dropped by record labels due to no market value and also his inability to let his music fade away. Otway does have a large cult following and the film has been made with their help via fan funding – anyone contributing monies towards the production was given a mention on the end credits of the film (a novel way to make people stay till the end).

What makes this documentary so endearing is the fact that John genuinely seems to love the failure of each attempt he makes. His mind races in overdrive to think of the next bigger and better idea to get him back in the media spotlight – his idea to get into the BBC poll of the Nation’s Favourite Lyricist is especially clever. Otway was also one of the first musicians to take advantage of social media back in the early 90s, which turned out to be one of the smartest moves he ever made as it connected him with his following in a much easier way than ever before.

Rock And Roll’s Greatest Failure – Otway: The Movie has touches of the Anvil documentary from a few years ago, which helped their career no end, so hopefully we will see the same here. A wonderful documentary full of broken promises, crazy ideas, rawkus live performances and the man at the centre of it all, John Otway, makes it difficult to tell if he is barking mad or a musical genius. Either way, this documentary shouldn’t be missed.

Official Site
Otway: The Movie at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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