Update (Monday 7 October 2002):
Congratulations to John and the
many people who helped him
reach No 9 in the charts released
yesterday - He's a two-hit wonder!
Fed up with boy bands, pop idols and manufactured pap passing as 'music' Now you can get your own back - and make an old man very happy - by giving John Otway a Hit. And not just any hit - this is his Second Hit!
How can you be so sure
His fans have clubbed together and they're giving him a hit (or, as it's taken on a life of its own, a Hit) for his birthday! There's a nationwide organisation behind the campaign, which has been building for several months - all of it with the blessing not only of Otway himself but also the organisation that compiles the music charts.
Do we know what the hit is going to be
It's called Bunsen Burner. Even the choice of song for the Hit was made by the fans, Otway having decided that he can't be trusted to choose the single. (And after 25 years of chart failure, who can blame him )
Eleven tracks were put out on a limited edition CD for the fans, some brand new, some reworkings of Otway classics. And to make absolutely sure everything was above board - and seen to be above board - Otway even engaged the services of the Electoral Reform Society, who scrutinised the voting and announced the results. The vote was close but Bunsen Burner won.
Otway has gone one stage further and invited the fans to appear on the B-side. 1000 fans converged on Abbey Road studios in April to lend their vocal talents to a version of House Of The Rising Sun. As well as a top day out and stories to dine out on for months, the fans in attendance got their names included on the CD sleeve. So guaranteeing that they'll all be buying copies of the single, I mean the Hit, as soon as it come out!
So there's nothing dodgy about trying to guarantee a chart placing
Everyone's being careful to avoid doing anything wrong: no-one's planning to go into a record shop to buy 50 copies of the single, for example. But of course trying to get your record in the charts is precisely what record companies do for a living. The difference here is that the artist and his fans are doing all the hard work. Some of the websites launched to coordinate the Hit are listed below.
Might it reach Number One
The Number One in the corresponding week last year sold 40,358 copies, which seems within reach. "That's what we're hoping to give him," says Patsy Andrews, mega-fan and one of the people most closely involved in the campaign. "October is a good month in a way but there are a few 'names' releasing stuff and they could sell millions." Like Gareth Gates and Will Young, with a double A-side covering songs by Elvis and the Beatles. You don't get much bigger than that - but Otway's fans are confident they can dent the corporate music megalith.
The singer's quietly confident too - and very happy. He's hired the London Palladium for the day the chart is announced - 6th October - and his biggest fans will all be there to sing Happy Birthday and celebrate his second Hit.
Why do it
Why give him a birthday present in the first place
"He's such a lovely bloke - like the chap next door but a bit more eccentric," Patsy told The Answerbank. "We gave him some bagpipes last year, and a theremin the year before. He picked that up very quickly. He's also had a didgeredoo and a scooter." What else to give the man with everything
The British love a loser
Having blazed his way into the charts all those years ago, Otway's chart career croaked. He couldn't buy a hit - however hard he tried. And Oh! how he tried. On one occasion he handed over three blank copies of album Frightened and Scared to the distributors. Whoever bought these copies would get a free, live performance of the songs from Otway in their living-room. Tempting, I think you'll agree But not tempting enough to convince the Great British public to buy it in any great numbers. (The living-room concerts, incidentally, went down a treat).
A second ruse saw Otway offer free entry to his gigs to anyone brandishing a copy of his then current single. Of course people bought the single - which cost less than the price of the concert ticket anyway - and he found himself having to fork out the readies to promoters and venues to make up their shortfall. But the charts still eluded him. D'oh!
Then there was the time Otway, having figured that the big record companies were responsible for all the hits, put out a record on the Warners label. Only problem being that Warners knew nothing about it! Not that the music industry has ever really known how to handle mavericks like Otway.
Otway wrote up his musical faux pas in "Cor Baby That's Really Me (Rock N' Roll's Greatest Failure)", a book which promptly outsold every record he's released since his first hit! And his fans voted Beware Of The Flowers Cause I'm Sure They're Going To Get You Yeh, the seventh greatest lyric of the last 1000 years in a major BBC Millennium poll. But still no more hits.
... until the chart is announced on Sunday 6th October. There appears to be no room for doubt or error in the strange world inhabited by Otway's fans - here's hoping they are proven resoundingly right.
If you can't be at the Palladium with him to hear the chart run-down, make sure you've done your bit and bought Bunsen Burner. It's released on 30th September 2002. Form an orderly queue at your nearest megastore and buy yourself a copy. And one for your mum.
For much, much more on The Hit, see: