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29 October 2014
top of the Pops 2 top of the Pops 2

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John Otway
He's the 'Patron Saint of Losers' and perfect antidote to packaged pop. John Otway talks to TOTP2 about his second hit in 25 years.

Well it's been a while John, but welcome back to TOTP. How does it feel to be back?
John: Oh, it's just great! When we started this project for the next 'hit', my goal wasn't really to get a chart position, it was more that I thought, "if I can get back on to Top Of The Pops 25 years after I last did it, I'll be a happy man!"

Last time you appeared was in 1977. Do you think much has changed since then?
John: When I arrived here, I was expecting the whole thing to be completely different. I'm quite surprised, it hasn't changed as much as I'd expected. I wanted to do it live, but wasn't sure whether I could and thought most people would be performing to playback. But there's more performers doing it live now than there were back in 1977. The atmosphere is good too and just as exciting. For my band though, they've just become one hit wonders, which is what I've been for the past 25 years. They're absolutely delighted, just as delighted as I was when I first did it.

Your second hit 'Bunsen Burner' is flying high in the charts at the moment. What's it all about?
John: The song came about due to my daughter's chemistry homework. I was sitting in the back of our car with her and she said she had to write something about the uses of a bunsen burner. I said to her why not write a song about it instead. So we started writing these lyrics together. When I came to writing stuff for 'the hit' I thought that there were some lyrics from our bunsen song that I really quite liked, so I just finished off writing it. It was picked up then by Barry Upton, who was responsible for producing 5,6,7,8 for Steps. He really liked the lyrics and put it together with The Trammps 'Disco Inferno' and that's how it all came about.

There's quite a remarkable story behind 'the hit', so how did it all start?
John: The whole thing started when some loyal fans of mine had asked me what I wanted for my 50th birthday. So I said, "well, what I'd really like is another hit to go with the one I've got!" They were up for it, but didn't like the idea of me picking the hit myself, as I had just picked a consecutive row of about 20 flops after all. So I got 11 tracks together and sent them a CD and they picked the one they thought was the best hit. Once they'd chosen it, I basically gave Barry free rein.

What was it like working with Barry Upton?
John: Very, very easy. We put quite a few song ideas together for 'the hit' and the thing with Barry is that I'd give him a set of lyrics or an idea for a melody and he'd come back with a complete track. I could just turn up and do the vocals, it was great.

  Simply Red  
  "That's a bit supermarket, isn't it. I'm not making that many bottles. "  
  Robin Gibb  
  "There's been great moments both as a songwriter and as a performer."  
  Paul Roberts - The Stranglers  
  "We certainly weren't going to call ourselves The Bay City Rollers."  
  Lisa Stansfield  
  "I just thought, how many times do I have to sing this song?"  
  Soft Cell  
  "I think it's the only time that a banjo's been played in the Ministry of Sound."  
  "Agnetha said she liked it. If I met them I would curtsey."  
  "We really surprised lots of people by simply hanging in there."  
  Kim Wilde  
  "I used to be really jealous of Claire Grogan...I thought she was gorgeous."  
  "Failure was not an option, we were materialistic and greed was good."  
  Human League  
  "We did a US tour with Culture Club and Howard Jones...solely for the cash."  
  Altered Images  
  "Women were treated as a bit of a novelty in the music business in 1981."  
  Belle Stars  
  "The pop music lark just seems like a lifetime away now."  
  Steve Strange  
  "Look, you’re playing me like a bitchy queen and I’m not like that."  
  Five Star  
  "We all grew up wanting to be famous and we lived our dream..."  
  Phillip from Ruby Flipper  
  "At my age, I'd find it difficult to get my legs where they used to go..."  
  Glen Campbell  
  "I got to work with literally everyone in the business; Nat King Cole, Sinatra..."  
  David Gray  
  "Lots of tension in the camp. We're battling Gareth Gates for the No.1 spot"  
  Robert Palmer  
  "There's this homegenised force feeding of what is hip."  
  "I think George manipulated our relationship for publicity"  
  Tom Jones  
  "I'm pulling all my old jewellery out now and comparing my rings with Wyclef"  
  Ruth From Pan's People  
  "I could show you dozens of times I forgot the moves..."  
  Badly Drawn Boy  
  "Everybody has to do what everybody else does in order to have a hit single"  
  John Otway  
  "I think the music business is probably not happy with what we've done..."  
  Jimmy Cliff  
  "I look at someone like Ms Dynamite, I come away with a positive feeling."  
  Human League  
  "We wouldn't trust anyone that didn't wear eyeliner."  
  Status Quo  
  "I probably went about four or five years with a pair of stage jeans"  
  Gary Numan  
  "There are so many things in my past that you could make fun of."  
  McAlmont and Butler  
  "We were big enough to get over any-thing that may have been exchanged."  
  Primal Scream  
  "The producer at the time told us we'd never work again."  
  "I prefer miming, I prefer if we weren’t playing live."  

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