The long-awaited release of Otway’s ‘Bunsen Burner’ happened on 30th September 2002. Here is my record of the day’s events, plus some notes posted in response to the original review, almost as it appeared in Otnews, with a few added comments.
Release Day - A Day In The Life
It's a strange feeling, and I guess about a thousand others feel the same, to think that by the end of the week we could all be 'One Hit' wonders whilst at the same time helping John to double his tally to two hits.
So what happened on the day of release? Not having undergone the overnight rigours of a trip to Sheffield, the day started for me with a leisurely drive in to Watford to collect the first of my preorders of the single - destination HMV.
Collecting proved to be more traumatic than ordering. Firstly, there was only one girl on the till, who gave the instant impression of never having sold a record before. Eventually, I persuaded her to go to the store room at the back, and the CDs were reluctantly retrieved - all 4 sets af mine, and only a handful of other preorders. Then I mentioned the discount, so she then had to find a 'key holder' to whom I had to repeat my request for the discount to be met with a belligerent "Who told you this?". "Your head office." I replied, at which the 'key holder' scuttled off to the phone. He returned, all smiles "You're absolutely right, sir. £1.47 off a set of three." Having left instructions with the cashier he wandered off. The cashier then proceeded to register 3 discounts. "No, that's wrong." I said. "Four sets should be 4 discounts, leaving a totalm of £30.00". "No." she said "Three in a set means only 3 discounts." I held my breath and counted to ten. Eventually she wandered off again to find the 'key holder'. In the mean time, a sizeable queue was building up. Back she comes, registers the extra discount and we're away. Er, no, not quite. Now my card has to be authorised, whilst that for a £70.00 transaction next to me doesn't. I guess that there was their way of getting their own back. Anyway, once authorised, over half an hour after I entered the shop, I dumped a pile of flyers on the counter & handed over a wad of carrier bags, before dashing upstairs to my car to load the CDs.
Next stop, Aylesbury, with my CD player cranked up to hear my hard-won goodies for the first time. I have to say that I was really impressed with the new songs. It's all there: ballads, blues, and a new novelty song. Can't wait to hear them all live.
Aylesbury: Leaving the car in the station car park, there was just about time for lunch and a pint in The Bell, where it all started, before wandering up to HMV. Some of 'the gang' were already there, having just arrived from Sheffield. A TV crew from Central Television was also inside, and a crowd quickly built up. Then a cheer went up as John arrived and, after a few TV interviews, the signing began. Even John's mum waited patiently in the signing queue. There was also a good crowd in from John's old school.
It was clear that the shop hadn't the stocks to cope with demand despite the manageress being heard to say to Richard Cotton "I'm the manager here. I know how many I should be ordering." Luckily, Billy had a few extra boxes in his car, and the store's blushes were spared.
Missing out on a photo-opportunity at a shop called 'Naked Flame' just around the corner from HMV, we then piled in to to Bell for a swift pint before the short stroll down to the station for the 'Otway Hit Express'.
The train, arranged for us by Tim, complete with a 'Otway Hit Express' sign on the front was waiting for us, and we even had a reserved carriage all to ourselves. Once under way, the Central TV crew did a few more interviews, and we all fell about when the girl doing the interviews announced: "I need a woman!". Anyway, much to our amusement, they then seemed to adopt Trudi Johnson as our 'fan leader'. Time and Helen then brought round silver trays of sandwiches, before John led us in a practice session of House Of The Rising sun, but the show-stopper was the train driver with his announcement: "We are now approaching London Marylebone where this train, The Otway Hit Express, will terminate. Please remember to take your hits with you."
There was a fair crowd waiting for us at Marylebone, as well as an announcement of our arrival over the station's tannoy. The next announcement was to the effect that Billy was about to make his proposal to Catherine, which he duly made on bended knee on the station concourse in front of a host of cameras. Then there was another outbreak of House Of The Rising Sun before John, in pied-piper fashion, led us from the station to the strains of 'Really Free' - complete with somersault. Of course, all the 'normal' commuters were completely baffled.
Next stop was Oxford Street, partly following a trail of stickers I'd left last week when passing through to meet Cheryl to drive me home. At the Virgin Megastore, I was pleased to see that Richard had come to his senses, and was wearing a red and white top. But I digress. There were a couple of live performances of 'Bunsen Burner' mainly for the benefit of Central TV who, to their credit, were still with us. I have to confess, that the first of these performances sounded a bit rough, but secound time around, the two of them seemed to have got the hang of it. Also on view, was the 'Bunsen Burner' video. One bemused onlooker was heard to ask: "Was he in the Beatles?"
One thing that was obvious was that Virgin clearly didn't have a clue about Otway fans, and had decided to employ 'security' in the form of some gorillas who appear to have been rejects from the Astoria across the road. Most confusing was the female gorilla standing on the stairs telling people that that shouldn't stand on the stairs. You what?
A break was called for, and we all piled in to the pub next door. As we were leaving, Jane's two boys were giving their own renditions of Otway songs, much to the delight of the TV crews. In the pub, there was a big cheer as Billy's proposal was shown on London Tonight on TV, along with John's somersault at Marylebone. The other punters in the pub all started nudging each other and pointing at John & Billy, and we also overheard an "Oooh, it's him!"
Then, it was back into Virgin for 'the biggie', and by this time Virgin had erected a cage in front of the stage with several hundred fans already inside. Now there's an interesting concept: a cage with the public on the inside, and gorillas on the outside. One of the latter seemed to be intent on picking a fight with anyone willing to take up the offer. But, being Otway fans, nobody did, much to his apparent disappointment. We were treated to a 'mini-gig' - two hits, two b-sides, and so on.
For the signing, there was a massive queue whilst the store played 'Bunsen Burner' over and over again, as the crowd gradually dissipated - too slowly for the gorillas who kept signalling to each other "Ten more minutes," Sorry, boys. This was Otway's day, not yours.
So, where next? Oh, yes, back to the pub next door, for 'one for the road'. This time, Helen Lambert, whom I had last met in Dunkerque, had persuaded the pub to play her copy of 'Bunsen Burner'.
Wearily, it was time for us to head back to the train - that bloody train. Back at Marylebone, Tim collected the remains of his trays of sandwiches, and we got on the train to discover that the newly-betrothed Billy and Catherine had only just beaten us to it. What a reli ef to sit down!
The final noteworthy 'incident' was the girl on the train who hadn't quite sussed that using the telephone means you no longer have to shout.
Back at Aylesbury, on leaving the car park, I wound down the windows to give those departing a final blast of Bunsen Burner before crossing the A413 to head for the A41, and home.
What a memorable day.
Weevil Comments: Nice one, Ed. I have to point out that, after several days on the road, that red and white shirt was the only option acceptable to those travelling with me. I am now safely back in the blue/white. Incidentally, that first, very ropey version of BB, was also the first time we'd played it! Took me by suprise for sure. Thanks again to everyone, for their remarkable enthusiasm and support. Congratulations, Billy and Catherine. Richard H
Posted by ginbottle: Thanks for this, Ed! I enjoyed reading it. It is so well written that I almost felt I was there! I wish I had been, but having been in Sheffield at midnight for the release at HMV and signing in the pub, I needed a sleep before going out and about to pick up my pre-orders on Monday! Just one question: Did anyone get a rubber stamped first day cover signed c.d.? I got my c.d.'s signed, but no sign of a rubber stamp!
A minor correction from Xav: At the Aylesbury signing all the schoolkids I spotted were from Aylesbury Grammar School. John's old school was, of course, The Grange - arch enemies to the Grammar. There may well have been some Grange kids there, but they weren't as obvious (to me, at least).
Patsy adds: Terrific Ed - but I have to disagree on one point alone - I did have a 'run in' with one of the gorillas - though it didn't quite come to fisticuffs at least I got the better of him !
Post-Scripts: There were a few other points I missed (it's difficult to take copious notes AND join in the fun):
Dave Allott brought a vinyl copy of 'Really Free' along to be signed.
Steve Frost put in a brief appearance at Virgin, Oxford Street.
After being led by the 'Pied Piper' out of Marylebone Station, once the cameras stopped rolling we went back in to get to the tube.
Thanks to everyone for filling me in with these 'snippets', but thanks especially for helping to make it such a great day.
Thanks, too for the text message at Stoke Mandeville for reminding me that Cheryl was born there. Maybe, the newly betrothed senders of that message might use the same venue for their own maternity/paternity needs?
If I'd known that the gorilla was about to take Patsy on, I'd have sold tickets. Jeez! The poor beggar wouldn't have stood a chance - as Andy Scull can testify.
And finally: As these events took place, I was already under notice of redundancy at work, and had, in consequence, used up all my holiday entitlement to avoid complications in my final salary figures, redundancy, pension, and so on. So release day was taken as a ‘sickie;. You can imagine, then, that for the next day’s Guardian to publish a lage picture oof John, on the train with me clearly in the background, was a matter of some concern. Fortunately, nobody noticed.