TV Cream

100 Greatest TV Moments

86) “Cheryl isn’t going hooooome!”

John Otway’s remarkable stage presence, 1977

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For all its alternative credentials, The Old Grey Whistle Test could be, well, quite dull a lot of the time, with a band plodding their way through a five-hour guitar solo before Whispering Bob would leave a huge pause and quietly intone “Great!”. But then came punk and a new energy, but although John Otway was signed by EMI because they thought he was a punk, in fact he was just a very eccentric entertainer ploughing his own unique furrow. But, along with his long-suffering mate Wild Willy Barratt (who for all his supposed wildness does generally come across as the straightman in the act), he was responsible for some truly memorable telly moments. His two performances of his number 27 smash Really Free on Top of the Pops were hugely entertaining, the first surely the only example of an actual pop star doing a Father Ted-esque “no, wait, I can get this! ” fumble for the right chord during a televised performance, having been too distracted by endless jumping up and down. But he was an entertainer and regardless of the musical proficiency, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. Yet it was the sparse studio of Whistle Test that really gave him the freedom to let loose and add some visual spectacle to his song Cheryl’s Going Home. Some dancing and leaping had gone down well, but an attempt at a forward roll saw him accidentally break Wild Willy’s waa-waa pedal, but ever the pro, John continued singing while trying to stick it back together. The finale of the song really is quite something, though, given the fact everyone watching can quite clearly see the amplifiers are far too narrow to stand on, let alone leap onto them, apart from John, who inevitably comes a cropper, falling straight off and unplugging them all in the process. But still he continues, while the hapless roadie tries to get some sound out of t hem and Wild Willy, clearly having told him before not to do it and surely having seen all this before, playfully throttles him. OK, so it’s not the most musical piece of telly ever made, nor is it perhaps the most sensitive performance of a love song, but you can’t say it’s not exciting – and that’s pop!



  1. Adam Maunder

    July 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Further mildly relevant factual information: ‘Cheryl’s Goin’ Home’ was the other side – originally the top side, if we wanna be strictly accurate – of ‘Elusive Butterfly’, the sole big (1966) hit of Baltimore folk-rocker Bob Lind; both songs are much the sort of material the Singing Corner seemed to have oodles of fun with.

  2. Stan Pomeray

    March 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    It was also a single for Adam Faith in 1966.
    John Otway was never really a punk, but he did the “do it yourself music” ethos that was (supposed to be) part of punk better than many of those who were more well known. Almost 40 years on, he is still doing live gigs virtually all year, and is extremely entertainting.

    By the way, I first got really into Otway when he appeared with Barrett on Top of the Pops in 1977. They played “Really Free” – the basic two guitars, no backing and tinny amplifier version which I loved. I went out the next day and bought the single only to be really disappointed to find that it was a “proper” version with full backing band and decent production 🙁

    Otway was introduced on TOTP by Dave Lee Travis, as “John Otway and Wild Willy”. Because of DLT’s accent I thought he said “Wild Woolly” and believed that to be Barrett’s name for ages afterwards. (It sounded right, because of the woolly beard and long hair….)

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