Return Of The Lone Stranger

Source: Daily Mail

Writer: Bart Mills

Date: 15 February 1978

Like most recluses, Gilbert O'Sullivan has a lot to say.  Most of the time he says it to himself.

He's so self-conscious he used to be afraid to leave his house even to take a walk.  he had to buy a dog so he could go out without feeling people were wondering what he was doing.

"I get on very well with myself," he says. "You can be human and not enjoy going out and having plenty of drink and plenty of girls.

"But it's like a hangover - if you know you're going to have a hangover, you don't drink.

"If you know you're going to be at a party and everyone in the corners will be whispering, "He used to be good," then you never go anywhere.

"That's why I never have any worries about how successful I am."

O'Sullivan, 31 now, has not been successful lately.  It's been four years since he was last in the Top Ten, and three years since he released an album.  "You only know I'm not dead because you haven't read about it."

Polished and confident

He's come out of his shell though, and this month is touring Britain after lengthy skirmishes with his management, he's issued an excellent new album, "Southpaw" (MAM - 1004).

"I can't make people buy it.  I can't see why after three years they should suddenly buy a Gilbert O'Sullivan album.  There's every reason why they shouldn't".

This wrong foot forward quality has always been part of O'Sullivan's appeal.  Though his music is polished and perfectly confident, when it comes to people nothing rhymes for him.

Alone is his natural state.  Pleasant as his company is, he is quick to assume nobody likes him.

To himself his outlook makes perfect sense.  "I'm an observer," he says, "not a participant".  for some writers every song is a part of their lives.  I've a good imagination. 

"I read the papers, I pick up lines. I read about Mr. Smith having an affair with Mrs. Jones next door.  By being only an observer you don't have to commit yourself".  Mrs. Jones is safe from O'Sullivan."

Every morning O'Sullivan lays out his newspapers on the kitchen table in precise, squared-off formation.  After he's finished he folds them back up as neatly as if they had never been read.

Fussy bachelor

"When I first came to London in 1967, I had a bedsitter.  I'd never invite anyone round because whenever I did they would leave the place in turmoil."

O'Sullivan believes theres a place for everything and everything in its place.  If it were'nt for his constant protestations about wanting to get married, he'd pass for a fussy, lifetime bachelor.

"When I was little all of us six kids had our own little cupboards.  I always kept mine very tidy.  Now its a phobia."

Check the room

"Everytime I come back into the house after I've been somehere, I check every room.  I'll still have my coat on moving round making sure nothing has been moved.

"Every night before I go up to bed I go round and check each room and make sure its nice and tidy.

"When I get married which I hope to, either I'm going to have to change or its bound to annoy my wife".

What keeps O'Sullivan out of the funny farm is his music.  Untidiness is permitted here.  All around one side of his sitting room, current pop albumns are standing waiting to be played.  Among them is Doris Day's Greatest Hits.

Golf course

O'Sullivans music room "looks a right mess," he admits.  This is where he spends most of his time, not amid the sterile tidiness of the rest of his large house, which is hidden on the grounds of a suburban London golf course.

 "I'm going to have the music room done up.  I keep thinking I'll do it, but I don't do it because of this awful vision I have".

The music room is beautifully decorated.  It has a grand piano and lush carpets.  "I'm sitting in there in very orderly surroundings - and I can't write at all".