The Sweet Life For Gilbert Is Staying At Home

Source: Daily Mirror

Writer: Deborah Thomas

Date: 20 February 1975

The message is: "Private".  The command is: "Keep Out".  And you had better beware of the dog.

This is St. George's Hill private estate near Weybridge, Surrey, where tightening your belt means sacking the gardener.

Hiding among the bankers, the brokers and the solicitors, like a lonely petunia in an onion patch, is the thin, pale, young Gilbert O'Sullivan

He has warmed the hearts of the nation with his sensitive songs about every-day people.  As in "Alone Again", "Clair", "Matrimony" - and his latest single "You Are You".

Whether he likes it or not, he is a star.  Gilbert has kept away from the public eye, but next month he steps out once more on a concert tour of Britain.

But, for the moment, he is still in hiding and I am graciously allowed to take tea with him behind the laurel hedge that protects him from the outside world.

Spoons tinkle on floral china and neat slices of carefully buttered toast are piled on a matching plate as Gilbert talks of his very private life:

"Writing songs is the most important thing in my life, I spend weeks and weeks alone here, at home, writing.  I won't open the door to anyone, not even the Prime Minister, when I'm working.  Of course I'm missing out on a lot of other things in life, but you have to forfeit them.  I'd rather be unhappy, personally, for the rest of my life if it meant I was happy musically

Gilbert, 28, lives alone in his four-bedroomed house. 
He has been there for two years, but most of the hose still has to be redecorated.

The wallpaper in the living room, he says, reminds him of prison bars, but he puts up with it.

While we talk the door bell rings.  It is a fan from Newcastle.  a long way to come?  Other girls have come from Denmark and Holland.  And the answer is always the same.  "Sorry, he's out" or "at a meeting".

Gilbert's younger brother, Kevin who lives nearby, keeps the fans at bay with autographed pictures and lifts to the nearest railway station.

Gilbert is the second eldest of six.  His older sister, he says, always sided with his mother and - paradoxically in the middle of such a big happy family - Gilbert felt isolated.

"I'm the black sheep of the family," he insists.  a
Athough I know his mother is as proud as punch of him.

Gilbert's closest companion is his television.  he keeps it on all day, whether he is in the room or not.

Says Gilbert: "Television is the right company.  It doesn't move and it doesn't answer back."

He says: "I get an awful lot of ideas for my songs from watching TV and reading newspapers.  What better way is there?"

I suggested real life.  Gilbert looks surprised and says: "Don't you realise I can't walk around freely in public anymore?"

Occasionally, Gilbert is seen out and about with a girl on his arm.  But not often.  Gilbert only takes a girl out for a tonic.

He says: "Some people might think I'm rude but my girl friends understand.  Nothing means anything to me except writing songs

Gilbert has always been a loner.  He started writing songs huddled over a piano in the garden shed at his home in Swindon, Wiltshire.

He has kept every scrap of song he has written.  He shows me.  Files of scribbled notes on tatty pieces of paper, each one titles "new song" or, when he's really excited with it, "great new song

"They are the most valuable things I own" says Gilbert.  They are my security.  And I mean that

A lot of the songs in his new touring show will be from his latest album "A stranger In My Own Back Yard

Meanwhile, back in his own back yard, Gilbert begins clearing the dishes.  He has the housework to do - and a pile of shirts to send to the laundry.

That's before he can sink back once more into his solitary world of song.