Life For Gilbert Is Staying At Home
20 February 1975
The message is: "Private". The command is: "Keep
Out". And you had better beware of the dog.
is St. George's Hill private estate near Weybridge, Surrey, where tightening
your belt means sacking the gardener.
among the bankers, the brokers and the solicitors, like a lonely petunia in
an onion patch, is the thin, pale, young Gilbert O'Sullivan
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".
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
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
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:
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
has been there for two years, but most of the hose still has to be
28, lives alone in his four-bedroomed house.
wallpaper in the living room, he says, reminds him of prison bars, but he
puts up with it.
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
younger brother, Kevin who lives nearby, keeps the fans at bay with
autographed pictures and lifts to the nearest railway station.
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.
Athough I know his
mother is as proud as punch of him.
the black sheep of the family," he insists. a
closest companion is his television. he keeps it on all day, whether
he is in the room or not.
Gilbert: "Television is the right company. It doesn't move and it
doesn't answer back."
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
That's before he can sink back once more into his solitary world of song.