Down in the garden shed something stirred
Writer: Dick Tatham
Despite Gilbert's misgivings, he had been able to get a group together from blokes he knew in a local youth club and they went over quite well in their first show and during other dates they played at local events.
The group was called The Doodles and Gilbert was the drummer. But about seven months later, after he had became a student at Swindon Art College, Gilbert joined another club group - The Prefects. Again, he was the drummer.
"The Prefects quite often played at places like approved schools, borstals and children's mental institutions," Gilbert recalls. "Usually there were good audiences and I was glad to be gaining experience."
"We were all mad about The Beatles but didn't try to copy them as everyone else seemed to be doing that. We copied another group The Searchers.
"With The Prefects I began to get the urge to write songs. But I couldn't come up with a good melody. There was a Liverpool group, The Dennisons. They had recorded what I thought was a great song 'Be My Girl'. The Dennisons weren't all that well known. I was sure the others in The Prefects wouldn't know the song.
"So I borrowed the tune and wrote words to fit it. Full of hope, I played the song to the others - saying I'd written the whole thing.
"They said, ' It's a great tune, but the words are terrible'. I was down in the dumps for ages after that."
Gilbert eventually picked himself up, however, and began slogging away at songwriting. What he recalls as his first real song was 'Ready Miss Steady' which he still likes very much.
Gilbert left The Prefects and joined another band, Rick's Blues. In Rick's Blues he learned a lot about drums, piano and music in general. Gilbert split with the group eventually, owing to a difference in music outlook.
He decided the time had come to concentrate on songwriting, but a problem arose with the arrival of the family television...
"The telly was in one corner of the front room, the piano in another. Obviously Mum and the others couldn't concentrate on the box while I was playing. The telly couldn't very well go. The piano did - into the garden shed.
"I played very loud. I also played very long. I would get home from college and bang away till late at night on occasions. Neighbours kept yelling at me to pack up."
But Gilbert's urge to write was too strong to be quelled by the neighbours. soon he had equipped himself with a tape recorder on which he put his songs, sung to his own piano accompaniment.
During his last year at art school he began sending tapes to famous disc producers in London. But they would come back months later - obviously unopened.
"I decided," says Gilbert, "I would have to go to London to try and get my tapes to people by direct personal contact.
"After working hard at art college I passed my exams as a graphic designer. Then I told my mother of my decision to try a career in music.
"At first she was very put out. But I pointed out that my efforts at college hadn't been wasted. 'If I fail to make it in music,' I said, 'I shall have another career on which to fall back'."
Gilbert came to London late in 1966. With him came two mates from Swindon - both interested in careers outside music. They took a furnished flat they had seen advertised in an evening paper.
Gilbert got a temporary job behind the men's counter in C & A's over the Christmas period.
Going into C & A's was a stroke of luck for Gilbert. Working in the same department was a singer named Mike Ward. Mike and Gilbert soon became mates.
Mike explained his discs were being produced by a Stephen Shane who worked at the publishing firm April Music. They were released by CBS.
Said Gilbert, "I suppose you wouldn't take my tapes in to see if anyone's interested?"
"Why not?" replied Mike. "It might lead to something - who knows?"
It did lead to something...
April Music signed Gilbert as a songwriter. They had him make demos of some of his songs.
When Christmas was over Gilbert got a job as a postal clerk wait an oil company for £10 a week.
Meanwhile Gilbert and his friends had given up the flat and Gilbert found himself all alone in a bedsitter in Pembridge Villas.
TO BE CONTINUED......