Fame, Fans 'n' Faints

Source: Jackie

Writer: Dick Tatham

Date: 1974

"I think it's time to get things going..."

Gilbert remembers being elated by Gordon Mills's words.  He had gone, one evening in the late summer of 1970, to Gordon's house in Weybridge, Surry.  There the famous manager, who handled the careers of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, went on to say he would be happy to sign up Gilbert and see to the release of the disc which they hoped would launch him to fame.

Now Gilbert hoped, there would come at last the reward for his years of struggle and disappointment.  Compensation for his discs that had flopped, his three years of slogging at an office job, his drag-by months of dreary bedsit life.

Gordon was sure 'Nothing Rhymed' was the best of the songs to start the ball rolling.  He was the producer at the recording session and was all set to release the disc on the MAM label, which was part of his business organisation.

"He told me to pack in my office job right away.  But the firm - Mobil Oil - had been good to me during the three years I'd worked for them.  So I gave two weeks notice."

Nothing Rhymed was released on October 30, 1970.

"Naturally," says Gilbert, "I was worried about whether the disc would make it or not.  I knew that with Gordon Mills looking after my career, I had everything going for me.

"My suspense didn't last long.  Soon reports were coming in of good sales by 'Nothing Rhymed'.  Then one afternoon when I was at Gordon's house there was a phone call to say the disc had entered the charts at number 30.

"You can imagine how great I felt.  It's terrific when you've worked hard and long to achieve something and then suddenly know you've made it."

When 1971 came 'Nothing Rhymed' was still riding high in the charts.  Gilbert was naturally elated about this and full of zeal for the crazy clobber which had helped him to fame.  "I'll never drop this image," he declared.  "I like these clothes and they've made people notice me, so why give them up?"

Then Gilbert's follow-up record 'Underneath The Blanket Go' was released.  It didn't do too well.

But the hitch in Gilbert's bid for fame was to prove only fleeting.  Soon he was back in the charts with a beautiful ballad 'We Will'  - written, of course, by himself.

That disc was a force in the charts during the summer of 1971.  In the autumn, just before the release of his fine album 'Himself', one leading music paper writer described him as 'The  only genuinely interesting and original new talent to have emerged in Britain in the seventies'.

I remember talking to Gilbert in a recording studio during this period and he grinned and told me, "I've celebrated my latest success by swapping my shorts for long trousers."

By then, Gilbert had made another change in his dress - wearing sweaters bearing a big G.

Meanwhile his talent was shining as bright as ever.  His smash hit in the spring of 1972 was the song which will surely last for all time: 'Alone Again (Naturally)'.  He had written the melody a long time before.  Early in 1972 he had come up with the words for the first verse.

For 1973, Gilbert had a new image.  Gone were the quaint clobber and the offbeat appeal.  In was a groovy new Gilbert - smartly clad with a casual, well-groomed hairstyle.

The new-look Gilbert moved home in the March of 1973.

Gilbert has never worried much about material possessions and the main reason for getting the house was that it's position would allow him to work undisturbed.

Around the same time he also bought a house for his mum, who had remarried some years before.

In the early summer of 1973 Gilbert launched into a series of live shows.  After appearances on the continent and in Great Britain during May and the first half of June, he was due for several dates in Ireland.

Gilbert was glad there were seats available on the plane for his mum, his stepfather Pat and sister Deirdre.

Gilbert having given his all during his performances, fainted at the end of the last show of the tour in Dublin.  Luckily, the doctor said all that was needed was a good rest.

That was what Gilbert achieved during a sun-soaked holiday in Rhodesia - before embarking on a mammoth tour of the States.

Gilbert entered 1974 as one of the most eligible bachelors in Britain's showbiz.  Will he marry?

"There are no plans at the moment," he said not long ago.  "But if and when I do, I shall definitely want to have children."

He is modest about his singing - saying all singers get dropped by their fans eventually.  "But," he adds, "it would hurt if I couldn't write anymore.  No matter how much I may have in the bank, I must still dream up songs."