The Cluttered World Of Gilbert
Source:New Musical Express
Writer: Julie Webb
Date: 21 Aug 1971
The clutter surrounding Gilbert O'Sullivan in this picture not only informs us he's a typical untidy male but also that he likes the things which matter most around him. Pictures of his "idols" - and I use that term loosely because few of us have idols today. A poster proclaiming the terrible Kennedy tragedy - Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers along with the Beatles and Bob Dylan adorn various parts of the room.
Underneath the Kennedy poster is a picture of Charlie Chaplin - one of Gilbert's biggest influences and near the front is a good ad for Brolac P.E.P. paint - a sign that he's going to decorate perhaps?
Gilbert comments "The people who were the biggest influence on me in my early years were the Beatles and Dylan - like Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, although those two weren't so much an influence as they made a big impression on me. Chaplin of course inspired me clotheswise and Bobby Kennedy was a person I really admired. basically the room just reflects my tastes."
But why you may think go to all the bother of wearing a tie and hat just for the image thing. Surely now he's madehis mark he can afford to grow his hair long, wear more everyday acceptable clothes and just relax?
"Well if you see me with a tie and hat then you know it's Gilbert O'Sullivan - and that to me is as good a reason as any. It doesn't matter if people like it or not. What is important is that people notice and do know who you are.
"Anyway the short hair and Chaplin clothes are really me. I've had them for years now. If you can get an image of your own then you've got a head start on anyone else. It's all a question of identity - if you are going to put in that extra effort then people are going to like you for it."
But other musicians have succeeded without "gimmicky" clothes. And surely people appreciate your music now rather than your clothes?
"I just like the image thing - it separates you from the audience. You know I'm convinced if say Procol Harum had had bald heads at the time of 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' they'd still be at the top."
So is his image more important than music?
"I couldn't divide the two. I sit down and write songs every night - mainly I write for myself. Just to prove to myself I can write."
How important does Gilbert think his manager Gordon Mills has been to his career?
"He's unlike anyone else in this business - he works from home for a start, and he understands my songs. I change some of my lines for him. You see when I write a song I'm thinking about myself but he's thinking of the public who are going to hear it."
Just how does Gilbert go about writing his material - where does his inspiration come from?
"Nowhere in particular - I just sit down at the piano and get an idea. It doesn't always turn out to be a good idea - that's decided later. What is important is that I know I can write good songs. I always knew I'd make it someday."
What are his feelings on the new release "We Will" which is in the charts one week and out the next? Is he disappoined it's not right up in the top five?
"No - it's not a commercial pop record. It's just a pretty good song and people are buying it because it's a good song. I'd rather sell a record like that than have people buy one simply because it's catchy.
And just for the record Gilbert says "I don't mind being know as Mr. Odd - in fact, I like to be know as an oddity. At least you can't catagorise me - I'm just a Walt Disney soap opera image."