Gilbert - The Man Behind The Image

Source: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Date: 1970

Beneath the sad exterior of Gilbert O'Sullivan is a determination to make his songs a success - and to put a few things right about his image.  He has spent years writing and recording unsuccessful with records companies who "didn't know what to do with the image" he had created with his schoolboy trousers, tie and boots.

Three years ago, he signed to CBS and recorded one of his own songs, "Disappear."

"They still have about four of my songs and someday I'll buy them back and record them the way I want to.  Major Minor have about nine."

Not only has Gilbert been around the music scene for a while, so has his outfit - but no one could make up their minds how it could be exploited.  But now that it is identified with him, he is going to keep it.

"Anyway I like grey flannels and this tie.  I might get worse though.  I might get a new duffle coat!"

He is not worried about a follow up song and already he's recorded a few tracks but says that the next single will not be another "Nothing Rhymed."  It may even be a slow number.  Gilbert doesn't think that his funny clothes will detract from a romantic song.

"Sitting down at piano, it works.  I'd look silly if I was a standing up singer, wearing these trousers and boots."

Watching Gilbert reminds me of Norman Wisdom, and he has drawn that comparison himself.  The sad little comedian, who sings beautiful songs and wears funny clothes is very similar to Gilbert.

"But it wasn't him that I based the idea on.  It was Charlie Chaplin.  I still use a Charlie Chaplin jacket I have at home.  I like dressing up.  It's like the music hall days.  Nothing anyone wore in the music hall was looked on as being unusual.  It's my identity - it's Gilbert."

Gilbert is a shy man, and hides himself away in a bungalow in Surrey, answering the door only to people he is expecting.

"It's not that I don't like talking to people, although I don't have many friends.  I don't have time for girlfriends.  Some of my friends go out with a girl one night, then forget her the next morning.  I'm not like that.  I can't see the point in one night flings.  In some ways I amire them, but I'm more serious.

"Every night I sit down and play my piano.  I play my heart out, just as if I had an audience there with me.  I think the best thing in the world is an audience.  I'd love to do a concert on my own.  Perhaps when I've had more songs and people recognise them, I'll do a concert."

Although he enjoys performing, "Top Of The Pops" turned out to be something of a disappointment for him.

"I had problems with the musicians.  It's the Union's rules that if there is a guy there who plays the piano, he is to play.  So although I was playing piano on the show, the microphones weren't picking it up and another guy was heard playing!  As it's a part of the song, the way it's played, I was annoyed about it.  I was a bit shattered."