O’Sullivan was born Raymond Edward O’Sullivan on 1st December 1946 in
Waterford in Ireland but moved with his family to Swindon
in England in 1953 in search of a better life. Musically he had begun with the
guitar but progressed to the piano. He played drums
in his first group The Doodles though and left them to join The Prefects while
attending Swindon Art College. While at college he
writing songs and sending out demo tapes, alas they were always returned
finishing college, Gilbert moved to London in 1967 to try and further his
musical career. After playing some tapes to some CBS executives,
Gilbert signed a five year publishing contract which called for one single a
year, and released two singles "Disappear"/"You"
in 1967 and "What Can I Do"/"You" in 1968.
Gilbert was disappointed that he was not allowed any input into the arranging or
production of the singles. Neither single did well. Disillusioned with CBS,
Gilbert signed with the Major Minor label and released "I Wish I Could
Cry"/"Mr. Moody’s Garden" in 1969.
came to the attention of BBC Radio 1 disc jockey, John Peel, who gave him a
slot on his radio show Top Gear but little of note resulted,
and O’Sullivan spent part of 1969 applying to other record labels and
management companies. It was at this time that Gilbert
formulated his ’Bisto Kid’ image; grey flannel suit, flat cap, school boy
tie, football socks and hobnail boots. In search of a manager he sent some
demo tapes to Gordon Mills who had successfully guided the careers of Tom
Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. Gordon Mills recognised something unique in
the young Irishman and signed him for management as well as to a songwriting
Gilbert made an irresistible impression with "Nothing Rhymed",
his first Top 10 hit and an introduction to his witty lyrics and original
approach as a singer/songwriter. Signed to MAM Records, the label launched by
Gordon Mills, who was also his record producer, great friend and surrogate
older brother, O’Sullivan enjoyed four years of major success, incorporating
a dozen more hit singles, ten of which reached the UK Top 10, and four Top 5
albums: "Himself" (1971), "Back To Front"
(1972), "I’m A Writer Not A Fighter" (1973) and "A
Stranger In My Own Back Yard" (1974).
"Clair" and "Get Down" were number one hit singles in
Britain, and additionally, "Back To Front" topped the UK LP
chart in 1972,
emulating the success of the two million seller "Alone
Again(Naturally)", a six week US chart-topper in 1972. Around this
time, the singer
jettisoned his so-called"Bisto Kid" image in favour of an endless
series of collegiate-styled sweaters embossed with the letter "G".
As quickly as O’Sullivan ascended to fame, however, his star began to fall,
although singles like "Ooh Baby" and "Happiness Is Me
continued to chart, they sold increasingly fewer copies and in 1975 he notched
his final Top 20 hit with 1975’s "I Don’t Love You But
I Think I Like You".
to a bitter split between O’Sullivan and Mills, which effectively sidelined
the former as a recording artist for five years. The gruelling
court case between O’Sullivan and Gordon Mills finally gave him
control of his own recordings and the copyright in his songs,
although it exacted an inevitable toll on his energy and his creativity during
its precedent-setting course.
Gilbert’s fifth album “Southpaw” was released in 1977, by which
time the hit singles had dried up, disagreements over future direction
of the 1980s. "Off Centre" provided his 13th UK Top 20 single,
"What’s In A Kiss?", after which legal proceedings
time. Gilbert released no new material between 1982 and 1987 when he released
"Frobisher Drive" in Germany (later released in
UK as "In The Key Of G"). The album included "So What",
Gilbert’s first chart single in almost a decade.
Gilbert returned to CBS in 1980 and released "Off Centre"
(1980) and "Life & Rhymes" (1982) but maintained a low
Of The Loop" (1993), "By Larry" (1994), "Every
Song Has Its Play" (1995), "Singer Sowing Machine"
(1997), “Irlish” (2001), "Piano
Scruff At Heart"
(2007) and "Gilbertville"
Gilbert has continued to record and tour since then, particularly in Japan
where he is particularlypopular. Albums have included
of this success "Ooh
became the theme song for UK National Lottery adverts. Cover versions of his
songs continue to be
released, including a version of "Alone
Again (Naturally)", by
Neil Diamond and, more recently, Diana Krall featuring Michael Bublé.
His 2012 compilation "Gilbert O’Sullivan: The Very Best Of - A
Singer & His Songs" entered the UK album charts at #12, and
was recorded over three weeks in Madrid, Spain using some of the finest
Spanish musicians, which gives the songs overseen by
producer Peter Walsh that all-important Latin feel.
In 2015 Gilbert released "Latin ala G!", a homage
(including the cover) to the great Peggy Lee’s classic 1960 LP Latin
ala Lee! The
album has spawned three singles, the second of which, a remix of ‘No Way’
by Greg Fitzgerald, (Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis Bextor,
Madonna), made the BBC Radio 2 A list, which led to a rapturously received
performance with the BBC Concert Orchestra on R2’s
long-running Friday Night Is Music Night in February 2016. The
latest single, the wistful ‘I Guess I’ll Always Love You’, is currently
his first hit ‘Nothing Rhymed’ to his current single "I
Guess I’ll Always Love You".
The track-listing has been selected by Gilbert, who
“The nice thing about putting together this compilation is that it allowed me
to re-visit and choose many of the songs I’m most
proud of, whether they be taken from various albums or released as singles.”
2016’s 43 song 2CD anthology "Gilbert
O’Sullivan: The Essential Collection" is
truly a definitive career overview, stretching from before
After successful touring in the UK and Ireland in 2015 and 2016, further 2016
dates will be announced soon.