was born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan on
1st December 1946 in Waterford in Ireland.
His father worked in
a meat factory while his mother ran a sweet shop.
In 1953 he moved with his family to Swindon in England in search of a better
life. He attended St. Joseph's Comprehensive school in
Swindon. While there he developed an interest in both music and
amateur boxing. Musically he began with the guitar and
progressed to the piano. In the boxing ring he had nearly 50
Meanwhile his painting and drawing had won him a place at
Swindon Art College. He started there in September 1963.
His aim was to be a graphic designer. He played drums in his
first group The Doodles and left them to join The Prefects while
attending Swindon Art College. It was while at college that he
met Rick Davies, who was later a member of Supertramp. While at
college he began writing songs and sending out demo tapes, alas they
were always returned unopened. The first song he remembers
writing was "Ready
finishing college, Gilbert moved to London in 1967 to try and further his
musical career. He took a part-time job as a salesman at the C & A
department store in Oxford Street. Mike Ward who also worked at C
& A, had a contract with CBS and Gilbert went with him one day and
played his tapes for some of the CBS executives.
Gilbert signed a five
year publishing contract with CBS 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.
Tremeloes, who were also on the CBS record label recorded
"You" for their "Here Comes The Tremeloes" album
and "Come On Home" for their "Alan, Dave, Rick And
Chip" album, both released in 1967. ["Come On
Home" is one of Gilbert's unrecorded songs and his version of the
song wasn't heard until the 2007 tour].
Disillusioned with CBS, Gilbert signed with the Major Minor label and
Wish I Could Cry"/"Mr. Moody's Garden"
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, an ex-pop singer and himself a songwriter of repute, 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
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). November 1970 saw
Gilbert's first of many appearances on Top of the Pops and in June
1971 he recorded a special BBC TV "In Concert"
In March 1972 Gilbert was the subject of a BBC
documentary "Sounding Out" which showed Gilbert in his
work-room, singing and accompanying himself on the piano, and chatting
about how he composes his music etc.
(written about Mills's infant daughter for whom Gilbert occasionally
babysat) 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. Gilbert made his
live debut in The
National Stadium in Dublin in October of '72. The BBC
recorded and broadcast the "Music of Gilbert O'Sullivan" in
December 1972. This was a music programme featuring Gilbert
accompanied by the Johnnie Spence Orchestra. 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
In April 1973 Gilbert is named "Songwriter of the
Year" at the 18th annual Ivor Novello Awards. In May he began his 18
city UK Tour at London's Royal Festival Hall. In September, his first
and only tour of the U.S. commenced and he finished the year with sold-out
shows in the London Palladium. Gilbert
won a second Ivor Novello award in 1974. This time for the
"Best Song of the Year" for his composition "Get
As quickly as O'Sullivan ascended to fame, however, his
star began to fall , although singles like "Ooh
Baby" and "Happiness
Is Me and You" continued to chart, they sold increasingly fewer copies,
and after 1973 his overseas popularity essentially ceased altogether.
home, he notched his final Top 20 hit with 1975's "I
Don't Love You But I Think I Like You". October 1976 saw
Gilbert on Irish TV in "Me And My Music" being interviewed
by Vincent Hanley and answering questions from fans in the audience.
Gilbert performs "To Each His Own", "Clair",
"Nothing Rhymed", "Something I Believe",
"Matrimony" & "What's In A Kiss?"
Hits album in 1976, the year closed with Gilbert performing ten
songs in "Gilbert O'Sullivan's Greatest Hits" on ITV.
Gilbert's fifth album "Southpaw"
was released in 1977, by which time the hit singles had dried up, disagreements over
future direction led 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 his erstwhile manager,
producer, music publisher and record company boss 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 it's
set out on a UK tour in 1978 backed by a four piece band called
Wilder. The tour started in Belfast and ended in
Slough. Along the way they also recorded a BBC television special
called "Sight & Sound" which was recorded on the 28th
January and broadcast on 11 Feb
1978 and featured 9 songs.
January 1980 Gilbert married his Norwegian girlfriend Aase and later
that year their first daughter Helen-Marie was born.
returned to CBS in 1980 and released "Off
Centre" (1980) and "Life
& Rhymes" (1982) but maintained a low profile during much of the
1980s, recharging his batteries and moving to the Channel Island
presented a ITV special in January 1981 with special guest Barbara
Dickson. "Off Centre" provided his 13th UK Top 20
In A Kiss?", after which legal proceedings monopolised his time.
In preparation for the legal battle ahead, Gilbert sold his home in
Weybridge, Surrey and moved to Bunclody in Ireland. He did this
because artists are exempt from income tax in Ireland. Tara,
his second daughter was born in 1984. Gilbert
released no new material between 1982 and 1987.
first release for five years was "Frobisher
Drive" in 1987 and was only available in Germany. Frobisher
Drive was the name of the road on which Gilbert lived in Swindon but the
photograph on the album sleeve was taken on Gold Hill in Shaftsbury in the
UK. The same album with a
slightly different track listing was released in the UK in 1989 under the
The Key Of G", and included "So What",
his first chart single in almost a decade.
Gilbert also made a
return to live performances in the early nineties, playing regularly in both
Europe and Japan. October 1990 saw the release in Japan of the "Original
Collection" on the Kitty record label. This consisted of
Gilbert's first five albums on CD along with a 3" CD single of
"Alone Again (Naturally)" / "Save It" and a booklet.
In 1991, Gilbert was again in court, this time he
sued American rapper Biz Markie and won the decision after Markie's
unauthorized sample of "Alone Again (Naturally)" on his 1991 album
I Need a Haircut. Later that year "Sounds of the Loop" was
released in Japan. Among the tracks was a duet
with Japanes singer Takao Kisugi on "Can't Think Straight".
A 1992 single, "Tomorrow
had topped the Japanese charts for nine weeks, and this success led to a
tour of Japan in early 1993 with his newly formed backing group, during
which he recorded and filmed his first ever live album "Tomorrow Today".
Gilbert's newfound success in Japan led to the Japanese only release of
Little Album" (1992) and "Rare
Tracks" (1992). The 1993 UK release of "Sounds
Of The Loop" was critically acclaimed (Daily Telegraph's Record Of The Week)
and this time included a duet with
the legendary Peggy Lee on "Can't
Think Straight". The Norwegian release of the album has a
"Can't Think Straight" duet with Kirstin Siggard while in Spain
the duet was with Silvia Torisa. This album was recorded almost entirely at his home in
Jersey in the Channel Islands.
Larry" (with a similar track listing to the Japanese released
"The Little Album") was released in 1994. Larry is a famous English cartoonist,
much admired by Gilbert. Larry provided original cartoons for the
album sleeve and booklet. "Every
Song Has It's Play" was released the following year and was the
soundtrack of the semi-autobiographical stage
show that Gilbert had acted and sang in, in 1991.
Sowing Machine" was released in 1997. The title is a humorous
reaction by Gilbert to being constantly referred to as a singer/
songwriter. "Irlish"was released in 2000 and yielded three singles, "Have
It", "Say Goodbye"
and "Two's Company (Three Is Allowed)".
The album title "Irlish", combination of the words Irish and English,
appropriate for someone born in Ireland and raised in England.
Gilbert's family was part of this migration.
In 2001 The
Official Gilbert O'Sullivan Website was launched as well as his own
record label ByGum
continued to tour and he played a series of concerts in Ireland in 2001
and in the UK in 2002
to promote the Irlish
album. A new studio album "Piano
Foreplay" followed in 2003.
In 2004 Rhino Handmade Records released
a 3 CD anthology in the USA of Gilbert's music entitled "Caricature:
The Box". It contains 73 tracks which span the years
1967-2001. This is the first in-depth survey of Gilbert's lengthy
career. It contains numerous singles and B-sides, tracks from 16 of his
albums, and five previously unreleased tracks. A b-side collection
entitled "The Other Sides
of Gilbert O'Sullivan" was released in Japan in 2004 and contained many
tracks available on CD for the first time.
he Singer And His SongsHimself"
reissued releases from Union Square Music kept coming with Gilbert's 4th and
A Stranger In My Own Back Yard and
being released in June. Gilbert also announced plans to play at the Hop
Farm Music Festival in Kent on the 1st July. Gilbert's 6th and 7th
studio albums "Off Centre" and "Life & Rhymes"
were released in August 2012.
A series of singles were made available for download on iTunes, including "Alone
Again (Naturally)", "Christmas Song", "Clair",
"Nothing Rhymed", "No Matter How I Try",
"Out Of The Question" and "Taking A Chance".