Profile of the singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan, which journeys through the personal and creative highs and lows of an unconventional, complex and often difficult soloist.
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Billy Joel doesn't care if he's bald...
and bearded at 50. Who gives a shit?
Neil Sedaka, up to his last tour, wore a toupee.
We all get kind of sucked in to thinking
we need to look like we used to look.
I think it's much better if you can be allowed to age gracefully.
I love the name Gilbert O'Sullivan.
-What's your real name?
-O'Sullivan. Raymond O'Sullivan.
Originally, I was going to be Gilbert just for recording purposes
and use O'Sullivan for writing.
I always thought you'd invented the whole name,
sort of as if you were doing a play on words.
You know, using the name of the famous team of Gilbert and Sullivan
to sort of make people notice you.
I just did what I wanted to do and it was different to everybody else.
I was the biggest selling solo artist in the world in '72.
I'm only aware of that now.
..Mr Gilbert O'Sullivan.
'I think I was in every secretary's wall,
'with my hairy chest.
'You were their idol.
'There was David Cassidy, there was you, there was The Osmonds.
'There was you.
'It was good times. Been there, done that, enjoyed every minute of it.'
There's an old saying in showbiz. "When you're hot, you're hot. When you're not you're..."
The first to ignore you are the very people that praised you the most.
That's true of anybody.
You haven't had a really big hit for quite a while.
-HE SOBS SARCASTICALLY
-Isn't that a shame?
-Isn't that a shame?
I mean, as an artist,
-I'm rock bottom.
-No, no, no. I mean, that's OK, but it's true.
-Where is it true?
-It's called "credibility crap".
MUSIC: "Nothing Rhymed" by Gilbert O'Sullivan
I'm not in the best position, at 62 years of age,
to be making pop music
when, to all intents and purposes, your career's over, you're history.
# Would you punish me so, unbelievably so
# Never again will I make that mistake... #
You can't really film this, it's a bit naff.
Well, you know, is that really interesting? I didn't think it was.
Is that really interesting?
I wouldn't be here... Normally, I'd be...
RADIO PLAYS That's me and tea. Is that all right?
I don't drink tea in silence,
so you're not getting the real me, are you? Come on.
You can come in here for two minutes and sit here.
-Sit here for two minutes. Ignore them.
-I'm not ignoring them.
You must ignore them. That's what you have to do.
-Did, um, did FX get back to you, then?
-Yes. They have everything.
-They have it, yeah?
-And were they...
-I'll pick it up.
-He won't send it to you? They'll just do it.
-It's easier to pick it up.
Kevin has a nice way about him,
that he can charm my enemies,
and there's plenty of them. So, Kevin's good like that. He doesn't make enemies,
which I think is a good trait to have.
I'm the opposite, in a way.
By being blunt and honest. If I think you're fat, I'll tell you, you know.
Oh, God. I mean, I got into trouble by being like that.
I figure that, if I think somebody's fat and I should tell them, aren't I doing them a favour? No!
Artists like Kate Bush, Carly Simon,
have never toured because they just don't tour
because they have nerves problems. I think Carly Simon has a nerve problem,
and I think that Kate Bush, for some reason...
She brought out an album about four years ago, after so many years.
If you won't get on the road, I don't think it works.
# I told you once before and I won't tell you no more.
# Get down, get down, get down
-# Oh, you're a...
-(AUDIENCE)..bad dog, baby
# ..but I still want you around. #
I've been touring more in the last five years than the previous 30.
I'm doing the Albert Hall in October, Birmingham, Manchester...
And in between that we'll be finishing off another record.
I write pop songs, end of story.
That's all I wanted to do, that's all I want to do and that's all I continue to want to do.
I've no interest in just touring and living in the past.
You get off the treadmill, I don't think you deserve to get back on...in my opinion.
Don't. You shouldn't get off the treadmill if you want to maintain that career.
If you give up, retire and come back
and expect everybody to like you again, I don't get that.
SHE TALKS IN HEBREW
No, I'm all right. Unless I'm shiny or something, but I don't really like make-up.
-You sure you don't want anything?
-No, I don't.
MOBILE PHONE RINGS
I don't like make-up rooms. For a start, there's mirrors in there.
And people in them. I've never like make-up rooms.
A bit like barber shops.
HE TALKS IN HEBREW
-What do you expect of the Israeli audience?
-That's a good question.
That's what I'm asking myself. It's the kind of question I ask myself because
this is the first time I've been here, so it's an experience for that.
-Where have you been all these years? Why didn't you come?
-We have been waiting for years.
-You didn't call, you didn't write.
-Better late than never!
# Once upon a time I drank a little wine
# Was as happy as could be, happy as could be... #
-All right, you've got your show tomorrow night. Are you excited?
-Really looking forward to it.
-It's a beautiful place. Have you seen it?
-No. I've seen pictures. The amphitheatre looks really good.
Very nice. And then the culture hall in Tel Aviv.
1980, you got married with Aase, your Norwegian girlfriend.
-Yeah, that's right.
-And ever since then, happily ever after?
Yeah, we've been together through thick and thin,
with our two nice, daughters, two lovely daughters
-in their mid-20s now, living in London.
-Oh! That's great.
I admire you for talking so much about yourself.
I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about Gilbert O'Sullivan. There's a difference.
That's what it's about. Song writing, tour...
-You don't know...
That's what it's about. That's what they want to hear. What's the point of doing it?
I don't feel it's about me, I feel it's about the person
who that is, you know.
One o'clock they're coming, aren't they?
1.15pm you've got to be up there.
Right. You sort it out?
In business, you have to be tough to tough it out.
Demand what you think you're worth. Without a formal manager,
Kevin fills that space, albeit on the level of communication with people.
That's the danger of representing yourself is that you have to kind of
blow your own trumpet, which is generally what managers do.
They're they ones that go in and say, "I want this for my artist, he deserves this."
In my case, I have to do that and it's quite good with e-mails cos I can use somebody else's name.
I'll do letters for Kevin. I can say I'm Kevin and make demands.
And if I do get up people's backs, then Kevin can be there to smooth it out a little.
He's good like that. He's very easy-going, Kev.
I take care of how it sounds, but we have sound technicians,
we have on-stage technicians, a lighting technician. It's a big crew.
-# Side by side... #
-And back to back
(BOTH) I think it's fair to say that's that.
Martin, tonight, don't play on on "we will".
'Great musicians behind me, but it's my voice that's at the forefront.'
-And Nothing Rhymed, be more gentle even.
'I can't hide behind anything.
'You know, it's... The focus is on me.'
I've actually taken it down. It's really loud. I can't hear anything.
It's really hard-sounding this. Wah!
Is this feeding back to Francis? I can hear...
One. One, two.
It's really hard-sounding. Wah. Wah! One, two.
If you're a singer with a hard voice,
what you don't want to ever hear in your monitor is it sounding harder.
If it does that, then you just withdraw.
It makes it difficult for you to reach simple notes.
# ..and left standing in the lurch
# At a church where people're saying... #
The nightmare for me is you know from the first song it's wrong,
and you've got 30 songs to go. It's just horrible!
You just want the earth to swallow you up.
# Alone again, naturally. #
The big issue is that the audience enjoyed it, really.
They really enjoyed it.
And that's the main thing, really.
And you managed, you managed to complete the show.
The second half was really good.
'Well, it's nice of people, you know, to say, "Not to worry," and, "We thought it sounded great."
'It doesn't really, in my heart it doesn't help me at all.
'I know how bad it was.'
'I'm still pissed off about last night. I'm kind of depressed.'
After the first number, I knew I had a problem,
-and I had 30-odd numbers to go.
So you ima...so every number, I'm dreading.
I dropped certain numbers. I just couldn't face it.
-It's a silly thing, but it's such an important thing.
But if it's right, it's magic.
# If I give up the seat I've been saving
# To some elderly lady or man
# Am I being a good boy?
# Am I your pride and joy, mother?
# Please, if you're pleased Say I am
# Nothing good, nothing bad
# Nothing ventured, nothing gained
# Nothing still-born or lost
# Nothing further than proof
# Nothing wilder than youth
# Nothing older than time
# Nothing sweeter than wine
# Nothing physically Recklessly, hopelessly blind
# Nothing I couldn't say
# Nothing, why? Cos today, nothing rhymed. #
It feels pretty good.
-Yeah. Hi, guys.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
-From your fans.
-That was good. OK.
I didn't know you cared.
How fantastic was that?
-OK, come on in.
-I must be in a picture too, please.
-Did you enjoy it?
-Yeah, thank you.
'The only kind of down thing is once it's over, it's over.'
'The great concert is over. The following day it's gone.'
-Did you enjoy it?
'So the glory of that is very short-lived,
'but the glory of a successful record or a really good song lives on,
'beyond you, even, if it's good enough.'
I loved that. Alone Naturally it's my hymn. You know, my hymn?
-I love you.
-OK. So what's your name?
Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
Not many singers put their own clothes away. Notice that?
See, this is...You wouldn't catch Elton John doing this.
'I was born in Waterford, County Waterford.
'Left when I was seven, moving to Swindon, a council house in Swindon.
'I was 13 when my father died.
'The biggest regret I have is not knowing him.'
And my mother was extremely good and strong and,
you know, bringing up six kids ruled with a rod of iron.
# Take off your shoes
# The both of yous... #
I spilled my dinner on the floor once,
and she made me pick it up and eat it again.
Can't waste dinners!
'The other side of that is the piano was there,
'guitar was there for me, drum kit was there.
'Who got me those?'
My mother was...
..tough on one hand but there she was providing me
'with these things which were the basis of my future, my career.
'Everybody on a Sunday, the men would be out digging their little bit of garden,
'and Ray would be out there in the garden shed, banging away on this old piano in there.
'What they had to put up with was incredible, when you think about it.
'You could see where it was leading. It was leading me to a musical kind of career of some kind.'
Gordon Mills, manages Tom Jones, Humperdinck.
He was like a god. He was the most powerful manager of a solo artist in the world.
'I thought I was fantastic, and when I wrote to Gordon I just said, look, I would like you to manage me.
'I didn't say, would you like to manage me? I said, I've picked you
'cos I think you're the right manager for a great artist like me.
'He produced great records.
'Alone Again, Clair, Get Down, he produced them all. He was a top man.'
He was like a sort of father figure to me.
'I went on holiday with him and his family. If I needed any money to buy
'on a boat trip, I'd ask him and he'd give it to me.
'It was just like being one of the family.
'I babysat for Gordon and his wife,'
and Clair was the one that would tend to get up in the middle of the night and whatever,
so I grew very fond of her, so the song was written not for her but for the parents.
So really it's a song, almost a thank you to them.
# As hard as I might do
# I don't know why
# You get to me in a way I can't describe
# Words mean so little when you look up and smile
# I don't care what people say
# To me you're more than a child Oh, Clair... #
'He was a great manager in the beginning, I had respect for him.
I think he was losing interest, he had gorillas and tigers,
and I'm young and I'm still very kind of ambitious and stuff, so...
I think his big mistake was
not letting me work with another producer.
The tragedy of the whole situation,
with the litigation, with the breaking up,
was not so much with him, but his family.
As far as his family are concerned,
they only saw what was on the surface.
All I wanted was the interest in my songs
that had been promised to me, that's all.
I didn't get it, and then when we split - amicably, I thought -
he told me that I would get it, go into his office and see
his chairman, or managing director, and he'd sort it out.
And I go in there and he tells me to eff off!
And it's not funny, cos it wasn't funny, it was devastating for me,
it was absolutely devastating for me. It was just horrible.
And so I then left that determined to fight.
On the day of the judgement, sitting with my lawyers and saying,
what does that mean? And he's looking at me and he says,
"You get everything." I said, "What do you mean, I get everything."
"You get everything."
The shirts off their back was basically what I was given.
I was the bastard, so I was the one that, after all he had done for me,
this is how I repay him.
I sued a manager and won.
I think the business turned on me, but it is ironic that
losing makes you more liked than winning.
It's a strange thing, that.
It's a human trait, I think.
Do people actually call you Gilbert?
It depends. If they like me, they call me Gilbert.
If they don't like me, it's usually Bastard or something.
# You say you got a big house out in the country
# With a ruddy great swimming pool
# You say you got a lot of things I never had, that's true
# But are you happy?
# Are you happy?
# Are you happy?
# When you get right down to the nitty gritty, are you happy? #
I'm very much a home person.
I'm not interested in celebrity on any level.
I was always very shy as a person, still am,
but I was never shy musically.
The last people I let in here were The Guardian,
and I'm a Guardian reader, and I was thrilled to bits.
Again, I do it when I have a record out.
We'll push for any press we can get, of course.
Eight times out of ten, you don't get it.
I've learned not to read good things about me if there are good things,
because you can't be a hypocrite and say,
"Well, I read the good reviews but I ignore the bad ones."
You have to take the view that
if you're not going to read one or the other, don't read any of them.
That's the important bit.
# I love it, but it doesn't knock me out
# I think it's great, but it could be better... #
The Gilbert O'Sullivan baggage of images has hurt me deeply.
# It's just not my cup of tea... #
If I was the kind of artist that had no image,
it would have stood me in much better stead.
As a songwriter, I would have had much more credibility.
# I hate it, but that doesn't mean it's bad... #
Lots of doors have closed, yeah.
The business is a young business, it's youth orientated.
Mojo, Q, these are the magazines that
people who are interested in music buy,
so if you're not written about in those magazines, you don't exist.
You don't fit into their view of what are good songwriters.
I don't get bitter.
Bitterness leads to it affecting your work.
I get angry, I can put my fist through a door.
I did some phone interviews from my home in Jersey,
and one of them was from a reporter from your paper,
and he said... He started off by saying, "Do you still write songs?"
So I figure that, you know...
I mentioned that, has he heard of the word "research"?
Because I had an album out.
And so a little bit of research would have told him
exactly what I was up to and what we were doing.
But anyway, when I pointed it out to him, he said,
"I can't handle this," and he put the phone down on me.
So I wrote to your editor,
and the editor said they were going to check out.
I think he was an independent who wasn't... Not like you are!
I'm famous for my letters.
I do write.
Hot Press have got in their files quite some vitriolic ones from me.
So I don't mind doing that. I think Spike Milligan was a bit like that.
Spike used to write to people
that made what he felt were unfair comments
about his problems, or whatever. So he would send off notes and stuff.
So I'm quite famous for doing that. I can be quite...
But I get to the point.
I get my point across. I'm not looking for a response,
necessarily - I just like to point out certain things.
Interesting thing yesterday. I heard that Radio 2 are going to do
a Billy Joel celebration of his 60th birthday.
Where were they when it was my 60th?
They never came calling. Anyway, they are celebrating his 60th birthday.
Billy Joel, one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever.
It'll be Sting next, and it'll be Elton John again.
Then it'll be Paul McCartney again,
and then it'll be back to Billy again.
So that's what comes around.
Which doesn't bother me.
'You seem to be quite healthy
'after a career in the music business which produces so many...'
-'Not after a career.'
-'A career that's still going on.
'Be very careful here!'
'I can see why the lyrics of your songs were so good,
'because you're careful, picking me up on my...
'There's people that would like to see me written off. I have to be very careful.
'Well, I'm not about to write you off.'
Out of sight, out of mind.
If you're not on the box regularly, you're a has-been.
No harm in that. Not in the public eye, people think you're dead.
I meet people all the time who say,
"We used to love you, we thought you were dead."
I mean, it's OK, I know exactly where they're coming from.
It only ever gets to me when people think, you know,
"What do you do now?"
I'm at it, I'm well at it.
I'm scratching at the door, you know, I'm desperate for success,
even at my age, because I want to be as successful as Snow Patrol.
I want to be up there with all of them.
Aase, your phone.
All these are kind of up-to-minute stuff that I need to work on.
They're all good stuff.
Just... It's all good stuff.
I've always been enthusiastic about the song writing,
regardless of what hasn't happened.
We sell 15, 20,000 albums, which is fine,
but obviously you'd like to sell hundreds of thousands.
I've just finished the remaining four lyrics of this album.
14 songs, we have. I'll probably use 12. I'll drop a couple.
There are two elements in this album which are very interesting.
Orchestra tracks, which are very different to the Nashville stuff.
Nashville stuff rocks,
and the orchestra stuff is kind of traditional.
# Don't be a stick in the mud
# Be a little clean... #
Well, I put my money where my mouth is.
It's me that pays for this.
-I've written these songs, I want to do it with an orchestra.
-And I like what Laurie does, and so that's what we do.
We have great pleasure in accompanying Gilbert,
an old friend of mine, and always composes interesting music,
so it will be fun. Shall we take an A?
-Laurie played piano on Get Down, that's his claim to fame.
He played the electric piano.
-Engelbert's. He was Engelbert's MD.
I was Engelbert's musical director, and that was '69 to '75.
-And Laurie got out.
Actually, I'm going to a dinner the Variety Club are giving.
-I was invited.
-Yeah. So I said, "Yes, I'd love to go,"
and then I found out it's in Manchester.
Yeah, yeah. I had to turn it down, because I said we'd be away.
-It was nice of them to ask me, actually.
-On behalf of Engelbert, they asked you?
-Engelbert had asked them to ask you?
Why couldn't he have called you up and just said...?
He probably wanted me to play the bloody piano, didn't he?!
Free, another freebie!
The way Laurie plays, I couldn't play like that, pianoforte and stuff.
You know, Laurie as a piano player
is traditional, piano-style playing, moving around and stuff,
whereas with me it's very chord, strict chord...
Which is good for me on my other songs,
but it would have been a little static on this.
I'm not fond of myself in other areas, but musically, I am really...
I have no problem having a healthy arrogance about my music
and about music in general.
I'll talk with... I'll stand with anybody.
I'm going to play this, yeah?
I think I should play it.
-One, two, two, two.
It's about talking of murder.
It's, you know... What is it? I've never... No.
I never thought I'd see the day when murder would become so commonplace,
hardly a day goes by without a murder taking place, and why?
Well, for a start, the punishment is not hard,
they send you to jail for life, but you're out in no time.
So it's that line of argument. It's a fact of life.
# I never thought I'd see the day... #
Most contemporary songwriters, from Lennon and McCartney through,
don't read music. That's not how we write.
Our generation of songwriters wrote through their love of the music,
and it's that ignorance,
that naivety about not knowing which has helped me as a songwriter.
This song about Private Eye, it's nonsense.
"A lady asked me nicely if I'd find just what it is that is on her mind.
"I said, 'Certainly, that's my job - you see, I'm private eye.'"
End of story!
It's the contrast to murder.
You know, when you get depressed about writing a song about murder,
you just move into a light-hearted mood. So it's a bit of fun.
# So I investigated right away
# Started from her head and through the day
# Worked down to her feet, no time to stop and eat
# I'm private eye, at your service until I die
# My nose angles... #
# La, la, la, la, la, la
# La, la, la, la, la, la
# La, la, la, la, la
# La, la, la, la, la. #
Done. A good day at the office.
Yeah, a lot of hard work,
and, you know, it's work in progress, there's no sitting back.
# When, a little while from now
# If I'm not feeling any less sour
# I promised myself to treat myself
# And visit a nearby tower
# And, climbing to the top
# Will throw myself off
# In an effort to make clear to whoever
# What it's like when you're shattered
# Left standing in the lurch
# At a church where people are saying
# "My God, that's tough, she stood him up
# "No point in us remaining
# "We may as well go home"
# As I did on my own
# Alone again, naturally. #
I mean you can't write something like that, you know -
I mean, it's so personal, the song -
I don't think you can have written it without having lived it.
It had to come from your own life, I would think. No?
Well, that's what most people who hear it say. They say to sing about something like that,
you obviously must have experienced it. But that's not true,
and, really, the way I answer that question is by saying
it's not necessarily to experience a situation
to write about it. What's important,
to me anyway, is to understand the situation.
These are the original Alone Again lyrics.
In those days, I didn't write that many extra verses.
I do that a lot more now.
"To think that only yesterday, but to think that this afternoon,
"a week tomorrow afternoon, we'd have been on our honeymoon."
You know, so those are the... "Lying in the sun, having lots of fun,
"As any newly-married couple would do,
"but reality is such, I suppose, that to keep us on our toes..."
So those are all the Alone Again early stages. Interesting.
I have a good memory for all my songs.
I often think that if a fire came in here and razed everything,
I'd remember a lot.
Of course, I'd be absolutely gutted to lose all this stuff.
# What's in a kiss?
# Have you ever wondered just what it is?
# More perhaps than just a moment... #
All these songs are my very first songs.
A lot of them I haven't used. Some of them I haven't used.
Mary And Me is a really good song.
# Mary and me, a couple deep in love, I know it's true
# I always wanted to
# Please go away and leave us be, the way it used to do. #
People say, "Who inspires you lyrically?" Very few people.
But Dylan was a big inspiration in one sense,
because he wrote about other things than moon in June.
But Spike Milligan was a huge influence,
nonsensical lyrics and stuff, and I like that aspect of lyric writing.
Life In The Old Dog Yet, good album title.
Growing Old Disgracefully, I have a song called that.
So these things kind of remind me of these things.
We've done that one.
That was on... Look at that.
That's Gordon Mills' handwriting for Nothing Rhymed.
So he wrote that, it was the first time it was written out.
I'd had the idea for the lyric having seen the... I think it was Biafra,
but it was certainly the significance of starving children on the screen,
which nobody had seen. That was the first time footage like that had been
on a major TV channel. That really brought it home to so many people.
So you couldn't not be affected by it.
# When I'm drinking my Bonaparte Shandy
# Eating more than enough apple pies
# Will I glance at my screen and see real human beings starve to death
# Right in front of my eyes? #
It's no big deal.
These are just the songs you have at the time.
Nothing stands out being the relevance of writing that,
it's just what comes out at the time.
# I may be old-fashioned
# So what if I am? #
I was a prolific songwriter.
A nine-to-five songwriter. You know,
you're touching on all kinds of areas that interest you, intrigue you,
that catch your attention.
I am chauvinistic in the sense that
I believe I don't think marriage works without children.
# But I believe
# A woman's place is in the home... #
What's the role of the woman within marriage?
A housewife, of course.
It's not the healthiest thing to be writing about
if you're looking for exposure,
but on the other hand, as a lyricist, it's great.
I'll defend it because I do take the... It's not straight ahead,
it looks at both sides.
I think it covers the issue pretty well,
but if you just pick up aspects of it, just the title throws you.
That came later, which is
I Don't Trust Men With Earrings In Their Ears.
You know, what's it...? "I don't like women that look like they're men,
"I trust only those who are true to themselves,
"and God knows there aren't too many of them."
Relentless rhythm has always been Gilbert's trademark.
At home, bashing away karate-style,
he builds a lot of songs and destroys a lot of pianos.
That's why I break notes.
It's what's known as a karate chop.
Your left hand is your drum.
I've always played like that.
Very, very tough left hand and stuff,
so it, I think, would make most piano teachers scream with horror.
If you wanted to kind of categorise
an O'Sullivan approach to song writing,
what's nice about his work is that when you do middle...
I love middle sections,
because I like going off the beaten track lyrically
to go into another story and getting back to the original story,
but I also do it musically,
because what's nice is... And Lonely is a good example.
You see? Suddenly you're into a "How do you do that?"
And it's because when I was writing it, I came up with that
and I also came up with another one,
a different one, and I just chose that one.
So that searching for...
After having the original inspiration on melody on the verse,
you look for the middle section. I like middle sections.
You say you still sit down every morning and...
Hey, it's a nine-to-five.
This is a daily thing still?
Yeah, I'll sit there. I love it. It's hard work. I mean, you know,
you can get up and it's a sunny day and you think, "Who needs this?"
I don't have to do it, but I love it, because it's exciting to think
what this lyric, what this melody I've come up with...
What could I write about, what's the lyric, what's coming out of my head?
I feel that there is so much still to write about.
I love lyric writing,
-and I like the difficult thing of coming up with good melodies.
Because the danger is, as you get older as a writer,
that you lose interest in honing in on
getting the influence to write a good melody.
Because very often, good melodies you write are based on an influence
of hearing other melodies.
You buy CDs not because you want to amass a collection of them,
you buy them because you're interested in what's going on,
and you listen to them and put them away.
That's a pretty broad church of music.
I like Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac.
I'll buy Take That to see what they're up to.
That's the one I last bought,
which, of course, is Shirley Temple's greatest hits.
It's a knockout LP.
Fleet Foxes, interesting vocals.
RAP MUSIC PLAYS
Biz Markie, he's a famous rapper.
Biz Markie was the main man to begin with in the '80s.
They requested the use to sample the intro to Alone Again.
Such is life.
-And the reason you didn't let him use it?
-Because he's comedy.
I don't want that song associated with anything humorous.
The song is too important to be used for anything humorous.
So we protect that.
The great thing about ownership is that we can protect that.
We said no.
But being who they were, they just went ahead and released it.
So, you know, so what do you do?
So I got hold of American lawyers
and went through the whole process
that I had to go through years before earlier.
I had to go to New York, to go to court in New York.
In fact, all we said to begin with was,
"Just don't put it out, just withdraw it."
We weren't looking for money, just pull it back.
So we just said,
"If you don't withdraw this track within the next...
"I'll have every single Warner Bros record that's scheduled..."
Well, the S hit the fan there and then,
and that evening it was all settled.
We got a massive settlement, and a precedent was set there.
First, that was the first sampling case ever to go to court.
There had been sampling cases before, had been settled out of court,
but none of them had ever...
No sampling cases had ever gone to court with a ruling.
But who needs that? I wasn't looking for that, for God's sakes.
# In a little while from now... #
In my history, I have various songs
that mean more to some countries than they do to others,
but in this particular instance, American took Alone Again (Naturally) to their heart,
and it's never lost the impact it has for them. So that's great for me.
Because, as I say, it helps us, opens up doors.
Nashville is like Los Angeles was in the '70s,
where all these top US session guys played,
and now they all moved to Nashville. The standard of musicianship is high.
The idea of coming here to record appealed to me,
and also to have a base for future live work.
# Alone again, naturally. #
It's taken me seven years, or almost eight years, since I bought the house
to actually get down here to record,
but better late than never, so I'm really looking forward to it.
But Nashville, again one song has led the way.
It's a song written about 9/11,
so therefore it would be nice to record that with American musicians.
Well, I have to have a piano which is detuned below concert pitch,
which is unusual. It's unthinkable that
anybody would play a piano and want it detuned,
but I am that weird exception to the rule.
I have a limited vocal range, so the difference between a semitone and...
I mean, it affects my voice, and to cut a long story short,
when I started writing songs I used to buy really cheap pianos
which were never tuned, obviously,
because I could never afford to buy a tuner,
so they were always under pitch. So I'd then go to a studio
to make a record for the first time and I think, "What's going on?
"I'm playing in the same key, but it sounds higher."
You learn with experience that it's because everything is concert pitch.
But I'm so used to the semitone,
so I actually have a grand piano made by Bluthner in East Germany,
who made it for me, which is probably unique,
the only one in the world that has a lever,
so you turn the lever and it goes down a semitone.
-Oh, wow. So you play in C and you're singing in B?
We need to get copies of these.
Well, they'll probably do the wrong charts, I'd say.
Yeah? How do you want to work that?
Well, they'll probably say run the song once or twice, just run...
-Run the actual... Raise the tone.
-They can sit round me and they can listen to it?
Hey, play that sequence with the left hand, please.
Just the chords, without the rhythm, real slowly.
A flat minor or B, uh-huh.
Yeah, that's a diminished chord. OK, so that's a B diminished.
# La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
# La, la, la, la, la, la, la... #
There's that slight variation.
# La, la, la, la, la, la, la... #
I can't get to that, because of my right-hand chord.
Shall we put one down?
The vocal set-up is really good here. It's priceless to have that.
So we, another day...
I mean, because you know that problem that we're going to have at home.
'If I make a record, the vocal set-up has to be right.
'I've gone to studios where I've worked with a new engineer
'and the vocal set up is wrong, and I've had to terminate the session,
'bring in another co-producer and write down what it is that works.
'So all that you want to hear is
'your voice sounding the way, naturally, it should be.'
Let me just have a listen.
Might as well hit it.
# I don't know what makes a man
# Or a woman even think that terror isn't evil
# How could anyone have plans
# That would guarantee the death of thousands of people?
# And yet as I look back now on what happened
# Like the calls from those in planes they were trapped in
# Whatever they felt that day
# "I love you"
# That was all they wanted to say. #
-That was nice.
-Well done. That's good.
-It sounded really good.
-It's a good day.
It's a nice song, that.
-So we'll call it a day?
-It's a beautiful song.
-You've got some really great compositional ideas coming.
'You see, I don't want to be in a hotel,
'I don't want to be in a hired apartment. I hate all that.
'You get back from a studio
'and you're not in your own kind of environment.
'You can't really relax properly,
'and the beauty of having this place is that this is home.'
'Always when I come back from a trip abroad, Aase will tell you this,
'it's so annoying, the first thing I do
'when I walk in the house is straighten the rugs.
'I'm very obsessive compulsive.
'I don't suffer from it, I just have that.'
I'm very set in my ways. I hate it when things are not...
it drives my wife crazy.
It's a bit like if I see a waste bin, I have to empty it.
I don't like to see a waste bin with anything in it.
Work that one out. That's very Freudian!
'Taps always have to be clean.
'I go to the girls' flat in London,
'the first thing I do is check the taps.'
So it's just a quirk, just a freaky little thing I do.
# Nothing you can say or do
# Alters the fact
# Even with experience, which I don't lack
# I'm like a little lamb that can't find my way home
# Write about it, talked about it,
# Even asked
# Wanted it to happen
# And now it has
# I'm like a little lamb
# That can't find my way home
So it's strange really, in a way my mindset is on the new album.
-But this is certainly interesting to be here, right?
-You know you're here.
Mentally I was going in with a T-shirt that said "Everybody's going to the Albert Hall except me."
-I found that four clover up in the fields.
Where the cows are.
So that should bring lots of luck.
I'm looking forward to this.
You know, we did Glastonbury, we were on the same bill as Leonard Cohen
and Neil Diamond and all those kind of people.
It's good. I mean, for me it's... I have to...
Unlike a Cohen and a Diamond, I have to rebuild that
kind of respect. I have to get...
I have to work harder to get people to like my work than they do.
And that, in a way, is also part of what I attempt to do.
One, two, three, four.
# I don't wish to hurry you, love But have you seen the time? #
# It's a quarter to ten, and we're supposed to be there at nine... #
I'm always 21 when I write, but there will be a point even if I continue...
Irving Berlin was writing when he was 100, so I could continue to write for a long time, but there will
be a point where you stop. Leonard Cohen had his biggest ever tour success last year and he's 73.
Yeah, so there's life in the old dog yet.
# Once upon a time I drank a little wine
# Was as happy as could be
# Happy as could be
# I'm just like a cat on a hot tin roof
# Baby, what do you think you're doing to me? #
It's an unpredictable business and our business is full of nobody knows and that's comforting.
So there's always the possibility I can turn that corner
so this time next year I could be talking to you on who knows?
1, 2, 3, 4.
WHISTLING INTRO TO "CLAIR"
You can sing along if you want.
# Clair, the moment I met you I swear
# I felt as if something somewhere
# Had happened to me Which I couldn't see
# And then the moment I met you again... #
< This is Clair.
These girls! So how you been? We were going to maybe bring you on,
but you must come to other shows. Next year we're going to tour a lot. I'm really pleased you are here.
I tell you what, that film.
Is my make-up still all over my face? Because all of us were weeping.
< Sobbing. Sobbing!
It was amazing, I loved it. Yes, it was fantastic.
-Bloody good show.
-You enjoyed it?
-Cool. I'll see you all after.
The ultimate success for me is to be number one
and nobody to know it was me.
-This is to...
And Daniel, my husband. We love your music.
So is that K? With a K?
What's your documentary experience been like, to make that step?
Well, it was horrendous to actually agree to it, because I didn't really want to do it.
The intrusion just seemed awful to me.
It goes against the grain of what it is that I kind of stand up for.
On the other hand once I gave the go-ahead, as I told you,
I can't be a hypocrite and start complaining about it.
So I just kind of accept it.
If I don't like what you're doing...
..you'll have a hard job getting your show and...
you'll see the fiery side of me if it ain't good.
# I've no wish to hurry you, love But have you seen the time?
# It's quarter to ten and we're supposed to be there at nine
# I don't think the registrar Will be very pleased
# When we show up an hour late Like two frozen peas
# Both now facing for the first time Presently and past
# Something that begins with M And ends in alas
# More than not complete disaster Even from the start
# What could it be?
# It's matrimony. #
Gilbert O'Sullivan was Ireland's first international pop star. Filmed throughout 2009 on Jersey and in London, Nashville and Israel, this is a fascinating and witty journey through the personal and creative highs and lows of this unconventional, complex, unwavering and often difficult soloist. This is the first time O'Sullivan has given access to a documentary crew, allowing a rare insight into the private world of a single-minded and often pugnacious music man.
In the early 1970s he sat on top of the global charts with Alone Again (Naturally), Clair, Nothing Rhymed, Get Down and Matrimony. The poster pin-up star was up there with the likes of Elton John and the Osmonds, but by the mid-70s his career began to wane and by the time he came out of a long legal dispute with his manager in the mid-80s it had drifted into relative obscurity where it has stayed ever since. Today, the 62-year-old O'Sullivan is still working, touring and recording from his homes on Jersey and in Nashville, still songwriting from Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, driven to achieve again the chart success he once had.