Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Gilbert O’Sullivan

Gilbert O’Sullivan is responsible for a key moment in my musical heritage as his first album “Himself” released in august 1971was the first “proper” album I bought, up to which it had been singles and the cheap “Top Of The Pops” compilations, and it all came back to me recently when he was featured in the BBC4 “Songwriters” series in the company of the likes of James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell.

Due to his initial  “street urchin” image which was at odds with the diminishing hippie and inspiring glam images, he was to many regarded as a bit of a novelty act and it was this and the fact that we shared the same first name (though later I would discover that his was obviously a stage name) that attracted me to the purchase.

It was much later that I realised just how clever a writer he was.

Here is an early performance of a “Nothin Rhymed”  from the album which remains one of his best songs.

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 your pleased say I am
And if while in the course of my duty
I perform an unfortunate take
Would you punish me so, unbelievably so
Never again will I make that mistake
This feeling inside me could never deny me
The right to be wrong if I choose
And this pleasure I get
From say winning a bet
Is to lose

When I’m drinking my Bonaparte Shandy
Eating more than enough apple pies
Will I glance at my screen and see real human beings strave to death
Right in front of my eyes

Nothing old, nothing new, nothing ventured
Nothing gained, nothing still-born or lost,
Nothing further than proof nothing wilder than youth
Nothing physically, recklessly, hopelessly blind
Nothing I couldn’t say
Nothing why ‘cos today
Nothing rhymed

[Break]

This feeling inside me could never deny me
The right to be wrong if I choose,
And this pleasure I get
From say winning a bet
Is to lose
Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing ventured
Nothing gained, nothing still-born or lost,
Nothing further than proof nothing wilder than youth
Nothing physically, recklessly, hopelessly blind
Nothing I couldn’t say
Nothing why ‘cos today
Nothing rhymed

O’Sullivan was born Raymond Edward O’Sullivan in Waterford, Ireland.

In 1960, his family moved to Swindon, Wiltshire, England. He attended St Joseph’s and the Swindon College of Art, where he briefly played drums in a band founded by Rick Davies (later creating the band Supertramp) and where he developed his lifelong interests in music and art.

Later O’Sullivan then played with such semi-professional bands as The Doodles and The Prefects, and, later, Rick’s Blues, while at college.

In 1967, O’Sullivan was signed to a five-year contract with CBS Records by Stephen Shane, then Professional Manager at CBS’s April/Blackwood publishing division. Shane renamed him ‘Gilbert O’Sullivan’, a play of words on Gilbert and Sullivan.

After two unsuccessful singles with CBS, “What Can I Do?” and “Mr. Moody’s Garden”, and one with the Irish record label, Major Minor, O’Sullivan sent some demo tapes to Gordon Mills, the manager of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, whereupon O’Sullivan was signed to Mills’ label, MAM Records.

O’Sullivan’s self-created eye-catching visual image comprised a pudding basin haircut, cloth cap and short trousers. Mills reportedly hated the image, but O’Sullivan insisted on using it initially, until he assumed a more modern ‘college-like’ look in which he often wore a sweater bearing a large letter ‘G’.

At the end of 1970, O’Sullivan achieved his first UK Top 10 hit with the above “Nothing Rhymed”.

Subsequent hits including “Underneath The Blanket Go” which reached No. 1 in the Netherlands, “We Will” and “No Matter How I Try” followed, and in 1971 O’Sullivan issued his debut album, Himself

I’ve no wish to hurry you luv
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 form the start
What could it be…
It’s Matrimony
I know how you’ve dreamt about
Being walked down the aisle
But think of the money we’ll save
And you’ll see it’s worthwhile
It won’t please our mums and dads
But they don’t even know,
Besides if they did what’s the betting
They wouldn’t even go
You and me are all that matters
Disregard the rest
Trust your soon to be old man
He knows what is best
Very shortly now there’s going to be
An answer from you
Then one from me
That’s matrimony
I’m truly grateful for the little things in life
That have made me so glad
Every other hour that I spend with you
Is not in the least bit sad
Quite the opposite in fact
And if you don’t believe me
Here’s the proof
Ask me if I and I’ll say “Aye, I do”

[Break]

You and me are all that matters
Disregard the rest
Trust your soon to be old man
He knows what is best
Very shortly now there’s going to be
An answer from you
Then one from me
That’s matrimony
Marriage-the joining together of the two people
For better or for worse Till death them do part
Ole!

In 1972, O’Sullivan reached international stardom with the self-penned ballad, “Alone Again (Naturally)”, which reached No. 3 in UK; No. 1 in the U.S., spending six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and selling nearly two million copies; No. 2 in New Zealand (11 weeks on the charts in total); No. 1 in Canada for 2 weeks (13 weeks in the Top 40); and No. 1 in Japan (21 weeks on the chart). The song earned O’Sullivan his first gold disc.

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top
Will throw myself off
In an effort to
Make it clear to whoever
Wants to know what it’s like
When you’re shattered
Left standing in the lurch at a church
Were people 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

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to who wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt
Talk about, God in His mercy
Oh, if he really does exist
Why did he desert me
In my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that there are more hearts
Broken in the world that can’t be mended
Left unattended
What do we do
What do we do

[Instrumental Interlude]

Alone again, naturally

Looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears
And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start
With a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever [Spoken]
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally

O’Sullivan followed this success with the songs “Clair” (1972, from the album Back To Front), which reached No. 2 in the United States on the Hot 100 and No. 1 in Canada (14 weeks in the Canadian Top 40);”Out of the Question” (also from Back To Front), which reached No. 14 in Canada;

One minute you say you will
And the next you won’t
One minute you want me
And the next you don’t
You’re turning me upside down
Giving me the run around
Don’t think that I don’t know
I do
Don’t think that I won’t go
You watch me
It isn’t out of the question
One minute you’re kissing me
And the next you’re not
One minute you remember
And the next you’ve forgot
I don’t like it one little bit
You’re giving me the slip
Don’t think that I don’t know I do
Don’t think that I won’t go
If you want me
It’s really out of the question
Between us we could have conquered Everest
Sailed empty handed around the world
But no you couldn’t wait
You had to go make the fatal mistake
Of leading me on
You silly girl, that was wrong-
Don’t think that I don’t know
I do
Don’t think that I won’t go
You watch me
It isn’t out of the question
One minute you’re full of life
And the next you’re sad
One minute you’re marvelous
And the next you’re bad
I don’t like it one little bit
You keep giving me the slip
Don’t think that I don’t know
I do
Don’t think that I won’t go
If you want me
It’s really out of the question
I’m doing my best and I don’t know why
I’m giving her a call and there’s no reply
She’s getting me down till I can’t get up
She’s giving me hell and if that’s not enough
She’s breaking my heart nearly every day
Not only in pieces but every way
I’m sorry of course but the fault is hers
I’m doing my best and I don’t know why

My last connection was “Get Down” (1973, from the album I’m A Writer Not A Fighter), which reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 7 in both the U.S. and Canada.

Told you once before
And I won’t tell you no more
Get down, get down, get down
You’re a bad dog baby
But I still want you ’round

You give me the creeps
When you jump on your feet
So get down, get down, get down
Keep your hands to yourself
I’m strictly out of bounds

Once upon a time I drank a little wine
Was as happy as could be, happy as could be
Now I’m just like a cat on a hot tin roof
Baby what do you think you’re doin’ to me

Told you once before
And I won’t tell you no more
So get down, get down, get down
You’re a bad dog baby
But I still want you ’round around
I still want you around
Aye aye aye

I don’t give a damn
And I’d like you if you can to
Get down, get down, get down
You’re bad dog baby
But I still want you ’round

Once upon a time I drank a little wine
Was as happy as could be, happy as could be
Now I’m just like a cat on a hot tin roof
Baby what do you think you’re doin’ to me

Told you once before
And I won’t tell you no more
So get down, get down, get down
You’re a bad dog baby
But I still want you ’round around

This was a single I was given as a present after I had split my head in the school playground and it was perhaps the last “pop” single I acquired as by then my tastes had strayed to the new music I had discovered via “Sounds” and now Rory Gallagher and Uriah Heep ruled until 1975 when I discovered THE WHO.

To buy the music of Gilber O’Sullivan click HERE

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October 11, 2010 - Posted by | Blast from The Past, Video |

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