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Giller look Gilbert O’Sullivan admits his pudding bowl haircut didn’t impress the ladies

The record companies and my manager hated it. They said, ‘Why don’t you just grow your hair and look like James Taylor? You’ll be far more successful’”

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Gilbert O’Sullivan has not lost his love of music through his long and successful career.

Gilbert O’Sullivan has not lost his love of music through his long and successful career.

Gilbert O’Sullivan has not lost his love of music through his long and successful career.

In the 1970s, Gilbert O’Sullivan was one of pop’s biggest stars, but the singer says his pudding basin haircut was a turn-off for the girls.

Long hair was fashionable at the time, so Waterford-born Gilbert decided to buck the trend in order to stand out as he strove to make his mark in music.

“I created that character, Gilbert, with a pudding basin haircut, which was then very unfashionable, but now everybody has short hair except me,” he laughs, recalling those early days before his career took off with smash hit songs such as Nothing Rhymed and Alone Again (Naturally).

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Irish-born British singer and songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan back in 1970.

Irish-born British singer and songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan back in 1970.

Irish-born British singer and songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan back in 1970.

“The record companies and my manager hated it. They said, ‘Why don’t you just grow your hair and look like James Taylor? You’ll be far more successful’.”

Gilbert stuck to his guns, not only sporting a short back and sides haircut, but completing the ‘look’ with a flat cap and short pants.

“I struggled with girlfriends because of how I looked, but I knew that once I got established I could move on,” he says.

“Now I look pretty cool in those old pics. They’re not embarrassing old photographs.”

Once he hit the big time, O’Sullivan dumped the image and let his locks flow… and at 74 he’s a long-haired pop artist.

Set to perform on Independent.ie’s Rock Against Homelessness online concert this evening, Gilbert is on top form as he chats about his life and times with the Sunday World.

He grew up in Waterford until the age of seven when his parents emigrated to England.

“I’m proud of my roots and I love going back,” Gilbert says of Ireland. “It’s always very special to perform there.”

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The singer-songwriter moved over from England to Bunclody, Co. Wexford, for four years back in the 1980s to avail of the tax exemption for artists.

He was suing his manager Gordon Mills at the time over publishing rights.

“Moving to Ireland, and having that tax exemption on my writer’s income that Charlie Haughey set up, meant that if I lost the court case, and you must never take the view that you don’t lose, I would have been in the best position to pay for it,” he tells me. “But I won the case.”

In January 1980, O’Sullivan married his beautiful Norwegian girlfriend Aase Brekke. Later that year, the first of their two daughters, Helen-Marie, was born. Tara was born two years later in Ireland while the family was living in Wexford.

They later set up a permanent home in Jersey.

“My wife found it quite lonely when we were living in Ireland,” Gilbert explains. “She didn’t make friends there because we were so far away from Dublin.

“I loved it there because I’m not a social animal. I like being on my own, so I loved it in Bunclody. It’s the writer in me.”

His daughters both work with him in the business, but Gilbert admits he was relieved when they didn’t decide to become performers.

“The good thing for me is that they’re not working up front, they’re not wanting to be singers, because that can be difficult if your father or your mother is very famous,” the star says.

“Bob Dylan’s son struggled. Paul Simon’s son struggled. Paul McCartney’s son struggled. I think Sting’s daughter struggled.

“Helen-Marie got into music publishing and Tara does all the social media for me.”

Gilbert is staying at Helen-Marie ‘s London apartment while he’s recording a new album.

His passion for songwriting hasn’t diminished with the passing years. “I still get excited about it because I love the craft of songwriting,” he says.

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Gilbert O'Sullivan and fans at Dublin airport in 1971.

Gilbert O'Sullivan and fans at Dublin airport in 1971.

Gilbert O'Sullivan and fans at Dublin airport in 1971.

“It’s wonderful to have success, but it’s also very special when you finish what you think is a good song.

“I’ve never invited my wife or my children to ‘come and listen to this, let me know what you think’ when I finish a song.

“The one reason I’ve never done that is that when I first started to write songs in England, and being from an Irish family there, we’d always have get-togethers. The accordion would come out and a sing-song would happen.

“On one famous occasion, Mum said to the gang, ‘You know Raymond writes songs, don’t you Raymond. Why don’t you play one of your songs.’

“So I did, and there was total silence. From that day on I decided that I would never do that again.”

He laughs at the memory. “It’s nice for people to tell me that they like a song when they do hear it eventually. For me, there’s a great feeling when I finish what I think is a good song, and the only person that has heard it is me before it’s released. That will always remain special for me.”

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