322. ‘Clair’, by Gilbert O’Sullivan

For the first time in three hundred and twenty-two #1 singles… I find one that is not on Spotify. At least not in my ‘region’. I realise that this may be of no interest to anyone but me, but damn it if it hasn’t ruined the #1s Blog Playlist I attach at the foot of every post!


Clair, by Gilbert O’Sullivan (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 5th – 19th November 1972

Actually, the fact that this isn’t on Spotify might be quite telling. Spotify might be on to something… Let me explain. First up, we have whistling. Whistling in pop records rarely leads to good things. (There are notable exceptions, I will admit, but still.) Clair, The moment I met you, I swear, I felt as if something somewhere, Had happened to me… The tune is jaunty but bittersweet, the production very soft-focus. It’s easy-listening – the softest of seventies soft-rock.

Who is Clair? Must be his girlfriend, right? A guy called Gilbert writes a song about a girl called Clair. Words mean so little, When you look up and smile… Yadda-yadda-yadda… I don’t care what people say to me, You’re more than a child… Wait a second. Plot twist. Why in spite of our age difference, Do I cry, Each time I leave you…

Ah… she’s his daughter. Which kind of excuses the cutesy shlock factor. He’s written a love song to his daughter. Aw… But no. The mystery of ‘Clair’ continues to unravel. Nothing means more to me than hearing you say, I’m going to marry you, Will you marry me Uncle Ray…? What now? Who’s Uncle Ray?? I give up, and resort to Wiki.


Where I discover that ‘Clair’ was the child of O’Sullivan’s producer, and Ray is Gilbert. He would sometimes babysit his friend/producer’s daughter. He has written a chart-topping single about a child he sometimes babysat for. Process that over the horrible harmonica solo…

It’s clever, I guess. It’s like a murder-mystery novel that keeps you guessing till the end. And it ends with a flourish – I quite like the lines in the final verse in which he’s trying to put Clair to bed: Get back into bed, Can’t you see that it’s late, No you can’t have a drink… It’s quite modern, like today’s beanie-hat wearing singer-songwriters picking lyrics out of the mundane. If Tom Walker wrote a song about babysitting, it might sound a bit like ‘Clair’.

But the final verse can’t redeem the song as a whole. It’s pretty terrible (and crucially, if you miss the bit about babysitting, it sounds super, super creepy…) And just to rubber-stamp this song’s terribleness, the real-life Clair giggles on the final note, like a doll in a horror movie. Oh Clair…

Gilbert (Raymond) O’Sullivan – I assume that he was going for a pun on ‘Gilbert & Sullivan’ with his stage name? – is an Irish singer-songwriter who had been scoring hits since a couple of years before his first #1. ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ had been his biggest hit earlier in the year: a #3 in the UK and huge #1 on the Billboard 100. He’ll have one more chart-topper in early ’73, with a song I already know and that I can confirm is much better than this.

One final note: ‘Clair’ was at #1 for the twentieth anniversary of the UK Singles Chart. We have covered two decades’ worth of chart-topping singles, plus a diversion or two, in just over two and a half years, since my first post on Al Martino’s ‘Here in My Heart’! Well done to everyone who has been keeping up!

Listen to every other UK #1, here


21 thoughts on “322. ‘Clair’, by Gilbert O’Sullivan

    • Just made it collaborative, so if you could try to add it that’d be great 👍 I’ll sleep better knowing my playlist is complete, even though I can’t listen to all the songs…

      • Thanks. I think Spotify automatically updates playlists when different versions of songs get deleted or added, so keeping it all completely updated would be impossible. At least someone, somewhere in the world, will be able to listen to every song…

  1. Would you let him babysit for you after this song? I did like Alone Again but this one no. I never noticed the Children of the Corn laugh at the end…maybe because I never made it that far! Great write up.

  2. Gilbert has always been a bit protective about his back catalogue rights, he even won a court case that set a precedent, so I’m not surprised it’s not available. For me this marked the point at which Gilbert changed from a touchingly observant singer-songwriter (on Alone Again (Naturally) which is still brilliant, and Nothing Rhymed, or amusing, like No Matter How I Try and Ooh Wacka Do), and he dropped his short pants and 1940’s haircut-evoking-past, for woolly jumpers, curly long hair and schmaltz and I went right off him. This was too twee for me, and the follow-up was even worse! He had one more decent song in him (Christmas Song) before he disappeared up his own orifice with a song called A Woman’s Place (is in the home). Not a sensible opinion to voice if your core audience is female!

  3. For me his last real moment of glory was ‘I Don’t Love You But I Think I Like You’. It’s rather out of character, but had l been doing mobile discos in 1975 (I got into that scene about four years later), I would have played it to death. As it is, I remember spinning ‘Get Down’ regularly, even though it was several years old by then.

  4. Pingback: 328. ‘Get Down’, by Gilbert O’Sullivan – The UK Number Ones Blog

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  6. Pingback: 387. ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’, by Brotherhood of Man – The UK Number Ones Blog

  7. The lyrics to this song are really weird. I don’t think he means it in a creepy way, but I can’t help but feel a little creeped out listening to this, especially knowing who the song is about.

    • Yeah, Brotherhood of Man pull the same plot twist at the end of ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’, to similarly cringey effect. It was apparently a trend in the 70s to pretend you were singing about a lover when in fact you were singing about a small child…

  8. Rating: 2/5

    Ew, what are these lyrics? They’re even creepier with context. “Alone Again (Naturally)” is fantastic (5/5), but the only thing keeping this song from a 1 is that it has a nice melody.

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