FOR Gilbert O’Sullivan, it has always been about the songs.

In the early Seventies he was one of the most successful artists of the era and no edition of Top of the Pops was seemingly complete with Gilbert sat at his piano, wild frizzy hair fighting its way out from under a flat cap and wearing a knitted tank top with a large G on the front.

But behind the idiosyncratic look, a master songwriter was at work bringing us hits such as Clair, Alone Again (Naturally) and Get Down - in 1972 he sold more than 10 million records around the world.

Last year he underwent a renaissance as his album, Gilbert O’Sullivan, entered the UK top 20 - his first chart success in more than 43 year. And next week, he will be heading to Burnley Mechanics to demonstrate that at 72 he has lost none of his edge.

“The quality of the song has always been the key,” he said. “I wouldn’t be talking to you if I wasn’t still enthusiastic about the writing process because without the songs there wouldn’t be an artist.

“If you go right back to when I started, the fact that I looked so different and had that image – if I didn’t have the songs to back up that image I’d have been Tiny Tim the second!”

But for all the success - he has three Ivor Novello Awards and a Songwriter of the Year Award among many accolades - Gilbert remains very down-to-earth about his talents.

“I’m very much an amateur not a professional,” he said. “But that’s the reason I was able to write the songs I have because I love music.

“It was the same with Lennon and McCartney or Ray Davies - we don’t read music, we do it through the love of it so you just sit there ‘til you come up with something; you just play around with the chord configurations until you find something that works.”

For Gilbert discovering a great melody is the key.

“That’s the hardest thing to do,” he said. “It’s the melody that will generally dictate what the lyrics will be.”

Gilbert admitted that he will not start to work on a lyric for a song until he has got the melody sorted.

“I never finish a lyric until I know we are going to record it,” he said.

“When I go into room with a piano I’m excited as I ever was in search of whatever I’m looking for. If I come up with something I’ll trunk it,

“Melodies are little gold mines, you can store them away and then take them out to make a record when the time is right. It’s a magical process.”

After a stellar start to his career, issues with his management meant that Gilbert failed to recapture those early days of success really until last year’s album brought a whole new generation to his music. But he has no regrets.

“I’ve never worried about a lack of success,” he said. “Success has always been for me when I write a good song – that’s the one thing that I have total control over.

“I don’t have total control over how a record is produced or who is buying it when it’s put out on the market. I don’t worry about these thing. I just get on a do the job and enjoy it.”

For his new tour, Gilbert is heading out on the road with just his guitarist for company rather than his regular nine-piece band.

“When I meet people after the shows they’ve been telling me they really like this format because they could hear the lyrics clearer and it was almost like a one to one between them and me,” he said.

Next week’s Burnley date is one of a string of UK shows before then end of the year following a couple of dates in New York and Philadelphia, his first American shows for 43 years.

“The only tour I’d ever done in America before then was a wonderful disaster,” he laughed.

“So to be able to go back after all this time and for the fans to come out as they did was incredible. They thought it was something they would never see - we’ll be going back there in the New Year.”

Gilbert O’Sullivan, Burnley Mechanics, Thursday, October 24. Details from 01282 664400 or