LAST time he was in Swindon, Ray O'Sullivan - better known as Gilbert O'Sullivan - mentioned to his sister that he would like to meet up with his former band mates from Rick's Blues.

A strange number of coincidences has now led to plans for the singer/songwriter, who had chart hits with songs such as Clair, Alone Again, and Get Down, to get back in touch with two musicians from his old band in which he was a drummer.

Malcolm Mabbett was the guitarist in the group set up by Rick Davies, who went on to be founder of prog rock giants Supertramp. Rick composed some of their most well-known songs, including Goodbye Stranger, My Kind of Lady and Cannonball.

Malcolm's wife Christine spotted an article in the Swindon Advertiser a few months ago about Gilbert O'Sullivan's visit to the college and as it was Malcolm's 70th birthday she secretly called the Adver to see if we could put the musicians back in touch.

This newspaper called Gilbert's sister, Marie, who was struck by the coincidence.

Malcolm said: "My heart missed a beat when I heard, it came out of the blue.''

A week later Keith Ray, the bass player with Rick's Blues, got in touch with the Adver as he had just recorded an album.

"When people become famous you wonder if they want to be reminded of their roots so it's brilliant that Ray wants to come back,'' said Keith.

Gilbert O' Sullivan and Rick Davies had met as students at Swindon College of Art. When Rick formed his rhythm and blues band he persuaded Gilbert to play the drums as he wanted to move to keyboards.

Malcolm said: "I can still see Ray (Gilbert O'Sullivan) standing in the doorway on the day Rick introduced us. He was huddled up in his duffle coat, a shy little chap.''

The band would rehearse above a hairdressers belonging to Rick's mother in Regent Circus.

"I remember giving Ray a lift home on my Vespa scooter,'' said Malcolm.

It was the guitarist who brought Keith in to Rick's Blues. They both attended Moredon Secondary School.

Keith said: "I played with Malcolm at the Methodist Church Youth Club. He said Rick wanted a bass player, I was a guitarist, so I had precisely 10 minutes to learn bass before meeting the guys.''

Malcolm met Rick through playing in a band called The Senators. When Rick decided to form the blues band he took the guitarist with him.

"Rick was inspired by The Moody Blues,'' said Malcolm.

"I remember Ray's mum having a mail order catalogue and we all ordered blue jackets, a la Moody Blues. We also had long black scarves knitted by Ray's sister. I still have mine in the attic somewhere.''

Both Malcolm and Keith remember clearly their first time in a recording studio at Putney with Rick's Blues.

"The single we recorded in 1966 was Don't Dictate To Me which was written by Ray and Rick,'' said Keith.

"On the B-side was an early example of a Gilbert O'Sullivan-style of song. It was called Not This Time Maybe The Next.''

Malcolm recalls the single being put on to the juke box at Beale's coffee shop and cafe in Fleming Way.

"It was an official 45 record and you had to give the juke box a thump to get it to play,'' he said.

Gilbert has promised to get in touch with his two friends, next time he is in Swindon.

"We just need Rick now,'' said Malcolm.

The Years In Between

At the time the musicians knew each other Rick was a spot welder in Square D, a firm making industrial control products and system and Malcolm was an apprentice at Pressed Steel.

"Rick was a character and we were always winding him up. He hated being a welder and would regale us with stories about the characters at Square D,'' said Malcolm.

Rick lived in Eastcott Hill before making his name with the rock band Supertramp. Gilbert was best man at his wedding.

Keith took an HND in Business Studies and a teaching diploma. He then became part of IT and admin team at the Research Councils in Swindon. He was always a keen footballer, and had a trial for West Bromwich Albion.

He played local football until he was 55 and is still a keen supporter of Swindon Town. He gave up performing his music for many years but his sister, Viv Triptree, bought him studio time at Drive Recording Studios in Swindon for his 70th birthday. He has just recorded the first album of his own songs.

Malcolm is still playing in bands, his current group are The Saga Louts playing music from the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

Gilbert O'Sullivan notched up a string of chart hits, 16 top 40 records, the first of which was 1970's Nothing Rhymed. Last year Gilbert toured Ireland with his Peggy Lee-inspired new album Latin ala G!

Where Are The Prefects Now?

Gilbert O'Sullivan is also keen to get back in contact with a band formed even before Rick's Blues, The Prefects. If any of the former band members would like to get in touch they should email