Paul Gilbertson

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Paul Gilbertson (born 29 March 1962) was the first guitarist of the British band James. He formed the original band and began its chaotic songwriting method of jamming. At an early performance at the Hacienda he played his guitar left handed. He advocated improvisation during live performances and during group recording sessions. Gilbertson was replaced in the band by Larry Gott. Paul Gilbertson is currently working as a taxi driver in South Manchester and has had no contact with the band for more than fifteen years.


Gilbertson was childhood friends with Jim Glennie, who had no real interest in music at the time. Gilbertson convinced Glennie to buy a bass guitar and help him form a band. Two weeks later, having never played any instruments before, Gilbertson announced they were to play their first gig. This fearless attitude had a strong influence on James. Gilbertson insisted on doing improvisations onstage as well as off. Gilbertson was also adamant in the beginning that he and Glennie should not take guitar or bass lessons. Gilbertson also believed that most bands sound worse playing live than they do on recordings. Gilbertson decided that the band should always keep things raw and not use any studio trickery that gave them a non-existent sound. The band did not record separately in booths on different days, but rather worked as a group for recordings.

Gilbertson opposed discussing what the band was doing and advocated going head-on into a noisy jam. He believed this kept the music special and exciting, because no one was consciously controlling the direction of the music. The music was forming organically, as opposed to being "written".

Gilbertson and Glennie remained close friends throughout the band's early years. Gavan Whelan and Tim Booth later joined the band. This first line up went on to perform regularly, including playing at the Hacienda Club in Manchester.

Leaving the band[edit]

Gilbertson came back from a holiday and was a completely changed man. All of his enthusiasm seemed to have evaporated during his time away, and the band found themselves having difficulty with him during practices and live performances. The band found themselves trying to cover up the mistakes he was making and apparently not caring about. Glennie and Gilbertson had come to know Larry Gott, firstly as their guitar tutor and later as someone who was constantly involved with the band in terms of getting them gigs and recording demos.

When Gilbertson turned up late for a performance, he was told he was no longer in James and had been replaced by Gott. The decision to sack him was difficult, and Glennie was upset for some time about losing both a musical companion and a childhood friend.