Byline: BY GAVIN MARTIN
With their second album You See Colours, The Delays have claimed the passionate high ground in Britpop. Their ecstatic live shows have also consolidated their standing, with Greg Gilbert, the small, shy frontman with the falsetto voice, emerging as an unlikely star.
Yet it could all have been so much different. If Gilbert, 27, hadn't smashed his knee up while playing for Portsmouth FC's youth team, and if he had developed a greater love of male bonding rituals, he may have become a professional footballer.
"I was eight years old when I started playing," he says, "but I quit in the early '90s, before I got to the apprentice stage. It was everything I wanted to do and I still dream about it. I play five-a-side whenever I can, but I was never one of the lads. Much as I liked playing, sometimes the lifestyle was like being in the army.
"By the time I had the injury, I'd already started to drift away. I'd begun to steal books about The Beatles from the local library. The idea of songwriting just blew my mind. I'd say to my mum, 'What the hell is Norwegian Wood?' Then she'd sing it to me and I'd realise I already knew it. The creative side fascinated me more than the rock 'n' roll stuff."
Even though football - and childhood hero George Best - still hold a place deep in Greg's heart, he hasn't felt moved to join the World Cup song gold rush.
"I'd never sit down and try to write a World Cup song," he admits. "World In Motion would have been a good song whether it was attached to the World Cup or not. I don't think Embrace are a bad choice to do the official song, they are a people's band. But I'd have gone for The Brian Jonestown Massacre or something like that to see what they would have come up with."
Although Sarah - his girlfriend of 10 years and inspiration for many Delays songs - lives in London, Greg remains in his native Southampton.
"It's everything to me," he says. "It's a mythical place in a way. So many generations of my family have lived here. I get really homesick when I go away.
"Family history, old photographs and Super 8 films fascinate me, and we have film nights - at my request. The family is really eccentric, which I really like. I had a great aunt who was a medium for the police."
"Eccentric" would be one way of describing Greg's striking falsetto vocal. When producer Trevor Horn first heard him he thought he was listening to a male-female duo. …