Yog--which is what my closest friends and family call me--comes from Andrew. He was at my house and heard my sisters or mother calling me Georgios- Yorgos -which they would shorten to just Yorg. And so Andrew went back to school and said, ho-ho-ho, it's really funny round at his house, they all call him Yog. Yog - ho-ho - it's like Yoghurt, innit? So I used to get called Yoghurt a lot too. A lot of my teachers used to call me George-gee-os, which is a dumb English way to pronounce Georgios, and that really annoyed me. But most of my friends, because of Andrew, ended up just calling me Yog.
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in 1981, surrounded by massive unemployment, George managed to find jobs...
I think of 1981 as the year that I worked. And the year
that I worked was probably the happiest year I have ever had. I worked on a building site, I was a DJ in a restaurant, I was a
cinema usher. That last job was great. The only problem was that you had to watch all the films for three weeks at a time. I used to
keep myself occupied by playing this game where I would memorize the film's dialogue and actually play it out just before it
happened on screen. I used to time how long I could go getting ever ypart of the script right. When I fucked up, that was what I had
to beat next time. I saw SUPERMAN, CALIGULA, AIRPLANE. I saw AIRPLANE a lot.
"Doctor--surely you can't be serious." "I am serious--and don't call me Shirley" The first time I was a DJ I was working in a restaurant - the Bel Air near Bushey. That was the worst, the absolute worst - probably the most embarrassing thing that I have ever done in my life. Being a DJ is one thing but being a DJ in a restaurant is horrible because you are standing there and everybody's talking, their knives are going, the glasses are rattling and there's a bit of background music and everyone's well into their evening when suddenly the music stops and you say-- "GOOD EVENING, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR MEAL HERE AT THE BEL AIR RESTAURANT." And the whole place stops while everyone looks for where the noise came from. It was especially bad in my case because I was halfway behind this post in the middle of the room and some of them had no idea that I was going to be there. Half of them didn't know that the price of dinner included disco. So they were all staring at me. I swear I did it for nine months and even on the last night my hands became clammy because it was so embarrassing, it was so tacky and naff.
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p.56 to 57
"I was on my way to DJ at the Bel Air when I wrote "Careless Whisper". I have always written on buses, trains and in cars. These days it's planes--but for me writing has always been about boredom and movement. It always happens on journeys. With "Careless Whisper" I remember EXACTLY where it first came to me, where I came up with the sax line. I can remember very vaguely where I was when I wrote things after Wham! got off the ground--but with "Careless Whisper" I remember exactly the time and place. I know it sounds really weird and a kind of romantic thing to say--but I remember exactly where it happened, where I was sitting on the bus, how I continued and everything. I remember I was handing the money over to the guy on the bus and I got this line, the sax line: der-der-der-der, der-der-der-der. Then he moved away and I continued writing it in my head. I wrote it totally in my head. I worked on it for about three months in my head....
Eventually, by the time we did our demo of "Careless Whisper" and a couple of other songs, I had been given the sack from the Bel Air for always turning up late and for not playing the music that the guy in charge wanted me to. The place where I DJ'ed after that was a squash club - I was a restaurant DJ who had been relegated to a health club DJ. My DJ career had been all downhill.
But the very last night I ever worked as a DJ I played the demo of "Careless Whisper". I knew it didn't matter if I got into trouble because I had already given in my notice the week before. So right at the end of the night I played it and...the floor filled. They had never heard it before and...the floor filled. I remember thinking - that's a good sign. And I wondered what was going to happen to that song later on."
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combination of Andrew's smiling persistence at the bar of that oasis for Bushey adolescence, the Three Crowns, and the enthusiastic
report of a a friend eventually persuaded Dean to give the Wham! tape some of his time. He was immediately and wildly enthusiastic.
Wham!, born in January, entered negotiations with Innervision in February and were to sign, in a premature ejaculation of agreement
(their respective lawyers had not yet completed contractual negotiations), on 24 March.
They were rehearsing at the Halligan Band Centre in Holloway, one of north London's less salubrious outposts, when Dean came in brandishing a contract and insisting that the deal was completed immediately. CBS release schedules were cited as the reason for all urgency. George, Andrew and Dean walked around the corner to a greasy spoon cafe and very soon all their signatures were on the contract.
The deal that
Wham! had with Innervision was tighter than a lobster's ass at fifty fathoms. For a 500 pounds advance each, to be paid back out of
future royalties, the boys from Wham! signed a five-year contract with Innervision. They agree to a royalty rate of 8 per cent for
singles and albums in England and a 4 per cent for singles everywhere else in the world. Their twelve-inch singles - that great
growth area of the music business in the early 1980s - would no earn them a penny. Not ever. It was more than punitive - but there
was worse to come.
Innervision, those hard taskmasters, would be owed an album a year for five years. If the company deemed fit, they would ask for an extra album every year, meaning that Wham! could be told to produce a mind-boggling ten albums in five years, a workload that would make the average galley slave faint with shock. If the band broke up towards the end of the contract--for example, shortly after delivering their ninth album--then Innervision would be at liberty to ask for yet another ten albums from each of the boys, the cardiac arrest clause. In layman's terms, Innervision owned their souls.
....If, like most new young bands, Wham! had achieved only modest success or (even more common) soon disappeared into pop's black hole, then all of the ludicrous clauses in the contract from hell would have been academic. The more successful they became, the more inevitable a legal bloodbath became.
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Andros (George's cousin and close friend): "George and David (Austin: George's close friend) had lived in the same road in Edgeware--Redhill Drive. When George came to my house I would have my local mate there, and when I went to his place, there would be David. It is very difficult to find friends in the business--but with David or me Wham! would never have happened. David is much more pushy than Andrew. George could probably relate to Andrew more because George was always the boss. In friendship or career, he was the more powerful personality. Even today, David tries to be a stronger personality than either Andrew or me. I think that George needed someone around him who he could boss about. Because he knew where he was going, he was plotting out all the steps. And Andrew would follow willingly. David would have always been saying--fuck off, I'm not dong that.
George changes his name:
was the time that I changed my name. I knew I was going to have to change it but they started pressing "Wham Rap!" and I
still hadn't chosen a name. So there are about twenty-thousand pressings of that first record with my original name on, with Panos
on the label. At that stage I knew I would have to choose something.
I don't remember how long I had been trying to chose but I was sitting in David Austin's living room and I said - I like your dad's name, Michael Mortimer. I really like Michael and my dad's brother is called Michael. Also I had a friend from school, a Greek kid, whose name was Michael. So - what about George Michael? I thought it was a nice name. It rolled off the tongue and I didn't have to give up the Greekness totally. I didn't drop the Greek thing entirely, although most people ended up thinking that it was a Jewish name. I still get called George Michaels to this day by so many people. It's like Bruce Springsteen. And David said - I like that name, I want to be...
But that was when I decided it and immediately I was convinced it sounded right and I didn't have to think about it at all.
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"Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You
Do)" was released in June and failed to make an impression on even the lowliest regions of the charts, peaking at an
unimpressive hundred and five despite all those nights spent hoofing it around those slippery dancefloors. This likeable,
light-hearted ode to a life beyond the workaday world would have to wait until its re-release at the end of the winter before
winning the affection of the nation.
In the meantime, "Wham Rap!" did two things. It convinced a large number of people who heard it storming out of their radio that Wham! were black Americans (a fact quickly forgotten when their critics later damned them for being white bread, milk toast sissies) - and it set the tone for what was to follow.
The record combined the music that George loved - white English pop and black American soul - with lyrics that both celebrated the big-cocked boastfulness of rap and parodied it. It was mocking, knowing, ironic, it was impossibly catchy and effortlessly literate.
The success changed Andrew first. George remained quiet for a longer period where Andrew suddenly thought - great! The rich and famous lifestyle! And he really went for it whereas George was more reserved, still kind of shied away from it all. But George is one of the most secretive people I know so I am not sure how he feels most of the time. He is one of those people who you have to push to get anything out of, otherwise he will carry on playing - I'm okay, I'm coping. But he is very aware of other people's lives, always analysing what they are doing. We used to be able to talk about anything. If he hadn't been a musician, he could have been an agony aunt.
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the meantime, all this sudden success had done the relationship between Wham! and their record company nothing but harm. After their
third single, George and Andrew went to see Mark Dean to ask him to reconsider his scrotum-clenching contract with the band. All
those penurious, chickenshit clauses in their contract were finally coming home to roost. They had become household faces over the
last six months but still had to rely on Innervision handouts before they could walk into a clothes shop or restaurant. Dean
consulted CBS to see if they would reconsider their scrotum-clenching contract with him. They declined and the newly big band
remained unchanged. The relationship between George and Mark Dean went downhill fast, swerving from screaming scenes in noisy
nightclubs to weeks when they would not talk at all. The pressures of the contract and the demands of recording Wham!'s debut album
were getting to George. He was smoking himself hoarse, puffing his way through a pack a day, and when he felt that Innervision had
left him no other way to turn, when the impasse was starting to suffocate him, he kidnapped his music.
GEORGE: I took the master tapes of the first album and hid them at home. Mark said he was going to send the police round to get them. I said - what do I have to do? Get my mother to stand in front of them? I felt that they were playing dirty. So I just said, okay, took the tapes with me and hid them. It didn't last long because I realized that it was getting ridiculous to have no money, to have to keep asking for a little bit of money for clothes and stuff, when you know how much you are making for other people.
The trouble with
Innervision had really boiled up when "Bad Boys" had been a hit. I managed to persuade - or encourage - George and Andrew
to put the album out before they did anything. By this time they had told me that Jazz (Summers) and Simon (Napier-Bell) were going
to manage them and that Tony Russell had taken over as their lawyer. I had introduced them to Tony.
I told them to put the album out before any litigation for a very simple reason. It was ready. Virtually. And if you are going to have a legal fight, then fight with a number-one album. Don't fight with hit singles. Because you are not just going to be fighting Innervision, you are going to be fighting CBS.
And George understands these things.
The fight was going to take a long time - if the release date of the album went back during that period, it would not be current when it came out - and George recognized the logic of all that. And Andrew recognized the logic of all that. So they said - fine. That's what we'll do. It was all eleventh-hour stuff; those tapes were buried away.
Then the album came out and went in at number one.
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Another vital member of the Wham! taskforce was an aggressively affable young Londoner called Gary Farrow. Tanned, fair-haired and fast-talking, Gary Farrow was an independent plugger responsible for guarding and forwarding Wham!'s interests at the sharp end of the media.
GARY FARROW: I met George through Mark Dean - who must want to slash his wrists every time he hears a Wham!
record. I was brought in as a consultant.
I was responsible for all the requests when we did a television show. When Wham! started we wanted all the lights, dancers and balloons. And then when the transition came, after driving producers and directors crazy for all these things that would enhance my artist and make him look as good as possible, I had to say - I don't want all this shit. See those balloons? Shove them up your ass.
Everybody in the organization adopted a policy that everything was double checked. Was the record going out in the best week? Were we giving the exclusive video to the right person? Were we making our artist look the best we possibly could? A lot of people in the record industry are too easy. The Boy George thing. As every week went by, we became less available - we were never in that situation where they felt they could ring up and George would be available. Or the record company will call up and say, we just had a mid-week (which is a Thursday chart, like a dipstick to see if your record is up) and we are going to go up but it ain't going to be great. If you do this show, it is going to be very beneficial to you...And the next week they call you up and ask you to do another three or four shows...now we never adopted that policy. Our set-up was successful because we controlled everything. We knew who we were doing every interview with, we knew if they were going to stitch us up, we knew if we had a contract to say we had the cover, we knew it was picture approval, we knew they couldn't cut the picture. And with every single, Wham! became less accessible. They made great videos, fun videos and they were controlled, directed, approved by George and they went out all over the place. There was less emphasis on TV shows - because you can't control them.
Wham! wasn't a scream act when I started working for them. They were initially very hip. My job was to make them a scream
act. And then we all waited for the nod from George when he made the decision to stop being a scream act. He knew exactly from day
one what he wanted to do. The photographers he wanted to use, the radio shows he wanted to do, who he wanted to represent him, who
he didn't and why. He knew what he wanted to do all along and he has kept a tight rein on that situation.
There are people George listens to. But nobody controls him.
The first George Michael solo single, his own production of "Careless Whisper",
replaced "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood at the top of the British charts in July 1984. Before the record was
released, the talk in the Press had been of a haircut that cost George 17,000 pounds. During the filming of the song's video in
steaming Miami, the humidity had turned George's hair into a frizzy mess. He had ordered a halt to the shoot, flown in his sister
Melanie to give his unruly locks a trim and then started all over again. The video consequently went over its 30,000 pounds budget
by 17,000, leaving George with a rather hefty bill for a cut and blow dry. Shirlie Holliman saw the completed video and said that,
for the first time in her life, she felt a sexual attraction towards her old pair dancing pal.
"Careless Whisper" changed a lot of minds about George Michael. Just as "Go Go" had blanketed the planet for Wham! so "Careless Whisper" took George around the world - the record went to number one in Britain, America..., Australia, Brazil, Holland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Portugal, Venezuela and made the top five in another ten countries. During the few minutes that it took to play the song's tale of temptation, infidelity and guilt, George grew up in the public's mind and laid the ground-work for his solo career. Dedicated to Jack and Lesley Panos - "Five minutes in return for twenty-one years" - "Careless Whisper" was airy, ethereal and operatic yet suffused with real regret. When George stands with his arms outstretched, "Please stay", it wasn't corny, it was moving. It seemed impossible that the song had not been born from some true pain.
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The story behind "Careless Whisper" is quite simple.
When I was twelve, thirteen, I used to have to chaperone my sister, who was two years older, to an ice rink at Queensway in London. There was a girl there with long blond hair whose name was Jane. I was a fat boy in glasses and I had a big crush on her -though I didn't stand a chance. My sister used to go and do what she wanted when we got to the skating rink and I would spend the afternoon swooning over this girl Jane.
A few years later, when I was sixteen, I had my first relationship with a girl called Helen. It had just started to cool off a bit when I discovered that the blonde girl from Queeensway had moved in just around the corner from my school. She had moved in right next to where I used to stand and wait for my next-door neighbour, who used to give me a lift home from school. And one day I saw her walk down the path next to me and I thought - now where did SHE come from? She didn't know it was me. It was a few years later and I looked a lot different.
Then we played a school disco with The Executive and she saw me singing and decided she fancied me. By this time she was that much older and a big buxom thing - and eventually I started seeing her. She invited me in one day when I was waiting for my lift and I was...in heaven.
I couldn't believe that all my dreams were coming true. I didn't wear glasses anymore. I got invited to parties. And the girl who didn't even see me when I was twelve invited me in. So I went out with her for a couple of months but I didn't stop seeing Helen. I thought I was being smart - I had gone from being a total loser to being a two-timer. And I remember my sisters used to give me a hard time because they found out and they really liked the first girl. The whole idea of "Careless Whisper" was the first girl finding out about the second - which she never did. But I started another relationship with a girl called Alexis without finishing the one with Jane. It all got a bit complicated. Jane found out about her and got rid of me...
The whole time I thought I was being cool, being this two-timer, but there really wasn't that much emotion involved. I did feel guilty about the first girl - and I have seen her since - and the idea of the song was about her. "Careless Whisper" was us dancing, because we danced a lot, and the idea was - we are dancing...but she knows...and it's finished...
think Andrew got more caught up in the lifestyle than George did. Andrew believed in the Press too much - and then he wanted to
rebel against them, to make even more of an idiot of himself. I think in the end he felt it was all true. He started to think he was
really like that - oh, I AM a drunk. I AM wild.
Andrew was always very lazy. We never used to stop telling him he was lazy. You lazy git, Andrew! Me and George always used to pick on him. But he is the most generous person in the world. His heart is so big. What always shocked me about Andrew was that - he really does care about people. He never forgets, he always cares. But me and George used to nag him all the time - he used to get up at one in the afternoon. You would see it on George's face sometimes - what's he up to NOW? Andrew could be very childish. But I don't think George was ever young. He has always had an older mind, he has always seemed too mature for his age. I can't imagine what he will be at forty. George was never young.
MAKE IT BIG was a number-one album on both sides of the Atlantic and confirmed George's position as a member of the new pop royalty, a status confirmed when one Sunday late in November he went to a studio in west London to help record Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", Bob Geldof's emotional -and effective- response to the famine that ravaged Ethiopia and the Sudan. The fact that Andrew did not join George and fellow pop toffs like Simon Le Bon, Sting and Boy George on that memorable Sunday was taken as increasing evidence of the lop-sided nature of their partnership.
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"Do They Know It's Christmas?" kept the next two Wham! singles at number two. The enchanting yuletide sigh "Last Christmas" (written upstairs at George's parents' house while Andrew watched MATCH OF THE DAY football on TV) contained the archetypal George cry, "How can love be for a day?" - almost everything he was currently writing seemed to concern itself with the finite nature of love, the casual brutality of infidelity. As soon as Christmas was over, "Last Christmas" was flipped and its killer "B" side, "Everything She Wants" became the record's "A" side.
FARROW: On Boxing Day "Last Christmas" becomes void - the radio doesn't want to play it, people don't want to buy it.
So I said, let's put "Everything She Wants" on the "B" side and flip it after Christmas. I drove into town on
Boxing Day. Radio and TV were on skeleton staffs but at the last minute before Christmas I had told them that we were going to flip
it and that it was not just a hype - it would be backed up by advertising, promotion, there was everything there to back it up.
There were certain mixes, the stocks were in the warehouse...and we did it. Flipped it over and it was the only record ever to sell
a million and not go to number one. Kept off by Band Aid. It did 1.5 million and never went to number one. Incredible sales...
George is actually very good at Christmas. Every Christmas he comes down in his car, overloaded with presents - he's like a little Santa. He's the godfather of my daughter Lauren and he takes it very seriously.
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GEORGE: Men are not used to being hunted. Initially, I thought it was absolutely wonderful. I really thought it
was fantastic. And I abused the privilege a little bit maybe - although I wasn't getting anything out of a sexual situation that
wasn't being returned. In fact, it got to the point where I realized that I was getting less out of it than they were and that
starts to be a turn off.
I can be interested when you are exchanging looks across a room but it's different when someone just sidles up and propositions you. It's not a very masculine position - obviously most men are comfortable being the ones who do the chasing. I remember going to the Mud Club in New York in 1982 when I thought it was great to be hunted like that. It was a really sleazy, horrible place - I don't know if it is any more, but it was then - and I remember saying to Andrew, I can't BELIEVE it! This girl, I said. Look at her...
.....There's a real strong memory I have of looking across this bar and at one point there were two girls staring back. I said to Andrew, I can't believe it, they're shameless, shameless! And he said, this is New York. But I still walked around the bar and asked this girl, I felt it was my job to do that. I would have remained happy with that situation. I don't mind that.
Now I'm so aware of the fact that I'm a catch. The women are not the catch. I AM THE CATCH. It's not a very attractive feeling for me. Andrew doesn't mind at all. Andrew loves it!
But I'm not really into being the catch.
WHAM! GO TO CHINA....
p.138-141..(exerpts from those pages)
SIMON NAPIER-BELL: Right at the very beginning of managing Wham! we planned the time schedule in which
they wanted to get to the top. Three years to be absolutely the biggest group in the world. Well, it's impossible, you can't do it
that quickly. America cannot be broken by a few hit singles. Number-one singles don't establish a name in America. But George didn't
want to do the endless touring that you had to do in America. George hated the Press, hated being photographed, didn't want to do
radio interviews. Everything I knew you had to do to break through in America, he wasn't prepared to do. So I had to think of
something else and right there at the beginning I thought - the first group to go to China.
It was a great publicity stunt but one that's easy enough when you think it up over dinner with a bottle of wine and quite different when you are confronted with the reality the next morning. I think I went to China thirteen times before I got it sorted out. I talked to the Government at the highest level. I was totally cynical about it - this was a publicity stunt to promote Wham! in America.
I told them - it's two concerts, it's one week, it's one pop group. You don't have to open the floodgates. We can show the Press around the world. It will do you a lot of good. And they said - great. What a good idea. And they told me - but there will be no publicity in China. None. That was the deal. I said - fine. But I don't like being told I can't do something and from that moment on I was planning to break the Chinese market.
CBS financed the trip - they were fantastic, unbelievable, but through all the red tape and came up with $500,000 in twenty-four hours. I think, ultimately, it all came back from video sales but it took a long time because it all went way way over any budget that was originally planned. A hundred and fifty people went to China. We were on every news bulletin - ABC, NBC, CBS - for a week, seven or eight times a day. At the end of the week everyone in America knew about Wham! That's what it was about - changing hit songs into hit artists...In America you have to create a huge national story. Wham! did that by playing two dates in China.
GEORGE:...The reason I went to China was because I believed it would be fascinating, but mainly it was the thought of being the first. It was an ego satisfaction thing, the idea of being the first to take that sort of music down there. I thought it was something that you just couldn't turn down. I didn't think of it in terms of making us a bigger band because we were already big in Britain and Europe and America had just taken off. So I wasn't thinking in those terms - perhaps Simon was. I'm very glad we did it, it was a great thing to do - but ultimately it was propaganda for the Chinese Government and publicity for us, nothing more.
What I take away from the experience is that we were the first, and quite probably the last, people to play there and the idea of any kind of youth culture going to China was a great thing. But when we got there they didn't let us do anything and they didn't let the audiences do anything. There was something very sad about it all.
WHAM! GO TO AMERICA!
When "Everything She Wants" went to number one in the States, Wham! became the first act since their old buck-toothed heroes, The Bee Gees, to have three number-one singles taken from one album (the next US single, their fun-loving "Freedom", would reach number three in September). Wham! - boy kings in an MTV fiefdom - were making it big in the USA. But would all those young Americans still want them when the summer had gone? Jazz Summers had been given the responsibility for breaking Wham! in America and he had to do it handicapped by George's reluctance to put the band on the road for a massive tour.
SUMMERS: Worldwide the fans they had were crazy. I remember getting out of a car with George and these policemen were trying to
hold them back. George had his hair pulled out and it was frightening. When they walk down the street and they are kids of eighteen,
nineteen and a lot of girls scream at them - then they obviously think that's great. But take a look at their faces when they've
been scratched and had their hair pulled out and their jackets are half torn off or their shoes - because fans just want a piece of
them, anything, and that is truly frightening. George was shaken. Who wouldn't be? You're being mobbed.
During the second tour I took Yazz to Dublin one night and we all had dinner. And I remember George saying to the pair of us - I don't know if I can take this, I don't know if I can go through another thirty nights of people just screaming at me.
George didn't want to tour extensively. So the problem I had in America was to establish George as a live performer with a minimum of live performances. We did it by jumping from five-thousand-seater theatres, which Wham! had played on the last tour there, to playing sixty-thousand-seater stadiums. It's a big jump to make in six months! I knew we couldn't do it everywhere, but I knew we could do it in areas where album sales had been high and MTV was very strong. Twenty-two million kids plus all their mates had had George and Andrew dancing in their living rooms non-stop for the last six months. I had a gut feeling. Something inside kept telling me...they're as big as The Beatles, as big as The Beatles.
ROB KAHANE...Now booking stadiums for a band that had only played
three-thousand-seaters was not easy. I worked on it for two months. Just as the tour was about to be announced and confirmed, Jazz
called me up and said - you better get over here, because George doesn't want to do the tour. I said - what do you mean he doesn't
want to do it? I've already booked it, it's going on sale. And before you knew it, one of the dates went on sale in Miami and
thirty-thousand tickets were gone. We announced the date on a Friday and George decided over the weekend he didn't want to do the
So Jazz said - the only way he's going to do it, you've got to fly over here and talk George into doing the shows. Now I had never met George - and he was going to have someone he had never met talk him into doing the dates? So I flew over and he was editing his piece on China in a studio. I went down there with a map of the United States and George walked out: nice to meet you, da-da-da, and I said, look, I have worked on this for a long, hard time, we are only doing these places, we have sold the tickets and we are going to do the business. It's two weeks of your life. And he looked at me and THAT'S when our relationship started, that's when I felt the power of George Michael. He said, I'll do it. I've gotta go, but I'll see you in America. And then he walked back and Jazz Summers started kissing me all over the place.
I didn't know what was going on inside George's head on that tour. I tried really hard to get to know him but it was very hard. He had so many walls up.
George dined with Brooke Shields at the Mayfair Regent Hotel in downtown Chicago, where Lake Michigan stretches off into the northern mists like America's third ocean. Up in Toronto he was offered millions if he would do a commercial for Pepsi Cola. Celebrity romance and lucrative endorsements - those Christmas bonuses of success - were calling him, but George was reluctant to heed their siren's song. As always travel and boredom were inspiring him to write but the material he was coming out with seemed to stray beyond the borders of Wham! It began to dawn on him that he didn't want to cash in on Wham!'s success. What he wanted was. . . out.
NAPIER-BELL:...It would have been great to do a world tour, not a huge one - thirty, forty dates - with everyone ending up with
a lot of money, and the whole thing in top gear, going flat out, but George couldn't face it.
He wanted to feel he was presenting an image that was genuinely him and yet he was stuck with this duplicate Andrew. And as time went on he began to find something that he could present to people. He had a terror of being photographed because he felt like a fake, he felt like a fraud. He could never relax and accept the fact that he had become an enormously attractive and good-looking person.
We could have played eleven days at Wembley, we could have played a year of stadiums. It wouldn't have made any difference to what came later - he could still have been George Michael. But he just felt too uncomfortable. The Pepsi deal was worth millions but George felt that it was going to prolong Wham! and so he refused to do it.
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SUMMERS: The Pepsi thing was the final nail in the coffin for Wham! That's when Wham! really split up. The day after we went to
lunch at Langan's, they decided to split it up. It wasn't made public knowledge, of course...
I spend nine months talking to Pepsi and saying - no, no, no, they're not going to do it. The money started off at $250, 000 and every time we had a bit more success it went up - eventually it was $3.3 million. Everything was signed. George called me up and said - Jazz, are you sitting down? He said, I don't want to do the commercial.
Dick Leahy, Bryan Morrison, Andrew, Simon Napier-Bell, Tony Russell and I - we all felt he should do it. Dick Leahy said - I'll talk to George, this is a big thing for him to do. But George said no, the reason being that if he and Andrew did that commercial it would run for a year and with it the expectations that Wham! would last for another year. He would have been tied to Andrew and Wham! for as long as the commercial lasted. So sharp, he was. I thought he was so brave, so determined. He had a heavyweight lawyer, two heavyweight publishers, heavyweight managers, his partner, all saying, come on, George, what's wrong with that. NO. He was warned that we could be in for a lot of litigation. No, I don't care. Well, George, it could be a couple of million dollars.
"I want to split Wham! up," he said. "And I want to do it now."
GEORGE MICHAEL: I sat down at a table with Dick Leahy, Simon, Jazz and Andrew and said - I think this is the way it should go. Because I can't go on doing this, I can't write another album of material. This is no longer any good for me. All the time Wham! had been growing it had become more of a ball and chain. All the reservations I had about the character I was playing had become things that I really hated. I had to get away from the whole up-up-up thing because I felt so down. And I didn't know when I was going to feel good again.
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For someone who had always run his own career and kept his conscience clear, the headline in the Los Angeles trade paper could hardly have been more enraging. "WHAM! SOLD TO SUN CITY", Variety and the Hollywood Reporter declared, detailing how Nomis were selling out their management company to Kunick Leisure. One of Kunick's largest shareholders was Sol Kerzner, the owner of Sun Hotels International, a subsidiary of Kersef Investments of South Africa. He was widely regarded as the man who built Sun City, that leisure complex for white South Africans - Las Vegas with apartheid - in the impoverished Bophuthatswana homeland. And Wham!'s managers - less than a year after Live Aid - were selling out to these people? George was given the bad news by that bundle of nervous energy, Rob Kahane, his American agent.
ROB KAHANE: I was starting to get to know him because he was spending more time in LA. He liked LA, he had a girlfriend there and we were going out to lunch a lot. One day I picked him up at his hotel and I had the Hollywood Reporter with me. He got into the car and I said - have you seen this? The "WHAM! SOLD TO SUN CITY" thing. And he went bananas. That was the first time I saw George Michael lose it- because he is pretty together. He was so angry and pissed off and he kept saying, how could they do that? How could they sell me to something they know I don't believe in? I felt that he would have already known about this. I didn't think it would be such a big surprise to him. But it was.
Simon Napier-Bell and Jazz Summers had been seeking to increase their power within the entertainment industry by selling their operation to a public company. They had never had a long-term contract with Wham! (it was renewed every three months) and the fact that the band's future had looked increasingly finite heightened their desire to seal a deal. The promoter Harvey Goldsmith - one of the most decent and respected men in the music business - had seen his own company disappear into Kunick Leisure in a 6.7 million pounds takeover bid, and Sol Kerzner's company came to Nomis on Harvey's innocent and naive recommendation. If Harvey says they're okay, thought Nomis, they must be. Nomis had meetings with Kunick and a deal was hammered out. Kunick would acquire Nomis and it would cost them 5 million pounds over five years. Simon and Jazz would each get an immediate 600,000 pounds, plus loan stock and share options. Somewhere along the line during the negotiations, noises were made about the South African connection. These noises were drowned out by the talk of 5 million pounds. The deal was to be finalized at the Kunick Annual General Meeting in early March. But by that time Nomis' main asset - the career of George Michael - would be out of their lives. p.162-163
The story broke at
the height of the record industry's award-giving season. Andrew flew in from Monte Carlo to join George, Simon Napier-Bell and Jazz
Summers on stage at the BPI ceremony in London where the two musicians and their managers were given an award for their
groundbreaking trip to China...What should have been a memorable night was overshadowed by the shaming ramifications of the
Nomis-Kunick deal. Simon and Jazz discovered that George was no longer talking to them. If they wanted to communicate with him they
would have to do so through Dick Leahy or Tony Russell. They were out.
George had found their action intolerable, inexcusable and unforgivable. Once again he displayed a ruthlessness in business that he can rarely muster in his personal relationships. Eleven days after the BPI ceremony, on Friday, 21 February, he issued a Press release saying that he had terminated his association with Nomis Management. Unable to reach Andrew down in Monaco, he issued the statement alone. The news was seized on by the media not because it announced the end of George's contract with Nomis but because it seemed to declare the end of Wham!
was about to go their own way. The Kunick-Nomis deal melted away before the Kunick AGM and the partnership between Simon Napier-Bell
and Jazz Summers would soon go the same way now that they had lost their golden charges...And, of course, Wham! were to split.
Andrew had been less than pleased that he was being asked for quotes down in Monte Carlo about events back in London that he knew little about - "Nobody told me anything - why don't you fuck off?" had been his considered response to the curious newshounds - but the bond between George and Andy was too strong to be broken by the more hirsute member of the band issuing unilateral Press statements.
Andrew also terminated his association with Nomis and the gutter Press were once again denied the pleasure of witnessing any public squabbling between the two members of Wham! What is probably most remarkable about the split from Nomis is that it changed nothing. The organization around George was by now so solid and well established that the last six months of the band's existence went ahead exactly as planned, George was going public with the plans - the solo single, the last Wham! single, the final gig - on a chat show in April.
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Different Corner", the second George Michael single, reached number one in England on 19 April. "A Different Corner"
was the work of a man whose life had finally had a chance to go wrong, and the sweet power of his voice seemed to be coming from a
place that was poisoned with regret. The video that accompanied the song was white on white, shot in a room blanched of all colour,
as though it was filmed in a madhouse or a hospital. This was one from someone who had been hurt, one from the damaged heart.
"Careless Whisper" was not an integral part of my emotional development. It's sad because that song means so much to
so many people. It disappoints me that you can write a lyric very flippantly - and not a particularly good lyric - and it can mean
so much to so many people. That's disillusioning for a writer. "A Different Corner" was much more real.
I had to write something, I had to get it out and I did it in a couple of days. It was the first time I used my own experience and emotions for a song. It was totally therapeutic, I completely exorcised that little part of my life. "Careless Whisper" never moved me like that...I don't feel that I possess it the way I possess other songs. Certainly not the way I possess "A Different Corner."
The pain comes back when I perform or hear that one. At first I couldn't even listen to it, especially when I was trying to get over the emotions I was singing about. In the long term, I would call back those feelings in order to perform it. "A Different Corner" was one of the things I sang best on the Faith tour simply because it was so easy to call back that period of time. It's a very strange process because I find what I have to do when I'm performing live it to recall those emotions but only to a certain degree. Because I have tried going all the way and I found that I ended up nearly crying - which would ruin my tuning and everything else...
"A Different Corner" was always special.
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had been in a delicate emotional state for some time and, just as Wham! entered the home straight, he experienced a brief,
devastating relationship that would put him in an emotional tailspin for many months. It was a short story - over in a couple of
weeks - that he contrived to turn into the story of his life. As Frederic Raphael said of Byron, "The vividness of his reaction
is often more remarkable than his experience; what would have grazed another drew blood from him."
Very soon he would have a crowd of seventy-two thousand eating out of his hairy hand but the one person he was convinced he needed made it clear that she didn't want him. George had gone from school to being a pop star, his dreams had all come to fruition when he was still in his teens, he was used to having anything he wanted. He wasn't used to rejection and it hit him hard.
GEORGE:...The realization that the relationship wasn't going to work came as a shock because I had never really cared about it that much before. I had never got that much involved. I'd had lots of girlfriends who maybe got pissed off with aspects about being with me, but you don't take those things quite so seriously. I have cared about lots of people since I was a kid, been infatuated with them, but this was more. And the strange thing is that it was the first time I thought I was possibly being used, in terms of being shown off or whatever. Then it immediately became apparent that exactly the opposite was happening. I could understand it. Because falling for a pop star is not necessarily a very clever thing to do.
I was very depressed during the recording of our last EP but there
was no way that I could ignore the responsibilities I had in that period of time. It all took ages, but I was determined to do it
well, determined to let people know that the end of the band had nothing to do with the relationship between Andrew and me...
I was working really hard. And, of course, the depression wouldn't go but eventually the work would and then I would be allowed to wallow in it. But it wasn't until the focus for my energies had gone - having The Final go well, getting the single to number one, having everything go out on a high - that there was finally nothing to take my mind off these other pressures.
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN
Wham!'s glorious, meticulously-planned death throes began with "The Edge Of Heaven". Released on 9 June and taking just two weeks to become the band's final number one, "The Edge Of Heaven" was one last mad burst of controlled exuberance. If the lyrics touched on the reason for George's recent rejection - " Loving you takes such courage - everyone's got their eyes on you" - then they did so only fleetingly. For the most part the song celebrated a love that scared itself with its passion and - punctuated by the classic pop mantra of "Yeah-yeah-yeah" - it evolved from the same wanton maturity as "I'm Your Man".
"The Edge Of Heaven" ensured that Wham! would be buried with an erection.
GEORGE: There's a very
basic difference between the later stuff and "Freedom" and "Go Go" and it's because, about a week before
"I'm Your Man", I had wildly good sex - for about a week! I think that everything before that was in a strange way kind of
asexual. "Edge Of Heaven" and "I'm Your Man" contained all the initial ingredients of Wham! songs, but with some
sex in there as well. That's the difference. They sound as though they were written for a person and the others sound as though they
were written for everyone, for an audience.
"Edge Of Heaven" was deliberately and overtly sexual, especially the first verse: "I would lock you up but I could not bear to hear you scream to be set free," and "You know I wouldn't hurt you - unless you wanted me to".
I thought, nobody is going to care because no one listens to a Wham! lyric. It had got to that stage.
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As was the Wham! custom before important shows, the band played two warm-up gigs at the Brixton Academy on 23 and 24 of June. The next day George celebrated his birthday. Three days later Wham! ended it all at Wembley Stadium on the hottest day of the year in front of seventy-two thousand people who had received tickets out of nearly one million applications. They could have played ten straight dates at Wembley and still had to turn people away. But The Final was a one-off.
The emotional programme notes hinted only obliquely at certain reservations about their success story...but at the end of the summer's day this was Wham!'s happy ending - they never got old, they never got greedy, they never came to hate each other's guts. The Final was where the dream died of natural causes. They were both twenty-three.
Stars, small and large, past and present, flitted across the stage. Gary Glitter and Nick Heyward primed a crowd that didn't need warming up, Elton John and Simon Le Bon joined Wham! on stage during their performance. But from the first song until last, from the opening lines of "Everything She Wants" - "Some people work for a living, some people work for fun" - to the closing lines of "I'm Your Man" - "If you're gonna do it, do it right" - the true star was a bond as profound as the friendship of childhood. When it was over, George Michael - his hair dark and shorn short, a man in all black, dressed for violence or mourning - hugged Andrew Ridgeley, his perfect foil, his perfect friend. Then they went to the Hippodrome and got drunk.
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GEORGE'S FEELINGS ON THE FINAL AND ANDREW RIDGELEY...
GEORGE: That was a time in my life when I was drinking a lot and feeling
generally run-down. It doesn't matter how good the day was - and the day was great - when you're that run-down and depressed, it has
to affect you. I don't think I rose above it even on the day of The Final. With a genuine depression it doesn't matter how good the
highs are, there's an undercurrent of depression that doesn't go away. Sometimes having a good time is not enough.
I really did enjoy the day and the concert very much, but looking at pictures of it now I can see that something was very wrong. Even with Andrew. I think we were both worried. He looks much more drawn than he did in pictures only a year before. He was doing a lot of drink and stuff as well and there were worries on his mind, I suppose. There was a lot happening to the pair of us.
But The Final itself was incredible - it was so important to me that it didn't register enough. There were two video tapes that were made of the monitors on the screens and watching them is just absolutely stunning. I have never seen a crowd like that in my life. For ANYONE. I have seen lots of concerts where the crowd was really involved, but the only time I've seen anything like that was at Live Aid...It was so important for me that I don't think it was possible to enjoy it enough. I tore a tendon towards the end of the show, which ruined the end of the gig. It was exactly the same kind of thing as a cup final where it just GOES and the players involved can't remember a thing. But I know, in retrospect, that it was really perfect. The weather was perfect, the people were perfect, the band played great. Everything went right, everything in the whole series of Wham! events seemed so blessed that it was just the cherry on the cake.
We were conscious that our relationship would be different from then on because we were no longer part of a band. I remember going up to Andrew at the party afterwards and giving him a big hug. And I remember looking at each other and . . . knowing really . . . it was sad. We knew that whatever happened, no matter how much we kept in touch, that from then on it was a totally different thing. And in some ways that was very sad, very moving.
But, despite, I do remember it as an incredible day. Even when I faked my song writing - say "Bad Boys" - the friendship was always real and gave the whole thing a degree of honesty. There was that feeling we were slightly apart from the rest of the industry because of that. That has to be what people liked the best - they may have loved the songs but the reason it became as big as it did was because it was based on something real - our friendship. No way could I have done it without Andrew. I can't think of anybody I have ever met in my life who would have been so perfect in allowing something, which started out as a very naive, joint ambition, to become what was still a huge double act but what was really . . . mine.
I've never met anyone who would be strong or generous enough to let that happen. He contributed so much. It was one of those things that just makes you think it was all meant to happen. The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was meeting Andrew. He totally shaped my life. Not just those years but the whole thing - he totally shaped it and I would never begrudge him that credit. People put him down . . . you don't defend someone at the dinner table by mentioning that they totally shaped your life.
But that's the way I feel about him.
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I decided to take some time off and reconsider. I was just incredibly depressed. I wasn't doing anything other than getting away
from the situation, getting away from people, business - just travelling around, trying to have a good time. Although I wasn't
having a good time. It wasn't total abandon but it was the first time I can remember not picking up the phone for days, ignoring
I spent a lot of time going backwards and forwards to see Kathy in LA and she would come here or we would go to Portugal or France or wherever. I travelled about a lot but I did the same thing everywhere. Meeting Kathy should have been enough to pull me out of it, but I used her as a crutch.
The reason I stayed away from my family for a lot of time that year was because I didn't want to put them through it. I know that if someone in my family is suffering for whatever reason, then it hurts me much more than anything that happens to me personally. I put on a brave face when I saw them - I'm good at that. I tried not to let them have any idea of what was going on in my life, which was basically just getting wrecked. I never really drank during the daytime - mostly because I was very rarely awake then.
For the main part it was booze, but I was doing a fair bit of drugs as well. I wasn't taking coke. Still to this day, I don't take coke. For a while I took Ecstasy when it was not very available over here. I took it simply because it made me feel that everything was wonderful. And I went through that and came out of the other end realizing that there was no point to it because I'm not the kind of person who can actually escape through anything like that. I get a terrible down from that stuff and it hits me at three in the morning. All the things I'm trying to escape from, all the nasty things, suddenly become very clear, and all my more pessimistic views suddenly become very clear. That is exactly how Ecstasy affected me - I had a great time for a while and then an absolutely awful time. So I stopped doing it.
GEORGE: Late in the autumn of 1986, I changed my mind about carrying on, about promoting, about playing the game. I felt that I had wasted most of the year feeling sorry for myself. I basically decided that I would do it all again. But this time it would be on my terms.
The reawakening from the long slough of drunken despond had come one autumn night in Los Angeles. Andrew Ridgeley had flown in from Monte Carlo and was shocked to find how low George was feeling. The night before Andrew left town, George poured out his despairing heart out to his old partner in a long, booze-sodden session that George later described as an exorcism and Andrew as a confession...
What I remember about that night in LA is how far down he was. I was really surprised because everything in his life had gone to
plan. But because I had been in Monaco and because he keeps an awful lot of what he thinks and does to himself, I had no idea that
he felt so bad emotionally. What was troubling him seemed to be a combination of things: he was doubting everything, and more than
anything I think he just needed to get all the tears out. I can't solve his problems for him, but I can listen to them and I can let
him know that I'm there. He had been keeping everything in for so long.
He had Kathy, who was very much in love with him, but George and I were both twenty-four at the time and half our lives had more or less paralleled each other's. Neither of us are going to get that degree of closeness with anybody else.
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I KNEW YOU WERE WAITING
The public reminder that George Michael was alive and kicking came out of Detroit. Recorded during the wind-up of Wham! but not released until early 1987, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" - love those brackets - by Aretha Franklin and George Michael spectacularly bridged the gap between The Final and Faith. The duet was instigated by the Aretha camp, who no doubt hoped that the winning combination of the Queen of Soul ( and for one the hype is completely justified) and the Prince Regent of Pop would, as they say in the crossover-conscious record industry, broaden her base. This proved to be the case and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" went to number one in Britain in February...and in the United States in April - Aretha's first number-one single for twenty years.
"I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" was special. It may have been cooked up in some boardroom, and George later said that he was brought in as "The acceptable honkey", but to a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic it seemed real enough, late 1980s pop at its best with all the lines between black and white and pop and R&B blurred, irrelevant; the awesome soaring beauty of Aretha Franklin's voice complemented by George's lush, warm vocal, a sweet, fresh power which was smart enough never to try and compete with the Queen. "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" was more beautiful than it needed to be.
GEORGE: We recorded the song together and then did our ad libs separately.
It was really easy to do; Narada Michael Walden is brilliant at getting a good atmosphere in the studio and making everybody feel at ease. I was nervous but, vocally, I was getting very confident at the time. I knew that Aretha would get the melody and then take it all over the place, which sounds great, but the thing also needed tying down. And I knew there was no point in trying to take her on in that style. I had heard the thing that Annie Lennox did with her and she had tried to do it like Aretha. Now Annie Lennox is a great singer but nobody can emulate Aretha Franklin; it's stupid to try. I just tried to stay in character, keep it simple - it was very understated in comparison to what she did.
ROB KAHANE:...When George recorded with Aretha, we had to draw on each other's energies because we didn't know anyone else, we were in the ghetto and it was scary. We pulled up outside the building in the ghetto and George and I looked at each other and said - THIS is the recording studio?
We walked into the studio and Narada Michael Walden...was sitting behind the board and there was incense brining in the room and Aretha was belting out this song, just belting it out. We were standing behind the glass and she was giving us chills. Great singer, she's singing great, there's a lot of her friends around, we're the only two white people in the room, everyone's looking at us. And she's belting it out and when she finishes she looks through the glass, kind of smiles at George and says to Narada Michael Warden - oh, Nada, you know I can do MUCH better than that. And George turned to me and his eyes said - oh boy.
A TALE OF TWO GEORGES
Back in England George took part in the spring's big charity concert - the AIDS benefit at Wembley Arena called "The Party". Joined at various stages by his old partner Andrew Ridgeley and his long-term bass player Deon Estus, George ran through "Everything She Wants", Len Barry's "1-2-3" and one of his favourite songs, Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need Of Love Today."
George was joined on the bill by Bob Geldof, Elton John, Meatloaf and Boy George. Some newspapers later reported that George Michael had given Boy George a pack of condoms on stage. Actually, it was 50 pounds that George - always short of ready cash - had been lent by Boy George some time back.
For much of the 1980s, English pop had been a tale of two Georges.
They were the Ali and Frazier of the top forty, the only ones who could ever keep Diana off the front pages for any length of time. They had been so close for so long, but now they were different kinds of celebrities, now they could be living on separate planets. George Michael had dunked himself in alcohol and Ecstasy and had the strength to come back. Boy George had buried himself in heroin and it had destroyed him. They had different kind of self-destructive tendencies. Boy George's suicidal impulse seemed to spring from some well of real self-loathing. With George Michael it was very different - even when the black dog was at its fiercest, he always worried about his vocal cords, he always fretted about the future. It was almost as though he needed a personal crisis every few years to make him feel that he had some existence as flesh, blood and bone beyond the shallow wash of limelight. One of their stories had only just begun and, tragically, the other seemed as though it was already over.
Early in the summer, George bought his first home in a verdant corner of north London.
GEORGE: I moved there in June 1987. Previously, I had always rented - one place just off Kensington High Street and before that in Knightsbridge - because I had this fear of owning my own place. Always, I had put off buying somewhere. Even today, Andrew has no place of his own, he's been renting places for years. There's a feeling of finality about owning your own home. I definitely went through that. Buying your own home is a big step to take - but it felt good after I did it, I knew I had done the right thing. I felt that my life was at last becoming more stable.
SEX, SEX AND MORE SEX
The month that George moved into his new home, he also dived headfirst into a swamp of spunky controversy with the release of "I Want Your Sex". This was his first solo record, which came with stains on it. If "Careless Whisper" and "A Different Corner" had a manly lump in their throat, then "I Want Your Sex" had a manly lump in its trousers.
Musically, it was blacker that anything he had done before, including the great "Everything She Wants", a huge, churning riff pumping the rhythm along, while lyrically "I Want Your Sex" buried for ever the happy, harmless Ken Doll - smooth between the legs - who had crooned "Go Go" and "Freedom". "I Want Your Sex" gave his career an adult aura that would come in handy for the release of the album he was working on.
"I Want Your Sex" may have found George in a big-cocked mood, but it also took the moral high ground. The backlash over the AIDS epidemic was, he said, directed at the wrong enemy. Sex wasn't the enemy, he said again and again. Promiscuity was. George - who wrote EXPLORE MONOGAMY in lipstick on Kathy Jeung's heartbreaking back in the "I Want Your Sex" video (conscious George-watchers noticed that the man is left-handed) - was sticking up for exchanging large amounts of body fluid within a loving and faithful relationship. Some people wanted to save seals or the whales - George wanted to save sex.
George's plea for having wild times with one partner was largely ignored by the spermaphobic media. The BBC effectively banned the song from its radio and television networks. MTV showed the video but only after much editing and many hot flushes. The song sneaked out into the world on the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy film "Beverly Hills Cop II", while back in London the George taskforce searched for outlets for the promo. Like a number of other George videos, the one featured George in the sack. Unlike the others, this time he barely made it out of bed. The film for "I Want Your Sex" was funny, sexy and slick and the camera fell in love with Kathy Jeung.
The controversy helped to consummate the image of George as a mature artist but the censorship certainly harmed the record's sales. "I Want Your Sex" reached a paltry number three in England, the first George Michael single not to make it to number one since Band Aid kept "Last Christmas" from the top. In the States the record peaked at number two in August, kept from the top of the pile by those po-faced rockers U2 and their "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." That was on the Billboard chart, which collates its chart on both record sales and radio airplay - on sales figures alone, "I Want Your Sex" (widely banned by radio programmers with a fear of sexual organs) was an American number one for two weeks.
GEORGE: I still feel outraged by the reaction of a lot of people to that record. I expected it and in some ways it was good for the record, but I just thought it was so pathetic. American rap music and heavy metal are so aggressively sexual in a completely distasteful way - and I didn't think "I Want Your Sex" was at all.
I liked the idea of it being aggressively sexual, but you had to get the idea that the aggression was the lust. The only way I was going to get sex was with consent. It wasn't about trying to make someone to do something - it was trying to show how much you wanted them.
I wasn't at all comfortable with being a sex spokesman - I didn't see why anyone should ask me. The song anyway wasn't just about fucking - it was about fucking within a relationship. It was the time of the first big AIDS scare over here and they were on the second wave over in America and it really pissed me off the way the issue was being treated. All these scare tactics - tell your kids that sex is something they shouldn't do, at least until we find a cure for this thing. Which is such a lot of bollocks - and you can't take sex out of the music industry because that's what it's built on. My whole point was that there should be an attack on promiscuity but you could do it without making kids frightened of sex.
I was trying to counter the idea that for something to be erotic it has to be forbidden and sleazy. They idea of sex in rock and roll has always involved sex with a stranger, sex with someone you have just set your eyes on. Rock and roll comes with the idea that there is nothing at all erotic about your girlfriend or boyfriend. Sex is something that you really shouldn't be doing - that's how you get your pleasure from it. And that's not true. Everybody's ideal, certainly my ideal, is that fucking is best with someone you feel good about, someone you know and want to be with and yet you can't keep your hands off them and you want to rip their clothes off. There's a lot of lust in that and there needs to be lust in a relationship.
I think people need to remember that the sexual freedom we've had in recent times and suddenly presumed was our right has only been around since effective birth control, since women had the choice. Since women have had the choice, men have had the choice. And we've obviously fucked with nature living like that. The number of people screwing around over the last thrity years with lots of different partners has produced so many nasty viruses that we were bound to come up with something very potent sooner or later. I don't think AIDS is the wrath of God - it's the wrath of nature.
AIDS is nature's way of saying, you can't do this for ever when the species has been here for hundreds of thousands of years and then suddenly the whole world changes its sexual patterns - you can't expect nothing to happen. We act as though it's a terrible thing that we have to change our sexual patterns when we've only had this freedom to be sexually promiscuous for a fraction of history. People who had that freedom in the past were men of power like Al Capone and Henry VIII - and they all died of syphilis.
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Man From Faith
The title track of the FAITH album defined the look of the coming campaign and measured the difference between George in the late 1980s and the callow, clean-shaven youth who had appeared in the early Wham! promos. Once you went beyond the hoodlum chic - boots, jeans, biker jacket - the contrast was great. Early George had still been carrying the vestiges of puppy fat and, no matter how hard or often he scowled, he just couldn't disguise the fact he was deliriously happy to be a part of the showbiz whirl. But the FAITH George was self-contained and self-assured, tanned and bearded, a man who wore his hormones on the outside, scowling, brooding, never smiling behind his hard-nut shades. This was nothing like early George. It was also, of course, nothing like the real George.
ANDREW: I never really understood why he wanted to portray that image - the brooding, macho guy of FAITH. That's not him. That's not how he is with his friends. As much as I think it's a great image and he looks fab, George away from the industry, away from the visual part of his music, is very different.
The first two solo singles,
"Careless Whisper" and "A Different Corner", had moved George away from the gaga, go-go, finger-snapping image
of vintage Wham! while the next two, "I Want Your Sex" and "Faith" clearly established that the solo George
Michael was not going to be restricted to singing showstopping, sob-in-the-heart ballads. Those late singles reflected George's
divided soul - "I Want Your Sex" had been black and funky while "Faith" was as white and happy as an Elvis
FAITH - the album, the concept - was all about a renewal of belief, all about finding reasons for optimism and hope even after your heart has been kicked around the block. The five icons on the inner sleeve represented FAITH - MUSIC - MONEY - RELIGION - LOVE but "Faith", the single, sounded as though it had lighter things on its minds. Released in October, it climbed to number two in England the month before the album release and saw out the year at number one in the States. Top of the Billboard Hot 100 was going to be a home from home for the coming year.
DICK LEAHY: When FAITH took off I heaved one of the biggest sighs of
relief I have ever heaved in my life. Because with the break-up of Wham! I had a lot of people coming to me saying - you HAVE to
persuade George to do one more Wham! album. Lobbies go on. You can imagine. But I wouldn't do it. FAITH was the album he had to
Just to my ears, it's not a clearly defined album, a defined album of an artist at a particular stage in his life. It's an 80 per cent good album - because some of it was written for a specific purpose. But now those constraints have gone. With the next one, we will know how good he is. And so will he.
The only problem with the FAITH album was getting the first single. "I Want Your Sex" had been much earlier so whatever came out would seem like the first single. It was coming to "One More Try" - and George did that in a day. Great song - would have been wrong as the first single. Everyone was expecting a ballad like "Careless Whisper".
It was too obvious; not the way to go. He had "Kissing A Fool" - which had been written before "The Edge Of Heaven" but not completed because when George writes a song he writes just the heart of it and leaves it so he can keep it fresh, to have something to go back to. But "Kissing A Fool" was not the first single.
But he had a little bit of an intro, the intro to "Faith", the into to the album. Through a conversation, he basically just enlarged it. I said - in the 1950s all we did was: you go into a guitar lick you go back into the bridge and into the outro. Two and a half minutes.
It's a 1950s record - why not make it a 1950s record?
I went down to the studio the next day and he played me "Faith". He said - you mean like that?
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one of FAITH had the greasy pop of the eponymous single, the blonde soul of "I Want Your Sex" and the two songs that
seemed to be the emotional heart of the record. "One More Try" and "Father Figure" were ethereal love songs
bursting with wonder and grief, the first a passionate belter howled with a head full of romantic angst, the second as tender as a
sleeping lover's sigh, and - like the very best of his work - they seemed to be drawn from some real load of badly-bruised love.
"Father Figure" was the sound of an unconditional commitment....
"One More Try" and "Father Figure" were more than the work of a master craftsman experimenting with a genre or some lucky dog bitching back at old broken love - these were emotive testaments from a brilliant songwriter, letters from where he lives from a fool for love.
An interesting footnote about these two George originals is that it was impossible to cite their influences. For years George Michael had been accused of being derivative, a crafty plagiarizer who would one day get caught with his hands in the Tamla Motown till. And yet what did "One More Try" and "Father Figure" sound like? Where did those beauties come from? What else sounded like that? The answer was - nothing.
Side two had its moments, but none like that. The other side of FAITH was a patchier affair: "Hard Day" and "Hand To Mouth" were cool and breathy, and icy kind of brown-eyed pop or blue-eyed funk, definitely George, but "Monkey" and "Look At Your Hands" had a harder funk yet softer centres and they failed to convince. "Kissing A Fool" closed the first George Michael album. A curious cocktail of artifice and heart, it had a pleasant enough kick but, no doubt because it had been sitting in George's songbook for so long, always seemed as though it had wandered into the wrong party.
GEORGE:...To me the album was about an affirmation of faith - because before that period of my life there had been a lack of it. As I said, coming out of the Wham! thing I felt as if some big joke had been played on me. I had led myself to believe I had everything - I'd dreamed of realizing certain aspirations and they had all happened but I still felt there was a big gap, a massive hole in my life that I was never going to be able to fill. That was the way I felt at the end of Wham! What Faith meant - the album, the campaign, all of it - was that I hadd faith life was going to deliver, that I was going to get the things I wanted, that my life would bring me the things that are important to me.
Part of it was being able to have a career that I believed in, believed in the whole sense - I had to believe not only in the music but in the person presenting it, I had to believe that I wasn't a fake. Yet I look at that FAITH image and, though I don't feel that person is a fraud, I'm not totally comfortable with it. That's why I don't want to do that kind of promotion any more - putting an image out there. But I don't want to look at FAITH and think that person is a fraud - whereas I did with Wham! I needed FAITH, I needed to believe in that, and I needed to believe that it was possible to get the things I wanted.
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