George Michael interview entitled “Censored George Michael Interview: Love, Sex and Stupid Wigs” written by Chris Heath and published by Smash Hits magazine on June 3-16, 1987.
George Michael’s new single, ‘I Want Your Sax’, has been banned by the radio. His new video has been banned by the TV. And George himself seems to have spent the last few months getting horribly drunk and dressing up in frightwigs. What on earth is going on?…
George Michael is sitting in a posh London hotel suite, grinning across the table at me. Life, it seems is not too bad at all. He’s horribly rich, disgustingly healthy and impossibly in love. He’s also, understandably, delighted with his new single, “I Want Your Sex”, not just pleased but incredibly enthusiastic and excited by it. Before we can even start talking he plonks me in front of the TV and shows me the video for it, which has been banned by the BBC on the grounds of its “explicit sexual content”. In it George and his girlfriend, Kathy Jeung (who keeps swapping wigs) cavort around wearing what seems to be no clothes whatsoever.
“Yes” he says, as he washes the remains of a “club” sandwich off his hands in the basin across the room. “I’m completely starkers.”
Ooo-triple-er. This is clearly a much more “relaxed” George Michael (even if, fact fans,he didn’t do all the naked scenes in the video: stand-ins did some of the close-ups – “it’s up to people to work out which”). Certainly there weren’t any Wham! videos that ended with George writing Explore Monogamy (i.e. going out with just one person) in lipstick on a naked body.
“The emphasis that’s been missing throughout the whole of the AIDS coverage is of sex within a relationship,” he says. “You very rarely hear anyone talk about sex and lust and experimentation within the realms of a married or steadily involved couple.”
That’s just one of the things that he’ll explain in endless detail over the next hour and a half, all the time bobbing about with energy, rubbing his hands underneath his sleeveless t-shirt and tinkering with the cross that’s hanging from his ear (“it’s actually a pendant,” he explains. “No, George Michael hasn’t got religion. That’s why my mum hates it. She thinks it’s blasphemous.”)
He also keeps telling me how much he’s enjoying being a pop star again – his LP, which might be called “Kissing A Fool”, will be out in October and he gushes keenly about the title track (a ballad, “like a Billie Holiday ’40’s thing.”) “Betcha Don’t Like It” (co-written with David Austin, “about a battered wife – a particular family I knew about.”) and “One More Try” (“the best thing I’ve ever done – about my attitude coming out of my last relationship and into this new one when I was pretty unwilling to be opn to anything”) First though he explains that he’s not surprised at the BBC’s decision to ban “I Want Your Sex” from daytime radio. “I am very proud of the record but the BBC reaction was to be fully expected,” he shrugs.
And then he’s off, starting with just how fed up he became over the last year or two…
I was very depressed for months. For a time my career and my social position trapped me. Now I really appreciated the freedom of being a 23 year old who does exactly what he wants when he wants, has people around him that he loves and is very lucky. But for a while I was just feeling totally self-indulgent and self-pitying. I really just needed a kick up the arse.
Who or what gave you one?
I honestly don’t know.
So did you just wake up one morning and feel better?
Well, yes, that is exactly what happened. I got very very drunk one evening in the middle of last year with Andrew in Los Angeles – I was so drunk, I was sick – and I poured everything out, all the things that were worrying me about my future. Eventually I collapsed because I was so drunk and I woke the next morning feeling absolutely brilliant. It was like an exorcism, it really was. From that day on I was better. I’ve felt so good for the last seven or eight months. I haven’t been this happy since I was 18 or 19.
Why were you so depressed anyway?
I just had this horrible feeling for about a year that I’d woken up to my real life and my real life was pretty depressing; that I was never going to be a normal person again. However good a time I would have – I’d go out, get drunk and muck about – there was always a return to this genuine low. I’d become paranoid about the people around me and I was starting to feel a real nostalgia for anonymity and things like that. Then for some reason I woke and thought “you’re such an arsehole – you chose this life and you love what you do.” And I do. I love it. I love the excitement – releasing new material, going on tour in six months – and I suddenly realised my problem was that I had no problems. It had all come so easily.
Don’t you ever still get the urge to go on a bus or something, just because you can’t?
I went on a bus at Christmas wearing a wig [bursts into hysterics]. About 30 of us had a Christmas party at my house and hired these wigs – mine was a really long hippie one with a centre parting. I looked just like Neil from The Young Ones except with a beard – and we all went round these pubs and restaurants singing Beatles songs and Christmas carols. Then we got on this bus. The conductor was having a fit trying to get us off. It was brilliant. A lot of people definitely knew who it was but they couldn’t believe it. I looked such an idiot.
Do you ever use serious disguises?
No. I’ve found that when I’ve tried them people still recognise me. I used to wear a hat and put my hair up – when it was long and fair – take my earrings out and wear my prescription glasses which are so thick I look really terrible. And people would say “Eh? George Michael? Take that hat off!” and I’d feel so stupid because I looked so bad. I have nightmares about that kind of thing.
‘IF I GO OUT SHOPPING FOR AN AFTERNOON I USUALLY SPEND TWO OR THREE THOUSAND POUNDS ON CLOTHES’
When did you last see Andrew Ridgeley?
About a week and a half ago in LA — he’s recording there
Are you still good “mates”?
exactly as we’ve ever been — closer probably than we were for a couple of years during the Wham! thing. I’ve spent more time with him since we stopped working together. We go out to clubs and make fools of ourselves; get totally paralytic and roll around on the floor.
Is it true he calls you TLTI?
(Astonished) Where did you get that from? Yes, it’s true. him and his mates Johnny and Dave call me that. You know what it means?
“The Legend that Is”
Yeah. They say is “The Legend” coming out tonight? (Laughs) it’s just a piss-take because I got so much attention.
What else do they call you?
A lot of things. They call me Yog. And knobby. I don’t think we should go into that one. and Geoff. because we used to have this choke that if a couple of wideboys come up to you they say ( put on silly voice): “It’s that Geoff Michaels and Anthony Ripley, innit?”
What did you think of the story in the “news” papers last year saying you had turned into a spendthrift recluse, the “Howard Hughes of Pop?” (Howard Hughes being a v. bunkers old millionaire who stayed indoors all the time)
(Chuckles) That was good, wasn’t it? I love that one, I should have framed the picture and sent it to Jonny Versace the designer of that jacket it cost over 1,000 lb and the caption said Who Wants To Be A Millionaire if you end up looking like a scruff?
Still you must be filthy rich.
Oh yeah (grins). But then we’re all filthy rich compared with someone.
So have you started buying £50,000 paintings?
No, I never buy anything. I bought a car for my last birthday. I’m moving into my first house — just outside London — next week. My biggest extravagance is my clothes. If I go out shopping for an afternoon I usually spend two or three thousand pounds.
Gulp. It must be a bit pricey then when you spill your baked beans down them?
True, very true. Andrew bought a jacket once that was worth nearly £1,000 and you couldn’t wash it or dry clean it. what were you supposed to do with it it just got dirtier and dirtier.
So can you afford to pay Boy George back his £50 yet?
I have! I give it back to him on stage at the AIDS benefit. The papers said I gave him a condom, but it was £50. But backstage he came and gave it back to me.
Aah. So you still owe him?
Well, no. He doesn’t want it back for sure presumably.
What about that story that you were “sick over a blonde” at the club?
(Looks serious) I’m suing over that. Which is why The Sun have never been after me recently and are still after me. That story was a total fabrication — I was never even there, I never saw this girl. Next everyone’s telling me they’re going to run a big gay story on me. I’m prepared. As far as I’m concerned my life is on course now. I feel great now and I have to believe that the relationship I’ve built up with the public over the last 5 years strong enough to withstand any crap the papers throw at me. People have been saying that I was gay for years anyway; people have been questioning my sexuality from the start.
But you’ve always enjoyed playing with it, teasing people, haven’t you?
I did, yeah.
And you’ve deliberately never denied being gay?
Yeah, but that’s for three reasons. One, because I was playing with it. Secondly, I think it’s extremely distasteful that once you get in a position of public renown you’re supposed to prove your sexuality one way or another. Thirdly, what’s the point of denying it? It doesn’t make any difference if people want to believe it they will. I have no doubts about my sexuality. Anyway, if I had thought about sleeping with men and if I was going to do it I wouldn’t sit here and say it to Smash Hits. Sexuality is a totally private thing and it should always stay that way.
Except that you’ve just released this record …
Yes, you’re right. And people will make of it what they want. All I know is that I’ve only come this close to talking about sexuality because I’m that confident at the moment. Originally I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want the press to have anything to play about with my with in my private life. Now I just don’t care
A lot of people are probably going to be offended when they hear “I Want Your Sex.”
Yes, but that’s because people in general still find sex a taboo subject. I started writing the song before the public scare about AIDS but since then I’ve readjusted the lyrics slightly — especially on the 12” — to emphasize it’s a song about a relationship. Most people might imagine that if I’m in the situation where I want to know if someone is going to have sex with me then it would be a very immediate casual thing, but if you take time to look at the lyric (see opposite) — “now that we’re friends”, “we’ve waited so long”, it’s clear It’s about relationship. I think that’s the emphasis that’s been missing in the whole coverage of the AIDS thing. Kids aren’t going to stop having sex. There’s a backlash against AIDS being the end of sex and if my single is part of that then that’s a good thing. There hasn’t been enough emphasis on the strength and safety of monogamous relationships. I think people actually quite attracted to monogamy; I think it’s what they want in the first place. Promiscuity, in my experience, comes from a lack of security. All we’re getting at the moment is the rejection of sex for young people, not the revaluation of it. Sex is not the public enemy. Promiscuity is.
So do you keep true to all these ideas?
Well … I would say quite honestly that you within the last three years if I’ve gone for sex outside the relationship I’ve had, it’s only been at the end of the relationship when it wasn’t going to work anyway. I did go through a period of promiscuity when it all started — for about 8 months — although I’m not sure I would have if I hadn’t been in this position. There was a fair amount of pressure from outside: even to this day if I go to a club I spend half the night turning people down. Initially I didn’t have the strength to resist so much. Also, if you go out in this position people assume the only reason is to screw around. The reason I go out is to be with friends, to be sociable, to dance and to drink.
The sleeve of “I Want Your Sex” says “this record is dedicated to my hopeless conquest”. What’s all that about?
Um … well actually the song was written about two relationships mixed up. The “hopeless conquest” one doesn’t really make sense anymore and I tried to get that quote removed but it was too late.
Why did you want it removed?
Because it doesn’t fit with the other sleevenote (on the gatefold 12” and compact disc), about my actual current long-term relationship, saying that I believe in the idea of lust within a loving relationship. This relationship with Kathy is the longest relationship I’ve ever had. Originally the song was about someone else — the “hopeless conquest” — but I decided to change the lyrics because I felt they were a bit irresponsible and then I wrote the 12” to accommodate my current relationship.
So is this “hopeless conquest” the same person A Different Corner” was about? (i.e. “the memory” the record was dedicated to)?
No it’s not. That was about a very quick relationship, a here today gone tomorrow one. It’s amazing how emotional you can get in a short period of time and how long it can last. Someone can really shake you up and it takes you a long time to get yourself back on your feet; that was what that was about.
“I Want Your Sex” goes “not everybody does it / but everybody should”. Really?
Well, who do you know who doesn’t? I believe everybody does. And I hate the idea of abstinence for religion, for instance.
So what about someone like Morrissey who claims to be celibate?
I don’t believe Morrissey’s asexual. I believe he’s totally winding everybody up. I really do.
What if he’s not?
I think it’s a shame. Sex is one of the most important experiences in life and I think it’s a shame if it’s denied to anybody. I’m not advising 13 year olds to go and do it though.
Will you be upset if it doesn’t go to number one?
Yes, because everything else I’ve done in the last 3 years has gone to number one so anything that doesn’t will be considered a failure. But I think it will be number one to be honest. I would be surprised if it isn’t. Mind you, they’ve just released Tom Jones “It’s Not Unusual” and that’s a great record, though it really annoyed me if it was an old record that stopped me enough that I knew you were waiting for me was knocked off by Ben E King.
So who do you reckon your biggest competitors are now?
Obviously you look at every big new group like Curiosity Killed The Cat but I don’t really think there’s anything strong enough if I have a strong record out I don’t feel generally threatened. I think Curiosity are good. I don’t like “Ordinary Day” — you don’t put a word like “ordinary in the middle of a fairly ordinary record but Misfit and especially down-to-earth are great records.
There’s a certain quality that runs through their stuff but I never even felt vaguely threatened by them put it like that. I’ve spent two years without any real competition at all.
That doesn’t sound very modest.
Well it’s true isn’t it? That’s why my real challenge now is America. England is a challenge but it’s become too easy.
Will you ever have been successful enough?
I don’t know really. (Sighs) I’ve always accepted that it’s a blind ambition but I’ve kept my sanity this long enough I think I can live through anything. We shall see. Maybe in 10 years I will be the “the Howard Hughes of pop!
- George Michael’s Interview with the Gay Magazine ‘The Advocate’ (1999)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael’s Interview with Gay Times (2007)
- George Michael in Q Magazine Interview (October 1990)
- George Michael Interview in The Face (August 1985)