“Born a Wham!bling Man” is part 1 of a two-part article written by Jo Devon for Tiger Beat, published in January 1986.
George Michael knew from the age of seven on that he wanted to be a
You were unusually the life and soul of the party at Bob Geldof’s film launch Number One, held on your return from Wham!’s Chinese tour. Had you made a conscious decision to relax and wind down that night?
I suppose I had in a way. It was a great relief not to have the spotlight on me for a change, and I have to admit I think I got a bit drunk. I know I was beaming and hugging people all night long. I remember Pat Fernandez, my friend and assistant, getting angry with me because I danced with Andrew’s date, but I managed to appease her in the end. It was a very good party; everyone who is anyone was there.
I know you have been under tremendous pressure for quite some time now. But as you told me in China, you intend to take a six-month break. Is there not a possibility that Wham!’s popularity will wane?
No, I don’t think there is. Our style of music is standard and so will never be out of date. And we have the support of a strong visual image. To a certain
Have you made any plans for Wham!’s future?
I have made a few but they’re vague.
Does it frighten you knowing that you’ll always be expected to top the last hit?
Yes. It is quite frightening as there’s stiff competition around. We don’t expect every song we release to be a Number One, but it must at least get in the Top Five. We’ve let off the pressure a little bit in that respect. In Wham!’s early days we wanted every single to be the top-selling hit. But we were fast turning into nervous wrecks! It’s pleasing, of course, if we get to Number One, but that isn’t now our only aim.
Are you satisfied now that you’ve proved Wham! to be more than a teeny-bop band?
Yes. I think we’ve definitely proved that point. Not that I minded people saying we were nothing but a teeny-bop band. It was just another aspect of the challenge, another hurdle we had to climb. We’ve opened our market to include far more than the 15-year-old fans, yet I still feel there’s much more we can achieve. The older I get, the more my voice matures and the more depth I find when I write. I still don’t feel that we’ve realized Wham!’s full potential.
But your ambition was to make Wham! the best band in the world. After playing China, hasn’t that goal been reached?
To be absolutely truthful, I don’t know. To want to be part of the world’s biggest band is a shallow ambition in itself, but it’s all a part of knowing that you’ve done your personal best. It’s proving a point to yourself. All pop stars have got something to prove – the more so if they’re writing as well. And all I want to do is get more and more people learning to appreciate my music, as that’s the only way I can tell whether I’m improving.
There doesn’t appear to be a middle-ground as far as Wham! is concerned. People either love or hate you. Does the anti-Wham!
movement upset you?
No. The people who hate us are not the type of people we’re going for anyway. They’re still looking at us the wrong way. I don’t want to be hated or loved as a person. I’m in the business to sell. I want us to sell as many records as any group possibly can, but the reason they sell should be because I write good songs, not for the shape of my face.
But the way you sexily promoted yourselves at the beginning of your careers made it inevitable you’d be teenage heartthrobs.
But sex has always been the strongest element in pop. And I knew how to use sex to sell Wham!’s records. But you can only be sexual for so long. It soon gets boring and that’s the stage I’m at now. I’m sick of getting undressed. I respect the young girls in our audience and I don’t want to lose them as fans, but in order to have longevity, it’s vital to widen your appeal.
It sounds as though you’ve made up your mind to continue to perform.
I know I had some very serious doubts as to whether to continue to perform, but I think you caught me on a bad day when I told you I may chuck it all in. I’m basically an optimist at heart. I feel much better since visiting China – no one recognized me there!
No one at all?
The people who’d bought our concert tickets knew who we were but they were very few. The odd thing was that the Chinese people stared anyway! I suppose we looked a bit different to them, coming from the West, but they stared as though we’d come from outer space! Even the cyclists and people driving cars turned round to take a good look. They haven’t got any road sense at all over there! They don’t seem to realize cars can kill.
Did you bring any other strong impressions of China home with you?
Yes. I very much liked the Chinese style of architecture. I thought everything seemed a bit dusty, but
- Wham! In China (Part 1), Smash Hits Magazine (1985)
- A Year in the Life of Wham! as Told by George Michael (Smash Hits Yearbook, 1986)
- Wham! In China (Part 2), Smash Hits Magazine (1985)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)