This article “By George, he’s really got it” was written by Adam Sweeting and published in The Guardian newspaper in England on November 9, 1987.
“HE’S absolutely gorgeous,” breathed Princess Diana. Paul Waller thinks lie’s the antichrist of pop hedonism, a v walking billboard promoting Thatcherism. Boy George has just decided to relaunch the “George Michael is gay” saga. The tabloids would just love to talk to him.
George Michael sails on imperturbably, fantastically rich, resoundingly-confident, and still only 24. Already, the brief, sensational career of Wham ! has been consigned to the lumber-room of history along with some pasteboard palm-trees, Simon Napier-Bell and his Nomis management company, a mound of press clippings from the duo’s visit to China, and some old snaps of Andrew Ridgeley brawling with the paparazzi outside London night-clubs.
Stubbly, designer-clad Michael manoeuvres easily through the tricky waters of late-Eighties superstardom, equipped with a plausible-sounding candour which doesn’t flinch from the murkiest issues. He juggles the conflicting requirements of art, commerce and politics with the skill of a highly-paid management consultant.
His conversation is rapid, eloquent’ and preformed into pleasing shapes. The likes of Weller and his moaning Bed Wedge compadres are as cockroaches beneath the superstar’s stride. “I’ve come across Paul Weller many ‘ times, and I just find him not quite intelligent enough to carry the flag that he carries,” announces George dismissively.
His politics are “moderate,” though he argues that the UK’s swing to the right has made him appear conservative simply because he won’t embrace the far left. Ironically for a group so devoid of political purpose, the politics of apartheid played a major role in the end of Wham! and Michael’s split from the clever, manipulative Napier-Bell. Had he, perhaps used Nomis’s proposed merger with the South African-linked Kunick Leisure group as a pretext to dump his manager and to reroute himself into his solo career? George won’t pretend he was motivated only by liberal ideals. He also felt he was being used.
“I’m not hugely concerned with what people think of my ethics. I am concerned with what my ethics are. But South Africa really wasn’t an excuse. I was genuinely disgusted by that whole period.
For a group so transparently, unrepentantly frivolous. Wham! aroused extraordinary passions, both . for and against. The girl-chasing, cocktail-guzzling duo unexpectedly appeared (miming) at a benefit for the families of striking miners in 1984.
Their garish inappropriateness was lambasted in the papers, whereupon Michael added insult to injury by calling Arthur Scargill a megalomaniac. Why? ” Because I think to some degree he is. I knew it wasn’t a very clever thing for me to say from a political point of view, but I thought it was the truth.”
He prides himself on his directness, and almost relishes flak. His new LP, Faith, is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, a record made up of equal parts craft, finesse and calculation. There’s just enough technology to make you aware that George knows the date, there are a couple of songs which, on close inspection, turn out to be more subtle than you thought, there are tunes you’ll forget and others you’ll remember, and there’s I Want Your Sex, George’s brazen riposte to the big chill which has recently fallen on intimate relationships.
Michael is a businessman too, and I Want Your Sex trailed the album with a helpful puff of meaningless controversy. “You can’t pretend you’re keeping sex out of music,” says George now. ” Obviously I wasn’t pretending there wouldn’t be any controversy. I was looking forward to the controversy. I just wouldn’t have believed it would be so incredibly negative and thoughtless.” Radio wouldn’t play the single, which will only cause more people to buy the LP to see what all the publicity was about.
Yet George doesn’t like to be seen only as an artisan with a highly-developed capacity for self-promotion. ” I’ve committed the cardinal sin of picking up six years of business acumen along the way, and people can’t equate that with me being passionate about pop music,” he protests.
His gift, one he appears to have been born with, is to see the way the jigsaw of media and entertainment fits together. Writing songs is just one skill in the armoury of the contemporary entertainer. Strikingly, George recalls his first creative impulses in terms of their commercial possibilities. “I had ridiculously confident feeling about it, and I knew I wanted to do it from a very early age. I felt I had an ability that someone would want to exploit, and that I would get what I wanted from the business wanting to exploit my songs.”
George knew what he needed. While media-snipers derided Andrew Ridgeley’s lack of creative input to Wham!, George knew that Ridgeley contributed sheer front and a hush-puppyish sex-appeal, even if his guitar wasn’t plugged in. Who can forget Ridgeley’s canary-coloured Y-fronts? ” Andrew brought out two things,” George says. “First, there was that physical competition that made me want to appeal to girls as much as he did; it was as simple as that. Also, he gave me the ability to keep my sense of humour above what was going on.”
Ridgeley, racing driver manque and actor-in-waiting, is currently somewhere in the south of France, preparing material for a forthcoming album. The pair remain firm friends, but the post-Wham! George Michael, a veteran of the unforgettable fires of Band Aid and Live Aid, is a man who exudes an aura of control and increasing artistic seriousness.
Among his new songs, Look At Your Hands is seen through the eyes of the lover of another man’s battered wife (” he’d have to be a bit of a wanker really “), while Hand To Mouth takes a despairing look at how British society is becoming as violent and uncaring as America’s.
Johnny Rogan’s new book, Wham ! Confidential The Death Of A Supergroup (Omnibus), portrays Michael as a tough careerist, ruthlessly discarding superfluous personnel from his entourage even as Wham ! trampled triumphantly over a young and entirely moronic audience (the herd-like behaviour of the crows at Wham!’s final Wembley Stadium’ show in 1986 goads Rogan into building up a head of extraordinarily inappropriate Swiftian disgust). For all that, it’s an intriguing study of the entrails of the music business, though one which Michael himself partially rejects.
“I’m so much the opposite I’m such a big coward in terms of getting rid of people,” he argues. ” I’m very tough in the sense that I can take a lot, but I don’t give out a lot.
But you don’t become a colossus of pop without a few heads getting banged together en route, either by design or by default. Perhaps George Michael is capable of fooling every-‘ body all the time. Meanwhile, one’ wonders what the Christmas bonuses will be like at Epic Records, as the label struggles to press enough copies of Faith and Michael Jackson’s BAD.
- Wham! You’re On Your Own, George (Sunday Times, 1986)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- ‘George Michael, Seriously’ from Rolling Stone Magazine (1988)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)