“The plan is to just take three months off and go to Los Angeles or Malibu and have a complete rest. I want to go there because it’s the only place I can think of where I won’t get bothered – there are people there much more famous than me, so they can go off and bother them instead!” That’s what George Michael told our man, Peter Martin, late one night in China. But he might have a bit of trouble these days. If you thought he was a star before, he’s practically a milky way now. This year they’ve conquered the States and China, started a feature film and still had time to keep their tans a-
To be really honest my initial reaction was ‘God, we’ll be playing to people who have no appreciation of Western things – it’ll be a nightmare!’ Then I thought, ‘Great! It’s a first. It’s historic.’ But it turned into a huge media thing and got a bit out of hand. It’s very different there from Hong Kong. There I was getting woken up at 7:30 by fans. In Japan they just leave you alone. The marvelous thing about China is that the most reaction you get is a stare. People are so polite and they never point or bother us. But all the bikes are really weird – people have a total disregard for pedestrians. It’s impossible to cross the road! There seemed to be a lot of tension between the Chinese and the police. The authorities seemed to be panicking in case anyone wanted to get up and dance. The fear is that all those people could have one uplifting thought that could go against the state. This may be the big problem that we may be too early, maybe they’re not ready for this yet.
At the first concert there was no feeling of rebellion from the people themselves, but there is repression, no doubt. But you have to fight against that. Then again, if they do, then they have to go into industry and then they make money – so it’s just like capitalism. And then you get all the problems that brings. One of the many reasons I feel they chose Wham! was because we represent aspiration and incentives. The Chinese youth should realize that their country is on the verge of change and maybe we’re part of the process that will help them realize that.
Personally – I don’t know about Andrew – but I feel we didn’t prove anything about Wham! apart from the fact that it is almost impossible to bridge the culture of China with that of the West. But it did seem like there was a desire to cross that bridge and maybe Wham! was just the first couple of bricks toward that. I mean it’s very rare in pop music that you can do anything of significance, apart from giving away all of your money. I suppose what we’ve done is a notable achievement and we’re lucky to have had the chance. Queen are apparently pissed off that we got there first! I know China was very important and was doing a film with Lindsay Anderson and winning the Ivor Novello Award for songwriting. They all point towards something more than bands that have previously been in our position and who usually fade away. I mean we lost our credibility ages ago and I’m glad what we do is kind of bringing it back, not in a hype kind of way, but purely in musical terms.
The biggest difference being in Wham! now is the way we are treated by the English daily newspapers. I’m actually shocked and mystified by our treatment. I used to thank Christ that there was no angle with us, like ‘Thank Christ we’re not Frankie.’ We’re just a pop group, we sell lots of records and write good songs and that’s it. But now there’s all this ‘Andrew, what were you doing with the girl with green knickers?’ business. It’s just what they do with Prince Andrew. It’s just trivia. I must admit that this is a very strange position to be in, and it’s one that I never anticipated when we began. You just have to deal with it intelligently. I’ve heard the stories about me collapsing and ticket sales and free cassettes in China. It’s just horrific. They’re just digging for dirt and that’s all. It’s like being bullied. They just pick up on an undercurrent of public feeling and amplify it.
The public did turn on Boy George. George was totally overexposed and people just got sick of him. Okay, his records haven’t been good of late, but they should have done better than they did. The press contributed to that. I mean we could easily lose sales next year. We just have to come back with a Number One or people will think we’re on the way down. But I’m not worried. All we have to do is make better records.
There should be a single this October and the LP may be ready for next summer. I’m just going to take my time. I’ll take as long as it needs. I was reading an interview with Bryan Ferry and he just had the best attitude – this LP’s taken him about three years, but he just said he kept doing it until he felt pleased with it and that’s exactly the way I feel about things. I don’t see why I should be rushed – we shouldn’t really need to live from single to single any more. Then I have to write the instrumental soundtrack for the film. What do I think of Lindsay Anderson? He’s very charming. Very English. For a man his age he veers very close to the left. I love his film If. It’s funny, but when I think of Malcolm McDowell he always reminds me of Sting – there’s an amazing similarity. But my favorite actors are usually women – like Shirley MacLaine and Bette Davis. Actors seem to spend most of their time being intense. That’s one of the reasons I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it. The film is very important to us and obviously when you start something like this you’ve got to see it through, or end up in deep financial trouble.
Next year we’ll start off with a Wham! single, then there’ll be a George Michael single, then a Wham! LP and then, in early ’87, a George Michael LP. It seems silly to plan like that, but you have to these days. There’s only one band in the world in the position I want Wham! to be in – that’s The Police. I know our music is worlds apart, but I just admire the way they can work together and on other projects without all the fuss.
- Wham! In China (Part 1), Smash Hits Magazine (1985)
- George Michael: Artist or Airhead? (Musician, 1988)
- Wham! In China (Part 2), Smash Hits Magazine (1985)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael Interview in The Face (August 1985)