Below is an article entitled “George: “Andrew Knew He Was There For A Purpose” written by Peter Martin and published by Smash Hits magazine issue dated June 18th-July 1st, 1986
After their farewell concert in a couple of weeks, Wham! are splitting up for good. “I’ve worked my arse off trying to keep this band at the top,” says George Michael, “and it’s about time I had a breather.” So Andrew is off to “act” in Hollywood films, while George puts his feet up. But not before a seagulls egg sarnie and a chat with Peter Martin.
To think, it was only eight months ago that I was sitting in this very hotel, the swish Blakes of Kensington, doing what would turn out to be the last ever Wham! interview. Andrew was lolling around in something extremely fashionable, getting bored and making the odd “cheeky” remark while George was being very professional and deadly serious. It was obvious the two had drifted apart – Andrew into his motor racing and gallivanting, George into his work. And now the inevitable has happened. Wham! have just released their final single – an EP featuring four songs, “Edge Of Heaven”, “Battle Stations”, “Where Did Your Heart Go?” and a re-mix of “Wham! Rap” – while in two weeks time they play their last concert, at Wembley Stadium. Then they split up…
Opening the door of his suite, George seems in a rather good mood. Chatting about the song he finished recording last week in Detroit with soul “legend” Aretha Franklin – a track for her LP called “I Knew You Were Waiting” – he orders some food from room service. Although he can’t seem to stop chattering on about Ms Franklin, he’s not quite so keen to talk about the record he’s supposed to be making with Michael Jackson just in case it doesn’t come off. He has met M.J. though. So, is he a real loony?
“That’s what everybody said about him, but I got none of that weird stuff. He was perfectly nice.”
So where did you meet him?
“In his house. But luckily I wasn’t shown around. I hate that, I mean, can you imagine what it’s like if you don’t like what you see? You have to go around grinning like a loony, saying it’s all wonderful. I can do without that.”
Room service arrives with the food – starters first.
“What is it?” enquires George. “It is seagull eggs,” offers the waiter. “Is good, try one.”
“Urgh!” says George. “Actually, it’s funny…the minute you think ‘seagull’ you think of the poor little thing that laid it. But it is just an egg after all. I mean, an egg is an egg…”
Nonetheless, we leave the eggs firmly in their shells and move onto more serious subjects – like Andrew. How will George be able to manage without him, I ask. George giggles. “Well, obviously it’s not going to damage my musical output.”
What a cad! Doesn’t he feel a bit guilty about saying things like that?
“No, I think the pair of us have always been honest about that, Andrew more than me. There have been times when I’ve slightly twisted things because I’ve felt protective towards him, but he’s always just come clean. Andrew’s always felt perfectly confident because he knew he was there for a purpose and he had every right to be there. If I hadn’t needed him, or I hadn’t wanted to work with him any more, he knows it would have ended years ago. It’s simple,” he concludes, “we’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve and we’ve now been given the opportunity to finish it off better than anyone ever before.”
So how does he feel about the claim of his ex-manager Simon Napier-Bell (who continues to manage Andrew) that Andrew will be the face of ’87, with his acting career and his motor racing, while George will disappear into the studio, never to be seen again?
“Well, he’s just trying to stir things up. But yes, in a way, that is what’ll happen next year. Andrew is going to Hollywood, and I will disappear for a while. I’m writing my solo LP now, but I’m not starting to record that ’til next year. And then after that I think I’ll be taking things easy. I’ve worked my arse off for years trying to keep this band at the top and now I think it’s about time I had a breather. Also I think it would be good in career terms to leave a space between Wham! and the solo career, so the public’s perception has a chance to change. It would appear a little incongruous if I just went straight on as a solo singer. Also it would look like I couldn’t wait to get rid of Andrew, which isn’t the case. And, after the concert’s over I want to buy a house. I think it’s about time I invested in something. I don’t really want anything grand, but I do think it’s about time I got a proper place.”
He goes on to explain the state of his last flat. “It was a real tip! It would have made a great centrespread in the appers – ‘This Is The Tip Where George Michael Lives!’ I’ve never been that bothered by my surroundings but when people came round I used to look at them and I coudl tell they were thinking I was mad. I mean, the furniture was really old and falling to pieces and the hot water didn’t work and even the curtains had fallen off the rail in my bedroom! The one I’m in now (in central London) is much nicer, but I think it’s time I bought somewhere.”
He’s also promised himself a new car next week, but only if he passes his driving test. “I want a Mercedes. It’s not too flash.
Andrew doesn’t seem to mind whizzing about in a Ferrari, but I couldn’t stand the stares. That kind of car just says ‘look, I am a star’. I’d hate that. I don’t feel wealthy – you don’t unless you flash it around and this car is really the first proper thing I’ve bought.”
He could have bought loads of things with all the money he’s made, surely? Doesn’t he ever feel guilty about all that cash?
“Well, like a lot of things in life what I earn is out of proportion, out of perspective, unfair, but I don’t feel guilty because I clear my own conscience by giving a lot of it away. I don’t make donations and then ask for it to be publicised. I just do it when I think there’s an urgent need for something. I’m not doing it so that people think I’m the most generous person in the world. I wouldn’t be a pop star if I was. I’d be out there trying to solve all the things that are wrong with the world. But I’m too selfish to do that.”
So what does George think Wham! will be remembered for: the songs or the suntans?
“Ha! In terms of the group I think we will be remembered as an entity. People will say, ‘Oh, ‘Wake Me Up’…wasn’t that that pair poncing around in shorts!”
Have you any regrets?
“No, not really. All Wham! were ever about was saying ‘we’re here, this is all there is, enjoy it.’ That’s all. And people couldn’t take that. People just thought we were prats. We were the first group since the days of the Beatles who didn’t relate their personalities to their music. And people didn’t understand that. They thought that bloke poncing around in the pretty blonde hair with the shorts and the teeth was me! They couldn’t understand that it was me trying to be the ultimate performer, reflecting what I saw as the ultimate pop song in the only way possible. No, what I do regret is that some people have misconstrued our efforts along the way, confusing my personality with that of the group. And that can be quite annoying when a whole nation thinks you’re a prat! In a way,” he elaborates, “that was why I knew last year that I had to get out. That four or five months, around ‘Go Go’ and ‘Freedom’ we became the all-time ultimate pin-up band. And that was what I thought I wanted, but as success has a tendency of doing when it finally comes round, you fnid it wasn’t really what you were after and you have to re-evaluate. I could easily have carried on like that. I think I am a good enough actor to have pursued a solo career and Wham!, but we felt ‘why should we?’ We proved that we did it better than anyone else so why bother carrying on an image that wasn’t suited to you any more? I mean, I’m a more serious person now. I have got rapidly older and I know I could have got away with it, but why bother? It’s much better this way.”
So what will George Michael, solo artiste, be like?
“I know what exactly what everyone will expect of me…to become a cross between Barry Manilow and James Last! Well, the thing is I’m not. I think I can now play about with my success to a large degree. I’ve got two audiences that are both prepared to accept me and so I’ve more or less got a free reign. ‘A Different Corner’ was the most honest thing I’ve done so far. It was very true to me. In fact it was so personal – and I didn’t realise I was doing it at the time until someone pointed it out – I couldn’t look the camera in the eye. It was like, you can watch me going through this but I can’t acknowledge that you’re there, sharing it. It’s weird, isn’t it?”
After that we decide it’s time to open the seagulls eggs. “Urgh…go on then, you do it.” And so, hands trembling, George cracks the little speckly shell in two. We decide that it’s obviously some post-Chernobyl creature and should most definitely not be put anywhere near the mouth.
And so to the final concert. Is he excited?
“Well, yeah. I just think it marks the best possible end for a group ever. And it marks something I thought Wham!, or for that matter any other pop group, could achieve in this day and age – to actually become part of the fabric of every day life. The last people to do that were The Beatles, who were treated like politicians or public figures at the end. But on that Saturday, the two people you’ve either loved or hated for the past two or three years, through the papers or on the radio or on the telly, will play their final concert at Wembley and everybody will know about it. That’s the thing I like most about the idea. We’ve transcended the idea of a pop group with this concert, we’ve become more like an event, a tiny part of the fabric of society. I couldn’t think of a better way of going. I just hope,” he laughs, grimacing at the prospect, “that it doesn’t chuck it down all over us.”
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- Wham! You’re On Your Own, George (Sunday Times, 1986)