George Michael interview “The Glummest Man in Pop?” by Sylvia Patterson was first published in the November 18 – December 1, 1987 issue of the Smash Hits magazine. It was then republished in Star Hits magazine, March 1988 issue.
Why does George Michael always look so glum? Is it because he’s missing his old chum Andrew Ridgeley? Or maybe he’s miffed that his last two singles haven’t gone to number one? Or has he just had enough of this whole pop malarkey? “I won’t rest till I get to the bottom of it,” vows Sylvia Patterson…
“I feel very sedate at the moment, very calm,” states George Michael so “calmly” he looks as if he’s ready for a snoozle on the nearby swank-settee of his record company office. “Yes, everything’s going very much to plan.”
Mmm. Strange to notice, then, that The Legend That Is doesn’t look particularly delirious with happiness today. Perched, hands clasped, on his swivelly swank-chair he actually looks a trifle detached, a smidgen defensive and definitively “cool”. Could it be he’s read some of the not-entirely glowing reviews of his new LP “Faith”?
“I haven’t read them yet, actually,” states His Legendship. “What are they like? Mixed? Hmnrmnn… I don’t take much notice of the press over here any more… it’s so clouded by my success. They’re either really appreciative or completely dismissive and I’d rather not read things that are dismissive because it’s just insulting. Of course it hurts but it angers me more now because I’ve put so much belief into everything. I’m not bothered, really. I’m not going to fight it any more…”
Or could it be he’s miffed at being “pipped” by The Bee Gees to the number one spot?
“I’m not at all heart-broken. All I can say is that if you’re going to be number two you might as well be number two to a record you like – I really like it! I’ve been singing it for the past two weeks. Through gritted teeth? Not at all. I mean, I’m going to release another five singles off the album and I’m perfectly prepared for them not to be number ones. I look like a Bee Gee? Yeah, that’s true actually. Hmmmnmn.”
Or could it be that Boy George was interviewed on Radio One the day before and practically told a shocked nation that George Michael was gay?
“That’s funny (looks a mite perplexed). No one told me anything about this. That’s really weird. That’s really really weird. (Regains “composure” and looks completely blank.) Well, I mean, apart from the fact that I hardly ever see him and I’m hardly ever with him for more than about 10 seconds, I’m just surprised at him. I’m surprised at him for getting that low. Obviously things aren’t going great for him and things have been going great for me for a long time and that’s a real shame if he feels he has to snipe at me. Oh yeah, I really turn into a raving queen when I’m with him (which was what Boy George claimed). I mean, if I was going to do that he’d be the last person I’d do it around, wouldn’t he? It sounds as if he’s got a chip on his shoulder. I’ve got nothing against him and I’ve never been anything other than supportive to him, really, so it’s a shame. Especially since I thought he was supposed to be into karma these days… he must have forgotten about that. I’m tempted to ring him up about it, but I don’t think I shall bother – I don’t think it’s my problem, it’s his, really. Oh well, never mind.”
Still George Michael does look fit and good-looking today (“Er … I don’t know about the good-looking…”), crisply-attired in spanking new jeans and a long black collarless jacket of some unidentified expensive “thread” (“It’s an Adolfo Dominguez – one of the privileges of being rich”) while nimbly tinkering with a glass of Diet Coke and a gigantic plateful of snoot-sarnies (“Snoot-sandwiches? They’re smoked salmon and cream cheese – swank, maybe…”)
Last night, he reveals, was spent round at his mum’s (“She only lives about 15 miles away – I was taking my sister home after she visited me”) and tonight he’s having a bit of a shindig with his old buddy Andrew Ridgeley.
“I see him once or twice a month usually and he’s in the country at the moment. That’s another reason I went to my mum’s last night – I’d borrowed a couple of his jackets and I had to leave them there for him to pick up – it’s all very close and family and cosy. It’s just like it always was when we meet, actually. We talk about how our girlies are and what we’re doing and what problems we’re having, you know, what do you talk to your friends about? I’ve heard some of the stuff he’s recording in Monaco and I really think he can make it. One of the songs is a really sexy American rock thing – he’s singing. And playing the guitar hihih. Aw, people forget, you see, that although Andrew was reeeally laaaazy, when he wants to he can play the guitar just fine. He just didn’t do all that much for Wham! because he couldn’t be bothered. It’s amazing, it’s true – the ability was there and he just didn’t care that people didn’t think it was – I suppose he’s now hoping for the last laugh.”
So. George Michael is seeing his buddies, visits his mum, his LP – sniffed at or not – went straight to number one, he’s not short of the odd “bob”, he’s one of the biggest stars in the whole of the galacial populus and, yet, he sits here and looks decidedly glum around the gills. What’s wrong with the man? For the next three-quarters of an hour, pop gooks, let us ponder further. Could it perhaps be that…
HE’S EMBARRASSED BY THE OLD WHAM! DAYS?
“I’m not embarrassed by the whole Wham! thing at all. I’m embarrassed by ‘Bad Boys’ – that was such a bad record. The song and the video, they are an embarrassment to me now. Funnily enough I listened to ‘Bad Boys’ the other day and I suddenly realised that with the backing track I was trying to rip off an old Was Not Was song ‘Out Come The Freaks’ and I realised how shitty and tinny it sounded in comparison to the original. I thought it was good when we made it but I had no idea what I was doing because we were going through a particularly heavy time with management and stuff and then it took me about a week to realise it was the worst thing we’d ever done. People still love it to this day, too, but I just can’t see it myself. No! I haven’t turned my back on the shuttlecock days. It was just that record – I would never say I was embarrassed by Wham! because it was good fun, you know. I just can’t see myself ever doing it again.”
LIFE ISN’T AS MUCH FUN ANY MORE?
“It isn’t as much fun any more. The album isn’t fun fun fun, is it? It’s not like Wham! It’s just … I’ve got a bit older and … also I’m bored with grinning. The whole point of finishing with Wham! was because it wasn’t the way I felt any more, you know? It’s, like, the things that people posthumously like with Wham! they want me to do now, the things they frowned on at the time. And I’ve done them. I mean, don’t ask me to go back two years ‘cos you didn’t appreciate it then and you want me to do it a bit more now. I just feel like saying ‘You missed the boat! I’ve gone! I’m somewhere else now.’ There aren’t going to be any more fun and games from me because that’s when I was 18, 19, 20, 21 … um, OK I’m only 24, I’m not exactly an old man, but … no, my life isn’t as much fun any more. I mean, fame when you originally come across it is a lot of fun and then it just becomes your life. I can’t pretend to wake up in the mornings any more and go ‘Woooaaarrgh! Yeeahaarrrgh! Great! I’m famous, I’m famous!’ I did feel like that for a while but it wears off, you know? You can’t just keep on looking for big thrills. Like, the first number ones and the China things, they were big thrills but eventually they start to run out. I think I’m more appreciative of things now – things aren’t whizzing past me any more. I just don’t spend all my time trying to have a great time any more.”
HE’S GOING TO MISS BEING ON TOP OF THE POPS?
“I’ve refused to go on Top Of The Pops now, yes. Um … I always hated doing it. I was a good actor hihih! No, actually, I hated it after the first six months – you were always pushed around and the people weren’t terribly co-operative and I never liked the camera work etcetera. It was very frustrating. Just as you’d get to the best bit of your choreography they’d go to some girl in a bathing suit waving a balloon about. I would feel very uncomfortable going on there now with all those people standing around with their balloons like it was a big circus. I already felt uncomfortable doing ‘A Different Corner’. It worked with Wham! and it just doesn’t work with me any more. Most people come to that conclusion – when they don’t have to be on Top Of The Pops to maintain their status they don’t do it. I’ll lose out but I just don’t want to do it any more. It’s not snobby – I just think that if you work at any profession for five or six years at the end of every day you should be happy with what you’ve done and I wouldn’t be happy on there any more.”
HE TAKES HIMSELF FAR TOO SERIOUSLY?
“Aaaahm … I don’t think I take myself terribly seriously. I’ve always taken myself seriously. And I always took the pop music I made far more seriously than most people gave me credit for. They thought it was ‘Wheee! Throw another one out!’ and being famous was the main thing and it wasn’t. I think there’s a glaring difference between the stuff that gets to number one these days and the most successful Wham! records, because they’re different. One is pop music which is crafted and the other is business. As far as I’m concerned the things that come out of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman stable are just business and there’s a huuuge difference between that and what I’ve done. To me. And if people don’t recognise that, fine. Originally people thought I was a bit of an air-head and now that I’ve set about changing that I’ve given myself a new problem – people look at me and think ‘Oooh, he’s far too serious and business like to possibly be a genuinely creative person’. I mean, I cannot take off this professional personality that you see now – it’s very protective and very professional but there’s no doubt that if we met in a club we’d probably have a lot of fun, you know? I’m 24 plus the six years of business that I’ve picked up and I can’t help that – there’s nothing I can do about that.”
HE’S NOT FAT ‘N’ HAPPY ANY MORE?
“I’ve been thin for quite a long time now. Since people have heard I’m working out they think ‘God! You look thin!’ but I’ve been this weight for two years – 11 stone. I photograph like a fat pig, that’s the thing. I’m fitter now, I’ve got a few muscles I hadn’t discovered before but I’m not any thinner. I haven’t been ‘The 13-stone Fat George’ The Sun knows for ages.”
HE ONLY LIKES ONE SIDE OF HIS FACE?
“That’s not true! You see both sides in my photographs. Actually I do have a favourite side … uh, wait till I work it out … this side (the left one). Well, it depends on the lighting, really. There are certain things about my face that I don’t like but I’m not telling because then everyone would look for them. I certainly wouldn’t let anyone go near my face with a scalpel – I think if you have a healthy body and there’s nothing glaringly wrong with it it’s tempting fate to play about with it. Am I vain? Hmmmn … you see, I think vanity is not caring, just knowing that you’re great-looking. I think doing what I do and what most people do, taking care of themselves, is because they’re not very secure about the way they look. I know that people find me attractive which I used to find very difficult to cope with, but I cope easily now because I’m more comfortable with myself. I now accept that people find me genuinely attractive, apart from the fact they find the idea of fame attractive, so I’m much more confident now and that in itself makes you more physically attractive because people can see it instantly. Do I pluck my eyebrows? Yes, I’ve been doing that since I was 16 because they join in the middle here (prods the middle of his eyebrows) and I do here a bit too (prods underneath the end of an eyebrow) but not much. My eyebrows are quite a good shape, believe it or not. I saw someone the other day whose hairs grew all the way down here (prods half-way down his nose) and he looked like a freak! Why? Why not just take the time? I mean, I looked strange with mine grown in and my sister nagged me into doing it because I was a complete state. She groomed me.”
HE’S BEEN SICK ON HIS GIRLFRIEND?
“I’m still very much in love with Kathy (i.e. Kathy Jeung who featured in the ‘I Want Your Sex’ video) and I regret now that I made it as public as I did. I talked too much because I was so kind of relaxed at the time. At one point she said to me ‘Give me a break’ – people were asking her to do photo sessions and stuff and she’s not really into it. What does being in love feel like? Well, you must know! Surely you know! Is it feeling sick? Oh, absolutely! Falling in love makes you feel absolutely sick. My sister goes to an acupuncturist and he explained to her that the knot you get in your stomach that makes it really hard to concentrate on anything else, It’s a nervous thing, that’s the feeling you get when you’re in love but it’s not a certainty – it’s not a certainty that it’s reciprocated. When you feel that it is reciprocated, when you feel secure, you lose that knot and you get a calmness. That’s the way I feel, really calm. But I’ve had the knot! I’ve had the knot a few times. But, if you’re in a relationship where you constantly pull at each other for assurances, you never lose the knot and I hate that. I’ve done that and I never want to do it again. Maybe I will one day, but I won’t in a hurry…”
HE’S BEEN SICK ON HIS CHEST?
“I’ve never been sick on my chest. Eeeurgh! What a horrible thought. It would all congeal, wouldn’t it? Usually when I’m sick, you see, it’s a very forceful sick – it projects. It’s a bit Exorcist-like, but it isn’t green or anything. I always manage to miss the beard as well. Who cuts it? I do it myself with a clipper every couple of days. I haven’t been to a barber since I was 14. I’m not totally useless, you know!
HE’S BEEN RUFFLED BY THE BIG WIND?
“My house is like a Scandinavian house in the middle of North London – all pine and glass. It’s not very grand, it’s nice and classy and simple – exactly right for one person. The bedroom is all glass on one side, all windows which look out onto the garden – if you wanted to you could easily spy on me. Actually, the garden is an absolute wreck at the moment – the hurricane hit it really really hard. I had this beautiful weeping ash tree and it’s ruined. It’s a small garden but it was just beautiful because it was all green and had trees all around the side – but all the trees feel into the main tree and broke it … a 150 year old tree, I was nearly in tears, I tell you… So there you go, a tree is a tree is a tree in the end, isn’t it? (?) I blame it all on playing about with the atmosphere definitely. There’s been so many weird things happening with the weather this year, hasn’t there? I don’t know if it’s anything to do with Chernobyl or if it’s the hole they found in the ozone layer … yeah, it’s probably my fault for using all that hairspray hihih. Yeah, I’m probably responsible for the whole of London’s … uuh … London’s … um, there’s a term for it … er, well, I’m probably responsible for it anyway. I’m held responsible for most things these days…”
HE WANTS FOUR TELEVISIONS?
“I’ve got four televisions, actually. One in the bedroom, one in the kitchen, one upstairs in the living room (because I’ve got two living rooms) and one downstairs. Why four? Er … well, two of them were there when I moved in and I already had two – that’s my excuse anyway. Usually I watch the telly just before I’m going to go out and eat with friends or something – Blind Date is a good one for that. I think everyone would admit to that. You watch and see who the three people are and if one of them is really ugly or funny you’ll watch it, but if not, you’ll go off and do something else until the next bunch come up. That’s what I do anyway.”
HE WANTS TO BE BIGGER THAN THE BEATLES?
“Not necessarily. I think I’ve got a certain amount of way to go before I’ve established myself to the degree of The Beatles – I still have to establish myself on a world-wide basis. And that’s an unstoppable ambition for me. I have to achieve that. I want to go down in history. I want to be an historical writer as opposed to someone who was just the most successful thing of the past four or five years.
I want to go down in history as someone who has done something remarkable and I think I’ve done quite a lot that’s remarkable already, but I want to take it that much further.
I’m hoping to get bored with it, actually, that I will tire of chasing … success or status. In other words, I would like to do with my own career what I did with Wham! – finish it before it finishes itself. Maybe then I’ll take up ballooning, who knows?”
THERE’S SOMETHING HE WANTS THAT HE CAN’T HAVE?
“There’s nothing that I want for, really. And I’m not ashamed of that. Er … I’d like a day off though!”
HE WANTS TO BE LAID IN AN OPEN-TOPPED TOMB LIKE ELVIS PRESLEY WHEN HE DIES?
“I can’t see that happening, somehow. I think you have to ask for that, don’t you? Well, if it does happen to me I just hope they do my hair first. Can you imagine it? That would be the worst thing…”
HE’S A BIT TIRED AT THE MOMENT?
“Yes, actually, I am a bit tired.”
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael’s Interview with the Gay Magazine ‘The Advocate’ (1999)
- George Michael Interview on Q Magazine (June 1988)
- ‘Souled Out: George Michael’ Published in Interview Magazine (1988)
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)