Part 2 of the George Michael interview with James O’Brien in the London talk radio LBC 97.3 FM in 2012.
Listen to Part 1: George Michael Interview by James O’Brien on LBC 97.3 FM (2012)
JO: George Michael is with me in the studio, ostensibly to bring to your attention the release of White Light. Astonishingly it’s a single that
GM: Well it actually just makes me feel incredibly privileged, 30 years later that people can give a shit, you know what I mean. I think it’s amazing.
JO: Still got it.
GM: Oh I’ve still got it, never lost it! (playful tone of voice)
JO: But increasingly concerned, as we learned just before the news that by.. by sort of events outside the music industry. Before we get back to that – you mentioned that one of the reasons why you’re able to record records, make public statements and indeed draw attention to yourself for causes that you believe in, is because you don’t have children. Is that something you regret or was it just never on your radar at all?
GM: Well it was actually on my radar. I don’t regret it, I .. I tell you what; I envy good parents. Because good parents I think, the joy of children and then the joy of grandchildren is something that I will never know and I am..
JO: It’s not too late. I mean, obviously the name that pops into people’s heads at this point, in this conversation is Elton John.
GM: Yeah I thought you were gonna say Kate Moss (he laughs)
JO: Who stars in the video, but I think her being a parent is less surprising than Elton John.
GM: Yeah I think it’s.. I think.. I do.. As I get the.. as I approach my 50th year which.. l was 49 a couple of weeks ago…
GM: ..and, yeah congratulations on actually getting to the 49th! But I do.. I do envy good parents because I think the joy of children – if you’re a good parent – is incomparable really. But unfortunately most people are not very good parents, so they’re just average parents and I don’t actually envy their experience, because I think in those situations, the joy is balanced with anxiety and worry and never having a decent night’s sleep, you know. And I don’t envy that.
JO: You had good parents yourself?
GM: Yeah.. well l.. I’ve had.. put it this way; people did try and.. and when people ask me what my class is – because it’s my.. my accent doesn’t really give away my class, the truth is, to me a working class.. I had a working class upbringing, not just because we didn’t have any money but because my parents were tired, and exhausted and angry a lot of the time. And then as life got better, they got better, you know. My Mother, I didn’t have a bad.. we didn’t have a bad word said between us in the last, say 20 years of her life, you know – and my God, if she could have been that person when I was a child – then I don’t think I would be a star today.
JO: Cause you would have not needed the attention?
GM: l would not have needed the affirmation, you know. But you see the trouble is…
JO: That’s really interesting that you break it down like that. Because they were so.. were they running a restaurant?
GM: My dad, ran a restaurant, my mother was a telephone operator during the day. We lived in a house that cost four grand, you know what I mean. It was not unusual in those days, but we had no money. But my father worked hard enough to get us into a middle class area and I’ll always thank him for that, because my mother, bless her heart, was so disinterested in money, that she didn’t even want to move from that house. Really, it really nearly split them up. She was so content with her friends and her experience, her house and everything. My father, being very typically first generation immigrant just wanted us to move up, you know.
GM: He just wanted an aspirational, you know, upwardly mobile existence and I thank him for that. Because I’m like my mother, and I would have never chased that. But the truth was, he worked hard enough so that I actually could genuinely dream of the things that I’ve done now.
JO: And have you done them all?
GM: Hmm I think I probably have, but then I have to look for new things. But I don’t, I don’t… what is amazing about this year and the recording this year, is l feel totally as though I’m starting again. At thirty years and…
JO: I think it comes across, you know.. I think there is a sense of joy and discovery, would that be?
GM: I think.. I think, I hope that comes across in the single. I mean, I started out.. when I first wrote it, I thought; can I be this corny? To go: I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive! But you know as.. when I thought about it, there was nothing wrong with that. It was absolutely what I felt you know, it was an absolute joy.
JO: That’s the point, isn’t it? It can’t be corny if it’s completely sincere, it’s not like you’re forcing it if it comes…
GM: It really surprised me how many people thought it would be a ballad “l nearly died, I nearly died” (sings)
GM: But it wasn’t, you know really…I knew that something good was gonna come out of it, I had no idea until I actually wrote it, that it would be something this celebratory, you know. And then.. I think the whole motivation, you can see it in the video you can see it in everything – I’m kind of reenergized, you know.
JO: You are… on an equally cheerful note, you’re doing the Olympics closings ceremony?
GM: Yes I am not supposed to say so.
JO: Oh you’re not, sorry!
GM: But they seem to be busy telling…
JO: Somebody told me, George, so it can’t be the best kept secret in the world.
GM: It’s not, it’s hardly the best kept secret. It’s just that to be honest with you they’ve been so painful, in terms of…
JO: (laughingly) You’re currently doing the Olympics closing ceremony – I don’t know what the next two minutes of the dialogue might do to that situation!
GM: The actual organization, they’ve been so painful. If you’d seen the contract that they ask people to sign, it’s actually not surprising that some of the people that I would have expected to be on the bill aren’t.
JO: It wasn’t written by G4S was it, this contract?
GM: I don’t think so, I don’t think so… but whoever it is, they’ve been incredibly undiplomatic and, you know… it’s been very. You know that, what’s that program 2012?
JO: Yes the Olympics… that is all coming true. The bus got lost for four hours of the American athletic team.. so you had the 400 meter hurdler tweeting from a bus. Well, suppose he journeyed from Heathrow to the Olympic Village in East London and he was on a bus for four hours.
GM: Oh my God!
JO: It is beyond parody when that’s happening in real life.
GM: You know we have a terrible tradition in this country, or in the last I don’t know, 20 years, or whenever something huge happens, you get this committee thing, where everything gets screwed up. I mean, look, you know… okay it’s now a lovely arena. But look at the farce and the money that was spent on the millennium.
JO: Yes you’re absolutely right.
GM: And how poorly it was spent.
JO: Well it is. Funded by committee is never gonna be a winner. But are you.. presumably you’re looking forward to the Olympics, are you?
GM: Oh yeah, I’m incredibly honored.
JO: Cause again, that British press thing, lining up to start pouring mud all over it and getting miserable… it’s, it’s time for optimism.
GM: Yeah absolutely. l mean, I think it’s very unfortunate that at a point in time where so many people are really on their knees financially, that we’ve also had to deal with the worst summer on record. It’s a.. it’s a really grim time for this country, and I think that we should at least try and make the most of the Olympics, you know. And I’ll do my best to make my moment.. make the most of it.
JO: Paint your smile on.
GM: No I don’t need to paint my smile on, because the committee is one thing, the public is something else. And also, I’m really excited that the floor of the… of the Olympic Stadium when I’m performing, is going to be full of the athletes that took part. The actual seating area is all public and all. Public stroke corporate, right – let’s be honest.
JO: Uber public (he laughs)
GM: Yes uber public, yeah they arrived in their uber BMWs on their uber lane, you know. It’s those people I want but the people…
JO: Everybody else..
GM: Yeah everybody else, and I’m sure the athletes will be.. will be a great audience, you know.
JO: George Michael that is probably the quickest 27 minutes I’ve ever spent on the radio. I’m not exaggerating when I.. when I tell you that I’ve waited 28 years to conduct this interview.
JO: Thank you very much!
GM: It’s my pleasure, it’s my pleasure.
JO: And the new single White Light is it out now? The video’s released today.
GM: Yeah, the single’s not out for a couple of weeks, the single’s coming out on the night of the Olympic show.
GM: But until that date, it’s all up there on YouTube, and the video is now available on YouTube.
JO: I had a look at it, just before we came on air, and it’s an absolute cracker.
GM: Oh thank you very much!
JO: Oh no, thank you! .. you are listening to James O’Brien on LBC 97.3, it’s 10:28
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