Michael Parkinson: Nice song, that one.
George: Thank you. Thank you.
Michael Parkinson: So obviously, as you said before you sang it, it was a kind of -that was a turning point, wasn’t it, in your career, in a sense, when you went solo. But let’s go back a bit, let’s talk about those Wham days, because it must…
George: Must we?
Michael Parkinson: Yeah, we must.
George: No, I’m not – I have no problem talking about Wham. I have a problem watching Wham. But…
George: But you know, I had a great time. I’m really glad the way it all turned out.
Michael Parkinson: What about – tell us about Andrew and about the meeting him and the effect it had on your life.
George: Andrew I met when I was 11 years old – 11 or 12 years old, I think 11. I’d just changed schools. My father – we moved house, and I changed schools when I was 11, and Andrew was appointed to look after me. You know when the new kid walks in and stands there looking really sheepish, and they say – who would like to take care of this? And Andrew, for some reason, put his hand up and said, I will, Miss. And the rest is history really. It was a very, very strong, powerful relationship, and it changed my life, and it changed my way of looking at so many things, that I really think that without Andrew I would have been in a totally different place right now.
Michael Parkinson: What happened to Andrew? I mean, where is he?
George: Andrew’s the smart one. Andrew’s off surfing in Cornwall. And he really – I mean, he’s taken a real bashing over the years, you know, because I’m still here – I sound like Shirley MacLaine in that movie, what’s that movie? ‘Postcards From The Edge’. 8ecause I’m still here, Andrew gets a constant drumming. Every time his name comes up in association with me, he almost uniformly gets slagged off. And I think over the years, that’s had quite a negative effect on the way he views the industry, the way he views those days in Wham. But he decided just to get away from it all, and went and lived down by the coast. So I don’t see much of him anymore.
Michael Parkinson: In that relationship, I mean, you were the creative sense, in that you wrote the songs and that sort of thing. But I mean, what was his contribution then? Why was he so significant?
George: Well, because he had such a sense of humour. I mean, unfortunately for us, you know, the sense of humour – the sense of humour that we had, which was very juvenile, because we were juvenile, you know. I mean, I left school – he left a little before me, but I left school and 7 or 8 months later I had a record contract, so I was a still a kid, you know. And our sense of humour, or our own, kind of, private sense of humour that had built up over the years, I don’t know if we thought everyone else would get it rather than just thinking we were complete tossers, but we were constantly trying to annoy people. And that’s Andrew actually, that’s Andrew all over.
Like, you know, with the first album – calling the first album ‘Fantastic’. And oh, god, I just remembered, I have this horrible flashback. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago, actually, you wouldn’t have seen it, but on the MTV Awards Fergie presented an award to the group called Massive Attack, who I’m a huge fan of, and they’re fervent anti-Royalists, and I like them and I really like her, ‘cos I’ve met her a few times, and it was a very embarrassing moment for all involved, but basically, she went up to give them their award, and they snubbed her, and two of them went like that to her, right. And the horrible truth is, for at least a year, right, after Andrew and I were first famous, whenever anyone would come up to us that we hadn’t been introduced to, we’d go ohh….!
George: Now, can you imagine – within 12 months the number of people you can do that to, you can imagine, even if nothing else about us had been annoying, right, we would have been blacklisted by then just for that. But you know, that was us. I mean, we mucked about like that the whole time. And it was fantastic also in the sense that it kept us both grounded, ‘cos we had each other to take the piss out of the whole time. So that was something – that is something that I’ve really missed.
Michael Parkinson: But I mean, was it fulfilling in the sense of you, you know, enjoying yourself, you’re a kid, I mean, there was the glamour of it, there was the money, there was the birds, everything, wasn’t there, at that time?
George: Mm. It was the whole thing. I mean, you know, I think we both kind of gorged on – not the money side of things. Money, really, I was so afraid of money until probably the age of about 28, 30 that it really – I really didn’t live in any way according to the money that I was earning, and actually, Wham wasn’t making any money – for the longest time we were making no money. Our first ‘Top of the Pops’ we went home on the bus.
Michael Parkinson: Really?
George: Yeah. And actually, I remember – the night before, I actually remember the night before, we stayed in this little hotel off of Charing Cross Road, because our record company, our little, kind of, mini record company that we were on at the time was paying, and so they wanted to make sure that we got there in time for ‘Top of the Pops’, the first ‘Top of the Pops’, so they stuck us in this hotel that couldn’t have been more than 80p to a quid a night. And I was sleeping – the night before my first ‘Top of the Pops’, it had polystyrene sheets and it was a child-size bed, so I was like this – I was sitting with my feet over the end of it, thinking – this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, you know. I’m supposed to be, you know, if you’re on ‘Top of the Pops’ that means your famous.
Michael Parkinson: That’s right.
George: In fact, the day after the first ‘Top of the Pops’ I was just convinced that everyone recognised me, you know. I was walking down the street like…
George: Watch t.v last night?
George: You know. And it was – and it was horrible, because…
George: …absolutely nobody did. Nobody recognised me. I think it took about 3 days before someone came up and asked me for my autograph, and I was absolutely shattered that it took that long.
Michael Parkinson: Do you play old Wham tapes at home?
George: No, I can’t say I do.
Michael Parkinson: Go on, you do.
George: I did for a while, when the Greatest Hits was out. I play – I’m too busy playing my own records at home. I can’t play Wham records. I play George Michael records 24 hours a day. The dog can sing ‘Careless Whisper’.
Michael Parkinson: Your dog this afternoon was singing along with you.
George: My sister does say actually…
Michael Parkinson: He was looking at the monitor and he was doing the descent.
George: My sister does say that when she – there was one time, ‘cos I leave my dog with family when I’m abroad, and I was in America for about 6 weeks, 8 weeks in one stretch last year, and my sister said, actually, that the dog used to go and sit by the radio when – and she could actually hear my voice, when one of my tracks would come on, she’d go and sit by the radio.
George: But that shows how much I play them at home, doesn’t it?
Michael Parkinson: Let’s just – as we close the chapter on Wham, just let’s be reminded, shall we?
Michael Parkinson: This is ‘Top of the Pops’, probably the ‘Top of the Pops’ you were talking about.
[(F/C) WHAM – “TOP OF THE POPS”]
George: Anyway, it’s been really nice. [George gets up to leave]
Michael Parkinson: It has been nice.
George: But there you go, I mean, those awful tee-shirts with number l’s that, actually, my mother and my sister spent all night sewing on. Poor things. I mean, there you go, apart from looking terrible, how annoying. You know, how annoying must we have been to all those bands at the time that we were competing with, that we’d be that tacky and cheesy to do that. But we thought it was funny. It’s just that everyone else thought we were completely for real, you know. That’s my version of events.
Michael Parkinson: Alright, so then – off you went then, to the solo career. And I mean, that – the first record you did, the first you did was ‘Faith’, and that was a mega, mega success and made you into a megastar. And I suppose, the problem you’d have then, of course, was that you were still, were you not, this popstar, trying to be established as a songwriter, singer/songwriter, you still had this image of the Wham.
George: Well, one of the things, you know, I had placed a lot of Wham’s kind of scream thing around Andrew, and I really didn’t think that if – I did, kind of, what was coming naturally to me at the time. I mean, ‘Faith’, the way I looked in the videos and stuff was pretty much – sad as it is, that was pretty much how I was walking about day to day.
George: But I really didn’t think that – I really didn’t think that that image was going to create that whole same thing again, which is pretty much what it did, especially in America, I got this whole new wave of young fans, predominantly female, and I kind of boxed myself in again, without thinking that I had, you know. It was naive of me. When I look back and I look at the videos, obviously the image was going to work. So I was really convinced that I was on a different path. And then it became massive with ‘Faith’ and I realised that I was even more miserable than I than when I’d split up Wham, and the reason I split up Wham was ‘cos I was miserable. So you know, I’d kind of scuppered myself again.
Michael Parkinson: Are you given to depression?
George: No, I’m not actually. I’m not. When I was younger, because, I suppose, I was so confused about my sexuality and other things, I suppose I was prone to loneliness and depression around loneliness, because it is very lonely if you’re surrounded by people, but you’re not really surrounded by anyone, you know. And I was prone to that. I’m not prone to depression. I’m not a depressive person. People think, you know, a lot of things that have been written about me lately – I mean, the press love to think that all there is in your life is your relationship with the public and them, you know. And I made a real effort in my life over the last 10 years for that not to be the case, to try and make my life a rounded thing, without h|aving to interact with the public, so that I could keep making music, so that they would still want something that I was doing. And recently, all the press have kind of taken this attitude – he just looks so – well, he looks so happy now we’ve ‘outted’ him, you know, we’ve done him a big favour.
Michael Parkinson: Well, I was going to say this to you, I was going to…
George: But the fact is, I looked like this – actually, years ago I looked happy like this, if anyone remembers, but I’ve had a really tough decade really, you know. As I said, I lost a partner, I lost my mother, I lost my dignity. I lost, you know, I’ve lost lots of things. Of course, yeah, there’s some relief in not having to play the press game over my sexuality. But that’s all it was. It was between me and them.
Michael Parkinson: That was a worry, was it? I mean, that was – when you said you were confused.
George: Well, it wasn’t a worry, it was just…
Michael Parkinson: Well, can we just go back on two things…
George: I will let you interview me. It’s alright…
Michael Parkinson: You’re doing alright. When you said you were confused about your sexuality, I mean, does that mean to say that you were confused about what you really were?
George: Well, yeah. I didn’t even see it as confused at the time. When I was younger and, of course, there was all this availability, there has been a lot of availability since I’ve been well known, but when I was younger because there was no emotional attachment to anything, I really was – I was seriously under-developed emotionally. I never had any crushes on anyone at school, never fell in love at school, had lots of girlfriends. Carried on all through the first part of my career – by that time I knew I was bisexual, and basically, I’d had plenty of experience on both sides of the fence, as it were, but I had no emotional attachment, so I had nothing to attach my sexuality to. The day that I knew that I was gay was the day that I knew that I was in love with a man. And at that point there is no, you know, there was no real question for me. I understood what had been missing all this time. And that could have gone on for a lot longer, you know. Luckily, it finished when I was – that confusion, I suppose, finished when I was about 26.
Michael Parkinson: Yes.
George: But in that time in between, I wasn’t so much thinking I was sexually confused, I just thought I was bisexual. I thought well, you know, if you can, kind of, take it or leave it on either side, then basically, then you must be bisexual. And now I realise it’s got nothing to do with who you can get it up for, it’s to do with who you can get it up for and love, you know.
Michael Parkinson: Yes. Yes.
George: That’s really – that’s really the way I feel. I don’t feel my sexuality is bisexual. I think I’m gay.
Michael Parkinson: Given all that’s happened to you recently, I mean, is there, nonetheless, a kind of sense of relief now that it’s in the open, this? It’s…
Michael Parkinson: I mean, you said before that you’d actually declared it in your music, didn’t you?
George: Well, I felt that there was a general – especially here in England, I think anyone who didn’t have a fair old idea that, you know, that I was – I mean, why had no one seen me with a woman for the last, you know.. Okay, occasionally, if I’m coming out of a club with a friend or a couple of friends, they’ll pick the pretty girl that’s to one side of me, and they’ll say George with mystery, this and that. And the press knew I was gay as well. This was the strange thing about it. It wasn’t like they were trying to.. Until they could get something solid and, you know, really nasty, they were kind of playing the same game that, I suppose, the public were, which is – well, we don’t really want to know, as long as he keeps making music, et cetera, et cetera. Which is, I thought was – I generally thought that when I walked into a room full of people they knew I was gay. But definitely over the last 5 years, I’ve felt that. But the only relief really, what I didn’t realise was how much energy it took to play this game with the press, that was really just about my pride and my privacy. It wasn’t about my sexuality, because I knew, I felt, and I’ve always felt that I have a very strong sense of my audience, and I knew that my audience were not going to desert me if they found out I was gay, you know.
Michael Parkinson: Yes.
George: You know. I believed in – and I believe in people more than that, that if they get something rewarding from you emotionally, such as music, that they, you know, that they are tolerant of certain things. And as well they should be. But I – I think people generally thought that – I thought that if I actually declared that I was gay I would suffer some huge loss of audience. And I never believed that. I might have believed that back in the days of Wham, but I never believed that. I just had – it was like, me and the press was like two dogs with a bone, you know.
Michael Parkinson: But is that better now?
George: But it’s like now that I’ve let go and they’ve done that, yes, it does feel like relief.
Michael Parkinson: You’re happier. It doesn’t bother you.
Michael Parkinson: The other thing that occurred to me is that you came from a very close-knit family, you’re a close-knit family still, have you resolved the problem that you have of not furthering that family, not having children?
George: I don’t have that desire anymore. I don’t think – oh, I wish I had children. I’ve realised that my sense of purpose has become my music, and I think that creative people are lucky in the sense that maybe if you’re a gay person or if you’re a person who is not able to have children for one reason or another, and you don’t have a vocation, it probably is an incredibly tough thing. Because I think by a certain point in life most people decide that they’ve either achieved the ambitions they wanted to or that they’re never going to, and they put their sense of purpose into their family. And I think that’s perfectly natural and understandable. I think if you’re a creative person, some of that pressure is taken away to fulfil, you know, or to have a sense of purpose, because my sense of purpose still is really a creative one, and I’d like to think that I’ll drop dead being creative, you know. I’d love to think that on the day I die I’ll still be working towards something in the creative sense.
Michael Parkinson: Now, of course, what you’ve done as well, you’ve turned the incidence in the Will Rogers Park into a commercial success in a sense, because you’ve written a song called ‘Outside’ which celebrates, if that be the word, Marcello Rodriguez – that was the name of the policeman, wasn’t it?
George: Yes. Well, that was the name of the police. Actually, funnily enough, you know what, when we point that if the average straight man, if a good-looking bird came into a toilet and you’re standing there, and she started playing with herself basically, and you would turn – I’m sorry, how, I do not know, I don’t know any men actually, I have plenty of straight friends, I don’t know any straight men where they would think this is a public place.
George: This – you know, this is a public place, and it is against the law, and I shall, therefore, not proceed.
George: You know, they would go for it. And if she then turned out.. And if you heard this about one of your friends and said that then, basically, the woman turned out to be a copper, you’d think christ, how could they do that to a guy, you know. And what is the difference? Where is the real difference? You know. To induce a crime is to induce a crime. So anyway, I put this little bit on the front of the video, and I made that exact reference. And we did it in a kind of – we pretended it was a Swedish porn movie. We filmed it properly, but then pretended it was a Swedish porn movie. And I had, like, a Swedish dialogue going over the top. And we had credits, and we made up words and language for the credits. So I thought, to have a bit of a go at the police officer who, as far as I’m concerned, you know.. ‘cos it’s probably ruining people’s lives, it hasn’t ruined mine, I’m lucky, I’m in a profession where it doesn’t really matter, I’m ‘out’ with all my friends and family, and I have lots of friends that are very, very accepting of who I am. My boyfriend absolutely, that was a problem, you know, of course. But the point being that I wanted to say, you know, this – basically, I wanted to have a bit of a go at the guy that had done it to me, so I put Marchello – I respelled his name, but in the credits I put Marchello Uffenwanken.
George: You know. And just so not to make it really, really obvious I turned the ‘o’ into a ‘u’ and put a little kind of umlaut thing over the top – Uffenvaken. And on MTV they blurred it out. Like, you can – you know, you can see people get – the things that you see on t.v today, the things that people have read about and talked about in connection with me this past 8 months, and they blot out an imaginary word that suggests the word ‘wank’, do you know what I mean? It’s, like, I couldn’t believe it! It was absolutely stunning.
Michael Parkinson: So which version are we going to see now?
George: No, this is – this is Seldomwanken now.
George: I never even think about masturbation before calling my – I never even think about masturbation before calling my lawyer…
Michael Parkinson: So this is the concert version about…
George: Yeah. This is a kind of version we thought we could manage tonight in this – we kind of tone it down a &bit, and you won’t get – I won’t be acting out the video or anything.
George: This is called ‘Outside’
Michael Parkinson: ‘Outside’. There’s your group and your…
[George sings “OUTSIDE”.]
Michael Parkinson: Well, I’m glad that you enjoyed it. So did I. My thanks to George Michael. To the marvelous backing group, the singers and everybody. Marvelous.
Michael Parkinson: I must remind you before we go, that a new series of ‘Parkinson’ starts on January 8th when my guests will include Geri Halliwell – your mate.
George: Absolutely. Yes.
Michael Parkinson: And Dawn French. Until then, from all of us here, a very goodnight. Goodnight.
- George Michael Interview on Parkinson Show (1998)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- ‘Souled Out: George Michael’ Published in Interview Magazine (1988)
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)