Part 1 of the George Michael interview with James O’Brien in the London talk radio LBC 97.3 FM in 2012. Listen to this interview and read the transcript, as George showed his entertaining and incredibly honest side where he talked of the Leveson inquiry, waking up with an accent from his coma, and the evil that is the Rupert Murdoch empire.
JO: It was in November, wasn’t it, of last year in Austria that you were rushed to
GM: It was phenomenal, it’s been phenomenal since.. just you know, just by way of people stopping me in the street and saying: well we’re so glad you’re better and stuff. I mean, really very touching you know.. real genuine concern for my health and…
JO: How ill were you George?
GM: Well I was, well… I nearly died you know.
JO: (he laughs) Shouldn’t laugh, I’m laughing at the accent, not the information.
GM: I nearly died. You know when.. did you ever see Nighty Night?
JO: Yes of course. With…
GM: …with Julia Davis. Yeah I think it should be compulsory viewing. Well for everybody, but especially every gay man because it’s the funniest, funniest thing I think I’ve ever seen. And this is a little bit of a story for you: Basically I was on tour and at the time I had a friend with me from Australia, who.. our most bonding experience has been watching Nighty Night over and over, and doing the accent, doing the West Country accent.
JO: (laughing) I’m glad you explained.
GM: I swear to God, I swear this is true. I came out of my coma, talking in this West Country accent, now and (he laughs) “hiya Cath”- do you remember that, “hiya Cath” and…
JO: Yes of course I do. She’s some sort of psychotic suburban.. for people who haven’t seen the show.
GM: Yes basically, when I saw the first episode I thought; I really shouldn’t be laughing at this. It was really uncomfortable because basically it’s a story of a woman who’s trying to nick her next-door neighbour’s husband. Even though her next-door neighbour, this poor woman has multiple sclerosis. She has decided to take advantage of the situation..
JO: Yes, it’s dark..
GM: …and as you say, it’s very dark indeed. But the strange thing was… and I swear this is true. The first question… and I did it all and apparently I did this for days, so the first question they asked me – you know when they do the thing you see on the TV all the time: Do you know who you are, George? Do you know who you are? And apparently I said.. the first thing I said when I woke up was, they said; do you know who you are? And I said: King of the world?
GM: Apparently that’s really true. I didn’t know that for months
JO: It was just there somewhere in your brain.
GM: It was there somewhere in my brain, I was talking in this West Country accent all the time a bit like that..
JO: That’s quite scary ‘cause there are stories about people coming out of brain trauma and never getting their normal voice back.
GM: Exactly. My sisters who were obviously so relieved that I’d actually woken up, were just laughing away at this kind of .. this stand-up comedy. And the doctors were worried that I had this condition where you know, some people wake up speaking French or something. Some language they learned at school or whatever. Mine was two days of this kind of vaguely Bristolian kind of..
JO: Good grief, it would’ve been like a..
GM: Yeah I could have talked like that all the way through my life.
JO: (Laughing) there’s nothing wrong. For our listeners in the West Country, there’s nothing wrong with talking like that.
GM: No there’s nothing wrong with it at all.
JO: Unless you talked like this for the previous 40 odd years of your life.
GM: Yeah exactly. But genuinely, the doctors were worried that I had this condition, and I was just kind of, not quite conscious enough to know what I was doing. And my sisters were laughing their heads off. With relief obviously, but the doctors are thinking: oh my god, he’s got that thing, he’s got that .. you know, he’s got brain damage, you know. But luckily it wasn’t that. It was just an unfortunate coincidence (laughs)
JO: But it was… I mean it was serious, did you have a tracheotomy?
GM: I did. Do you want to see the scar?
JO: Yes I would actually.
JO: Good grief, good grief. And it hasn’t affected the voice at all, judging by White Light.
GM: No it hasn’t.. it really hasn’t at all.
JO: In fact, if anything the new track is a.. sort of slightly return to some of your earlier ones.
GM: Don’t dare say return to form! (laughs)
JO: No I didn’t, no l didn’t.. well not return to form because you never lost form but it’s..
GM: It’s definitely a return to kind of an earlier perspective on..
JO: That’s what I meant to say, it’s a return to an earlier perspective, George.
GM: Yes that’s what you meant to say, wasn’t it.
GM: Not a return to form. But no.. the truth of it is, that actually the rest of the music on this album is very similar, and that it will remind people of me in earlier days when I… when all I really cared about was writing a hit record, you know. And a lot of my records in the years since the 80’s have been kind of records that tapped you on the shoulder and said; have a couple of listens and you’ll get hooked. As opposed to the Faith era which would just…
JO: ..grab you straight away and not let you go.
GM: Yeah, yeah. And some of the.. many of the tracks on the new album are very much in that vein, you know. I kind of dare you not to like me.
JO: Yes, Listen Without Prejudice probably being the bridge between those two eras, whose tracks would probably sit quite comfortable on that album perhaps.
GM: I don’t know, I honestly think. . Older will probably always be my favorite album of mine. But I think this is probably the intention behind White Light and this album is far more.. is far closer to Faith in some ways.
JO: And that is… a higher recommendation isn’t possible to give for a fan like me. And already the hundreds of thousands of people listening and passing on their good wishes. You seem.. speaking of sort of returns to previous territory, that’s right isn’t it? Previous territory. You shrugged off and you’ve had a bit of a nightmare at the hands of the newspapers over the years and – yet again relying on Twitter – you do genuinely seem to have risen above it all. With a sense of.. disgust obviously at some of the things that happened to you, but almost a resignation.
GM: Yeah I think.. I think it’s a very.. there are things that I would really love to say and I’m not quite ready to say, but there are things about the whole Murdoch.. and yes you can imagine, I’m delighted, that the man has lived long enough to see what’s happened! Because I’ve actually been on Murdoch watch since I was about 19 honestly. Watching this man, believing he was truly the most evil character on the planet, you know. And that he had worked his way through the media to become the most powerful, yet unelected man in the world. And when you get to the point that you can swing an election after a disastrous war, like Iraq, you know. They, they’ve.. I’ve read pieces that reckon that he added four million votes to the Republicans’ cause, as it were, after the war; simply by his use of Fox News and his use of the religious right. And I’ve been watching this man wrecking our media for years and years. And just trying to explain to people. And they didn’t even know who Rupert Murdoch was. I’m so glad he’s lived to see this kind of humiliation, because he truly deserves it, you know.
JO: He’s glad that you’re not sitting on the.. (he laughs)
GM: No but I tell you, if I actually told you.. and I’m not…
JO: Let’s do it when you are.. let’s do it when you are ready. Cause this presumably explains why you haven’t gone to the Leveson inquiry?
GM: You see the Leveson inquiry I find unbearable because I don’t, I don’t… you can tell me this actually, you would know this. I’ve asked other people this, but actually, in front of a select committee or a panel like the Leveson inquiry: It’s not actually perjury is it, if you lie? Is it legal perjury?
JO: I don’t think it is, no.. because it’s a quasi judicial inquiry and it’s not a court.
GM: My point about the Leveson inquiry.. I was so sick of watching these people lying through their teeth, one after another. And knowing that they were not going to be prosecuted for it. And my point was.. you ask me to – ‘cause believe me, I have stuff to contribute! But I was thinking; you ask me this, when they’re in a court of law.. and believe me, I’ll be there! Because there are things that happened to me over the last seven or eight years – actually since 2003 when I campaigned against the Iraq war with the Daily Mirror.
JO: Do you think there was a link then..
GM: Oh my God!
JO: …do you think that your political involvement in things actually made you more.. because having historically.. when you were 19, it would have been your sexuality that they were interested in.
GM: Never.. this was.. what actually happened was that from the point that I really, really pissed him off, which was to go with the Daily Mirror and sail this stuff…
JO: Ah, ‘cause they are newspaper rivals, yes of course.
GM: Of course. But more importantly I think Rupert Murdoch knows exactly the power of celebrity. He knows that it’s very dangerous when celebrities decide to get involved. Because in general, let’s be honest, they don’t. They are all too worried about their next HELLO! cover or OK! cover, or wherever they’re going next, to actually express their views.
JO: You’re in a position of great power, in that you’re not trying to claw your way up the greasy pole. You know, you scaled it quite a long time ago, which gives you a certain confidence to stand up to the man.
GM: I think the other thing which is very important about this, is that I don’t have children to protect. I don’t have a family that I’m responsible for. I am a dangerous individual in that respect, because I don’t.. there is nothing.. I’m responsible for myself.
JO: You’re cut loose in the purest sense. You are a free agent.
GM: And also because I’ve already been so globally humiliated by.. I mean, I promise you; the day that I got arrested in Los Angeles, the beginning of all this scandal, and my coming out – the day that it happened, because it was all organized between the News of the World and, or the Sun and the LA police – believe me – it was a setup, right. I mean, I’ve admitted to people before that I was part of that setup and I did it to myself. But the day that they actually succeeded in outing me, the Sun paid newspaper closed down for the afternoon and had a party!
JO: George Michael, with me live in the studio on LBC 97.3
End of part 1… to be continued
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