The article “Somebody Under Pressure: George Michael on Queen & David Bowie” was written by Steve Pafford. The interview was conducted in May 2007. The first was first published, then unpublished, and can be read at Steve Pafford’s website.
George Michael was many things: effortlessly erudite, warm, chatty, and often funny with a constantly self-deprecating wit. He could also be incredibly stubborn, particularly in regards to his career, as most artists with control freak tendencies usually are.
Yog was also, as has been well documented since his untimely demise, generous to a fault, and an extremely loyal friend. It’s that friend of 13 years that I shall miss the most. We were alike in many ways, sometimes scarily so: the Cancerian home birds (his birthday was the day before mine), the Greek-English blood, the often self-absorbed pathological quest to refuse to put on any kind of act so we can be ourselves as much as is humanely possible. We also had a shared love of many of the same musical artists, particularly Bowie. In fact the Dame’s name came up in conversation within minutes of our first chat back in 2004.
David Robert Jones and Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou had a respectful working relationship. They weren’t friends, but according to George at the time, he and the Thin White Duke got on “very well, the times I’ve met him,” usually at huge televised charity gigs at Wembley with the world watching. One such event was the Concert For Aids Awareness in April 1992, organised by the remaining members of Queen as a tribute to their fallen frontman, the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury. I was lucky enough to be in the audience, as was Anselmo Feleppa, who’d been in a relationship with George since the previous year, and was sadly battling the disease himself at the time. This chat took place in Yog’s Highgate home in 2007, as he was preparing to play Wembley Stadium again, this time being the first artist to play the rebuilt structure.
SP: Was Anselmo still alive when you did the Freddie Mercury tribute?
GM: Yeah, he was there.
What were your feelings on that day?
Very bizarre. I found out that Anselmo was ill the day after… No, the evening Anselmo came home and said he needed to be tested, the morning after that Freddie Mercury died. Just to make it an extra special day for me. And so then when it came to performing it was just an overwhelming
I read that
initially you wanted to do Under Pressure on that day. Is that right?
I don’t think so, no. Really? Is that what you heard?
Yeah, I think that came from the Bowie circles.
No, that would’ve been good, actually.
Is that one of your
But at the time they came from two completely different places.
Yeah, they did, didn’t they? They don’t seem like it now but they did then. You kind of thought ‘Why would Bowie deign to do that?’ (laughs)
Yeah, he was just uber-cool really. And when we’ve spoken before you said that you thought Bowie was probably the greatest rock star after Elvis. Why do you think that is? Because you
being the soul boy, you don’t detect a Bowie influence in your records particularly.
Well only in that the ones that are my
Lodger you said you liked.
No, Low I really loved as well. But that period when he was was working with Dennis Davis on drums, and he was using black backing vocalists and whatever, those tracks are the ones that really stick with me in the way that other people listen to Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. I love all those but the bit that really kind of sits with the way I am are
(We then went on to talk about Bowie in the 80s and 90s, which we’ll get to a little down the line. And thanks to the wonders of technology you can now hear the above below…)
- Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness (1992)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael’s Interview with the Gay Magazine ‘The Advocate’ (1999)
- Dutch Radio Interview with George Michael (July 2012)
- Christie’s Catalogue: The Loudest Prayer of My Life