Listen to George Michael’s 2004 interview on the Steve and Vikki radio show on Star 94 FM, his first radio interview in America in almost a decade. George phoned-in to the Atlanta, Georgia radio show of Steve McCoy and Vikki Locke, with another radio personality Tom Sullivan, joining in the conversation. Read the transcript below.
SM: It’s another one, let me get that…
VL: …it’s Patience, it’s very George Michael, sounds like he never left.. he’s been gone a long time now.
SM: Yeah really does. Classic George Michael, this is called Patience:
The song Patience starts playing..
SM: And George Michael on the phone, how are you?
GM: I’m great. Nice to speak to you.
SM: Hey, and very nice to talk to you. As a matter of fact we were just listening to your CD.. listen to this, we just had it on here.. we’re listening, Flawless!
VL: We listened all morning, we love it!
GM: Excellent, have you got any favorite tracks?
SM: Yeah, you know Vikki and I were talking about the song Patience.
VL: That’s my favorite so far and number seven.
GM: Number seven which is My Mother Had a Brother, right? It’s a slow one.
VL: Which is your favorite?
GM: My Mother Had a Brother is probably my favorite on the album.
SM: Jake, our producer loves the title.
Jake: Yeah it sounded very Dr. Seuss.
GM: Dr. Seuss? (he laughs)
SM: Hey George, so happy to have you on our show here now. I know when you were on Oprah that was your first television appearance in I think they were saying ten years. Is this your first American radio appearance in some years?
GM: Oh it’s definitely my first Atlanta appearance.
SM: Very good, bud (they’re both cheering)
GM: An exclusive in Atlanta.
SM: Very nice to talk to you.
GM: He’s always telling me how great Atlanta is actually.
VL: Atlanta loves you.. I still.. everytime we were all talking about our favorite George Michael songs and Careless Whisper.. when I hear that I just.. I have to turn it up so loud and I cry and I just love your voice and the emotion. It’s just a wonderful song.
GM: Did you have someone cheat on you that way then?
VL: And you know I never did but I can imagine that heartache.
GM: I know.. I mean the funny thing is, for me about that song; I wrote it when I was so young. l wrote it when I was seventeen so I didn’t really know anything about love or relationships. So I was kind of, just guessing.
People love that record and obviously it’s the most well known of my songs so I guess there must be lots of people cheating and relating to that record that way.
SM: But then we have the happy song Last Christmas.
GM: Well that’s not supposed to be happy. It just sounds cheerful
SM: It is Steve and Vikki on Star 94. George Michael is on the phone, live from London this morning and we continue our conversation with George.
VL: And I have to tell you that I feel bad, I feel terrible about the media doing you a disservice. Because I just assumed that you were out of the picture because of all the bad publicity you got after the whole restroom thing, and then you’re on Oprah and I hear about the tragic death of your partner and then your mother’s death, and I was just crying. And Oprah saying: I feel like I owe you an apology.
GM: Well I mean people… what’s really happened is that I’ve.. you know life’s been very tough on me. God had a few lessons he wanted to teach me in the 90s and… he definitely did, I mean I’ve learned from them. But I just didn’t have the energy to let people know what was going on, and actually in the rest of the world, you can survive on radio.. with radio and video, you know. And the rest of the world I’m actually managed to keep … miraculously managed to keep a very successful career going outside of America, without having to be there you know. But with America you have to be there.. you just have to be there to promote your ways and I fully understood that. And I understood why I wasn’t on the radio. But absolutely, l don’t think most American people had a clue why I was away. And it certainly wasn’t about bad publicity, you know.
SM: George we won’t get to deep in this conversation but I am just curious if you can dovetail on that thought since we’re talking about it here. I mean, when I think about George Michael and how for years in the 80s.. I mean every two hours we were playing one of your songs… you were filling arenas, filling concerts wherever you went. At the top of your game and then something like this happens to you and suddenly the bottom falls out.
Can you take us through the mindset of how you recover from something like that?
GM: What people seem to forget is that I stopped promoting in America, a good five or six years before the arrest in Los Angeles. And people tend to think that I just disappeared… and somehow that was what happened, but in fact, I hadn’t even tried to promote because of the personal stuff that was going on with my first partner. And I hadn’t been promoting anywhere from the beginning of the 90s, so I had deliberately let go of a lot of stuff, you know. And somehow,because obviously it was so newsworthy.. I think people think I stayed away because of the arrest, which has got nothing to do with it at all, you know.
I see the arrest as a really positive thing that happened in my life, you know.
VL: Why is that?
GM: I just think that being outed like that, even though I was out to all of my family and friends for a good ten years before. Because from the moment I knew I was gay and met my first partner at 27 I was completely open in my life, you know, and I certainly wasn’t hiding it within my life. But I think it was taking more energy to keep my privacy, you know, intact, than I was giving myself… you know, than I gave it credit for, and since I’ve been outed or outed myself that way, there’s no question life’s been better.
SM: Yeah The torment that you must’ve gone through. Because you must at some point have said: Wow why didn’t l just sit down and tell Rolling Stone.
GM: Of course, of course. But I was in a very strange place.. it was like a year after my mother died and I was full of anger and didn’t understand why this had happened to me twice, you know. And I think of my relationship with the press – I mentioned something about why I was so angry with them on Oprah. But really, I had reasons to be angry with the press as far as I was concerned. And I just.. I was too proud, and I was too proud to let go of the issue. I just felt l was coping with it.. as everybody that knew me and cared about me.. I was being honest with them, it seemed to be enough for me but actually.. actually it’s been a great relief, you know. It’s a different thing when everybody… when you walk into a room and everybody knows, you know.
SM: George, once you came out, was it as bad as you expected or quite a relief?
(The YouTube clip is edited so we don’t get to hear the reply to that question)
VL: 7:52 and we’re having some fun this morning on a Steve and Vikki show, talking with George Michael. He’s got a new CD out called Patience and he talks to us exclusively.
SM: Let’s switch gears a little bit. I’m a Beatles fanatic and I think you are too.. I think I remember that. Did you not buy John Lennon’s piano?
GM: Yeah I did, yeah. I did. I’m looking at it right now.
SM: Are you really? Are you at your home in London?
GM: At the office, it’s here at the office.
SM: Did you use it?
GM: Don’t tell anybody that…
SM: Yeah right, I’ll be there tomorrow – with a big truck. Did you use it in any of the production on this current CD?
GM: Yeah, the first track Patience is played on John Lennon’s piano, yeah. It’s played on the piano that wrote.. that he wrote Imagine on.
VL: And are you good friends with Elton John? He’s actually a good friend of the morning show here, with a home here in Atlanta, and I would think.. and during all the turmoil that you had, that you would have turned to him. Because even though he had different kinds of struggles, that he would have been a source of help for you?
GM: Well I mean he told me he was supporting.. in all honesty, I think again that people – because we’re both gay – people over-associate the… I mean we are friends and we’ve seen each other on and off over the years. But we don’t really hang out, and I think Elton.. we’re not really in the same circle. And also, his experience of gay life is pretty different to mine I think. But he was very supportive.
VL: Now, you’re in a very successful relationship right now, I have to ask you…
GM: Eight years. We just had our 8th anniversary.
VL: Congratulations! Is it true that everything is bigger in Texas?
GM: (he laughs) I’d say so. I’d say so.
SM: Why? Is his boyfriend… I don’t get that. Is your boyfriend from Texas?
GM: Yeah, he is.
SM: Okay, I don’t get the memos. I gotta get on the email list.
All right, which of your older songs makes you turn the radio off… is there?
GM: Oh, I’ve never been that keen on.. there was a really early Wham song, called Bad Boys which is terrible. And of the successful singles I’d say probably.. I Want Your Sex, probably.
VL: You’re kidding!
GM: No of the successful ones that’s the one that I don’t really.. Because I think it’s too much… for me it was an exercise, trying to get out of one market into another, you know
VL: What I remember about that is the rumour that the woman in the video was really your lover, and that you were having this big fight, and obviously none of that was true.
GM: Well the thing is that we were together, but the fact that we had a big fight was nothing to do with the video, you know. Absolutely nothing to do with the video.
VL: And after that, wasn’t it just like George will never be in anyone of his videos again?
GM: Well it was actually.. for a while there I really didn’t think I wanted to continue doing anything you know. My head was so screwed up after the Faith tour. I really didn’t know if I wanted to do it again, so for… but I did know by then… by then I knew that I was gay, and I was also, you know… I also realized I was quite lusted after by American.. well actually by people all over the place, and I felt that that was kind of… At that point I started to feel like a hypocrite. Which would have been one of the reasons I didn’t want to make the videos anymore.
VL: Because I loved you! I swore that you were straight and you would want me if you ever met me one day.
GM: You were still looking to get married, right?
VL: I did! And now you want Steve, it’s always Steve!
GM: Maybe I just haven’t met the right girl yet, you never know.
VL: I’m glad that you’re happy now. You’ve got the new CD out. Are you gonna be touring, are you gonna venture that way.. are you just still taking baby steps?
GM: I’m kind of trying to see how I feel in terms of how.. how being back in the spotlight is for me. Because I’ve had up in a way for quite a while. And I see that the tour is a possibility next year.
SM: George Michael with us on the Steve and Vikki show. My daughter’s first concert was coming to see you here in Atlanta. That’s the first concert I ever took her to.
SM: She loved you!
VL: The Stadium, right? The old Turner Field?
SM: Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, yeah
VL: And actually Julia Roberts.. it was like one of the first interviews she had ever done for Mystic Pizza and for Steel Magnolias – and she begged us for tickets to that concert.
SM: Yeah that’s right. We had Julia Roberts sitting.. cause she’s from here and yeah that first movie was coming out, Mystic Pizza. Nobody knew Julia Roberts.
GM: Well I met her a couple years ago and she did say she was a fan but I didn’t believe her (laughs)
VL: Oh, now you know it’s true.
GM: Now I know, yeah.
SM: So it strikes me that you don’t fall for much of the Hollywood showbiz.. you’re not going to all these parties kind of guy anyway?
GM: No I’m not the kind of person who calls my publicist and ask where I should be seen, no. I stay well away from all of that. That’s the only way to stay sane.
SM: Where do you like to vacation?
GM: Well I haven’t actually had a proper one for years. I like the South of France, I like Italy.. Europe really. I prefer Europe, I’m not really a sun worshiper anymore.
SM: Trying to stay out of the sun these days?
VL: That skin, that beautiful skin.
GM: Yeah I know, well that’s the thing. I spent half my life in my twenties on a sunbed so now my skin has paid the price as far as I’m concerned. But I like my wrinkles.
SM: You know George, a lot of people do your songs: Diana DeGarmo and Fantasia Barrino on American Idol performed I Knew You Were Waiting on the final show.. did you see that?
GM: Oh I didn’t know she did that, did she really? She won didn’t she?
VL: Yes she did. So you did watch occasionally?
GM: I just saw it, we do get American Idol over here as well so I saw… I just saw some of the kind of last few weeks. And you couldn’t get away from it when you’re in America so I heard… but I thought the girl had great voice.
SM: So George, any contact lately with Andrew Ridgeley ever?
GM: Yeah I’ve seen him quite a lot actually. I just had lunch with his partner of 14 years and I see him quite often. He lives in Cornwall, it’s four hours drive away so we don’t see each other that much but we do get together and I spent New Year with him.
SM: Is he still into auto racing?
GM: No he’s got much more sedate, he’s into golf now. He went from auto racing to windsurfing and now golf.
SM: Wow and what’s your sport? Do you have one? A passion?
GM: Well I used to play squash. I used to love to play squash which is what you call racquetball, right? And I used to do that, but actually I had back surgery a few years ago which stopped me doing that. I’m creaking now (he laughs)
SM: You’re creaking?
VL: Well we know that you’ve got that fabulous piano in your office right now. What else are you looking at in your office as we speak?
GM: Well I’m looking at my manager wiping his nose… actually I’m looking at the… if you ever saw the video for Fast Love; that chair that I’m sitting in for Fast Love, that’s in here.
GM: And a nice summer’s day really, other than that.
SM: Very good. Any other Beatles memorabilia that you own?
GM: No, no, just that piano.. just that I thought was special.
SM: I’m sure.. oh it certainly is, and I’m sure that cost a pretty penny too?
GM: Yeah it was about one and a half million.. actually in dollars, what’s that right now? That’s about…
SM: One and a half million pounds?
VL: Six millions – yeah the dollar stinks over there.
GM: In dollars we almost get.. at the moment that’s nearly three million dollars.
VL: And can you hang out in Europe and without people coming up to you and.. or do they still?
GM: Not really, no. I mean it’s much easier for me in America. Because obviously like I said, my career kind of had a full stop there, whereas it didn’t in the rest of the world so it’s.. I just have to choose my places really. Be careful you know, get away from large crowds.
SM: George, thank you very much! Always a pleasure and come see us here in Atlanta.
GM: All right, thanks very much, nice to speak to you!
TS: George, I’m Tom Sullivan.. say my name.
GM: You’re Tom Sullivan
SM: Very good, best of luck… he said your name, are you happy now?
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