What did George Michael enjoy watching on TV? Hear him talk about that, his take on politics, his appearance on the American TV series Eli Stone, Wembley Stadium and much more in this 2007 interview with Jo Whiley.
JW: Hey, welcome to Inside track, I’m Jo Whiley. And our guest tonight is, we have a very special guest; George Michael. Hello, how you’re doing?
GM: Very well, thank you. How are you?
JW: Good! I’m all right, thank you. So you’re back on the road again, you’re doing the gigs in Europe, in Wembley which must be absolutely amazing. Obviously it’s important to you, ‘cause you’ve played there lots of times before. This is on your terms and it’s the opening of Wembley.
GM: Yeah it’s great, I mean how lucky is that! I mean I got a little twinkle in my eye about it, last year when they cancelled the shows that were set up for last year and I thought; you never know, they might have to wait till next year. And those people won’t be on tour next year and so.. so I started making inquiries a fair while back, yeah. And I told the people at Wembley, look, I don’t really care. The people were building Wembley, they were already in a lot of trouble I know. I told them, I don’t really care — when it happens I’m not gonna sue you for being late, if you’re late. As long as I get to open it, whenever that happens, I’m happy to do it.
JW: So you must be feeling at the moment kind of..
GM: Well I felt. I mean you know… it’s, it’s.. put it this way; I’m not afraid this time. I’m just excited. I’m really excited. I can’t.. we only did one Stadium tour.. Stadium show, in the first part of the tour. And that was kind of by accident. We sold fifty thousand tickets somewhere we expected to sell twenty, so it did the Stadium and.. and it was really exciting, it was really exciting. So I can only imagine what something the size of Wembley — or some of the other places that we’re playing — is gonna feel like. Cause it’s a long time since I did that, you know. In front of my own audience, to go out in front of seventy thousand people or eighty thousand people that have all paid to see you. It’s a different experience.
There’s an American tour planned now. And there’s a drama, big American drama for the autumn. That I’m pretty sure is gonna get picked up by ABC, which I’m in. It’s a kind of comedy drama but very…
JW: Hang on, hang on. You’re gonna be in an American comedy drama? What are you doing? And how did this come about?
GM: Well I’m only being…I’m just performing in the pilot. I’m just performing. But it’s actually quite funny.
JW: What’s it called?
GM: It’s called Eli Stone and it stars Jonny Lee Miller. I don’t wanna jinx it for them because it’s not been okayed yet. But apparently all the preview audiences have loved it. And Jonny is fantastic in it. So..
JW: That’s good.. that’s like branching out.
GM: Yeah, they asked me to do, they want to name.. the writers want to name each episode after a song of mine and..
GM: Yeah. And so, that might be a way that America gets to hear some of the stuff they haven’t heard in the 15 years since I sold my record there.
JW: What’s the attitude towards you in that..?
GM: In America?
GM: Well because.. it was pretty bad actually. Because I had.. I decided I didn’t want a manager or a publicist over there. I decided I had enough. And if you don’t have a publicist you’re pretty much.. you know you’re totally at the mercy of the media there. So I’ve actually been a bit of a laugh since the early 90s when I took on Sony and everything went wrong there. From that point on, I didn’t have radio and I had some pretty bad publicity, which as you can imagine.. the publicity in the last 18 month hasn’t helped. So I think I’m a bit of a joke actually.
JW: Last time I had you on the radio show, you were talking about how you were never gonna release another record through a record company. Just gonna do it through the internet. And now with digital downloads, that’s all the more plausible. You’ve got a massive fanbase. You’re probably in a very strong position.
GM: Well, I’m free, put it that way. I’m free to do what I want.
JW: So will you be releasing new music again?
GM: “Any old time” (sings) Isn’t that how it goes?
JW: Yeah, it is.
GM: I haven’t changed my plan. What I’m kind of thinking is that I can use… I can be a bit, kind of Robin Hood about the fact that people are now prepared to pay so much money to see me privately. And they have been asking me for many, many years and I’ve always said no, because I didn’t feel it was right. If I wasn’t prepared to go out on tour, I didn’t really wanna be.. you know, I didn’t really wanna be making money privately that way. But once I.. it seems that I’ve waited for exactly the right time, because there’s this kind of new level of wealth that makes people like me look like poor you know.
JW: So what are you going to..?
GM: And what I will do, I can take that kind of new income, I can actually still do what I wanted to do which was to give away my music for free.
JW: So are you talking about the.. cause you did the gig for the Russian guy… Is that what you’re talking about?
GM: I have to be honest, my starting price is 3 million dollars.
JW: Right, I couldn’t afford it.
GM: And it will probably go up when I’m no longer touring (laughs). But I honestly.. the situation is that I can take those situations and pay for the recordings I wanna make. Cause I don’t make cheap recordings. I wanna give it away for free, but my last album cost me millions to make. I’m not a complete fool, you know. What I like to do is stick to the plan and release my music for free. And that way it will, it will be for people who want to go and get it.
JW: You got the court case which I presume you can’t go into?
GM: People can read what they like, but I have not done anything to block this process. I’ve been trying to get heard and trying to do it legally. I’d already been found guilty by the media, so I thought.. well you know; you’ll get your day in court. I haven’t asked for any special treatment. All I want is the same law that other individuals have, that you would have for instance — or maybe not ‘cause you’re a celebrity. But all I want is the ordinary.. I want the law to apply to me.
JW: Were you driving under the influence?
GM: The photographs you saw.. actually if you can find a photograph of me asleep, I’ll give you money.
JW: I’ve seen photographs of you looking startled and angry.
GM: Startled and angry, yeah. But what would… imagine this, right. This is the new trick: So you’re at a junction, right? Somebody bangs on your window in the passenger seat.. over on the passenger seat so you look over that way, right… they engage you in something, and then someone bangs on this window (indicates the other side) so that you turn like this and then they (indicates camera shutters clicking)
JW: That’s the photograph?
GM: That’s the photograph, so you look like this! That’s the whole point. Now, the fact that they can run pictures like that for ages and.. it’s not surprising that people think that I shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. One of my favorite lines from that was; “he looked terrible for eight o’clock on the Sunday morning” and I was thinking; what do you look like at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning, you know what I mean — whoever it was that said that (laughs). I thought that was quite fun.
It’s gonna be a great year, you know. It’s gonna be…
JW: Will that involve a wedding, a civil ceremony with Kenny? How is that going?
GM: No, like I said, that will have to wait until this tour is over and everything’s died down.
JW: He’s okay with that?
GM: Oh yeah, he’s cool with it, he’s cool with it. I think he’s like me, he wants it to be special, doesn’t want it to be a cirkus.
JW: I hope it’s not…I hope it gets..
GM: I think, hopefully the only circus in town is the show.
JW: Just want to know what a week in the life of George Michael is like. What do you do in terms of entertainment? In terms of going to the gym? Getting up in the morning?
GM: Well I can’t go to the gym anymore because the gym, even the one over the road — I get my picture taken there and back.
JW: Do you have a gym in your house?
GM: So now I have a gym in my house, yeah.
JW: Is it daily? Do you do the daily routine?
GM: The moment it’s daily is in the evenings. I still don’t get up until about midday, you know
JW: Because? (she laughs)
GM: Just because I don’t have to and.. and then the day really consists of.. at the moment it definitely consists of exercise, rehearsals.
JW: Okay, when you’re not doing rehearsals, I guess that’s what I wanted to know. When you’re not doing the rehearsals or recording…
GM: I watch the telly.
JW: You watch the telly, okay (laughs)
GM: (he laughs) Someone said to me the other day “where did you get your ideas from, your inspiration?” — and I said; off the telly.
JW: Okay, so favorite tv things at the moment then?
GM: I watched it again and again; Planet Earth, I think it’s one of the most stunning, you know, visual achievements of all time really.
JW: What about dramas then?
GM: I still like my Corrie and my EastEnders.
JW: Do you?
GM: Yeah, but I tend to watch a lot of the American dramas ‘cause they’re so good now. You know they’ve applied film quality scripts to characters that normally.. you know, that can extend over a whole series so in other ways..
JW: So which ones have you got into then? Did you get into Lost or?
GM: Well the Sopranos, I mean I’ve been in America watching the Sopranos and it’s just.. I could watch that all day, every day. It’s so brilliantly written. And it’s definitely some kind of a psychologist on the writing team, because it’s so involving. So there’s the Sopranos…
JW: West Wing?
GM: West Wing I always liked. I loved Six Feet Under when it was going. And now they’re starting to.. they’re making so many, it’s starting to blend out a bit.
JW: Do you get to listen to very much new music?
GM: I haven’t listened to much lately..
JW: There’s a band called Gossip I know that absolutely love Careless Whisper. And you know, they’re kind of.. band at the moment. I mean, that’s pretty cool, isn’t it?
GM: Yeah, I think it’s.. it’s true – you hang around for long enough and you have a certain kitsch value. I think my kitsch value is undervalued because I haven’t gone away for long enough, you know. But I think.. when you think about it really, there’s a kind of.. especially Wham, I think Wham.. if you think about it for their generation; those songs are average in the kitsch appeal. Because they were so borderline kitsch, even at the time.
JW: Do you want to set the record straight with Andrew? Because there is a lot of talk about Andrew Ridgeley coming out on tour and doing some numbers with you. Is that going to happen, or that never happen?
GM: You see, what people have to understand. Even Andrew actually.. I think even Andrew doesn’t understand quite, that I don’t read the papers. So I don’t know how these rumors are building. And I read another one, apparently.. I read one this morning on the Internet. I mean, I actually get kind of worried to even check out my fan sites now. Because they will direct me to the press, you know.
JW: Would you like Andrew to be on stage…
GM: No, I think.. I think it would’ve been great at Christmas for Last Christmas. That was an option, but he didn’t really wanna do it.
JW: He didn’t wanna do it?
GM: No, but I don’t think that.. I don’t think it was ever really in the mix for this, you know. And also, he’d have to do it both nights, because otherwise it wouldn’t be fair on the first.. it wouldn’t be fair on the other night. And if we did it both nights, the second night wouldn’t be special. I just think it, you know.. I think it’s so obviously of it’s time you know, two boys at that age.
JW: In terms of the political scene, there is… I don’t know if you have Facebook but it’s one of these.. like a Myspace site you can go to, and they have different groups. And there’s one that is “Jeremy Clarkson should be the next prime minister.” Would you have Jeremy Clarkson as the next prime minister or who would you have? There are lots of people out there..
GM: I think I might be ready to forgive Tony Blair if Jeremy Clarkson were in the picture!
JW: But when Tony went, who would you prefer?
GM: Who would l preter? At the moment, you actually or anybody in this room actually, right now, would be fine by me. I read a really.. I can’t remember where it was, but very, very powerful article — or something on the telly — where somebody said that when governments run out of trust, and when people don’t believe that the political system will actually change life in any real sense, that if they vote for the other side things will be different. When they really don’t believe that, which is, l think, where England is now — all you can sell them is the idea that you can protect them, that’s all there’s left. So “law and order.” Which actually means creating lots of new laws, not actually arresting the right people. It’s very, very cheap to introduce a law. It doesn’t cost you anything, which is why.. he seems to have, Blair has no problem moving us into American territory as far as psychology is concerned.
JW: Bush, when he goes — who would you have as the next president? Hillary Clinton?
GM: Well, I’d have to say I think she’s.. I don’t think America is going to.. is ready for, you know, regardless of what Jack Bauer.. I don’t think America is ready for a black president yet. But I think if they were ever gonna go for a female president, it would be at a time when they knew the country needed to be liked more, you know. And I think.. I don’t know
JW: Are we there yet?
GM: I still wish that it was her husband. I still think her husband was a great, great politician. And, you know, he’s.. the world would have been very different if it weren’t for a certain young lady, I really do.
JW: When are you happiest.. what are you happiest doing?
GM: (laughs) People can’t ask me questions like that anymore. They know they’re not going to get the real answer. Now where am I happiest? I have to be honest with you. I’m happiest when — either at that moment when I walk out in front of those crowds — or when I’m in my bed with Kenny and the dogs and we’re just going to sleep at the end of the evening.
JW: It’s been lovely talking to you, always is. Thank you very much indeed.
GM: Thank you!
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