In the 1980s, George Michael managed to impose his style and his music. In 1988, Match went to meet “white rocker” who still kept his sexuality secret and was preparing to take up all the challenges.
Under the caress of the Tropezian twilight, he keeps his dark glasses. Below the terrace, the ashlar pool shines like in a painting by Hockney. Behind us, the tour staff – blonde secretaries in leather miniskirts, bodyguards with wrestler muscles – babbles gently while waiting for orders. Since his first stay in Saint-Tropez, he has learned a lot. He receives us in “Villa One” where his team is living, but as for him, he lives in a mysterious “Villa Two” lost in the pine forest. He wears santiags, super tight 501 jeans, a polo shirt. Plus this eternal three-day beard, carefully maintained for almost a year. Noise of ice in a glass of “Diet Coke”, Hollywood smile… Behind the mercury-like reflection of these curved glasses is George Michael, 24, the gifted English rock star, the only white artist who rivals the two black behemoths, Michael Jackson and Prince. His album “Faith” has already sold 12 million copies; his hit “I want your sex”, is a hit in all the charts in the world; and this week in France, he goes on with a global tour of 138 concerts that should attract more than 2 million spellbound fans. Great lover of our cuisine, he understands French but, too stuck to speak it, it is in English that George Michael answers the questions of “Paris Match”.
Paris Match. Why “Faith” as the title of the album?
George Michael. Because I believe, today much more than during my adolescence. I believe that the forces of Good and Evil are real things.
P.M. Is it a religious feeling?
G.M. I do not have a religion, but I believe that one can influence one’s life, one’s future, through faith and decency towards others.
P.M. Does this mean that you used to have problems of “faith in yourself”, self-confidence ?
G.M. Not really. I had problems identifying my own identity. The success of “Wham! “(His first group) happened very early in my life. I was 18, I had just left school when it all started. It’s extreme. For four years, I did not have time to form my identity. It was the audience who was dictating who I was. So I had to step back. Stop the group. Take stock.
P.M. When you were 14, you were fat and wore glasses. Were you shy at the time?
G.M. I have never been shy. I was not very handsome, but I knew that if there was little chance that girls would be interested in me sexually speaking, they liked me for my energy, my ideas, my music …
P.M. Still about faith, do you also believe the people around you? Doesn’t success undermine your relationships?
G.M. Honesty is a rare commodity in our profession. Let’s say that people I really trust can be counted on two hands. With one or two exceptions, they are people I have believed in all my life: my family and three childhood friends.
P.M. Are you afraid of star sickness, schizophrenia and paranoia?
G.M. No. Even though the danger is obvious, there are ways to avoid it.
“The press would constantly present me as a brainless twink”
P.M. In the days of “Wham!”, the majority of the rock scene and the public considered you as a rather sanitized fop. Have you suffered about it ?
G.M. A lot. This is one of the reasons why I felt the need to isolate myself for a year. The press would constantly present me as a brainless twink. Wherever I went, I had to prove that I was not stupid.
P.M. Well, in the clip of “Wake me up before you go-go”, the biggest hit of “Wham! », you dance in tight shorts, white T-shirt, oxygenated hair, sparkling smile… Almost an advert for mineral water!
G.M. Today, I do not quite understand who this “fop” was. I think I had this idea by provocation. It was the era of shaggy punk, so we went in the opposite direction. It took courage at that time to play the healthy twinks. We did it for a laugh, but people did not laugh. On the contrary. This image has rather altered my musical credibility.
P.M. Is it hard to be a sex symbol?
To read: In videos, the greatest tubes of George Michael
G.M. There are ups and downs. What puts me down is that in the minds of people, my sexy look has always been opposed to purely musical recognition.
P.M. But one can be recognized both as a sex symbol and as a great musician. For example, Prince.
G.M. Prince is a subversive sex symbol. Not me. My image is conventional, I am straight. Because of that, we forget that for six years, I’ve written more pop hits than anyone.
P.M. Can you have all the girls you want?
G.M. Most, anyway. It’s not really a reason for satisfaction, you know. Being rich and famous is 90% of the seduction in these cases. It would be almost the same if I was an asshole.
P.M. In “I want your Sex”, you say sex is better by staying faithful to the same person. Have you become monogamous?
G.M. Yes. I am faithful. I wish for a relationship that lasts, even if I need to take off regularly to find myself alone.
P.M. Faithful to marriage?
G.M. I do not need a piece of paper. Marriage is important when you want children, and I will certainly not have children in the near future.
P.M. You told me that you once dreamed you were a gigolo in New York. Is it your hidden fantasy?
G.M. No. Rather a nightmare. Being a gigolo is what I have lived for six years, if you push to the extreme. A woman who pays a gigolo uses him without considering his feelings for a single moment. That’s why I stopped sleeping here and there. I too have been used.
"I would be crazy to say that I am gay"
P.M. In the days of “Wham!” The British popular press claimed that you were gay. If you were, would you say it?
G.M. I would be mad to say it, don’t you think? But I would not deny it either. Because defending itself would mean that I would be ashamed if that were true. However, I have many bi or homosexual friends, and I believe in free choice in this area. But above all, I think that these questions shouldn’t even ben raised , that it is a violation of privacy. That’s why I do not confirm or deny any rumors about my private life.
P.M. Doesn’t a star have duties towards his audience?
G.M. This is true in some areas. But when you close the door of your room, it’s over.
P.M. “I want your sex” became a worldwide hit when all the TVs in the world were broadcasting a campaign on AIDS. Is there are connexion?
G.M. The song says that I desperately want to make love with someone, but this person refuses me and I cling because I really want to. The story is true, and it’s not a one-night stand. So, back to AIDS, it is true today that many people want to put sex under the carpet again. It is a mistake. Teenagers are told that sex is forbidden, whereas it is a necessity for them. OK for condoms, but we must absolutely avoid making them believe that sex is again, as before contraception, bad and dangerous. Sex is great. Even if, in these days, it is necessary to reduce the taste for diversity and choose one partner only. That’s what I sing in my album.
P.M. You canceled several concerts in Northern Europe a month ago. The unfamous English press, announced to the front page that the problem was due to cocaine consumption.
G.M. It’s wrong. This tour is for me total sobriety. I stopped smoking a year and a half ago for my voice. When we are off, between two concerts, I do not go out to drink or party with others, always in order to preserve my voice. I’ve never been so clean in my life!
P.M. Do you reckon it is possible to have a moderate consumption of drugs?
G.M. No. It’s a trap.
“France is the only country in Europe with which I feel real affinities”
P.M. On June 11 next, you’ll be playing in a benefit concert for Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday, the imprisoned South African black leader. These charity concerts multiplied since the one you gave for Ethiopia, “Band Aid”; are they still credible?
G.M. I have refused many proposals of this kind because they were showbiz shots to revive artists who were stuck. This concert will be different. The problem of apartheid, must be talked about. Two years ago, I broke my contract with an agent because his company was bought by a South African company. I’m against it.
P.M. You have got rid of shares bought by your businessman when you learned that the chosen company was an American arms factory. Are you a pacifist?
G.M. Definitely. 100%. But I also think that an artist must do his job, not politics.
P.M. Recently, you posed in the studio in front of an American flag. Are you leaving England?
G.M. In the photo you are talking about, the flag is half American, half English. That’s how I feel. Transatlantic. For the past three years, I have been going back and forth. This can be perceived in the sound of the album, halfway between American funk and English rock. But I will not immigrate to the United States. I remain very English.
P.M. Do you believe in Europe?
G.M. No. France is the only country in Europe with which I feel real affinities. For me, the Europe of 1992 is a mental alienation. It is very sad to want to dilute all these cultures to claim that Europe is one big continent.
P.M. Can you dance to Greek music with glasses on your head, as your father, born in Cyprus, does?
G.M. Unfortunately ! No ! I have never tried, actually. It’s been six or seven years since I last attended a Greek wedding.
P.M. Do you go to Cyprus sometimes?
G.M. I have not been there for 4 years. Too difficult: I am the biggest export product that Cyprus has ever had. I’m not left alone for a second.
P.M. You never wear your glasses. Is it for aesthetics?
G.M. Of course. My real glasses are very thick. I’ve worn them since I was 7. If I had kept them, instead of choosing lenses, I do not think George Michael’s career would have existed. If I came to a press conference with my myopic glasses, it would probably have the same effect as if I appeared naked in front of the cameras.
P.M. Do you still remember how long you played in the subway for?
G.M. Very clearly.
P.M. Were you happy?
G.M. Of course I was happy! When you’re 16, there’s always something going on.
P.M. Is it possible, for a rock star, to preserve the spontaneity of when he was 16?
G.M. I have never been particularly spontaneous. Some people criticize me for that. I do not want to defend myself. My talent is different: I feel I’m a craftsman, a goldsmith … Especially not spontaneous.
P.M. You once said that success is not the most important thing. So, what is the ultimate goal?
G.M. Live a happy life. But I also have a lot of ambition. A blind ambition sometimes. I will try to leave the front of the stage early enough, before the public kicks me out. It happened to so many stars, in music …
- George Michael Interview on Q Magazine (June 1988)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- ‘Souled Out: George Michael’ Published in Interview Magazine (1988)
- George Michael Interview in Blitz Magazine (June 1988)
- George Michael: The Reluctant Pop Star (Calendar Magazine, Sept 1990)