THE DAY after ‘Freedom’ got to number one, Wham! were grinning from the front page of a national newspaper. No news, no story, they’d just thumped out another hit and that was news in itself. These days Fleet Street can’t get enough of the new showbiz. Eleven days earlier Wham! swapped smiles on the Wogan Show; now you never saw the Bay City Rollers doing that. And it’s going to get bigger and busier. Flash bulbs and headlines pinging to big pop’s revived momentum. Wham! are tight in the middle of this, carving a private life from public pressures. Coming from comfortable backgrounds they’ve handled all this razzamatazz better than most, and as the spotlight dims for a minute they talk to me about family, home, big heads, smaller noses … and Frankie…
ARE WHAM! arrogant little bleeders, then?
ANDREW: “I think there’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence. I think arrogance is parading your confidence. Obviously if someone asks you do you have faith in your work it’s confidence not arrogance.”
GEORGE: “Where I see people as being arrogant as opposed to confident is when people are so generally confident about themselves as people that they just feel they can make statements on each and every subject and know exactly what they’re talking about. I am very very confident as a songwriter and someone who knows how to be professional at what they do in the world of showbusiness and in the area of presentation. Those are two things I feel in control of. I could say that I’m confident to the point of arrogance in those, but as a person I’m not particularly arrogant. I don’t see myself as being particularly knowledgeable. I see my limitations just the same as everyone else. I have the same insecurities.”
YOU’RE UNDER the public microscope. Does such close scrutiny bother you?
G: “It’s not scrutiny that bothers me, it’s just people following you around. People expecting you to have time for every single one of them every day. It does piss me off now, actually. Sometimes you’re just walking about in the West End and you suddenly get a professional photographer following you about or you’re standing at the traffic lights and opposite you is a guy snapping away. There’s even been a taxi driver that followed me and Pat around, it’s really bad — you’re always looking over your shoulder. Other than that … I suppose the point is, you have to expect it. With every number one it gets worse, but then again, we can’t say we don’t wanna get any more number ones …”
DO YOU still live at home?
A: “Yes. We haven’t had the time since we’ve had the money to move out and when we did have the time we didn’t have the money. It’s a Catch 22 situation. A place to live in London would be great, the amount of time we spend up here. Also, unfortunately we’re still in the phone book — the phone book for two years ago as it were. Therefore people still know where I live so I get loads and loads of people round my place.
“My dad still doesn’t understand. Two girls had come up from Norfolk and I told him to say I wasn’t in and he said ‘Andrew’s not in — come back later’. The man just does not learn, I don’t know what he thinks he’s up to.”
HAS STARDOM altered your friendship?
G: “Not a lot really. I don’t think we socialise as much as we used to, ‘cos we work together all the time. I think the time we socialised the most was when Andy went to sixth form college and I was at school — ‘cos we didn’t see each other all the time.”
A: “When I wanna go out he’s tired — I don’t like the clubs anymore and he still likes them. He doesn’t like eating out — and I like eating out all the time. He doesn’t like the flicks — he goes once in a blue moon — I go all the time, see all the crap.”
HOW HAVE your families reacted to all the hoo-hah?
G: “My mother’s smile just gets bigger as the months go by — she gets so excited that I’m embarrassed.”
A: “It’s funny — I get irritated by my mother. She’s so proud and she doesn’t make any attempt to hide it. George’s mum is very reserved about it — she’s very cool.”
G: “She’s not even publicly cool — look at all the concerts, she’s down the front with all the kids — your mum doesn’t do that — she was down the front with all the kids, sweating.”
A: “But that’s not irritating. My mother’s continually irritating — she’s got pictures of me all over the house.”
G: “So’s mine.”
A: “Not all over the hall. You come into our house and there’s me going ‘hi’.”
I HEAR you’re taking your parents on tour…
A: “They wanna go, it’s a chance of a lifetime. How many people get the chance to go to Japan, America and Australia, all in one go? After 21 years, you’ve gotta repay them somehow.”
HAVE YOU ever found one another ridiculous?
G: “No. But look what happened to you at sixth form college (points at Andy). That was probably the most revolting year of your life. He became really pretentious.”
A: “George was stuck festering in sixth form at school, while I was at college having a great time.”
G: “I didn’t have a bad time, it wasn’t as bad as the time you had.”
A: “I had a great time, y’know college is so different from school.”
G: “I’d rather have an eventful six months, than six months making a wanker of myself — ‘cos I thought you did. You were really pretentious — the way you dressed, the way you talked to people.”
A: “The way I dressed? Baggy pants, Chinese slippers and two cardigans …”
G: “And your little scarf around your head … you looked so pretentious.”
A: “That was about a month’s worth of scarf. I won’t comment on George’s style in those days.”
G: “I know I looked a wanker — but in a different way — we both looked wankers!”
DO YOU feel any affinity with any other band?
G: “I think the only people who are as definite about what they want to do are the people at ZTT. We’re going for different markets, but both of us know how to get to our markets and improve on them.”
A: “The difference between us and Frankie is that when you’re talking about Frankie, you’re talking about a real corporation structure. When you’re talking about Wham!, it’s really just me and him. Holly, Paul and the rest of the boys don’t really get to make the kind of career decisions we make.”
G: “They know what they can get out of this business and they’re milking it. They’re a records group — we’re a song group.”
A: “They’re more a media band — an image band — but their records are great.”
AND FINALLY, that nose job…
A: “It was a good press wind-up, the best one in years. Our manager Simon phoned up just after I’d come out of hospital and said that Fleet Street knew I’d been in hospital and wanted a story. So I said ‘tell ’em I’ve been in a car crash’, he said that might upset a few people. So I said ‘Leave it with me. I’ll think up a story’. So I phoned David (Austin) and said ‘is it OK if I do this story?’ and he said OK so we just went right ahead.”
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)
- George Michael Interview in The Face (August 1985)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Think Big: Wham! Interview in Record Mirror (1984)