Wham! interview with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley entitled “I’m Your Man is more about us … It’s about sex” written by Peter Martin and published in the 20th November – December 3rd, 1985 issue of Smash Hits magazine.
It’s also their first single for nearly a year. But what a year. They appeared at Live Aid, performed in China, sold out a massive tour of America and sold more records in Japan than anyone since the Beatles. So what are Wham! like after all that. Barmy? Too big for their boots? Only Peter Martin knows…
Sitting in the matt black surrounds of the swish Blakes Hotel, London, it seems only fitting that George and Andrew should be late. And they are – I’ve been waiting an hour so far. Suppose they’ll roll up in a limousine jam-packed with “minders”, all dark glasses and gold medallions and aloof expressions, heads swelled so big they probably won’t be able to make it through the door. Pop stars, eh? Hmphh. But…hang on, here comes Andrew! He’s wearing a horrible tracksuit. He hasn’t got sunspecs on. He’s even smiling!…
A few minutes later and here’s George. He’s got jeans on. His hair’s a mess. He’s got a runny nose. This isn’t right at all. What’s going on? No minders. No dark glasses. No swivelheads. Drat!
We wander over the road to an annexe of the hotel – a house opposite that’s so anonymous and inconspicuous that famous politicians can take people there in the afternoons and have affairs without getting pestered. Once in the suite – that’s like a poshed-up Crossroads chalet only smaller and more expensive – George slaps on a tape of the new single. He skips around playing invisible bass while Andrew yawns a lot and stretches out in his satin trackie (yes, fashion fans, satin – the horrid shiny, silky stuff that REO Speedwagon tour jackets are made of!). I think he’s half asleep, actually.
“It’s a bit different, isn’t it?” asks George about the single. “It’s more of a club record than the last few. Hopefully it should get us back some of our older fans. It’s more us. It’s more…more about sex.”
What does he mean?
“Well, ‘Wake Me Up’ was sexual on a kind of soap opera level.” You mean it was very kind of kiss and cuddle whereas this is…”more about sex. Yes. I don’t know why I wrote like that on the last album. But anyway, the new one will be more us, closer to the way we are now. When we started, it was alright to say ’18 year olds – they haven’t had much sex’, but at 22! People fall in love…the rest of the time they have sex. If you can combine sex and fun, like ‘I’m Your Man’, then it’s great…”
Talk turns from this steamy topic to the US tour which, it seems, has changed Wham!s attitude to “makin’ music” more than anything else this year.
“I always thought I was incredibly ambitious,” breathes George, with a long sigh. (Andrew, meanwhile, is having another huge stretch on the sofa.) “I thought nothing could stop us becoming the biggest stars in the world. But you get to the stage where you realise you’re chasing our own tail. On that tour, we had to do things, stupid things, like meeting record company people and their families and doing all the autograph bit. It’s just horrible. It’s a completely different ball game being a star over there. It’s just full of completely sycophantic bullshit – at least here there’s some attachment to reality.”
So there’s no danger of you turning into a Michael Jackson figure – locking yourself away and going a bit barmy?
“Hardly. Once you’re there, there’s no turning back,” says George, whipping out his hanky and blowing his nose: “Poot-poot-pherzshpraaeurhg-rghsfsffrr-frrgf!” Oh dear. “Urgh! That was huge…like blowing bubble gum. Now, what were we talking about? Oh, Michael Jackson. Yes, the day I left there was this advert in the National Enquirer (an American newspaper that invents stupid stories about women giving birth to fish and things like that) and there was a cartoon of me as one of those stick-men, all gangly and hed up by a string like a puppet. When things get to that stage, you’re on very dodgy ground…But out of all the pop stars I’ve met, we’re about the most down-to-earth. We understand there’s nothing incredibly special about us – but I am very very confident about certain things – like my songwriting. It’s that base, that security, that’s seen us through, so you don’t need to pretend to be something you’re not.
Pop stars do like to attach a mystique – a cosmic importance to what they do,” giggles Andrew in agreement. “Onstage that’s fine – it’s all part of being a performer – but offstage it’s stupid. There’s no point. We’ve never been about image, we’ve never had that grounding in rock music so we’ve never lent ourselves to any form of rock mystique.”
George agrees. “We’ve always approached things in terms of showbusiness and entertainment, without attaching it to our personalities. To do that would make us look like real tossers. Imagine if our personalities were like ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’! I’m really starting to feel like I can’t play that role any more. As I said, ‘I’m Your Man’ is much more us.”
As you may have noticed, George – assured and professional – is doing most of the talking. Andrew, now almost wide-awake, just sits there, making the odd “cheeky” remark and generally being a bit of a lad. But, keen not to come across as completely useless, Andrew does offer the occasional astute and almost eloquent remark. Very complicated business, being in Wham!
“It’s funny the way the press have dealt with us lately,” muses George. “They’re painting me as this whiter-than-white figure as opposed to Andrew who’s just totally black. I’d rather be grey. It’s great – Andrew is this car-crashing, sorry car-driving drunkard and that’s fine; it’s a brilliant image.
They could easily have chased me round and found me in as many compromising positions. But they didn’t – they just went for black and white. I’ve no desire to be a rebel but I’ve also no desire to be painted as the Richard Clayderman of Pop!”
But isn’t that the point – that Wham! the group are still bad, but George Michael, solo artiste, is someone you can take home to your mum…?
“Well, the idea was for the ballads and the more romantic things to be for the George Michael solo LP and the more overtly sexual stuff could go on the Wham! LP. But now I think I should put something really filthy on my solo LP. In fact, I might do a full frontal cover! And yeah, Andrew does have a lot to do with the filthy content of the Wham! stuff. When I’m writing, he walks in and goes ‘oh don’t put that – put cock’!
Honestly, all this clean image stuff really gets on my nerves. Like people in America were coming up to me and saying ‘aaah, George, I’m rilly pleased you’re givin’ our kids some clean harmless fun’ and I’d be going ‘AAAARGH! No. I don’t want this.'”
While we’re on the subject (i.e. sex), what’s all this about Brooke Shields? Is “I’m Your Man” about her?
“No, it’s not. But if the papers want to attach that to it, then that’s fine…I’ve just decided not to talk about her because, more than anybody I’ve met, she’s a person before she’s a celebrity…”
And how’s Pat? (Fernandes, the girl George is often “linked” with)
“She’s fine, I saw her last night. She’s fine. Fine…” Bit of an uneasy silence here, actually. “She’s managing a band, isn’t she?” adds Andrew, helpfully.
“Yeah!” says George, visibly brightening. “They’re called Habit. Give them a little plug. You know, it keeps her off the streets and all that,” he japes.
Sensing he’d much rather change the subject away from women, I ask how Wham! feel about the pop competition these days. “Duran Duran make great records,” George replies, “but their image? After six years they’re still Bowie/Ferry casualties. I like the Arcadia single but I prefer ‘Wild Boys’ and ‘A View To A Kill’. They’re great records.”
“Oh…I couldn’t stand ‘Wild Boys’!” groans Andrew.
And Culture Club?
“I don’t think you can write them off,” reckons George. “Anyone who could write singles like ‘Church Of The Poison Mind’ and ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ can’t be written off.”
Andrew disagrees. “So how do you explain why they made such a crap album then?”
“But Boy George agrees it’s rubbish! Anyway, even on that album (‘Waking Up With The House On Fire’) there was one great song – ‘Mistake Number Three’. So really, you can’t write them off. It’s like Tears For Fears. People wrote them off but they made two brilliant singles, ‘Pale Shelter’ and ‘Mad World’. I absolutely love ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’. It’s such a well-structured song. They’re just the perfect US college band – they’re not that good looking and they’re a bit weird and write good songs that are accessible. It’s a sin, these days, to be good looking – too many people have been marketed and styled, that’s the problem.”
And what about Wham!? How do you think people’s attitudes have changed towards you since you’ve been away?
George: “Honestly, I don’t know. It just seems to be getting bigger and bigger.”
Don’t you ever wish things could be the way they were before you were famous?
“It’s funny, actually. I do often look back and think this is all a bit weird.”
George sits there for a few seconds, coming over all nostalgic, like. “I was at home a few weeks ago and it was really strange. I walked down to the bottom of the garden – the first time for three years – and I looked over the fence. There’s a farm next door and all this countryside and it looked exactly how I remember it as a kid. And I was getting really kind of reflective and I was thinking of all the things that have happened over the past five years and how it didn’t really matter…how small it was in relation to all this. The insignificance of man next to nature and all that. And it just felt nice how you could just stand there and nothing had really changed and, suddenly, I heard this noise. It was tittering coming from behind the neighbours’ bushes and I looked down and there were all these kids there with cameras, all trying to take my picture. I just thought ‘don’t kid yourself’ and went back inside.
Yes, it is weird being in Wham! sometimes.”
- After George Michael Strained His Back (Smash Hits, 1985)
- Wham! In China (Part 1), Smash Hits Magazine (1985)
- Wham!: Why We’ve Reached Breaking Point
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Wham! The Art of Parties (No. 1 Magazine, 1983)