The article “Wham! Solid Bond” written by David Thomas appeared in No. 1 Magazine on March 16, 1985
Last week Wham! looked back on their lives together, and the reasons why they’re taking a break. This week Andrew and George reveal their thoughts on acting, their personal chemistry, and how Elton John brought them together…
Simon Napier-Bell (one of Wham!’s two managers) said to me that Wham! were like the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of rock. How do you feel about that comparison?
George: I think it’s quite astute of him in that we were the first young, heterosexual, attractive-image boys that we could think of.
He also made the point that Wham!, like Butch Cassidy or Starsky and Hutch, might have girlfriends or wives, but in the end it’s the two of them…
George: …that are the most important things.
Is that true?
Andrew: Well we have a common thing that pulls us together, which is the group. So in a sense, yes it is. But obviously it’s not as exaggerated as something you see in a film.
George: We gave our horses away!
What Simon saw was that you can tell when people have just got together to be in a group, and you can tell when they’re actually people who know each other very well. We’d known each other for eight years before we started and people could tell that we were friends, as opposed to people that had just been thrown together.
How much has that friendship changed over those years?
George: Fairly drastically, in that we’ve changed as people. The actual relationship hasn’t changed much in the sense that the things we share are the same.
What was it about your characters that made you friends in the first place?
Andrew: Basically a sense of humour.
George: That was all it could have been, because we had nothing else in common.
Andrew: Well, we had a deep interest in music – or rather, the same artist, which was Elton John. Thought that a stronger bond developed, which was the humour. Elton John won’t keep friends together. He might be good, but he won’t do that.
George: We were a very strange partnership, though, if you think what we were like as kids. I was not like many of the friends that Andrew had had before and he certainly wasn’t like any of my friends. Andrew was much louder than me.
How does it operate now? Do you ever think, if I have to see this guy’s face ever again I’m going to go crazy?
George: Constantly! Although we probably saw each other even more when we were at school and then socialising out of school as well. The difference is that when we were younger we could just not hang around with each other if we were arguing or not getting on well. But now there’s less to talk about generally apart from music and business, because there is much of that to do.
Andrew: You can end up not saying anything, but you’re thinking the same. A lot of the time our conversations are just minimal. It’s certainly a case of two minds alike.
George: The shame of it is that before, when we were talking about the same things they’d be totally trivial, which is much more fun. But now it’s something to do with business.
Andrew: This year, for George especially, has been such hard work that there really hasn’t been much else to talk about. He hasn’t had any time to relax.
Do you still talk to each other if you have some kind of emotional trauma – busting up with a girl or something?
George: We do to a certain extent. But for people that are that similar and have been that close for that long, we don’t talk about those things very much.
Andrew: We don’t actually have that many traumas, because we don’t have that many experiences of busting up.
Is that out of choice, or just a matter of circumstances?
Andrew: It’s a both of both, but the balance lies with the circumstances. We don’t move enough within a group of people to make those sorts of relationships.
George: We have a small circle of friends which is exactly the same now as it was before, which is very lucky.
Andrew: Most of the people we used to friends with work in the same sphere – like David Austin or Shirlie. But then we didn’t have many friends anyway.
George: It was a very tight-knit circle and a very special circle.
Also, like any band, you have a group of people around you who work with you.
George: I think that Nomis Management has been brilliant in that sense. It’s run by really nice people. Everybody here enjoys the atmosphere. It’s real teamwork.
Do you regret the time you spent before and during the legal dispute (which ended with Wham! signing with Nomis)?
George: No, not at all. We were incredibly lucky, because the shitty deal ended up bringing on a fantastic deal. And spending a year without a manager meant that we knew all about the business by the time we got one. Also not breaking America for two years was good. If we’d broken it at the same time as everyone else did, we would have been seen as just another part of the British Invasion and we wouldn’t have been ready for it. Now we can take America at our own pace. We’re a helluva lot more professional now. That’s why we came in with a number one in America and why the album’s doing so well.
Do you think you’re going to be able to take the time off that you want? They’re going to want you back on the road in America.
George: They’re going to want us back, but I don’t think we’re going to do it.
That’s a hard thing to say no to.
George: You’d be surprised at the number of things we’ve said no to – and whenever we’ve done it, it’s been the right decision.
Andrew: We did sit down and plan the past year, and in doing so we gave ourselves work periods and rest periods. You have to draw that line. We both need the rest very much.
George: We both need it physically, but the biggest incentive is the example of the break we had because of the legal action. If it hadn’t been for that break there’s no way I could have written ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ or ‘Last Christmas’. I would still have been confused and tired. As a writer I put myself under such ridiculous strain making ‘Fantastic’ that it was not a pleasure. But with ‘Make It Big’ I knew exactly what we’d made when we finished it.
You’re incredibly careful about your image – how does that relate to your feelings about your own appearance that you were talking about?
George: Well, even if I thought I was the ugliest bastard in the world I’d still try and look better. You see some people and they get to a certain stage in their careers and they’re proclaimed as sex symbols and about four months later they look bloody awful. You suddenly realise it’s because they believe it all. The thing is that I don’t really believe it, and I know that I need to look after myself to maintain that kind of status. If I was just to let go of myself I probably would be an ugly bastard.
How important to you are your videos?
George: I think that they’ve been important to us in terms of our image, but in terms of our record I wish we didn’t have to do videos. I don’t like them at all. But I have to admit that they’ve built up our success around the world. There’s no way we could promote all our records around the world personally. We were the biggest band in Australia before we’d even set foot there! That’s all on the strength of our videos. You can’t complain about them very much when they’re doing that for you.
When you set out to do them, how much of a creative notion do you have of what you want to put across? They tend to be quite straightforward as opposed to the sort of fantasy style of Duran Duran.
George: I like the Duran videos. It’s a totally different style to ours. You can’t be very narrative with a song like ‘Wild Boys’, whereas our lyrics very much lean towards narrative videos. I think that one of the reasons we’re successful is that we know how to fit aesthetically-pleasing images and sounds together.
You also have a nice feeling in videos like ‘Club Tropicana’ or ‘Last Christmas’ of a crew of people enjoying themselves together.
George: That was what I loved about ‘Last Christmas’. We took our friends on holiday to make that video.
Andrew: It was very much as it seems. We were having a very good time.
How do you plan your videos?
George: With increasing difficulty. It’s getting to the stage where I have much more respect for my songs than I used to. One of our best videos was ‘Wake Me Up’. It was an absolutely straightforward performance, but the reason it was so popular was that we went from black-to-white, to colour, to ultra-violet. That was a very straightforward idea that came to me in a couple of minutes, but it was so simple that it worked. It’s so hard to get visual ideas right because filming is so expensive.
Andrew: Both of us are very concerned with how much money a video is worth. Video directors are making an absolute killing. Before you talk to them about ideas they tell you what the minimum amount of money is that they want.
Have either of you considered taking up acting?
George: We both have, but we’ve come to different conclusions about it. I love acting, but I hate cameras and I also hate hanging about on film sets. I’d love to act in the theatre if I thought I could really throw myself into a part.
Andrew: I’ve never really considered theatrical acting, although I used to enjoy it at school and I think I’d enjoy it again. But as opposed to George, I think I’d rather be a character actor.
George: I think you’d be best at comedy.
Andrew: I was just going to say – above all I’d like to do comedy, I could stand being in front of cameras for comedy.
George: Cameras are so hostile. They give you nothing. Cameras say, ‘I want you to prove something to me’, whereas we’re so used to going out in front of people who love us anyway.
Would you ever consider one of those massive Bowie or Springsteen style world tours?
George: Never. They’re very much business propositions, aren’t they? I don’t think we could do it because we are basically quite lazy people. We don’t have that financial drive. When I see that drive to make more money with people who are already very rich, I find it impossible to relate to. People keep doing things that they may well not enjoy just for the sake of becoming bigger as stars. I hope we’ll be able to control it. We’re already a lot more in control of our lives than most pop stars. I think we’re going to be saying ‘no’ a lot in the next two years at exactly the point when everyone else would just be going out there and milking it. If we can do that at 21, I don’t think there should be any problem with getting carried away with fame.
We do intend to be around as a musical force for a long time to come.
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- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- George Michael Interview on Parkinson Show 1998 (Part 2)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)