The article “Wham! The French Connection was published in the September 8, 1984 issue of No. 1 magazine.
And now the second winner in our Journey To The Stars series of competitions! (Fanfares, etc.). Two weeks ago it was Julie
Brignole, a small provincial town, lies just inland from the glittering French southern coast. The countryside around it boasts acres and acres of prime vineyards. It’s the second most important wine-growing area in France.
With vineyards come chateaux. The Chateau Minerval is one of the largest in the area and it’s also a recording studio. In the past Pink Floyd, Yes and Duran Duran have worked here. Shortly The Thompson Twins will be starting a four-month residency. But at the moment Wham are ruling the roost as they cut their second LP.
“My friends at work still don’t believe me yet,” says Debbie as we drive toward the chateau. “I’ve got to get loads of photographs to prove it!”
Debbie, photographer Chris Craymer and I have been traveling since early this morning. At seven o’clock a CBS record company car picked up Debbie from her home in Brighton and took her to Heathrow Airport to meet us. From there we took an Air France 757 to Marseilles, where Chris hired a car.
After a delightful detour through Marseilles city
Greetings are exchanged. I introduce Debbie and George and they nervously shake hands. But where is Andrew?
“He’s in bed,” groans George. “He caught the bug that’s been going around,” he winks meaningfully. “And I also think he was out drinking late last night. We’ll get him up later. Would you like to listen to the tracks we’ve done so far for the LP?”
George takes us into the studio’s futuristic mixing room and loads a tape up.
“This is gonna be out next single,” he says. “It’s called ‘Freedom’. It’s about a situation where a girl tells her boyfriend that she doesn’t mind him fooling around with other
“It’s written from experience?” asks Debbie.
George smiles. “Sort of.”
Then he turns it on… and when it’s finished looks round for our verdict.
“Brilliant,” reckons Debbie.
Careless Careless Whisper
The rest of the material sounds equally strong and we all agree that when the “Making It Big” LP comes out it’ll knock “Fantastic” out of sight.
George is as pleased as punch and starts delving into the tape cupboard.
“You’ll like this,” he says suddenly. “One night when I went to bed all the crew stayed up and recorded this. It’s a ‘Working Man’s CLub’ version of ‘Careless Whisper’.” He plays it, and it’s hilarious. It may very well find itself on the back of Wham’s next 12-inch.
“Hmm, he’s still looking a bit pale,” says George, then scurries off to find his sister. Andrew gives Debbie a welcome kiss and they both flop down amongst the cushions on the sofa to watch a bit of French TV.
Dinner is served, during which Debbie meets George’s sister Yod and the rest of the crew. After a couple of hours of gossiping it’s time to head back to our hotel in Brignole.
“See you tomorrow, bright and early,” yells Andrew as we leave.
Rain or Shine
Dutifully early the next day, we go back up to the studio only to find that Andrew is still in bed! George has made an early start in the studio because he has a problem as the group’s producer.
One of the studio speakers has been malfunctioning and giving out the wrong sound. George may have been mixing everything to fit in with this false representation.
By this time Andrew has staggered in, so we nip out to do some photos. The moment we step outside the chateaux it starts pouring with rain!
After shooting a few snaps we dash inside an old barn for shelter. George asks Chris to take some suitably moody pics, and while he does so the boys tell Debbie about some of their plans for the year.
Debbie tells them about the time she saw the “Fantastic” tour and we discuss various bands and concerts for a while. We’re all a bit concerned when we find out that Debbie likes a lot of heavy metal acts. She waits for George to slag them off.
“I’m fed up with all the slagging that goes on,” he says. “I mean, people make out there’s a war between us, Culture Club and Duran Duran but we don’t think there is. Duran will have a new single out soon which is bound to go high in the charts. Well, I hope it’s really good!”
Driving and Dinner
When we get back to the chateau, Derek Warwick the Formula One racing driver is there. He’s on holiday nearby, and he’s come to be shown around the studio by the owner Jacques Lucier a famous French jazz pianist.
Andrew engages Derek in a long chat about driving. That’s maybe when he gets the idea that we all drive to Brignole for dinner.
“What a maniac,” mutters George.
We spend a happy evening despite all the odds before the two boys see us back to our hotel.
Debbie is surprised to find herself being interviewed over brekkers the next morning, by a journalist from the Mail On Sunday who has just arrived to write a feature on Wham.
We then go for one last visit to the studio. After being roused from their beds, the boys rustle up a couple of bottles of the Chateau
“I hope you never forget this weekend, “writes George on one.
“… Nor the other,” writes Andrew on the other.
Then, after jostling to see who kisses Debbie first, the lads bid us
After spending a couple of days in seclusion with the boys, Debbie is in a better position than most to make a
“They are both really charming,” she says. “George is the one who is definitely in control, but I don’t think he’d do anything without Andrew agreeing. They weren’t like I expected at all. They’re really down-to-earth and nice. George seems a little shy when you first meet him. But Andrew’s fun from the first second. They’re lovely!”
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Gaydar Radio Interview with George Michael (2012)
- Wham!: A Meaningful Relationship (Sunday Magazine, 1984)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)