— A DIFFERENT STORY — Simon Cowell - This is a guy who has achieved what every artist would dream of achieving. Mariah Carey - I was looking at him as like “wow that would be like the ultimate goal if I could kinda do what he is doing.” Elton John - I find him very frustrating sometimes. Because of you know I think he is so overcautious and so “I’m ready for my close up.” That bit of him infuriates me. But you know that’s his thing. Andrew Ridgeley - He’s been a good friend. And he has been a frustrating friend as well. But friends are. Jack Panayiotou - I couldn’t believe I was seeing my son. George Michael - To be obviously a part of people’s lives as an artist; that is what I dreamed of. And that is what I’m still grateful for. But my God, I wish I could cope with the other stuff the way other people do. I wish I’ve been born with that particular suit of armor. You know, because I wasn’t. Andy Stephens - Most artists are out there all the time promoting or on tour and working on the road and enjoying it. Its just not what George wants to do at the moment. Elton John - I think he will have to get out there a bit more. He will do, he will want this album (Patience) to be successful. As much as he hates it, we have to go and sell what we do. George Michael - If I could stay home and just watch the album going to number one in various territories. Without ever having to sit in front of a camera or deal with it. Oh my God that would be my dream come true. So no I don’t need that bit. As much as it appeals to a little tiny part of my ego, I so successfully crushed that part of my ego that it just scares me, you know it just scares me. YOUNG GEORGE George Michael - You see that launderette there, we lived above that for about a year. Mum and dad worked in a fish and chips shop along here. My mum said that was the most disgusting period of her life. Because you know how clean mum was. She said you just couldn’t get the smell of the fish out of your hair, off your skin. Walk out, come home look after us, and go off and work at my dad’s restaurant. That’s the lunch hall, that is where they quay up for the lunch hall. I remember getting my fucking legs smacked by an old pervert in there. That bit is new. This is where David and I used to come to school, but he was a year above me. I really really strongly remember my first day of school. I walking down here from that gate, ‘cause we went in that way, and I remember it so well … being terrified. Do you remember there is the quadrangle… David Austin - I don’t know. That was the toilet. George Michael - You don’t remember? Some of the kids used to have teachers would come with them and pull GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
their trousers down for them. David Austin - Ummmmm NO! George Michael - After about a year, David moved up there, to the posh end of the road, didn’t you? The houses were posher up there. This is the house I spent… I was here from when I was a year old, until I was about 12. On this side was a real old cow. On that side was a family of 8 Irish-Catholic children, but they were lovely actually. David Austin - Nothing has changed. It’s still black. That was black. That was your bedroom. George Michael - I used to sit up there every morning waiting for the sun to come up so that I could go out. I’m glad they kept the original pebble dash is all I can say. It would have been horrible to loose that. David Austin - Do you think you will ever get a plaque? George Michael - If I die, yeah they will put a little blue plaque on it won’t they? It will be the nicest thing about the house. David Austin - I’ll tell you if they don’t I will. George Michael: My mum worked in that building, do you remember that Dave? The bits I remember of a very working class existence, she was just exhausted. She was working two jobs, had three children to look after. Had an extremely unreasonable husband who expected her work every night with him at the restaurant, because otherwise he would never see her. And somehow through all that the house was spotless whatever. It was just that she was exhausted and angry most of the time. I don’t remember ever telling them I was going to be a pop star at any given moment. They just knew I was obsessed with music and that is what I wanted to do. Real defying moment was telling them I wasn’t going to private school. Jack Panayiotou - When George turned the private school or education down, it was very hard to me not to accept it but to give up to him. George Michael - He just thought, what chance is this kid is going to be some kind of millionaire pop star. I suppose that is what most parents would think. But absolutely a parent who doesn’t have a musical bone in their body. Jack Panayiotou - I always told him he couldn’t sing. Blinkers, music. George Michael – So he just thought I was a dreamer. Jack Panayiotou - George was a quiet boy. He wasn’t a boy to go wild. And as I said I think Andrew was a leader. George Michael - That morning ‘cause I stood up front of the class with a teacher and she asked if anyone if anyone would like to have me sit near them… Andrew Ridgeley - Ruin your life. (laughs) GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
George Michael - Do you remember by any chance what went through your head? Because I thought about this and… Andrew Ridgeley - Yeah, new kid, give him to me. George Michael - (laughs) Jack Panayiotou - Andrew was extremely cocky … very, very, very confident. Andrew Ridgeley - I looked around and everyone was… George Michael - (laughs) Jack Panayiotou - They were so close. At the end of the day, I have to trust my son’s judgment on his friends. George Michael - I think I kind worked out that you were a cool kid to hang out with anyway. Andrew Ridgeley - I didn’t think you were that bright actually. Shirlie Kemp - When I first met the boys together, they were such great friends. The humor, the music, it was all there ― that was the cut founda<on for Wham. And also George needed Andrew. ‘Cause Andrew was the outgoing one, he was the funny one, the charming one. And so he kinda got Andrew to go almost “you go first and I’ll be right behind you”. Interviewer - What were the most ridiculous things you got off to? George Michael - (laughs) Forming a group. David Austin - Andrew’s idea. I would play guitar. George sung. George and I always did demos before that. Andrew picked up the guitar and started to play. Paul, Andrew’s brother, would play drums. And it kinda fell together really. We were dreadful, dreadful. It was ridiculous. George Michael - Have you heard that Executive tape? Did David give it to you to listen to? Andrew Ridgeley – No George Michael - You know that Executive tape we did on an 8 track in the studio with 4, 5 tracks? Andrew Ridgeley – Yeah George Michael - He found it. Andrew Ridgeley - Really?
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George Michael - Yeah I got it to play it for you. It’s quite scary. George Michael - Listening to it, I just think how incredibly optimistic we were. (Laughs) We were so full on confidence even though we were REALLY bad. Andrew Ridgeley - As kids. George Michael - Yeah, exactly. That’s wonderful really. Shirlie Kemp- As soon as I heard Careless Whisper, it was just a small demo tape that Andrew played to me. I don’t know if I had even met George at that point. But I had huge feeling that the person who was singing this song was going to be a massive star. George Michael - We recorded a demo of Careless Whisper, Club Tropicana, Wham Rap. And on the last day that we were there, the head of the record company, of Innervision, turns up with these contracts says “look come around the corner with me.” And we went to this greasy spoon café, just 4, 5 doors up the road. And he says, “look if you don’t sign this now the deal is going away. And you won’t have finished demos to take away, you won’t own them. And we won’t finish them.” So it was a total threat basically. It was a complete and utter threat. We were on our own, we had nobody with us and we signed that. David Austin - I remember the first time, Top Of The Pops, first performance, “Young Guns Go For It”, I remember George turned to me on stage, and just turned around and said (I will never forget this for as long as I live) George turned around and said “Right, this is it, this is the rest of my life.” Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - Someone dropped out, they got in. And of course they gave a fine performance. The next week the record jumped and they were off and running. What a break. They should send Christmas cards to whoever that was. George Michael: I don’t think either one of us had an idea that we would have a particular chemistry that would work for pop music. In those few weeks after we signed, they were still scrambling to try and put a band around us. So Wham! could have been some awful six piece band to begin with. I think somehow that same force field that kinda of came down and said “I’m not going to private school” when I was eleven, I think that the same kind of force field came down and just said “ok, you have to ignore just about everything that they want you to do.” Shirlie Kemp - There was no outside person ever, and to this day I’ve never seen an outside person giving him advice in a way that he’s go up someone and say “what do you think I should do about this situation?” Boy George - They were important to each other because it was something new. Martin Kemp - No there was no rivalry between Spandau Ballet and Wham, you know because I always thought they were useless. (Laughs) Boy George - Everyone thought that George was in love with Andrew. It was pretty obvious really. George & Andrew – ROTFL GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
George Michael - I can’t think of anything less likely than Andrew and I sleeping together. (Laughs) Apart from anything he is really not my type. Andrew is not my type. Way too pretty. I said to Shirlie, … Shirlie and I were at this hotel where we made Club Tropicana, before Andrew got there. And the three of us were still very close, even though they were no longer a couple. And I said to Shirlie, “don’t tell him, I’ll tell him when he gets here.” And of course she told him straight away. So incapable of keeping that quiet. Shirlie Kemp - I do remember having an intense conversation with him. And he looked quite concerned. He had this big doey eyed look of “help me”. And I think where we were so young and took it so lightly, our advice was oh just don’t worry about it. Forget it. Andrew Ridgeley – Well I do remember us thinking it was a pretty bad idea to inform your father. Shirlie Kemp - Well I was quite confused, I guess because obviously there were girls attracted to him and he still liked girls. So I just thought ‘no, he just had an experience’. He just gone off and done this and needs to talk about it. So I didn’t take it as a big conversation actually. George Michael - What I’m saying is, do you remember? The whole point is… I think it is time I told my mum and dad. Andrew Ridgeley – Yes George Michael – Because if I would have told my mum and dad the whole situation would have been different. I don’t think I would have been able to stay in professionally if I told my mum and dad. George Michael - It’s almost impossible to remember what happened at the beginning of Wham. Because when I look back at it, it was happening at such an outrageous speed … We worked constantly through that four years, so it’s all a bit of a blur really … Andrew Ridgeley - We did use to try and inject humor all the time. George Michael - Yeah, that advert where we took the piss. We shouldn’t really insult the Japanese by letting them know. Basically we started off with a very bad impersonation of Simon Le Bon’s version of the moonwalk and then we finished it with a song… Andrew Ridgeley - Fun at the time (laughs) George Michael – Yeah but it was Freedom… it was a Wham’s version of Freedom and it was about a relationship with an overweight girl. Wasn’t it? Do you remember? Doesn’t matter that you are slightly porky. Ever since that day we met in Toki George Michael - They asked us what fish face meant. And we said it was a term of endearment. And they showed it. The Japanese had their revenge actually. The title on the album Faith, the japanese run of it, its called “Faith, George Michael makes a SEXY night.” GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
Andrew Ridgeley – Laughs David Austin - Record company executives always hate to make decisions and love to blame on the artists. An artist like George Michael was a dream. He just step up to the frontline, make a decision, and there was always someone to blame. But it never went wrong. It just snowballed with Wham. George Michael - Andrew and I didn’t make a very great attempt to break the States. I don’t remember being impatient. I remember just thinking, ‘oh it will happen’. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - Once Make it Big comes out, Wham had three #1’s in America … Elton John - It was just nice to see someone coming who had an idea of grasp on how to write a song and what a great voice. George Michael - People who were writing about us I couldn’t believe that they were so turned off by the image that they couldn’t hear what this twenty year old kid was doing. If you think about it the second album doesn’t really have a cohesive identity. It’s only the image that was kind of … consistently enough. Pepsi DeMacque - I’m sure everybody has got a picture of themselves where they got a bit of the day-glo. Elton John - Last Christmas being a classic for example. George Michael - I was doing something remarkable as a twenty year old kid. I was a producer and arranger and I knew how to make these records and how to make them jump out of the radio. The idea that just because I was wearing ridiculous shorts and curtain rings in my ears would actually stop people from noticing that … when I look back I still think it’s kind of stunning. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - The emergence of George Michael was so delightful because you had no idea it was coming. Andrew Ridgeley - We couldn’t really see how you could take the concept of Wham into adulthood … We were right. Pepsi DeMacque - It was just sparkly. The whole day was sparkly. It was sunny. It was warm. The crowd made an effort. Everyone had dressed up. Andrew Ridgeley - I didn’t enjoy it as much as other shows. Because I have to say that that all period leading up to that was a difficult one for me. I kept thinking “when it’s over, the encore is done, that’s it.” And that was a really… really difficult concept to get to grips with. Pepsi DeMacque - It stopped at a good time. It stopped on a high. Yeah, that is what people remember, just good time music really. George Michael - You never told me that before that you didn’t enjoy it as much as others… I just don’t really GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
remember it. It was so overly important. He was tired of being taking pot shots at as “the lucky guy that kinda coasted along with George Michael” and I think you know he was so much more than that. You know if I was gonna go to the place I believed that I was about to go to, there was no way that we could hang out in the way that we had always done. It would have been too difficult for Andrew. So I understood …our relationship was gonna have to reach some different kind of level. And that was tough. And I had no idea how much I was going to miss that support. Or how close to lunacy I would feel without that support. FAITH ERA Elton John - Faith was brilliant. It was like Elvis Presley again with a leather outfit and stuff. The fact that he made all these dance records and came out with Faith which was kind of a rock song…it was just brilliant move. Mariah Carey - People in my school who only listened to rock music had that album. People who only listened to rap music had that album. Martin Kemp - I mean it was massive in America. It was massive through Europe. I wasn’t surprised when it made him a very rich man. George Michael - I deluded myself. I knew I was moving into a more adult period of making music. But I kinda deluded myself that I was not going to attract a whole new generation of young girls with the whole “Faith” image. If you look at it “What do you expect?” (laughs) you are waving your ass at the camera. It’s quite a nice ass so… Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - Faith was a #1 album in Britain for 1 week. It was a #1 album in America for 12 weeks. It sold 10 million albums, and he had four #1 singles, and a #2 and a #5 off of that album Faith. He was the biggest pop star of 1988. George Michael - There you go I was going off on bad trip #2 really. I had honestly believed they had overrated Faith. Because that is what happens in America when you become the hot thing I suppose. Suddenly people were writing things and I just thought “hold on a minute I know it’s not that good.” That kind of hysteria coming at you four nights a week, and then to come off stage and find that your security has been fighting with your friends because your friends want to take you out on the town… Shirlie Kemp - I think the Faith period is the only time I thought ‘oh he is being a popstar’. The ego is there and he’s got the entourage around him. George Michael - Even your friends don’t feel like they are dealing with the same entity that they were at home. And that stuff really plays with your head. David Austin - It was a bit surreal actually. Because we spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. It was in the superstar league. George Michael - I was intelligent enough to know that this was the wrong road… in terms of if I was looking for happiness I should not be trying to catch up with Michael Jackson or Madonna or whatever, which is absolutely what I was intent on doing as a British star. GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
David Austin - Jets, women, money… It was a fantastic ride. Amazing ride. George Michael - But I don’t think there was any way I could control my ego enough to have stopped me exploring the possibility of being the biggest selling artist in the world. It’s a very intense thing to go through for ten months which is what effectively I did with Faith. And by the end of it I felt like I was going insane, it has to be said. It was “oh my God, I’m a massive star, (laughs) and I think I may be a poof. What am I going to do? This is not going to end well (laughs). That was the turning point for me. That was the point on which I had to negotiate some new relationship with celebrity that wasn’t going to destroy me. LISTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE ERA Andy Stephens - The decision was taken in 1990. Not to promote. He felt that if he was to do so if he would carry on the bandwagon as it were then you burn out. And he had to get off it. And he explained to the record company that was something he just had to do. While most of the world accepted it, America couldn’t. George Michael - Absolute blasphemy. How can you be so sick of that, that just made everybody 200 million dollars. How could you possibly tell the world that you are sick of that. That was just the type of American blasphemy to actually question the level of your success. I mean I was very honest with Sony. One of the reasons why we went to court was because I was so honest with them about what I didn’t intend to do for Listen Without Prejudice, I felt that if they weren’t prepared to deal with that, they would tell me. But they didn’t. So we sat, had lunch, and everybody told me what a fantastic album it was. And they came back to New York and told everybody that this was George Michael’s “Nebraska”. Which was Bruce Springsteen’s 80’s album which he recorded on a four track and sold nothing because it was completely introspective. Now I just presented them with Listen Without Prejudice and I’m sorry but it is not Nebraska. Rob Stringer (Chairman, Sony Music/BMG) - There was a basic falling out over the basic philosophy of not promoting the record and not providing a video for the first single. That is what it stem from. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - Let’s not forget there was a personal problem. That a leading executive of his American record company insulted him dismissively and profoundly. The type of dismissal which would make it impossible to be friends. Let’s put it that way. George Michael - I was totally naïve. And thought that if I was open and honest and truthful, that it would pay dividends. What a fool. As it turned out, one of my better ideas: getting five absolute gorgeous supermodels (that people still want to look at today). If you gonna say to your record company ‘look I’m not going to be in this video’, I’d say that is a fairly good consolation prize really. Those five gorgeous babes. By that time in America the relationship was already over. So Freedom peaked at #12 I think in the States. Normally I would be jumping up and down about it. I’d be really pissed off but I was just back from Brazil and something amazing had just happened to me. So all of this seemed relatively unimportant at the time. On the night of the first Rock In Rio concert in Maracana Stadium, 160,000 people, it was going to be the biggest audience I had ever play in front of. But in the front of this 160,000 people, there was this guy who on the right hand side of the stage that had fixed me with this look. And he was so cute, I was so distracted by him that I stayed away from that end of the stage for awhile. And that was Anselmo. That really was the moment my life changed. It was just like “Wow I met someone I actually think I am going to fall in love with rather than just want their body for a while.” For the first six months GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
of our relationship at least, I felt better than I had possibly in my entire life. Everybody with the exception of my family, everybody was introduced to him very, very quickly. Because I felt immediately that everything had changed. It’s very hard to be proud of your own sexuality when it hasn’t brought you any joy. Once it is associated with joy and love, it’s easy to be proud of who you are. People will find this hard to believe but Anselmo and I didn’t hide. We hid to the degree that I was living in LA. But that is hardly hiding from the media. You are a phone call away as far as The Sun or The Mirror is concerned. He was just very funny. Very full of energy. Very loving. And I think Anselmo was the first time I think I really loved someone, selflessly. You know? Where it really was about them. RED HOT & DANCE ERA George Michael - For a while everything was ok with Sony. The single with Elton was a massive hit worldwide. I guess you could call it the calm before the storm. I was about to become a grown up and I wasn’t prepared for it. I remember. I remember the moment that he told me about the test he had been advised to have. I remember him leaving the house and, to this day I remember, looking at the sky and saying, “Don’t you dare do this to me.” Anselmo had the test over the Christmas period in Brazil. I went home to my family for Christmas and sat at the Christmas table, not knowing whether in fact my partner (who the people sitting around the table did not know about), not knowing whether this man I was in love with, was terminally ill. And therefore not knowing whether I potentially was terminally ill. And you are sitting there at Christmas, and it was possibly the loneliest time in my life I think. But there you go that’s life. That’s the chance you take isn’t it? And definitely unfortunately in 1991, that was a chance you took as a gay man for sure. I remember my publicist calling me to tell me that Freddie Mercury had died and that they wanted a quote from me. I remember I was trying to give her a quote, and I was crying. I mean … Bless him I was really sad that Freddie had passed away. But of course I was crying about something else entirely. What people obviously wouldn’t know about that particular performance is that Anselmo was in the crowd. At that stage and for many months I was sworn to secrecy by Anselmo and I went out there knowing I had to do two things. I had to honor Freddie Mercury. And I had to pray for Anselmo. So it was so much to me in that one performance. I’m so proud of the fact that I held on to that feeling because I just wanted to die inside. It was just overwhelming for me. And I think what that did was turn on one of the best performances of my career. There was one last moment where Freddie’s and Anselmo’s paths crossed. I was in LA. I was on the floor signing the artwork for Five Live (which was the charity record based on my performances from the tribute concert). When the phone rang and I was told Anselmo’s best friend in Brazil was on the phone… then it all goes blurry for a long time. The whole process of knowing and waiting and then grieving that was about four years. Interviewer - Was it possible to have happy times during that era? George Michael - Oh yeah. I tried to make that time for him happy. I think he was actually. Interviewer – I’m sure a lot of people would run away from that situation. George Michael - It wasn’t an option for me to run away. Even if I wanted to run away, I’m not the kind of person who can live with myself. I think to some degree the Sony court case was a perfectly good place to put my anger. This bloody six month case that went on, I used to go and run on the treadmill every day for an hour before I went to court. And run on the treadmill for an hour after I went to court. And play squash and do everything I could to get rid of this anger and fear. But the best place for it was court number one really. I would have never known if GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
Sony and I would have ended up in court had Anselmo not become ill. Boy George - Record companies are just glorified bank managers who wear jeans to work. And they lend you money. And the interest is ridiculous. And very often they do not live up to their promises. Sting - I think George is right to stand up for what he believed in. It’s tough when you are treated by a record company like a chattel. Something that they own. George Michael - Somehow what the world has decided was fair for actors back in the 50’s has never been applied to musicians. So even sportsman have gained their free agency and actors have gained their free agency, book writers have gained their free agency, artists have not. I wasn’t just justified in terms of me as an individual who signed a record contract at 18 that was completely ridiculous. I’ve been coerced into signing that. Mariah Carey - I think that what he was saying probably had a lot of validity to it. And I was kinda behind the scenes. And to me, he should have won. Shirlie Kemp - I remember seeing him on the news and it all looked so scary and I thought why is he putting himself through all that. George Michael - I remember sitting with my lawyer, Tony Russell, being told “what do you want to do? Basically … Are we going to go for it?” I remember looking my lawyer in the eye and thinking “you might as well what the fuck else are you going to do for the next couple of years other than be terrified?” David Austin - I think it was about 7 o’clock in the morning and the guy just sits down and says well “you’ve lost”. And it was like … that was it. George Michael - I do remember being absolutely gutted. Not that I had lost. But the record companies who absolutely were outside reasonable law, there was absolutely nothing that required them to pull their socks up in any way. I think that if artists from the early 90’s on really had been masters of their destiny there is a possibility that Pop Idol wouldn’t have ruined everything. Rob Stringer (Chairman, Sony Music/BMG) - Despite the fact we won the court case, we lost a fantastic artist. George Michael - Would I have been angry enough to take them on? I have a feeling the answer to that is probably no actually, if I am really honest. OLDER ERA George Michael - After that there was a kind of necessary hiatus because I had to get on with grieving. And I was kind in a of form of inertia where I wasn’t writing anything. And that went on for about the best part of two years. And then I came up with Jesus To A Child and I was so excited that I had finally been able to put my feelings for him into words. And you know the kind of catharsis of that record for me was massive. And within a week of writing it I was singing it front of the Brandenburg Gate with an orchestra behind me and paying my first public tribute to him there. GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
Andy Stephens - I can’t imagine what the Sony executives were thinking seated in the audience in Berlin. I don’t believe there was anyone in the audience who saw it and said it’s over. I mean it was obviously he was back on form. George Michael - I think from then on, I was recovering and I started to recording Older. It was a long process. Probably because I was so stoned (laughs) David Austin - Jesus To A Child went to #1. We went out for a big celebration at lunch. Andy, Dick, the whole team. And he put a little walkman across the table and said “have a listen to this.” And he played “You Have Been Loved”, and I just could not believe. I could not believe what the man had done with that. Andy Stephens - The album didn’t come out for a good year later. But with Fastlove coming from that it just exploded the Older album for us. George Michael – As far as I’m concerned the album is great so it’s a great advert for grass (laughs). The kind of optimism that I showed on Older, I took my first experience of bereavement and tried to take all the best, most positive lessons from it, you know. I can’t think of an artist who has sold as well outside America that lost their American audience. And I always thought it was weird the way journalists never picked up on that. Because there was some really dodgy stuff going on. I’m not going to name names. But I definitely think there were people actively trying to let the American business know that if you took on the standard contract and try to get the industry to pay artists properly you’re likely to be blacklisted. And sure enough I disappeared. I didn’t disappear in the rest of the world. I did extremely well in the rest of the world. Older sold something close to 8 or 9 million records. It really doesn’t matter why it happened. The truth of the matter is that I couldn’t have handled America in the 90’s on top of everything else hammering my life. Definitely past the 2nd half of making that record I was definitely a happy man again. Kenny Goss - The way we actually met was at this really famous spa, it’s not gay or anything. George Michael - Our relationship was kind of chat, plucking up the courage to ask him to go out for dinner with me. Kenny Goss - I wasn’t sure it was him. I didn’t grow up in a musical family. George Michael – No I don’t believe that for a second (laughs). I believed him at the time, but I know him now. Kenny Goss - He actually asked me out. He said we should go out for a meal. I was like yeah, yeah. George Michael - I wasn’t sure if he was gay. And I wasn’t sure if he was gay on the first dinner date. Kenny Goss - I think he thought I was picking up this straight guy, which he wasn’t. George Michael - The second night I became very sure he was gay. From that point on … from the 3rd day he was around me, I just felt that my life was about to change drastically again.
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Kenny Goss - Everyone knew. We would go out to restaurants and hold hands. I just think he had went on a television show and said “I’m a gay man.” George Michael - I remember the Unplugged really really vividly. I just lost myself in singing that night. And I’m so glad… I’m so glad that my mum was there. And I’m so glad that for the first time ever, and definitely the only time ever on film, I actually said hello to my mum in the audience. And it was the last time she ever saw me play. So I have great affection for that evening because I knew she was so proud of me. Elton John - His mother, especially, was a huge blow… after Anselmo. I mean like a double whammie. So George spent a lot of time grieving people that he really, really loved. Kenny Goss - I think it was … I remember we’d met like a week. I think he was speaking to his mother telling her that he had met me. And she told him that she found like a lump or something. She kinda downplayed it. Jack Panayiotou - She had a little spot on her shoulder. And you know you don’t look at these things… George Michael - In a way if your glass is half empty you could say oh my God you didn’t get any time off, the minute you are in love again something disastrous happens. But the way I look at it is that I feel as though Anselmo sent me Kenny at the exact time that I would need him. Kenny Goss - He was so close to his mother. Really really tough call. And that kind of stopped his songwriting. All those things. That became non important at the time. David Austin - Yog has always been a man that bottles it up as well. It was devastating. George Michael - My mother had a melanoma apparently of the most virulent form. And I think in reality, she knew she had a far smaller chance of survival than she was letting on to us. David Austin - There was this period where I couldn’t say anything to him. I just didn’t know what to say. George Michael - Unfortunately it went into remission I guess for three or four months and then came back with a vengeance. Within in a week of that she was gone. I remember just being somewhere on some other planet for weeks. I don’t really remember the days afterwards. I don’t really remember who tried to comfort me. I was in shock. No, I wasn’t prepared … in short I was not prepared. Jack Panayiotou - He was not prepared to get over her. It was very tough for all of us. George Michael - My mum never ever patronized me and always believed in what I was doing. And believed in my right to do what I was doing. And I miss that so much. I miss that incredibly. Let me think… I suppose that they left me alone for a while because I was nowhere. I was stuck at home in my black hole. I was nowhere to be seen. So they kinda left me alone for a while. And of course the next thing was… George Michael - This is the notorious Park… Kenny Goss - It’s very pretty! GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
George Michael - You know the really weird thing, that day I remember so clearly. Being in the car and it was really windy. And there were these two guys that I think were also part of the kind of the entrapment setup that were going in and out of that bathroom. And something in me said, “you shouldn’t go in there. There is something really dodgy going on.” But I went. DoyouknowwhatImean? What were you thinking? That is what everyone was wanting to know. What were you thinking? Would of there ever been a day where I sat and talk to someone and say “Yes Mr such-and-such from the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday maybe…”I am gay” …would I have been able to do that? That probably would have been harder than all the flack I took. Elton John - To come out of the closet and be busted in the toilet is not the best way of coming out of the closet really. But he coped with it really well. George Michael – It’s nice to make people laugh every once in a while isn’t it? Boy George - I did laugh. It’s not very dignified to be caught in the toilet with your trousers down isn’t it by a policeman. And it’s certainly not something I would do. And it would never happen to me. Geri Halliwell - You know when I heard George and his side of it, I really fell for him in a way. We are all human. George Michael - I also knew that having made such a fool of myself, I really better come up with a hit song. Boy George - You know I wouldn’t be all self-righteous about it. I got to go make a video about it! Martin Kemp - I think he handled it in exactly the right way. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - I don’t think he would have realized that Americans would not support a video about a chorus line of American police officers in a toilet. Shirlie Kemp - Helicopters flying over the house and I just think oh my God. How embarrassing. Pepsi Demacque - I just thought you silly fool. How could you have got caught? George Michael - Looking back on that period, the media did such interesting things. First there was this absolute dependence on the past in terms of what was going to happen to me inside as an individual. The headlines were just all about shame this and shame that. You know the tortured artist … and this, and that … the homophobia was just flying. They were loving it. To be able to say that this man who had hidden from them for the best part of six years by then or seven years, the idea that he had been this tragic old fashioned, stereotypical cottager … they just loved it. David Austin - I knew he would fly through that. I knew him so well. And he handled that like George Michael. Andy Stephens - The paparazzi flying ‘round in helicopters around the house and about 10 people at the gate and he said “We are going to dinner.” And we are like “What? Are you nuts?” “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, c’mon lets go.”
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George Michael - I never thought it would destroy my career. I never did. Andy Stephens - I don’t think I will ever forget. Sitting in the back of the car going 90mph to Spago and being chased by motorbikes, cars jumping lights … everything. Just to get to the restaurant before we did to make sure they had photographs of him getting out of the car before going in. ‘Cause this was a moment they had to get. It’s manic. George Michael - I’m not presuming that cruising in itself is dysfunctional ‘cause I don’t think it is as a gay man. But cruising as “George Michael” there is something vaguely dysfunctional about that. (laughs) Then I suppose that I spoiled all their fun because I made the record and I made the video … then kind of cleaned up anything that was left with the Parkinson interview… That interview with Parkinson was no question. I told the truth and showed more of my own personality than I ever had the courage to show before. And yeah it sold two million records. And I suppose from that moment until the release of Patience… the press felt that they have not had their “pound of flesh”. SONGS FROM THE LAST CENTURY ERA Phil Ramone - I heard that one when people said “he did the cover record to cover up a period in his writing or whatever?”. George Michael - From my fans point of view, I was thinking, ”God help them they are going to have to wait again because I just can’t come up with anything”. Phil Ramone - I think when you work with anybody who has any kind of tragic news, the loss of his mother… all of the parts of what you do to come through in the studio are what writers do. George Michael - I honestly wanted to stay afloat personally by having something to do. Which mean learning, progress, working with Phil Ramone, singing songs that would stretch my voice… I was offered the opportunity in the year before to take those standards and do a big New Year’s Eve show. Which would have sold the album through the roof no question. But for someone in my position, I just felt ‘no I’m just going to look like an old crooner’. It would of kind of given me … I’m sorry I would have felt like Rod Stewart. “Well I’ll do a little bit of this now.” They had to go along with it at the time, everybody laughed and basically ‘Good old George and now you are out, isn’t it wonderful …bla, bla, blah, blah…we are so accepting’ …but privately, these people who make it their life’s work to upset people who they feel are too privileged, were like “Fuck, what is going to stick to this kid?” And then of course I said “ why don’t you try this”. PATIENCE ERA Elton John - He took a lot of flack at that time. And people said “Oh bloody pop stars, keep them quiet.” Politicians these days cannot be trusted. Cannot be trusted. Cannot be trusted. George Michael - There is something that I now understand. I think I was suffering to a degree from that kind of syndrome, which apparently happens to people when they go through things traumatic like bereavement. My fear of what the next blow in life may be, attached itself I think to my fears about the world in general. Which were not new. But obviously were been very much heightened by the arrival of George Bush. GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
Martin Kemp - For me it was a fantastic record. I love the track. I hated the video. Simon Cowell - I don’t think someone like George should necessary be making political records. He obviously was going to offend Americans when Americans made him a lot of money. I mean that was a brave thing to do. And I thought a stupid thing to do. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - Politically he can be a bit naïve. But that doesn’t meant he shouldn't have done those things. Noel Gallagher - This is the guy that hid who he actually was from the public for 20 years and now all a sudden he has something to say about the way of the world? I find it fucking laughable. Simon Cowell - He is going to have to eat a lot of humble pie. And so he should. Elton John - They are being told now, the American are being told now that there were no weapons of mass destructions. The information we had was wrong. But George said that 18 months ago. George Michael - To be a part, even a small part, of people’s final realization that Tony Blair is a great orator with something else entirely going on up here (points to head) to what is coming out of there (his mouth). To be part of that enlightenment, I would say I’m proud of. But my God, I’m despondent about whether it’s going to make a difference. So for the moment I just stop watching the news. Pepsi DeMacque - George is in the position to use his credibility to voice his opinions. And his opinions are those of many other people. Not everybody’s. Andy Stephens - After Shoot The Dog and the kicking that he had in media terms he was very very down. George Michael - Basically, Murdoch was getting his way. That was massively depressing to me. David Austin - He was very upset of the way he was slapped over the back of the legs for that. They just took him and gave him a public slapping didn’t they? George Michael - Ok. I got a kicking from Rupert Murdoch. I got a bunch of homophobia that has been reserved for me since the days that as far as I’m concerned I escaped the clutches of the press in LA. And it floored me. It was ironic, but the thing that floored me for the first time ever really, in terms of the press, had nothing to do with my private life. Andy Stephens - At that time I think I and others close to him felt this could really be all over. He bounced back, but it was close. It was very close. George Michael - I spent a lot of time in the last four years trying to work. Really trying to work. Going to the studio, day after day, after day… Pretending that it’s not breaking my heart. I’m so much more aware of how intrinsic to my entire being is to be able to create music. Having lost it for 3 or 4 years of my life … I really did I lost the music … the center in me. Which was like losing God for me. It really was. It was the darkest, darkest time. I GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
can’t think of any better way putting it, I just feel like God gave me my ball back. Whoever my God is, just said “whatever these lessons you are supposed to translate in your music, whatever the painful lessons are, they are over for a while at least.” Andrew Ridgeley - If Wham was still around today, that’s what I’ll like them to be doing. George Michael – Exactly yeah. Andrew Ridgeley - But I think it is much more than that. I think it is a song that is quite euphoric. But it is also tinned with… George Michael - (interrupts) Bumming… Andrew Ridgeley - piece of … sorry (as George interrupted him) George Michael - Laughing… Andrew Ridgeley - Bumming? George Michael - I came back up to London, and moved into the house where I’d had written the first 3 solo albums. It was the house incidentally that my mother cleaned every week. And it’s the house I most associate with her (in my adult life anyway). I got back in there and started to write. It’s been like pulling teeth actually, some of the promotion that I did in Europe. Which I haven’t done for over the best part of 20 years I think in some of those countries. Some of it was beyond belief. It was so soul destroying. But I know the way it works now. You can’t rely on the quality of your music at all to sell what you do. You have to give a piece of music a certain amount of television coverage or you won’t sell records. Andy Stephens - George has always taken a slightly and almost entirely different point of view of “less is more and even less is even more.” I’m sure George wasn’t comfortable doing it, but it worked. My God it worked. George Michael - So I’m trying to tread the thin line between adapting to the modern world of media and compromising myself. The general lack of compassion and humanity on television terrifies me in the way that tabloid sensationalism used to terrify me. But at the same time you know it won’t kill me. Andy Stephens - He hates cameras. Period. Phil Ramone – I don’t think he feels he is attractive enough to be camera shy or camera ready. I think that is very much a part of him. Somebody who doesn’t get in into his own videos tells you something. George Michael - Funnily enough, just in the last year, I’m starting to become comfortable with the way I look. Which is really a fucking, it’s disastrous really. What’s the point in discovering you look ok when you are 41? (Laughs) DoyouknowwhatImean? Pepsi DeMacque - If he needs it, he will do it. If not why do it? i.e. feeding the press to be in the press.
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Shirlie Kemp - I think Posh Spice keeps them busy. George Michael - I send a check to Robbie Williams like once a month and say “Keep up the good work. Keep them off my back.” He needs to start sleeping with men. (laughs) God knows he might have done it already. I have no idea. But you know that would really help me out. (laughs) I know this will sound arrogant. But I know when I’m good. DoyouknowwhatImean? I know (laughs) And I know when I’m not which is why everything took so long. Andy Stephens - He is extremely demanding; of himself, as much as anybody else. But as trying and expensive it can be, going over and over, over and over things, he ends up getting it right. At the end of the day you can’t knock him for that. George Michael - Whatever the record sells, I honestly believe that I didn’t let myself down. And I didn’t let the people who were waiting for me down. And that really was the point of all my anxiety in the recording studio over the last 4 or 5 years. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - I think the album is exceptional. It wasn’t until Track 10, that I found my attention wavering, for a bridge, haven’t heard a single, bad thing about it. Certainly as good as everything he has done since Faith. I mean this is the best record since Faith. Andrew Ridgeley - Do I think perhaps I missed out in not pursuing music as a lifelong career. May have… but George Michael - Well, put it this way I know who’s life I would have rather have led. I think anybody would… Andrew Ridgeley – Yeah but, on balance… George Michael - Yeah, I’m very blessed in different ways. But ultimately I think you’ve really, touch wood and thank God, you’ve had a really good life. Andrew Ridgeley - And I’m only 57… George Michael - Laughing… Boy George - The difference with me and the other George is that I do have the ability to laugh at myself. And I don’t think he has much of a sense of humor. Elton John - I just think that George doesn’t like George because George doesn’t have George Michael’s talent. David Austin - Yes, he has a very good sense of humor. Yeah he can be a very nasty man too, yes (laughs) Pepsi DeMacque - To have come out with this album is a sign that he is happy. I think he must be much happier now. The next 20 years, and I speak for both of us, (Shirlie beside her), we just want him to be happy. Martin Kemp - Yes I think he is happier than I’ve seen him in a long time. I think Kenny has a lot to do with that. Elton John - You have to have someone who grounds you if you are in this business. David does that for me and GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
I’m sure Kenny does that for George. Kenny Goss - Not that we don’t fight sometimes. George is one of the most direct people I’ve ever dealt with. George Michael - I’m fully aware that the 2nd half of a gay man’s life there are serious disadvantages to it because you don’t have that family situation, that feeling of cycle go through your life. You don’t get to be around grandchildren … I’m not going to get the joy of children. That’s always going to be a mystery to me. But I’m certainly going to enjoy myself in every other way possible. David Austin - He’s a different person than the person that he was 3, 4 years ago, totally. George Michael – It’s very easy to get what you want as a gay man in 2004, especially if you are me (laugh). David Austin - I arrived at his apartment one evening, around 11pm and he was sitting around with his pajamas, his hair in 15 directions, he had a spl…. cigarette going, tub of Hagen Daz, and he is sitting there watching Sky. He would have never done that. He is a lot cooler about it all. Elton John - He is obviously a lot more comfortable writing and singing in the studio than he is live. But he has got to get over that. And that is my message to him: Get over it, get out there. Mariah Carey - I was a broke, struggling teenager in New York. And I wanted to go see his show so bad. But obviously that wasn’t in the cards for me. So hopefully you know one day. Shirlie Kemp - One of the greatest male singers in the world. Without a doubt he is one of the greatest singers. The sad thing is even though he is one of the greatest singers, no one is really hearing him sing live. Rob Stringer (Chairman, Sony Music/BMG) - We would love for him to tour. But that is completely out of our hands. George Michael - Touring was always a matter of me being paranoid about my throat wasn’t it? But you (Andrew) could always go out and have a bit of a good laugh. Maybe your fingers were a bit more tired the next day. Andrew Ridgeley - I used to have to put them in ice… Pepsi DeMacque - He is never like leaving home. Shirlie Kemp - Must be something good here. Eastenders. David Austin - Sometimes he is bloody sad. I’ve been there I’m like, are we going out? Oh tonight I think we’ll eat local. And that means me going around to get a pizza. Elton John - Nothing like a bit of success to get you out of the house. Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster) - I wished he would do a few gigs. After all fans are not just there to buy your records and to love you. GEORGE MICHÆL INFONET
George Michael - If I loved adulation I would tour. Because touring, believe me, is the most ego stroking thing you could ever do in your life. You live in a complete isolated place. That’s so not me. I’m not pretending that I will not ever be “George Michael”. I know I’ll be famous. But there are levels, I know that already. Because I’ve already stepped down one. And if I can take another step down and still make music for people who want it, that would be fantastic. Jack Panayiotou - They don’t grow on trees. That sort of boy doesn’t grow on trees. And it’s thanks to his mum. George Michael - I would like to play you a new song … it’s called … Imagine That!
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