Comment

Bye, George. SDE reflects on the career and achievements of George Michael

gm_waiting

In a year of high profile deaths, there is something about George Michael‘s passing on Christmas Day that was just incredibly sad.

I heard – almost inevitably – via the internet. I received an alert from the BBC News app on my phone that read “Singer George Michael dies at 53, publicist says.” Almost at the same time, my sister sent a text with the news.

What other choice do the headline writers have? “George Michael dies” is about as succinct as it gets, but the sheer shock of reading that raw headline – with no context – was like a punch in the gut. What!? How? Why? They say that when you die your life flashes in front of your eyes, but I swear in the fraction of a second while I was trying to compute this information, my life listening to George’s songs whizzed through my brain like a Hollywood movie trailer on fast-forward; buying the singles, watching Top Of The Pops, slow dancing at the school disco to Careless Whisper, creating ‘mixtapes’ of his best songs…

I don’t know whether the fact that we’d already lost David Bowie and Prince in 2016 (among others) made the news worse, but mixed in with the anguish of the death of one man was a sense of ‘WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON!?’ Really. I’ve read lots of articles about how it only seems like we’ve lost more talented people from the world of the arts than normal, and that actually, when spread over a 12-month period, what has happened this year is about ‘average’. Tell that to people who grew up listening to Bowie, Prince and George Michael.

You can’t compare the three artists, but there was certainly an otherworldliness and distance to Prince – who lived in that glossy and mysterious Paisley Park complex – that didn’t exist with George. He seemed a bit more like one of us; the boy from Bushey (in Hertfordshire), who actually DID what we dreamed of – escaped the shackles of teenager insecurity and self consciousness and became a fabulous pop star. Also, while all three died far too young, Bowie and Prince made so much more music. In the 35 years that George was a recording artist, he released just six albums of original songs (two Wham! and four solo albums). David Bowie made over 20 albums in the same timespan (1967-2002) and in reality much more, with the likes of Tin Machine, soundtracks and collaborations. Prince made over 30 albums in the same three-and-a-half decades.

So while I was devastated when Bowie died, he was so prolific – creating amazing music and art, virtually to his dying day – that once the initial shock had passed, you could only stand back in wonder and admiration and his achievements. George’s accomplishments were significant as a vocalist and songwriter, and as a ‘UK export’ – with such amazing success in America and beyond – but there is undoubtedly a sense of what could have been and ‘what went wrong?’. Why did this man with his god-given gifts only produce one album in the last 20 years of his life? I should acknowledge that there is a selfishness at play here. We wanted more albums like Make It Big, Listen Without Prejudice and Older? but George wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) play ball.

It’s hard to overstate just how big Wham! and George Michael were in 1984. Everyone seemed to love Wham! Mums, dads, brothers, sisters, and friends alike. It was hardly a surprise when George effortlessly became a successful solo artist later in the decade. My best friend at school’s mum used to play the tape of Make It Big in her red Peugeot 205 GTI, when giving us a lift somewhere (we were both 14 or 15 at this point). It doesn’t get more ‘eighties’ than that!

For someone so capable of writing such great pop songs, I have never really understood why George wrote so few of them. Wham! released 11 singles in the UK and there was only one B-side – Blue (Armed with Love), from Club Tropicana. Why? The Pet Shop Boys had a 100 percent record in this regard, delivering 11 brand new studio tracks on the flip-side of their first 11 singles. I mean, did George not enjoy writing songs? Was what seemed effortless to us actually a chore? He certainly always seemed more comfortable interpreting other people’s compositions, and took the opportunity to do that with his 1991 Cover to Cover tour, his 1999 album Songs Of The Last Century and Symphonica, from 2014.

So George didn’t really deliver much value with his singles and in actual fact there weren’t that many remixes in the latter Wham! era, either. But there were the celebrated multiple formats, thanks to the music marketeers of the 1980s. I wrote on twitter the other day that it’s funny how a little physical item can mean so much, but my cassette single of I’m Your Man, which was a ‘limited edition’ at the time, is a treasured possession.

gm_cs
Some of SDE’s Wham!/GM cassette single collection!

Cassette singles were great. I didn’t have a turntable at that time, so they were my thing. Sometimes they’d mirror the 12-inch vinyl, but often there would be something quirky about them. Nothing was exclusive, but the UK tape version of I’m Your Man had a unique selection: the ‘extended stimulation’ remix, the Acappella version and the standard seven-inch mix. The 12-inch vinyl replaced the seven-inch version with the Do It Right instrumental, so if you bought that, you didn’t have the single mix from the radio. The 12-inch vinyl buyer’s loss was the cassette single fan’s gain!  I was pleased about the inclusion of the seven-inch mix, since one of the best bits in the song is the break where George sings “So why waste time, with other guys / when you can have mine, I ain’t asking for no sacrifice / baby our friends do not need to know / I’ve got a real nice place to go…” The 12-inch remix replaces this with those silly voices and talk of ‘magic cars’ which I do like, but I always found that missing break to be a bit annoying. Incidentally, in later years I discovered that the Music From The Edge Of Heaven version of I’m Your Man gives you the best of both worlds – a remix structure but without the ‘silly’ bit in the middle.

There was no cassette single for Wham!’s last single The Edge Of Heaven which I remember finding quite annoying at the time, especially since it was a four-track EP and so lent itself so well to the format. Epic made up for that by issuing George’s first single off FaithI Want Your Sex – on cassette and CD single. Like the 12-inch, the cassette had the three-part ‘Monogamy Mix’ and Hard Day. The CD omitted Hard Day. Disappointingly, all four of these tracks ended up on the cassette and CD of Faith, although I think this 13-minute mix with all three versions in a row is still unique to these formats. Certainly, not putting that mix on the 2011 Faith reissue was a bit of a missed opportunity.

There were six singles from Faith but again, no new material, just instrumentals and remixes. But let’s stop and reflect on the scale of the achievement. Of the sixteen original George Michael songs on Make It Big and Faith, eight of them were number ones either in the UK or America (or both). I can’t think of any other artist where HALF of their entire original output across two consecutive albums were number one singles in America and/or the UK. Truly amazing.

'Of the 16 original songs on Make It Big & Faith, 8 of them were #1 in either in the UK or USA' - @sdedition remembers @GeorgeMichael

You could forgive George for not having much motivation post-Faith, because in commercial terms he had nothing left to achieve, but up until this point all his songs had, to paraphrase something he’d say in interviews later on, ‘gone for the jugular’ in terms of hooks, lyrics and commercial appeal. In other words Make It Big and Faith both played like a greatest hits. George was still motivated at this point because he wanted to make an album that didn’t didn’t sound like a compilation of singles. He was looking to create a ‘classic’ long-player, that dispensed with gimmicks, removed the image of ‘George Michael’ from the centre of the stage and let the music speak for itself – a more reflective and intimate record, less anchored to the styles and sounds of the 1980s. 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice was that album and is arguably his best work, with songs like Waiting For That Day, Cowboys and Angels, Heal The Pain and Freedom ’90. I have a soft spot for this album, since it was one of the first CDs I ever owned, when I had a collection of about ten in my bedsit in Earl’s Court in 1991 (even though I was skint, I used some Christmas money and invested in a NAD CD player!). The singles from Listen Without Prejudice still delivered a rare B-side (Fantasy, one of George’s best) and a great ‘Back To Reality’ remix of Freedom ’90. That aside, the various releases offered little.

The problem here was that George seemed to want his cake and to eat it too. He didn’t want to make videos anymore, or if he did, he didn’t want to be in them (Praying For TimeFreedom ’90). That’s fine, but the inevitable consequence was that the singles didn’t do as well as the Faith singles, on both sides of the Atlantic. There were accusations that Sony didn’t promote the album properly in America, where it didn’t come anywhere close to replicating the success of his first solo album. The infamous court case followed, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 2 was scrapped, and looking back, you’d have to say that damage caused at this point in time was largely self-inflicted. The art spoke for itself, and even though his second album had sold a more than respectable five or six million copies around the world (at that point in time), that wasn’t good enough for George, it seems. He was still selling millions of albums, still massive in the UK (where Listen Without Prejudice outsold Faith) and he had stepped off of the merry-go-round of US touring and promotion that he apparently hadn’t enjoyed with Faith.

Despite a fine third album, Older, issued in 1996, from what we subsequently learned, the 1990s seemed to be a rather unhappy time with George having to endure the court case, bereavements (his partner Anselmo Feleppa in 1993 and his mother in 1997) and to deal with the tabloid frenzy when he was ‘outed’ in American in 1998. He dealt with the latter very well and George was now living his life as an openly gay man and ended the decade with the big-selling Ladies and Gentlemen greatest hits set and the aforementioned Songs Of The Last Century.

In the new millennium, George Michael only released the one studio album of original material (2004’s Patience). After that he just put out a few seemingly random singles such as December Song (2009), a bizarre take on New Order’s True Faith (2011) and White Light (2012). White Light – his last physical single – contains the now poignant lines “And I’ve got so much more that I want to do with the music”.

But George could no longer get a break. After five or six years of headlines about car crashes and drug usage and the ignominy of serving four weeks in prison at the end of 2010, the tabloids would take any opportunity to stick the knife in. George was widely criticised for having the audacity to sing White Light at the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games. This seemed a little unfair considering that this was a man who had not performed any of his own songs at Live Aid and the Nelson Mandela Birthday Tribute concert in 1988, while the likes of Queen rejuvenated their career at the former!

In the UK, at least, George had become a bit of a joke and he knew it. He was self-deprecating enough to take part in the ‘Smithy’ sketch on 2011’s Comic Relief (James Corden would develop this into his now famous ‘Carpool Caraoke’) and even though it’s very funny (“I can’t walk into Comic Relief with you. Comic Relief is about helping people like you!”), I remember at the time wondering how wise it was to do that.

Even when George got himself  together and went out on the road with his well-regarded Symphonica tour, things ended badly when he came down with acute pneumonia on tour in Austria back in 2011.

Despite all the headlines, the tabloids rubbing their hands together at every mishap, and an apparent lack of motivation on the part of George himself, there was always the chance that he could get back to creating great music. Make some albums. Paul Simon is 75 and has released three great records in the last ten years, particularly 2016’s Stranger to Stranger. For George Michael to leave us at just 53 – dying alone on Christmas Day – is beyond sad. It’s a tragic loss, because he surely had more great music in him. It’s a cliche, but those fantastic songs and albums really were the soundtrack to our lives and you wonder if we’ll ever be able to listen to them in the same way ever again.

You might also like…

73 responses to Bye, George. SDE reflects on the career and achievements of George Michael

  1. HS says:

    A very good article – thank you Paul. No matter what anyone says – the year that took away Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michael (among others!) will go down in the history books as one of the most tragic years ever in terms of losing celebrated talents, many of whom really were way to young to go so soon.

  2. Willy says:

    Beautifully written.

  3. Yani P says:

    He did a sketch in Extras as well didn’t he. Thought it was great at the time that he was not taking himself at all seriously.

  4. Lee Anderson says:

    Applause and thank you for a beautiful piece respecting an incredible man.

  5. vikerii says:

    The loss of life from these legendary artists is terrible enough. Time can help heal some of that, as it usually does, but the lack of new music from these talented people will hurt. At least with Prince, we have the consoling thought of many years of vault releases to come. With George, I don’t know if we have any new/unreleased music to look forward to.

  6. James Lindsay says:

    Ah that was nice that Paul, that was nice

  7. Ben Williams says:

    I believe the White Light single (which I actually loved back in 2012) was supposed to be part of a new album but was shelved for Symphonica. I love Symphonica but I wished he’d have created an album of original songs also. Perhaps what he did record will surface now.

    I remember back in 2012 when Elton John was promoting Good Morning To The Night him mentioning that George had recorded some new songs and that they were “fantastic”. Hope they come out at some point, like Warner/NPG have promised with Prince’s stuff.

    We have the complete MTV show to look forward to on LWP reissue in March.

  8. Robert says:

    George’s musical output almost mirrors Whitney Houston’s. It tended to come to a slow drip near the end. I believe that some very talented people soon realize the roller coaster of fame & fortune just isn’t all that much fun, after all.

  9. Andrew Mogford says:

    I must say (and don’t take this the wrong way, Paul – you know the respect I have for you) I do find that comment about Queen a little snide. Perhaps you could have mentioned their wonderful collaboration at the tribute concert as a balance?

    But – even if I am personally a little miffed at a throw away part of the article, it is still an incredibly well written, moving article and even though I didn’t particularly like the man or his output, as I have said elsewhere, some of the things I have read about him since he died has made me re-evaluate what I thought I knew about him and thus I read this article with interest.

    It is a waste that so much talent was never really given a proper outlet – and it is a shame that he is gone regardless of my personal music taste. And my sympathy to his family and to the fans like yourself who have been badly affected.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That comment wasn’t meant as a swipe at Queen (who I like), more the inconsistency of commentators/critics. Queen didn’t do anything wrong that day, and neither did George in 2012. Thanks for kind words…

  10. bob says:

    That was a really great read Paul, and echoes my thoughts on George’s career exactly.
    I feel so very sad about George dying and much of that sadness stems from the inevitablity of it. A week before Christmas I was having dinner with friends and we were discussing the many recent deaths of favourite artists. I actually did say that the saddest one for me will be when we hear that George has died, that huge talent just wasting away. It became clear over the past year that George was really not going to come back to being a fully fledged artist again, for whatever reason he just couldn’t get himself together, as often happens with people with addictions. Despite this I just hoped that he would release one last album, there must surely be enough tracks recorded over the past 10 years to put an album together I thought. Alas it was not to be.
    Interestingly, a top bod from George’s label said in an interview a couple of years ago that he had heard some of George’s completed tracks. He said he is well versed with George’s back catalogue and some of these songs are up there with his very best.
    Let’s hope that one day we get to hear them.

  11. Vishal Mohanty says:

    Thanks Paul for sharing what we all are feeling as well. This song started playing in my head while reading it “you can’t always get what you want…”. Thanks for the memories George Michael! RIP!

  12. Jules says:

    Paul,

    Orson Welles once said words to the effect that he had started at the top (with Citizen Kane) & worked his way down. I guess there are no simple answers as to why the creative output of exceptional artists can seem to dry up.

    In a way the brilliant start of George Michael’s pop life can seem more akin to a Nick Drake or a Syd Barrett; supremely gifted artists who have their creative output stymied by personal problems. These two of course were more left field and their music became far more treasured, in Drake’s case after his early death, & subsequent recommendations by critics & popular musicians like Peter Buck of REM etc & similarly with Barrett, in his case, after his withdrawal from the music world, but both long after the release of their genius but minimal recorded legacy. I also think of Jeff Buckley’s shocking accidental early death.

    George Michael’s music was of course massively popular, but from what producer Narada Michael Walden said on radio five the other night, it sounded as though he was meticulous with take after take etc.

    Being huge is one thing of course, but artists are often their own harshest critics and the need to be ‘taken seriously’ can play havoc with the mind. I remember him talking passionately about the none more deadly serious music of Joy Division around the time of their box set ‘Heart & Soul’.

    With the ‘Listen…’ lp he kind of achieved the serious bit but, like you say, maybe writing effortless sounding perfect pop music might have been a struggle for a perfectionist. Also when your emotional life hits some serious turbulence the ways you might try to cope can compromise your creativity & your health

    Anyway I’m only musing over complex questions without simple answers.

    p.s. The 80s and cassette singles eh ? Have a fair few myself – particularly keen on my ‘Peter
    Gabriels’…..

    Best, Jules

  13. Stefano says:

    Great essay Paul. He will be missed for shure.
    The full Monogamy Mix of ‘I Want Your Sex’ is to be found in remastered form on so80s volume 8.

  14. Vicki says:

    Great piece. I too learnt of his death via that one line BBC news alert on my phone and was shattered by the news. In fact the death of one of my all time favourites is still casting a shadow over every day.

    I was sad about Bowie, still cut up about Prince (dying alone in his lift was such a sad, sorry end for one of the greatest talents the world has ever known) but despite it sounding horribly tabloidy there is a genuine sense of tragedy about George’s passing. All that wasted time and talent, the feeling that he’d never really found a fraction of the happiness in his life that he’d given to the likes of me through his music, and the thought of someone so young and so loved dying alone in his bed on Christmas Day.

    I think for me this feel so personal because although I’m too young to have really witnessed his heyday (I do treasure the 7″ of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go given to me by my Mum as a child of 2!) his music has meant so much over the past 15 years. While other performers hide behind personas and generalities (if only to protect their own sanity) the trio of LWP, Older and Patience are so nakedly personal that you do feel you ‘know’ him. They contain some of the best evocations of grief and depression I’ve ever heard, as well as, of course, their moments of joy.

    I was lucky enough to see him live three times in the last decade and it’s hard to believe that truly golden voice, like warm honey, has been silenced forever. It’s been frustrating waiting for new original material for 12 years since Patience (except for the sometimes patchy exceptions you mentioned). Who knows what held that back? Confidence issues, perfectionism, writer’s block, depression, drugs? Maybe all of them, and maybe those four original solo albums would have felt watered down if surrounded by a more prolific output. We can only speculate after a year that felt like the end of an era.

  15. James says:

    Very nice Paul, thank you. Not much more I can say other than I look forward to the documentary and the Listen Without Prejudice reissue.

  16. Alan says:

    Yes, the good old BBC News alert. Then it seems like ages before it appears in the BBC News app proper, and even then only as a breaking news story with few details.

    But somehow I wasn’t that surprised. After Whitney Houston and Amy Whitehouse, he was the artist I most expected to die next. I just didn’t feel he would ever get his act together, or if he did, the long-term damage to his body was just too great.

    It is very sad but it does seem like he was never happy. He seemed to take everything too seriously. OK, so with Outside he allowed himself some fun, but eight years later he was still trying to convince us (and perhaps more himself) with An Easier Affair. He should have moved on by then but it seems like he never did. He even tried to say that Shoot The Dog wasn’t taken seriously because he was gay. Seriously??

    Took Sony to court and said he’d never record for them again, and yet he did just that with Patience. And as you say, it was self-inflicted. He chose not to promote his album the way he was expected to – good on him for that – but don’t blame the record company. And if you want us to believe they really were at fault, don’t go back to them!

    He did make great music though, and that’s all left behind for us.

  17. PDS says:

    Very well put together piece from someone who knows their stuff. My opinion of George only went up after having seen the Comic Relief sketch – there are not many who can laugh at themselves.

  18. Marc Hocker says:

    Well written article Paul. Incidentally the extended stimulation mix of Im Your Man was released in 2010 on the 3 CD Australian Tour edtion of the Twenty Five album.

  19. Jon K says:

    Very thoughtful and eloquent piece of writing. As you say, there was something particularly sad and shocking about that news coming through at the end of a day when his best-known song had probably been played in millions of homes around the world. It’s also extraordinary that of the five really huge, multi-million selling global megastars of the 80s – Jackson, Madonna, Whitney, Prince and GM – only Madonna has reached 60. There must be a conclusion to reach there about the nature of fame, but I’m not sure what it is.

  20. Derek says:

    Well written

    I remember Wham’s first TOTP in 1982 (it was shown again just before Xmas) and rediscovering his music in the mid 90’s when someone played me Cowboys and Angels.

    Was lucky enough to see him live a few times, I still remember dashing down to Earl’s Court in 2008 after picking up front row centre ticket the afternoon of the first show there- it was a fantastic concert. And again when I saw him at the NEC in 2012. I hoped he would tour again at some point

  21. baward says:

    Shameful that, within a week of George’s death, some fake photos of him a few weeks ago have been making the rounds. George Michael, one of the great singer-songwriters.

    • bob says:

      What fake photos are these?
      I have been following all of the news stories regarding George’s death and I haven’t seen them.

      • Alan says:

        I’m assuming the ones of him looking a bit bloated, that have appeared in the UK tabloids? I wasn’t aware they were fake though.

  22. Daran says:

    Quality over quantity. Less is more. Some artists create more for sure, but how many maintain their highest quality over the duration? Not many, and Prince is an example of that. A lot of his albums were interesting no doubt, but not great. George’s output is pretty much all of a fabulous high quality – song arrangements and production combined with the vocals and the words he sings. I am sad for his early death, the manner of his personal decline and his leaving this life alone at home when so many millions of fans around the world would have wished to be with him that fateful xmas day. But I am not sad at the lack of music he left us. Just greatful for that he did, and that he ever was amoung us for the world is a lesser place now in my eyes. Cheerio George.

  23. mike says:

    Truly great vocalist and songwriter. One thing that has largely puzzled me over the 25 and Symphonica projects was GMs focus on Patience and Songs for the Last Century, i am sure he felt those songs suited those projects but also wondered if he was trying to prove they were worthy – almost a deliberate ignoring of Faith, LWP and to a lesser extent, Older. Always felt the very patchy Patience was being given a longer shelf life?

  24. PAUL FRASER says:

    The video of George, Morrissey and Tony Blackburn on a review show was very interesting. As a Smiths fan I have to admit that George came across as the most discerning and honest critic. He created his image as much as Bowie or Prince (or a Morrissey) did, but he didn’t feel as comfortable playing a role. He was remarkably honest. And deep-felt. He had more depth than his contemporaries Simon Le Bon or Tony Hadley. And more talent. And more heart.

    As someone whose abiding memory of George Michael is hiding an uncomfortable erection slow-dancing to Careless Whisper at a school disco, I do believe time will unveil his genius and be kinder to his massive achievements than those of us who grew up with him as a mere pop soundtrack. He did do wonderful things for gay acceptance in the mainstream, and he did display a wicked sense of humour on many occasions, the video for Outside and the Comic Relief Smithy sketch being two of them.

    And he stood up to the industry. He truly did it his way. He did the job when he felt the need to do it, and he hid from the pain of success and attention when he could get away with it.

    We lost a good ‘un. To misquote him, if Trump and Farage are alive and well, then how come John and Elvis and George are dead?

    • CJ Feeney says:

      People don’t remeber Wham’s TOTP debut as much as they do Bowie or Culture Club (or the talking heads on BBC4 don’t at least), but it was a really well staged debut – a mini drama of the boys v. the girls (Pepsi and Shirley), and it was all the bands doing. George had a real grip on the image from day one.

      I find the deaths of George and Prince equally frustrating. They both seemed to lose confidence in their ability over the last 20 years – Prince recording song after song only to put them in the vault, or releasing albums that simply didn’t live up to his obvious talents. George simply not recording or releasing anything. One of the disadvantages of going to war with a record company is losing the talented and experienced people that can advise on what are the gems that deserve more work and what are the trash that can be set aside. Madonna has never had an issue with working with others to make the best of her taelnt, neither did Michael Jackson. I wish George and Prince had found people that motivated them to make the best of what they had.

  25. Mikael says:

    A sad year, to be sure.
    Listening to Lazarus as the anniversary nears, it’s strange to think it’s been almost a year, while it feels it was just yesterday.
    Nice words about George Michael, he deserves more credit than he seemed to get, he may not have have released as many records as many others, but as you know, it’s the quality, not the quantity, and you may want to check out on YouTube his version of Elton’s Ticking, as well as Bowie’s Fame.
    May they all rest in peace, all these musicians we lost this year.

  26. Hiram says:

    My two cents. As a cancerian he wants to do things his way and in his own time. It’s obvious he doesn’t want to be a pop star and wants to be seen as a serious artist. Not every music artist is blessed with an unbreaking spell of making music. Lucky for us some return but not everyone artist is that lucky. Fortunes and situations are at play so I think we should be grateful of what we have from George.

  27. adam shaw says:

    Very good piece Paul on George.
    Obviously one of your favourites , I’ve seen you write about him before and Wham .
    Back in the 80s I wasn’t a fan . I was into rock and pop but more into Frankie than Wham , I saw them as the girls darlings of the day but no hostility towards them .
    Then I was lucky enough to be a the benifit concert for Linda McCartney at the Albert Hall, near the front to the side , I watched George set up with 2 or 3 backing singers , a quick look at them and he was off into I think was Eleanor Rigby and another song , his voice was amazing and me and my wife sat there blown away . It was one of the best performances of the night .
    After seeing that I always had a deep respect for George.
    A great loss

  28. Simon Taylor says:

    Very nice piece and fair too. For me I just wanted another quality album. Older is wonderful, its chilled, its dark, its deep, its beautiful and I cant yet bear to listen to those songs. I have managed Cowboys and Angels and Careless Whisper the other day but for the darker stuff it will take more time.

    I’ve long had my chilled George cd for the car and on my ipod. Perfect late night listening. Sadly nothing since Older really captured me. Patience I never truly liked although i will now revisit it. Symphonica i love, bought the vinyl.

    Its a very sad end and perhaps not really a shock when you think about it. Not sure what else to say. Just pleased to have the music he did release. Hope there is more to come in the archives and eventually, a nice double vinyl pressing of Older.

    R.I.P. George.

  29. AnthonyC says:

    Such a terrible sad loss.

    I’m shocked, gutted and deeply saddened.

    As a fan since 12, George in a way, was a distant family member.

    Life will be tough without him on this planet.

    :-(

  30. Paul English says:

    Fantastic tribute.

    Thank you, Paul.

  31. Eightiesaddict says:

    Like many of the 80′ s artists, George seemed to hold many of his (Wham!) early hits with disdain. He became way too serious for a man of his age.

    George seemed to become very addicted to drugs later in life. To me it sounds like he was trying to balance off the effects of mental illness and serious depression.

    I will always love his solo and Wham! stuff. A great big loss, that didn’t have to happen.

  32. Tim says:

    The remembrance is really not complete without touching on his comment about being a filthy f***er and if you have issues with that it’s your problem That’s empowering for everyone and while I was not a huge fan of his I will hear that quote in my head every time Mike Pence and his goons try to reshape the US to be like Margaret Atwood’s Gilead.

  33. gwynogue says:

    Thank you for this post, Paul S.

    George (and Andrew Ridgely, tbh) was my very first crush :) so I’ve always had a soft spot for him/Wham and his music! I was saddened by Bowie and Prince, but that crush meant George has saddened me the most. I haven’t been this upset since Whitney Houston (not crush-related).

    Sometimes a singer’s death can change the way you hear their songs – a line or lyric that passed you by before, now jumps out and slaps you across the face. (I know this is a George thread, but I want to talk about Whitney again for a minute.) One of her final songs “I Look To You” started as a song of inspiration about her love and faith of God. As a non-religious person, I found it all a bit cringey and cheesey. But since she died a few years later, I now hear the lyrics as a cry for help. It’s now a very sad song. And when you consider how she died, this lyric stings the most:
    – After losing my breath
    There’s no more fighting left
    Sinking to rise no more
    Searching for that open door –
    Suddenly a song that used to make me cringe, now makes me cry buckets.

  34. Foxy says:

    Thanks for that, Paul. I’m still in shock at George’s passing and that was comforting to read. George Michael’s life story reminds me how it sadly parallels another late great pop-artist, Harry Nilsson. Both died around the same age; both had a string of tremendous hits for the first half of their career then never charted again; both did top-notch orchestral cover albums. As has happened with Nilsson, I believe history will be particularly kind to George Michael.

  35. Henrik Kirkegaard says:

    Good words Paul

    I feel the same, these terrible words in the newspaper: David Bowie dead and so on. You read them over and over again.

    This christmas with George Michael was awful.

    2016 was a bad year for our old heroes….

    The music scene will not be the same.

    RIP to them all.

  36. André Mes says:

    A heartfelt and personal perespective on the passing of one of today’s true talents. Over the years I have always suspected from your writing you had a personal soft spot for the musical output of George. This article confirms that and basically expresses the exact same feelings I have for him and his music. Sadly, never got the opportunity to see him live (a fact I am ashamed to admit considering I am such a big collector of his music) but at least his music will live on in me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on him.

    There is a poignant quote from the end of the 1986 film, ‘The Mission’: “The spirit of the dead shall survive in the memory of the living.”

    Long live George Michael.

  37. baward says:

    Like Bowie and Prince (and seemingly many others from last year) I wonder how his unreleased archive will be handled? Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 2 anyone?

    To paraphrase Larry Sanders (tragically, we also lost Garry Shandling in 2016) my brush with the elbow of greatness happened 10 years ago driving up Kentish Town Road in North London when I pulled up at some traffic lights. I casually glanced across at the black BMW next to me (like you do), only to realise it was unmistakably George, looking somewhat different to his image at the time – longer, more curly hair, but with that distinctive tan and beautiful eyes. He pretty much ignored me, the lights changed to green and he sped off…

  38. Chris Squires says:

    As I get older I am understanding something I just didn’t get in my Youth.

    When Lennon died I was only 14 and was born 20 years too late for his creative Peak. My parents weren’t into music, so Lennon’s death passed me by. I was a decade too late for Bowie too. Nothing really registered with me until Let’s Dance / China Girl and by then I was 16, so again I had missed the key phase, so he never became my musical hero. I could say the same age mismatch for Mike Oldfield, however my sister’s boyfriend (now husband) was 7 years older than me and got me into Ommadawn in 1978 (aged 11), first LP bought with my own money was platinum and first concert 1980. So He counts, even though I didn’t catch the greatest stuff in real time…..however, George. I was there in real time, he was happening whilst I felt at my own peak. Fantastic was the only cassette I had on a horrible school trip in 1983, Make it Big was THE album of the following year, along with Pleasuredome admittedly. George mattered. I guess the same feeling people had for Boy George only a year or two previously. When you are 16 or 17 and into music everything George did mattered. Whatever he became, however little he eventually produced. When I was at my peak (or so I thought), he was at his peak and what a peak that was. Every single song was solid Gold. Club Tropicana, Wake Me up, Freedom, Last Christmas, Everything She Wants. Absolute top form at absolutely the right time in my life. That’s why I cried last week. That’s why when the BBC app published the first news I belted downstairs to tell my wife and turn the TV on at stupid o’clock.

    It’s getting rather sad to watch the original Band Aid video now as the great stars of the 1980s are passing. Even the bit with Rossi / Parfitt larking at the back like naughty schoolboys is tough to watch.

    So goodbye George, thank you for the soundtrack of my youth….. and will someone please wrap Kate Bush in cotton wool, I couldn’t bear that, I just couldn’t.

  39. mino says:

    Paul Ii really seems that you read my heart! George was a friend not a star to me. He was part of my life. My wife does not understand why his death hurted me so much. I hope that if they will release songs they will call people like David Austin, Deon Eastus and Shirlie and Pepsie to complete that material. They knew him deeply… RIP George I will always miss you!

  40. DaveM says:

    Brilliant, heartfelt and well written tribute. Reminds me why SDE is always my first go to for geniune music related articles.

  41. Julian H says:

    “George was widely criticised for having the audacity to sing White Light at the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.”

    Huh, I had no idea. I found that performance to be one of the most impressive ones at the ceremony…

  42. SimonP says:

    Never having been much of a fan, I’m sorry to say that I’m not overly upset at George’s passing, even though he was definitely too young, but I am aghast that at some point in the eighties your medium of choice was the cassette. No turntable or CD player?!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Who had a CD player in the mid-eighties?! In our whole class at school (1985-ish) one person’s dad had one, and that was it!! They were a very expensive luxury item, for a while, at least.

      • SimonP says:

        Me! Got my first one at the end of ’84 when the first front loading ones were getting more common. There weren’t very many CDs about then and they tended to be on sale more in the hifi shops than the record stores back then. I used to buy mine in Laskys. The earliest ones I remember getting (and still have) are the Depeche Mode singles collection and Exorcising Ghosts by Japan. I was always disappointed that the latter was edited down to fit a single disc, as was quite common in those days. That one never did get re-released either, unlike stuff like Snap by the Jam.

        The only GM I own is a track on a cheap copy of Red Hot & Dance I found in a Woolies bargain bin back in the day. There might be two tracks on, come to think of it…?

  43. Francesco says:

    I have to admit that I’ve never been a fan but I bought Fantastic & Make It Big at the time.
    I bought Faith, Listen Without Prejudice vol.1 & Older too.
    Last Christmas is my favourite christmas song of all time. Careless Whispers the greatest song he has written.
    I Want Your Sex, the best attemp to write a song like my favourite artist of the time, prince.
    Club Tropicana is my favourite summer song.
    Freedom 90 & Too Funky are two of my favourite songs from the 90’s.
    Older is one of the best songs of the 90’s.
    Outside, a real song of freedom in coincidence of my coming out with my family.
    There has always been a song of George Michael accompanying a part of my life.
    Thanks for your tribute to this great pop songwriter.
    Thanks to George for all these songs.
    Yes, I still not consider myself a fan.
    But thanks anyway.
    Francesco.

  44. Matthew Grundy says:

    A wonderful article Paul. Thanks for running this blog, you do a fine job & keep up the good work!

  45. Navee says:

    Great piece but his 2009 song was called DECEMBER SONG …

  46. Michael khalsa says:

    I find some of the coverage of George Michael life and death pretty much off the ball. He,left a very good legacy of music. He planned as back as 1985 a 25 year career which,he,did. Yes a couple of the later records were not the best but otherwise. As for his personal life he went through grief and addiction press which was n’t very nice motivated in part by unacknowledged homophobia. Here’s the thing though he did what he,set out to do. By the,end,of his,life he,was volunteering,at a homeless shelter. Amazing. I am thankful for his music he was a great entertainer and I am thankful he is now at peace,where he can longer be,hurt. Thanks George you killed it.

  47. Donal O'Connell says:

    Nice poignant piece Paul.

    Not as familiar with his output after Listen Without Prejudice at all. When I heard the news on Christmas night the songs I went to play were “Everything She Wants” and “I’m your Man” – bonafide classic pop.

  48. Ivan says:

    Paul, I feel you, I grew up with George and his music. Just a short note to mention two things: One, I’m devastated about his passing for personal reasons. Two, I’m bewildered you have omitted the Freddy Mercury tribute concert and subsequent EP with Queen and his 25 Live compilation and three consecutive tours in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

  49. Klaus says:

    Paul, thanks for sharing.
    I’m not much of a George Michael fan though his music obviously accompanied my life, too, as i’m almost his age.
    Here in Germany he sure had some hit singles on his own and with Wham! but from reading your article and some of the comments i come to think that he was MUCH more popular and noticed in the UK than he was here.
    I still remember the first time i listened to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go though, thinking what a perfect pop song that is (complete with stupid pop lyrics) and later buying and listening to Listen Without Prejudice, trying to do just that and to my surprise i liked what i heard.
    Never listened to the lyrics of that and his later work accurately as English is only my second language, but regarding the comments here that’s my mistake and after re-ordering his albums Faith, Older and Patience from our Amazon’s 3 for 15 Euro slot i will try and update my knowledge of these. Also pre-ordered the LWP-box and am keen to hear his MTV Unplugged performance which i totally missed out then.

    And to re-quote a former comment: Cassette singles? Really? I saw about 5 or 6 of them in the 80s in our local shops but they never broke through in Germany, so i also like to notice these small cultural differences between our countries in your writings.

    Heads up and keep up the good work.

  50. memoryboy says:

    I was shocked to hear of George Michael’s death. What a year! So many important and big names to loose all in one year.

    David Bowie’s death really affected me, I listened to his back catalog and bought his albums in early last year and listened to him for a few months straight.

    Then Prince passed away and that was a shock. I was a fan of his as well. I am an 80’s boy, so David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance’ album was big for me, also all of Prince’s 80’s stuff, especially the albums ‘Controversy’, ‘1999’ and ‘Purple Rain’. And now George Michael. Dammit.

    I was not a big fan of Wham! back in the 80’s. I remember thinking of them as fluffy top-40, very mainstream and the video to ‘Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)’ really annoyed me I remember. Back in the 80’s I was more of a Depeche Mode, The Cure, Tears For Fears type of guy. But I do remember liking the songs ‘Everything She Wants’ and ‘Careless Whisper’ on the radio, and so now looking back I realized that it was just the song ‘Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)’ that I was not really in to back then (Now I love it, and even ripped ‘Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)’ from vinyl)…

    The what happened was Wham!’s earlier stiff… “Wham Rap” and Young Guns (Go For It) came a few years later for me, it wasn’t until late 80’s that I first hear those earlier tracks and decided I liked them. So Wham! ended up being an 80’s band I liked. I have always included them on my 80’s compilation’s.

    Then George Michael went solo. It caught me by surprise. Wow! The new look. And his new music I actually fell in love with. I remember wishing I could get a single edit of “I Want Your Sex” because the parts 1,2 3.. were so long. The album ‘Faith’ was HUGE here in the U.S. and I remember loving all the singles. And George’s new look was so sexy, very homo-erotic. The tight jeans, the scruffy stubble, twelve o’clock shadow, his leather jacket. All very ultra-masculine. He wore it well, and it was such a transformation I thought.

    The song ‘One More Try’ might be my favorite from that album’ Faith’. I can listen to it over and over. I always felt the intro to the song ‘Faith’ was way too long, with the Church Orgon.

    But after the album ‘Faith’ (which I bought back then) I kinda went off in a different direction and lost tough with George Michael, but also found the occasional song by George Michael popping up on the radio or MTV through the years that I found I really liked, but I never bought any of his later post-Faith albums.

    It wasn’t until the late 90’s, when he came out and the song ‘Fast Love’ came out that I got really interested again. And ‘Fast Love’ is one of my very favorite George Michael songs. The video is a classic for me. But again, I didn’t buy or get into any actual albums. As far as his personal life… I guess I wasn’t really aware of any of his unhappiness or depression or problems with alcohol or drugs. It seemed like he just slowly faded away after the late 90’s without notice much notice here in the U.S. That’s how I remember it.

    R.I.P. George Michael. you were such a big part of our lives back in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond.

  51. MINO says:

    A very nice not known song is Tape Loop with Morcheeba and a very sad always not known one is The Grave. Have a nice listening… George I miss you!

  52. Paul says:

    It’s always been a toss-up for me who I preferred – Prince or George Michael. GM has recorded more of my favourite songs than Prince, but P released so much more and of much higher quality over time.

    Since he passed, I’ve gone back to GM’s entire output to see if I could discover any new gems that I’d missed. Aside from ‘Through’ and ‘My Mother Had A Brother’, I realised there wasn’t much. As you say, his B sides were mostly remixes or instrumentals and his latter albums were largely soulless, which has always irked me since LWP was jam packed full of heart, soul & torment.

    I think the turning point was his coming out. I can almost draw a line between pre-out and post-out and there is a remarkable drop off in quality. Even the covers he started to do were boring – the early days saw him cover ‘I Believe When I Fall In Love…’ and ‘Love’s In Need…’ which were brilliant but then came things like ‘Roxanne’ which was way off the mark.

    All that said, GM was the man who gave the world LWP, which is in my top two albums of all time, ‘Safe’ & ‘Father Figure’, two of my all time favourite songs, and Wham! so he will always be a legend in my book.

    RIP.

  53. William says:

    What really annoys me is the press fawning over GM when they hunted and hounded the poor man throughout his life and actually overlooked his musical output and brilliance for the hope of a seedy story or some sensationalism. George was a rare talent, a national treasure, he had his battles to fight and his demons to face but my god he blessed us with an abundance of musical gifts and he was such a beautiful and giving human being, he will be sorely missed by people far and wide and it’s just such a tragedy he is gone from our lives.

  54. Todd R. says:

    It’s been such a confusing time – I can’t remember if I commented on this or not.
    Paul states things with wonderful accuracy here. It’s always bothered me that there really isn’t a true anthology of WHAM! despite all attempts. I’d love to hear “I’m Your Man” acapella, or instrumental on disc. The many versions of “Wham Rap”, the early version of “Careless Whisper”, “Blue (Armed With Love)” and on and on. I know Andrew doesn’t live in the spotlight anymore, but it would be great if he would be the one to curate expanded editions of FANTASTIC and MAKE IT BIG, and perhaps even beyond that (could THE FINAL concert be released?) If he was there, he’d know.

  55. Peter says:

    That last sentence, oh so true … thanks for the tribute Paul!

  56. Alan says:

    I went in both Fopp and HMV in Nottingham today and, as you would expect, there are full George Michael displays of all his and Wham albums, including both of his compilations and the Wham classic albums 3-CD box. The only ones missing were Listen Without Prejudice and If You Were There (the latter of which I’m assuming has been deleted). It strengthens the expectation that the new versions of Listen Without Prejudice will definitely be released in March, as clearly they don’t want anyone buying the old version now!

  57. Matt says:

    A worthy piece, thank you.

  58. Pingback:Saturday Deluxe / 11 February 2017 | superdeluxeedition

  59. Michel says:

    Although I already bought some of GM’s records on and off over the years (starting way back in 1982 with the 12-inch single of ‘Young Guns’), I now find that I have turned from a casual listener into a full-blown fan.

    Shortly after his tragic and untimely passing, I started revisiting the 1996 ‘Older’ album. Since then I delved deeper and deeper into his back catalogue and watched a lot of interviews and footage on YouTube as well. I like the way he conducted himself in interviews: dignified, honest, eloquent and uncompromising.

    Recently, I bought the Symphonica album on Blu-Ray Audio and it’s like GM and the orchestra are singing and playing right there in the room with you. It sends shivers down my spine. One major regret I have is that I never went to see him live in concert. What was I thinking? Missing out on the 25 Live and Symphonica tours. Watching the ‘Live In London’ Blu-Ray, I’m glad that he decided to tour again so that he got to enjoy all this support. He deserved it after the hard time he had been given by the media.

    It’s still hard to believe that he’s gone. Such an extraordinary talent. The way he expressed himself with his voice, with such feeling and musicality, putting his heart and soul in every note that he sang. It is very rare. The world has lost a true legend and a musical genius. So sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *