Review: George Michael / Freedom

Disappointing documentary skims the surface of a complex artist

The first inkling that there might be a George Michael documentary in the works came back in 2016, when George reached out to fans via his website to ask for rare photos and footage “from 1988 through 1994”.

In the end, I didn’t see much in the way of such fan content in George Michael: Freedom last night, a new documentary (shown in the UK last night) that took us through the now fairly familiar stages in George’s career – Wham!, tight shorts, Top Of The Pops, Making It Big, Going Solo, Mega-stardom with Faith – before finally slowing down the frenzied pace in the very late 1980s when George attempted to step back from the rather crazy level of fame he had attained at that point.

The particular focus was on 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice album (which is reissued on Friday) and the infamous Sony court case. Watching Freedom was inevitably incredibly poignant, given the fact that George is no longer with us, but in an attempt to dispassionately judge the merits of the documentary, we really need to put the sad events of last Christmas to one side. Also, let’s not forget, Freedom wasn’t made as a tribute to a deceased singer, it was more or less finished before George passed away. An introduction by Kate Moss and a final image of a smiling George with ‘1963-2016’ underneath were the only references to his passing.

One of the main problems with Freedom was a lack of focus. Was it a career-spanning overview? Was it about the making of Listen Without Prejudice (like those normally excellent ‘Classic Albums’ docs)? Was it an examination of George’s personal life, of grief and lost love, or was it concerned with the Sony dispute – a courtroom drama?

In the end, it was bits of all of the above, but anyone really interested in one aspect may have been left disappointed. George was a brilliant songwriter and a superb singer, but he wasn’t renowned for his documentary making skills. He directed Freedom (with longtime friend David Austin) and narrated it. How impartial can you really be when the subject is yourself?

What I really wanted was a forensic examination of the Sony court case. One of those documentaries where everyone involved gives a detailed account of what happened when, and why. But we got nothing like that. To be fair, George did give time to record executives like Sony’s Paul Russell and Clive Davis where they tried to put their point of view across, but it was obvious where your sympathies were supposed to lie, and that’s one of the reasons this issue isn’t as engaging as it should be. It’s hard to share George’s sense of burning injustice. Sony in the USA didn’t apparently “get behind” Listen Without Prejudice, so it underperformed in America. This was an album for which he only made one video and refused to do anything to promote. As he explains in the documentary, with his second solo album George wanted to put behind him the ‘character’ that was the George Michael of the Faith era (sunglasses, leather jacket, gold earring) and focus on the art; the songwriting and recording music. However, crucially, he wasn’t prepared to make this change and just shrug off any resulting lack of sales. Record companies do need tools to do the job of promotion, and when Clive Davis likened it to a film star not getting on the bandwagon and going to premieres to promote a movie, he had a point. Although the Listen Without Prejudice album sold better than Faith in the UK, the singles still suffered, badly. Yes, Freedom ’90 is a great song, but it only reached number 28 in Britain and that was the one track that actually had a video!

David Bowie was as big a rock star as it gets, especially in Britain, in the early 1970s, but he didn’t retreat to Berlin in 1977 to make Low and Heroes expecting to have a hit album like Ziggy Stardust. Neil Young made On The Beach after Harvest. As he said in the sleeve notes of Decade, “Heart Of Gold put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there.” In some ways George was echoing both of those moves, but when it was a ‘rougher ride’ (and the LWP album didn’t perform as well as Faith) he threw his toys out of the pram.

Similarly, when George wanted to walk away from his Sony contract, because of how relations had broken down (they had a “lack of respect” for him) it comes across as very naive, him thinking that they aren’t going to fight to enforce a legally binding contract. There was a lack of detail and a lack of analysis in terms of the court case. As this excellent 1995 report in The Independent testifies, after George lost the case, David Geffen paid $40m to Sony to buy him out of his contract. Why didn’t Freedom contain an interview with the man who was willing to spend $40m on him?

There was no serious examination of the Listen Without Prejudice album in Freedom. We had to watch as people like Liam Gallagher, James Corden and Stevie Wonder listened to tracks such as Praying For Time and endure them telling us how good they are (we already know, thanks). Compare and contrast this to the insight that Francis Whately’s David Bowie Five Years documentaries offered, where multi-tracks are studied, and musicians and singers who worked on the recordings were interviewed (and were mostly perceptive and enlightening). Where were the contributions on Freedom from people like engineer Chris Porter and bass player Deon Estus, both of whom worked on Listen Without Prejudice and both of whom had been with George since the early days? The documentary was more preoccupied with showing us the surface glamour – with endless shots of supermodels on various video shoots – where it should have been digging below the surface and getting to some deeper truth.

The documentary was also overly reliant on giving George’s contribution via archive interviews. He didn’t know it of course, but it’s sad to think that George had one final opportunity to tell his side of the story on camera but chose not to, presumably because he was unhappy about his appearance.

The best section of Freedom was the exploration of George’s relationship with Anselmo Feleppa. This was really moving and even though I knew most of the basic facts, it was revealing and interesting, for instance, to hear how Anselmo being terminally ill, had informed George’s astounding performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert.

Ultimately, George Michael should have narrowed the focus of Freedom. There was too much ground to cover in too little time and it felt mostly like light entertainment. I’m really not interested in what James Corden, Ricky Gervais or Naomi Campbell think of George and his music, but there was undeniably an element of lets-get-lots-of-famous-people-to-say-nice-things-about-me. Nile Rodgers was great value (as always), and Elton John also contributed well, but any documentary that purports to be exploring the life and contradictions of George Michael should have included something from his old pal Andrew Ridgeley; the man who gave him the confidence to perform in the first place.

The truth is, a better, more insightful documentary would have been made by an independent, experienced film-maker with a grittier more journalistic approach, but for better or for worse, George typically wanted to control everything. He wanted to be the director, he wanted to be the narrator. It doesn’t necessarily make for a better finished product. You can trace this behaviour right back to 1985 and the sacking of acclaimed director Lindsay Anderson, when George didn’t like what he was doing to the Wham! in China Foreign Skies film, to even earlier in 1984 when he rejected Jerry Wexler’s version of Careless Whisper (that was a good decision) and to stepping into David Fincher’s shoes to direct the supermodel-laden Too Funky video.

In the end, Freedom didn’t really properly explore George’s contradictions and ego –  it suffered because of them. A great documentary film on George Michael is still waiting to be made.

Did you see Freedom? What did you think? Leave a commentListen Without Prejudice is reissued on Friday 20 October 2017.

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George Michael

Listen Without Prejudice: 3CD+DVD super deluxe


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George Michael

Listen Without Prejudice: 2CD deluxe


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George Michael

Listen Without Prejudice: remastered vinyl



George Michael / Listen Without Prejudice reissue - super deluxe box set

Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 1 – 2CD deluxe

CD 1 Listen Without Prejudice remastered
1. Praying for Time
2. Freedom! ’90
3. They Won’t Go When I Go
4. Something to Save
5. Cowboys and Angels
6. Waiting for That Day – George Michael / The Rolling Stones
7. Mothers Pride
8. Heal the Pain
9. Soul Free
10. Waiting (Reprise)

CD 2 – MTV Unplugged
1. Freedom! ’90
2. Fastlove – George Michael / Patrice Rushen
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me
4. Father Figure
5. You Have Been Loved
6. Everything She Wants
7. The Strangest Thing
8. Older
9. Star People
10. Praying for Time
11. Fantasy (featuring Nile Rodgers)

George Michael / Listen Without Prejudice reissue - super deluxe box set

Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 1 – 3CD+DVD super deluxe

CD 1 Listen Without Prejudice remastered
1. Praying for Time
2. Freedom! ’90
3. They Won’t Go When I Go
4. Something to Save
5. Cowboys and Angels
6. Waiting for That Day – George Michael / The Rolling Stones
7. Mothers Pride
8. Heal the Pain
9. Soul Free
10. Waiting (Reprise)

CD 2 – MTV Unplugged
1. Freedom! ’90
2. Fastlove – George Michael / Patrice Rushen
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me
4. Father Figure
5. You Have Been Loved
6. Everything She Wants
7. The Strangest Thing
8. Older
9. Star People
10. Praying for Time

CD3: B-Sides And Mixes
1. Soul Free (Special Radio Edit)
2. Freedom! ’90 (Back To Reality Mix)
3. Freedom! ’90 (Back To Reality Mix Edit)
4. Fantasy ’90
5. Freedom! ’90 (Edit)
6. Cowboys and Angels (Edit)
7. If You Were My Woman
8. Too Funky (Edit)
9. Crazyman Dance
10. Do You Really Want to Know
11. Happy
12. Too Funky (Extended)
13. Too Jazzy (Happy Mix)
14. Fantasy ’98
15. Heal the Pain – George Michael with Paul McCartney
16. Desafinado – George Michael with Astrud Gilberto

Disc: 4 – DVD
1. The South Bank Show 1990
2. Freedom! ’90
3. Praying for Time
4. Freedom! ’90 (MTV 10th anniversary)


96 responses to Review: George Michael / Freedom

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  5. Ian Nipper says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review. As someone who wasn’t a fan but did buy some of his singles I was interested enough to want to watch this… then found it dragged on. Also, what was that with Kate Moss? She said her piece then sat there staring at the camera. I was thinking “Come on then, start the film proper”.

  6. Fernando Grund Guzmán says:

    Wich arte is directed by George? All comments talk about him in past. So these interviews were made after George is dead.
    Also missed Chris Cameron.

    • Barnaby Dickenson says:

      They weren’t. If you listened carefully you will have noticed that people were very much talking about George in the present tense. Only Kate Moss’s intro and the conclusion were done after his death.

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  8. Pim says:

    Just finished watching it. Is it just me or was the ‘writer’ just a stand-in? It almost looked like stockfootage to me :-D

  9. John Moore says:

    The documentary was superb and a fab overview of the highlights of an amazing career from an artist that was so special. A lot of the review misses the point of the documentary- looking for something quite different which was not the aim of it – the reviews from the serious press in the UK such as the Telegraph, Guardian etc have been excellent and the overall fan reaction fab too. And yes the highlight was Liam Gallagher who was as cool as ever and contributed with some memorable quotes. A truly excellent overview of a very special artist who will be remembered for a very very long time!

  10. Patrick says:

    Another George release for the future would be a DVD of ‘Wham in China’ An earlier edit of this (the preferred version of director Lindsay Anderson) was found in a university archive a few years back so that would be a great extra.

  11. Patrick says:

    I agree with your comments Paul. One interesting part around the beginning that will be of note to fans of this site is that a snippet was played from George and Andrews pre-Wham band The Executive. This demo to my knowledge has never surfaced online and was generally thought to be ‘lost’ but as George was behind the doc perhaps he had a copy all along. It was only played for a few seconds with talking over the top so perhaps George was not overly keen on giving it a proper airing. Unlikely that these tracks will ever appear on any official release and they have not been bootlegged to my knowledge.

  12. professormouse says:

    Can I just ask WHY do Labels insist on using this ‘slide-out’ [the cd !] approach to packaging CD’s ?
    I once saw German [?] CD Singles by Depeche Mode that replicated the 12” Singles covers almost exactly [but obv smaller] AND they put ther CD in an ‘inner bag’ like LP’s do.
    Made of some no doubt non-scratch cloth ?
    It just seemed such an obvious idea, so you could get the disc out the cover without really touching it.
    I bought an ‘Expanded Edition’ of one of Stevie Nicks LP’s on CD and tore the cover TRYing to prise the disc Out of it’s cover !
    Why can’t they make these Super Versions with a bit more thought about the disc ?
    Or is this them thinking it will be played once to ‘rip’ and never touched again ?
    The Film ?
    Lot’s of Famous Faces saying that the Now Officially Gay George Michael wasl A Genius.
    We knew !
    If these releases don’t scoop up Every Mix/Edit etc never mind the Unreleased, what’s the point ?

  13. Phil Fogel says:

    HBO Canada and Showtime in the US is showing the documentary tonight Saturday 20th if anybody is interested. I still am, it might not be perfect but it was what George wanted.

  14. SR says:

    Great review Paul but I think you nailed it there William_M.

    The docu speaks volumes of where George was mentally just before he passed away – and the absence of Kenny et al screams to us even louder. This was a story of a man reminiscing on the time in his life which he clearly felt was the peak for him both personally and professionally. As George himself said, it was the happiest time in his life, and he clearly felt it impossible to ever return there. The docu was partly George trying to cement his own version of his legacy, so all the ‘dodgy’ stuff had no place here.

    You could even argue that the docu was actually (somewhat paradoxically I accept) an explanation for all that was left unsaid – I’m referring of course to some of the saddest parts of the rest of George’s life, from the drugs to the driving offences, to the infamous M1 ‘accident’, and perhaps most ominously even to the events surrounding his eventual passing. RIP George… Legacy secured.

  15. James Baker says:

    When you make the unboxing video, please ensure you point out the spelling errors! 2 blatant ones on the belly wrap alone (__liable ?? and Freedom! __ ??) and a rather dodgy looking Epic logo too (I think?!?). The photo of the box set looks like it was done on a very old iPhone, very poor positioning and poor composition. That’s before I’ve even opened it!!

    Can’t wait for the remastered music and to hear the classic MTV Unplugged again. I thought the documentary was quite good. Yes no real insight but well put together and nice comments (especially from the potty mouth Liam!) Go on Son!! :)

  16. William_M says:

    you can sum the documentary up as , not an insight into Georges career and a dissection of the evolution of his music, but as a love letter to Anselmo, quite simply it made clear that before he met Anselmo his life was drifting, he had no anchor, Then he met Anselmo and finally found the happiness he deserved and yearned, only to lose it and be set adrift once more, he never recovered from his broken heart, the loss of Anselmo and his mother were unsurvivable for him and that’s what came across in the documentary.

  17. Robert says:

    Paul, are you going to make an unboxing video for “Listen Without Prejudice” boxset ?

  18. Narve Nico says:

    User review found on “Love George, part of my life for song long and I am still saddened at the loss of such a beautiful talented man. BUT – the version of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ on the MTV Unplugged CD is not the actual MTV Unplugged version at all. Listen to this and then go to YouTube and make the comparison. The version in this CD is the one on the Older album, it has just had applause added. I had the original MTV Unplugged live version downloaded for years and it was my absolute favourite song, and the best version. I know every note and every inflection of his voice. When he passed, that version that I had on iTunes and Deezer just disappeared. This version on this CD is not the same. I don’t know why that would be but I urge you to go and try it for yourself and you will see what I mean. That song on this CD IS NOT the actual version from MTV Unplugged”.

    • Henry Watson says:

      I Can’t Make You Love Me isn’t on Older?

    • Barnaby Dickenson says:

      George did two Unplugged sessions around that time with the same set. One was for MTV and one was for Radio 1. It’s likely the version you knew previously was from the Radio 1 session and this is from MTV’s broadcast.

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  20. mick lynch says:

    Fully agree with you Paul. Im a huge fan and would have known the history. This feature was neither a ‘Classic Album’ or a documentary. There could have been so much more. I preferred his ‘A Different Story’ documentary from the mid OO’s. A lot more revealing and interesting. Im guessing we’ll have to wait for the 25th Anniversary of ‘Older’ in 2021. A missed opportunity.

    • Naj hysn says:

      Paul you were involved in the tracklist for Cd 2-

      I am 100% that Gm would not have allowed the artwork of the 2 cd edition – that is a SONY / David Austin decision and it goes against the whole ethos of GM not promoting his image for Lwp- but if it means future generation are listening to it then -LISTEN without PREJUDICE

  21. Phil says:

    Great review Paul. As Paul Brady said once: “Fame is the sum of fan’s misunderstandings about you”. Certainly applied to George who had one of best voices with greatest range.

  22. Henry Watson says:

    Enjoyed the documentary, but Paul’s review nails it for me. It’s appears to have tried to become something it wasn’t originally intended to be as a result of George’s unfortunate passing.
    Other random thoughts:
    I could do without Adele and Chris Martin (pretty much in any circumstances!).
    Seems ironic, given the fuss over George not appearing on the cover of LWP, the re-issue has his photo on the cover.
    Sad to realise that the final 20 years of George’s career albums wise basically consisted of one album of original material (with a couple of greatest hits, a covers album and a covers-heavy live album making up the rest)…

    • Naj hysn says:

      Yes I don’t think GM would have allowed that cover – or release nike Rodgers remix of fantasy. That is pretty much David Austins decisions-

      His family have given him the creative decisions and he is thier go to person .

    • Barnaby Dickenson says:

      The rerelease uses a slightly cropped version of the original Weegee Coney Island photo. They may have used photos of George in publicity shots, but not on that e actual cover.

  23. Naj hysn says:

    David Fincher directed freedom 90 , George stepped in
    Thierry mugler directed Too Funky, George stepped in as he had a conflict over the direction of it

  24. Dan says:

    Did anybody notice ‘As’ was apparently released as a single in the year 2000? I’m pretty sure I bought that in early 1999.

  25. Michael Khalsa says:

    I have not watched the documentary yet. I did however re-read ‘I’m coming to take you to lunch’ by Simon Napier Bell recently. Who managed Wham! from 1983 to 1986. That’s a lot of fun & pretty revealing.

    I did not know about the 40 million from Dreamworks. Not sure whether that is true. George Michael did have damages for $5 million pounds awarded against him which he put on his answering machine after the court case. From my understand the relationship soured when George was called a fag by one the higher ups from Sony. Also their promotion of ‘Mother’s Pride’ offended him.

  26. baward says:

    To me, its the height of creepyness doing a duet with someone whose died. So I fast forwarded through the Chris Martin bit.

    Not enough Nile Rodgers, Stevie and even Elton John and far, far too much Tracey Emin, James Corden, Liam Whatsit and Gervais.

  27. Tony Orwell says:

    I watched the documentary and found it to be very entertaining, cant say i am a massive fan but faith and LWP are two of my favourite albums, never really listened to older but i think it deserves and in depth look. Regardless of all the comments it is best to just put the records on the deck and enjoy the music

  28. joel says:

    here in the US, it is coming out on saturday on showtime. a little bummed it doesn’t go into more detail about listen without prejudice…and lord knows i don’t really care about star people giving their endorsement…unless they worked with him and it has to do with that work…im sure i will enjoy watching it, hopefully it is more than a vh1 behind the story thing

  29. andrew davis says:

    I think a very fair review Paul. For fans of George Michael this was a long awaited documentary with added poignancy since his death.
    I found the scenes at his London house with an actor playing the part of George at the typewriter were plain odd. If George didn’t want to appear as ‘himself’ due perhaps to issues on how he looked at the time of production why have the scenes at all?
    I was also unsure how much of the voiceover was done just for the documentary and how much was culled from older interviews. Still either way it was how George wanted to present both how Listen without Prejudice was made and released and what came before and after.
    Like others I was baffled why George ever re-signed with Sony for Patience in 2004. I’m sure all the record company personnel had changed but on a point of principle to go back to the same company always seemed an odd one for me. It might have been the best money deal but at that stage of his career there would have been other options. Am I the only one who has struggled with Patience, there are a lot of songs here but it does feel pale compared to earlier work.
    There was a lot of rare live footage that presumably will see no further release. For someone who did spend years out of the spotlight he was always able to perform well on the big stages. I wonder what’s next for the reissues, presumably Older where the Unplugged set would have made a better fit.
    Still with some regrets it was good to see a great artist both at high and low points and with songs a lot of people will always remember and listen to. I’m really looking forward to another listen without prejudice this friday.

    • bob says:

      Andrew, whilst many of George’s voiceovers were from the archives if you listen carefully you can hear the difference in his voice on the newly recorded sections. His older voice is different, deeper and a little croaky. This may be a side affect of the car accident from a few years ago, when George ‘fell’ out of a speeding car on the motorway and was airlifted to hospital.
      It made me think that perhaps George had lost his singing voice if it cheanged his speaking voice.
      You are not alone with Patience, I found it a huge disappointment. Yes we had an album with plenty of tracks (for once) but the whole album just went on and on going nowhere. It was a poor album given George’s very high standards.
      I really hope that we get some good unreleased music eventually but I won’t hold my breath.

    • Iain McCarthy says:

      According to the credits at the end, it said that the George interview was conducted by Kirsty Young….who also interviewed him for Desert Island Discs. I haven’t re-listened to Desert Island Discs though to see how much was duplicated for the documentary.

  30. Paul kennedy says:

    Great review Paul !!! I love a lot of music don’t claim to be a GM fan at all
    Watched it and to be honest I can’t get over someone who wanted to be that famous and then suddenly want to climb off the showbiz wagon !!!! Like a lot of artists he just came across as very needy ….His biggest mistake was splitting up wham !!!

  31. andres says:

    The article in the Independent is really fascinating. Paul, do you now how did all parties involve fare after the deal? I doubt Dreamworks made a significant profit over their investment especially considering that the multi million selling Greatest Hits record was mostly owned by Sony.

  32. Martin says:

    To be honest I was not surprised as it felt like one of those promo’s that is on an artists giveaway on CD/DVD reissues. Totally surprised by the lack of any input from Ridgeley and he came across as a spoilt child. I have the vinyl on pre-order and will pick up the SDE if it drops in price but the programme was a disappointment

  33. RJS says:

    I’m not a massive George Michael fan (the only recordings of his I own are the Freedom ’90 CD single and MP3s of Everything She Wants and Last Christmas) so I watched it with an open mind. I thought the selection of talking heads was bizarre. He’s one of the biggest selling singer / songwriters ever and Liam Gallagher, James Cordon, Tracey Emin and Ricky Gervais are nobodies in comparison and didn’t even know him for the time period the documentary covered (up until the 75 minute mark if felt like it was part one of a two parter of his solo years – the last ten years of his life were very briefly glossed over). Elton John and Stevie Wonder, yes but I really think he could of (and should of) got some bigger and more authoritative people on board. I think GM’s voiceovers from the 2016 would have worked better if they’d been recorded in an interview format. They sounded (and obviously were) very scripted. I enjoyed it but I can perhaps understand some of the frustrations of the diehards. Personally I think it would have worked better it had covered three periods in better details – the Wham! years, the Faith / Listen Without Prejudice / Sony years and the Older years on onwards.

  34. Steven says:

    Enjoyed the documentary as I took it for what it was. His point of view on his career told his way.

  35. Mark Bickerdike says:

    Good review and having read all the other comments (left up to now) I get the different angles pepole are taking both those that enjoyed the documentary (I certainly did) and those that felt it skimmed over a lot of interesting part of George’s life (definitely, on reflection).
    I think it seems that it was meant as a launch film for the re-release of LWP and, if things hadn’t taken such a horrible turn with his premature passing, there could have been more films planned for future re-issues to cover other eras. Such a tragic waste to never have that.
    I would love for a more balanced review of his musical life with some of the relevant personal stuff as well i.e. the bits that informed his writing, his decision to end Wham!, the abandoned projects (LWP Vol 2), Trojan Souls), setting up his Aegean record label with his cousin Andros) the work with other artists (David Austin, Deon Estus, Lisa Moorish, Toby Bourke and I suspect more that most of us haven’t heard about).
    There was a great BBC radio interview a couple of decades ago that talked about recording Trojan Souls and if I remember right, they were duets with the likes of k.d. lang – he told a story about her coming up to his house (I think they were in L.A.) and she said she’d come on her bike and said something like “poor cow, cycling up this steep hill to the house” and she turned up in leathers having ridden her motorbike!.
    That’s the sort of stuff I’d like to know more about and maybe it’s down to the people that were part of that bigger story (Andrew, David and other collaborators maybe even his estranged cousin Andros as I’m not sure if they ever made up after the Aegean record label fallout) – it’s still stuff that’s relevant to fans and others without going into the truly personal celeb type digging that I hate.
    We can but hope…

  36. Rough cut says:

    I am a fan. I have’t seen the documentary, but I enjoyed the review, in spite of it being somewhat negative. It seems the author is objective in his criticism which makes it truthful and authentic. I enjoyed some of the comments negating that criticism as well, they make for a nice counterpoint. I look forward to seeing it and forming my own opinion.

  37. Linda Carter says:

    How ghastly to have your career interjected with comments by Ricky Gervais, Liam G in a Jimmy Saville shellsuit and James Corden.

  38. jms says:

    No discussion of Trojan Souls, Songs From The Last Century or Patience, admittedly the history of Trojan Souls is a little murky (though he does say in the unreleased film that he’s signed to Warner Brothers) but to not mention albums that sold millions does seem a little odd. Also, there was nothing about leaving Virgin, going to Universal for two singles, re-signing to Sony and then leaving once more for Universal. Mind you that in itself is probably a 90-minute documentary. The other slightly baffling point was that all the way through Andy Stephens was captioned as a Sony employee, after leaving them he managed George for well over a decade.

  39. Tryone says:

    I was hoping a wealth of rare footage. Obviously this is a celebration of George rather than a candid doc.

  40. Auntie Sabrina says:

    No Andrew Ridgeley, no Pepsi or Shirlie, but Ricky Gervais and Tracey Emin? The Adele cover of Fast Love was a nice surprise though.

  41. lee bowler says:

    I loved it – for me, far too emphasis on the court case and his private life (heard it all before) but I did love the way it was put together, starting with Adele and ending with his ‘duet’ with Chris Martin on ‘A different corner’. I enjoyed the majority of the celeb thing – especially Stevie Wonder, Elton and Mary J. Yes, I would have wanted more in terms of abandoned albums/tracks etc. We need to remember, it’s only because of his passing that people were expecting a full career documentary but right from the beginning it was only meant to be from Wham to LWP – the whole emphasis was about that album (promoting it for it’s re-issue), how it came about, the reasoning for non-promotion and him stepping away from that side of the business, which I thought was properly explained – from both sides. It should have ended there, rather than start to delve into the ‘Older’ era – I think this caused confusion. Being a life-long fan, I did see and hear things that were new to me and for that reason, I was happy with it

  42. Christian says:

    As a casual fan of George Michael, I thought the documentary was pretty good even though I did know some things. There was quite a bit revealed in it that I didn’t know. I’m not really interested in the private personal lives of celebs, but his discussion of his first partner does shed light on his song Jesus to a Child. But as others have stated, there was much more that could have been included in this documentary. Maybe this is a mantle that can be taken up by Andrew Ridgeley or George’s manager.

  43. Simonf says:

    I watched the documentary and was fascinated to hear a snatch of a demo by the Executive (George and Andrews’s pre-Wham! band), how many demo’s exist? Will they ever see the light of day, and also what looked like very professionally shot footage of the final Wham! gig at Wembley. Why has this never been released as a proper CD/DVD package. I have a bootleg of that gig on cassette and it sounds like it just the most wonderful time for all that were there. I came so close to going myself but that’s another story.
    Agree with most of your points Paul, but I guess we all knew with Mr. Michael directing and producing it was never going to be a wart ‘n’ all production. Also totally agree with Alan about Cordon and Gervais. Maybe Liam Gallagher got it right when he described George as “modern day Elvis”. The comparisons between those two and the way their careers both came off the tracks resulting in their inevitable deaths are many…

    • Chris Squires says:

      I have been in archiving family histories for nigh on 20 years now and am amazed at how well old technology survives the kind of trauma that would have new technology dead and useless.
      Most humans haven’t got around to thinking of digital stuff as real and hence it gets lost. When people die, people gather round for the distribution of record, books, photo albums etc. because they are real. Digital stuff gets forgotten.

      A 16 year old George Michael, 13 year old Kate Bush, a 17 year old Stephen Duffy committed their first doodlings to real cassette tape, which most likely languished in an old desk forgotten but safe and so it is still available today once re-located, which is exactly what happened to the first Duran Duran recordings. In all likelihood if they were that age today it would have all been lost when their first MacBook went tits up or got stolen.

      Mind you most people will never hear any of it due to artist embarrassment, but that Executives clip just shows what is there. It would make a wonderful addition to any “Fantastic” SDE. Far more interesting and valuable than something like one of the well known instrumental mixes or the Club Fantastic megamix. It would make that mythical SDE a certain buy for most people I would guess.

    • Paul H says:

      There does exist a full professional video recording of The Final gig at Wembley Stadium from 1986. Allegedly, though, George always refused to release it as he thought that Elton John turning up at the end dressed as Ronald McDonald tainted it. For one who was there I thought it was a great concert and would love to see it again (here’s hoping). The only thing that tarnished the memory was the booking of Gary Glitter as support (but hindsight is a wonderful thing).

      I have only watched the first part of the documentary so far and can’t agree more about the talking heads. Not sure what Liam Gallagher is doing there at all as can’t see him showing the slightest interest while George’s career was in full swing.

  44. Gis Bun says:

    Odd how the 2CD version contains Fantasy (featuring Nile Rodgers) but not the SDE.
    As for documentaries, some are hits, others are misses. You can’t show a career of anyone with a descent lengthy career in 60-90 minutes. For example, how do you do it for someone like Clint Eastwood who’s been in the business for something like 50 years and examine his pre-Hollywood years and then go through the number of movies he starred and directed in 90 minutes. You can’t.
    I’d like to see someone do the Rolling Bones in 90 minutes.

    • Simonf says:

      There is a very good Stones documentary of around that length, okay it maybe two hours in all; it’s been a very long time since I last saw it. Titled 25 x 5 The Continuing Adventures Of the Rolling Stones, it covers the story from 1963-’88 and certainly remains the best Stones documentary I have ever watched. Far better that the messy overblown Crossfire Hurricane. I used to borrow it on VHS from my local library on a regular basis until they stopped stocking VHS video. I don’t think it has ever been issued on DVD. Highly recommended.

  45. Daryl says:

    Great comments MusicFan!

  46. Russell says:

    I found it incredibly moving. I was more interested in his version of things because,as someone for whom Wham and George Michael had just provided background music for the 80’s – I had loved Wham Rap and then didn’t care again until the Queen tribute performance- this made me look at his music anew. You posted a brilliant clip of George and Morrissey on the same 80’s programme together and what came across on reflection was how far ahead of Morrisey he was as an artist and a thinker.

    The documentary explored his frustration with that not being understood by those whose approval he sought. I agree that the celebrities, many bizarrely listening to the same turntable – which one was it? – sometimes seemed annoying as talking heads often are – but they were chosen to earn that missing respect and understanding that so bothered him. However, all the celebrities had records with their names on with specific tracks to listen to – I felt he was saying, they listened without prejudice, now please pay me the respect of doing the same,too. The irony being that this was at last promoting the album.

    I think to judge the documentary as something that. It wasn’t is inherently unfair. It was his voice that came across and he had his reasons for telling his story in his way. It left me stunned and others I watched it with in tears. Autobiography, as a dialogue mediated by celebrities, is potentially alienating, if you are not a celebrity, but it is a reflection of the world in which he walked, arguably taller than many spectators could see.

    Quite an act.

    His life ended in loneliness and misunderstanding. Arguably,he wanted a connection that in his mind and heart,was withdrawn from him by the travails of living a mediated life.

    It made me completely reassess my feelings about him as an artist.

    • Chris Squires says:

      It was a Michell turntable, it even got it’s own credit at the end….

    • RJS says:

      “a brilliant clip of George and Morrissey on the same 80’s programme together and what came across on reflection was how far ahead of Morrissey he was as an artist and a thinker”

      Good point. On the strength of that programme alone, it was clear that George Michael’s intellect and articulation was in another league to that of Morrissey. Just about to watch the documentary on 4OD.

  47. Peter Muscutt says:

    Is there a chance this was perhaps an ‘edited’ version for TV? Is there an actual full-length DVD/Bluray release on the cards that may have additional interviews/segments etc? Although saying that, the doc was on for a fair while anyway, so can’t really see that happening.

  48. Stu says:

    I would happily watch an entire show of Stevie Wonder jamming along with the songs, those sections were magical.

  49. MusicFan says:

    Disappointing? How can anyone think that?

    George made this to give everyone an open and honest view into his life and motivation.

    This was not and was never intended to be a timeline of causal events.

    This documentary was about the key points in his career that shaped him, shaped his audience and shaped the view we have of him.

    The Wham! pastiche, the contrived creation of a Faith superstar, the stripped approach to LWP making the music the focus, the relationship with Anselmo Feleppa, the bereavement expressed in Older…. it’s all there!!!!

    The footage of George and Anselmo was deeply personal to George and it took a lot from him to feel comfortable to show this.

    George said he wanted everyone to take just one thing from his career which is the fact that he did everything with integrity.

    If anyone did not get this from the documentary, I suggest you re-watch this, but this time take note of what is being delivered rather than looking for what you expect to be missing!

    George did an exceptional job!!!!

    • FredHolmes says:

      I have to agree with you. It was exactly that, a documentary made by the artist. If it was made by someone else it would have been different.

      I loved it ! A TV event like 20 years ago today in 1987.

  50. adam shaw says:

    I also didnt like the celebs input to this documentary but I did enjoy the music .
    I am not a George fan and havnt followed his career , I appreciate his talent but dont own any of his or Wham recordings .
    I didnt know the album apart from the singles so the film done its job as im thinking of purchasing it .
    And thats what this was all about , marketing , unfortunatly for most fans it wasnt the insight you were expecting .

  51. Tim says:

    Good piece, well written

  52. Andrew r says:

    Agree wholeheartedly Paul .Was hoping for some insight into this most troubled
    of performers. Too fluffy by half and didn’t get to the meat of his beef with Sony
    You were left with the feeling of a child that having thrown all of his toys out of the pram
    wants “nanny” to pick them all up again. I liked George Michael and his music but i think it takes real strength to maintain a solo career overtime. This documentary left me with the impression that george was a delicate soul not really cut out for the rough and tumble of the “biz” He failed to understand it is a business and you are only as good as your last “deal”
    Interesting that both of Clive Davis major clients should be so troubled by their sexuality and that drugs should claim them both.

  53. Chris Squires says:

    Glad you wrote something Paul, pretty much spot on too.
    I think even the casual fan would have demanded a bit more detail and a bit less self-indulgence. A proper Journalist would have made a far more valuable document, someone like Caitlin Moran or even her hubby would have hopefully had better control.

    This is why Biographies are usually better than autobiographies and unauthorized ones can be superb. Don’t let artists dictate, they generally haven’t a clue about what makes them liked or loved.

    Where was the Car crash / drugs element that framed a large chunk of his later life, where was his “muse” Andrew Ridgeley who gave him the confidence to even start the journey or any of his actual friends such as Shirlie Kemp or as you say Deon who was there pretty much from the beginning. It would have been superb to have someone like Tony Hadley, Simon Le Bon, Holly Johnson, Boy George, Paul Young to talk about the chart battles. Where were Melanie or Yioda? You can stick Gervais and Gallagher in the bin, they really stunk up the place with their absolutely pointless waffle. Gervais only said one useful thing and that was how good an actor George might have been. Gallagher was just foul.

    Also it was one whopping smack in the mush to anyone he had a relationship with after Anselmo. Rather like a bloke banging on about his first girlfriend or wife whilst wives 2, 3 or 4 go unmentioned. If he had been heterosexual it would have been a far more glaring misjudgement that might have been viewed more harshly. Somehow he seemed to get away with it.

    Overall an unsatisfying film that fell too neatly between two stools. Neither Fish nor Flesh. For me I would have wanted more warts and less gloss. As you say Paul, I hope there are better documentaries of his life to be made.

    I watched it with my wife and we were both crying at the end so it wasn’t without impact. The thing that we talked about afterwards was that if you look at George Michael’s career and his life from the outside it must have seemed like heaven, from the inside it must have seemed like Hell.

  54. Caroline says:

    I agree completely – I found the film quite superficial and, if he hadn’t passed away in the meantime, it would have been seen as a vanity project that would have been tough to take as a DVD extra, let alone a television special. Where were Andrew, Pepsi and Shirley? Liam having a swear was no substitute. And the “stars listening to a record” theme was done much better in Scott Walker’s film 30 Century Man about 12 years ago.

  55. Paul says:

    I thought it was brilliant. And pretty much what I expected – did you seriously think it was going to dig through his private life and interview people like Andrew and Kenny? That was never going to happen in a million years.

    Besides, I’m still pissed that they’re packaging MTV Unplugged with LWP.

  56. Alan says:

    He was one long contradiction all along. He said at one point that he would never record for Sony again but did just that when they apparently offered him the best deal.

    I never really understood the court case. He was happy with the UK arm of Sony but it’s them he took to court. Why didn’t he take the American arm of the company to court instead? Or does it not work like that? Clive Davis wasn’t even part of Sony at the time, as he came in via the BMG merger (I think) so wouldn’t have known anything about the case directly.

    James Corden was irritating. Can’t stand him. Same with Ricky Gervais. But even the others were mostly unnecessary.

    George seemed to make things hard for himself throughout his career. And why, in the advert for the album reissue, does he have to put “Gay Man” almost first before anything else? Who does that? There are far more important ways than that to describe him. He seemed to make a big deal about his sexuality – we’ve moved on from that. It’s no big deal!

  57. John Barleycorn says:

    Overall, I thought it was good but then I am not massively familiar with all the nuances of GM’s career and personality. I suppose if you are a fan and know pretty much everything then it told you little you didn’t know already; just another of those rockumentaries with ‘talking head celebs’ which is a well worn formula. One thing it did make me want to do is investigate LWP as an album. I know some of the tracks, sure, but not the whole thing.

    Sky Arts showed an excellent rockumentary on XTC last week (“This Is Pop”) and I enjoyed that too, it was a little more offbeat as befits the band but if you haven’t seen it seek it out.

  58. Alan says:

    I haven’t seen the documentary yet but what a terrific analysis you made !

  59. David Simon says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your review, Paul! I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan of George Michael, but certainly respected him as an artist, liked a range of tracks and already had an overview of the court case. The sections you mention were strong, but as I was watching I was aware that time was running out and there were clearly going to be some omissions. There needed to be another voice, or at least someone asking some challenging questions, that may have had interesting answers.
    It leapt out at me that George made videos, with him in them, for the singles from Older, once he’d left Sony. As this was a cited sticking point in the relationship with Sony, what caused the change of heart?
    The post-Older years were covered in the blink of an eye! Our knowledge of George over this time is predominantly through very public, tabloid-documented problems. Some personal insight would have been valued. A recent article, possibly in the Radio Times, suggested that he never got over the loss of Anselmo and his mother. Also, his output over the last two decades was low. As above, I stress I’m not a fan and I’m aware there were some albums, but early in the documentary it seemed to suggest that George had a strong need to write music. Did this evaporate or is there unreleased material.
    It was an interesting watch, that definitely made you want to return to the music. A good example of its failings would be its scant mention of George’s coming out – surely one of the best responses ever to an outing – just a brief clip from Outside, no personal comment! Ultimately shallow, leaving more questions to be asked than it answered.

  60. Daryl says:

    I enjoyed the documentary – didn’t find it disappointing in the slightest, but then I am just a casual fan.
    I really don’t think George made the film for the super-fan or for the ‘music nerds’ (not meaning to insult – I just can’t think of a better description) – analyzing multi-tracks and discussing the different layers whilst beard stroking. I think he was using it as a platform to ‘set the record straight’ in his eyes and put his side of the story regarding the Sony case, his lovelife and his music across to the average listener/general population, which he managed to do well.
    Of course, I am talking as someone who is a casual listener and not a super-fan, but for me, it was very enjoyable and offered some fresh insights. Yes, an independent film-maker may have done a better job, but this was a film made by George Michael about himself – what else could anyone really expect other than a bit of self-indulgence?
    Agreed – Andrew Ridgeley’s absence was a surprise though!

  61. DJ Control says:

    Still waiting for a broadcast date/time in Australia so appreciate your words. I too was after a good look at how LWP was made so a bit let down in that respect. I had a feeling with GM in charge of that the doco would be as you say and completely agree with your comment about Gervais, Cordon et al (I don’t want to hear from them either). Do you think there’s any chance, considering this was supposedly finished when George passed, that some kind of re-editing might of been done to add in all the celeb stuff and perhaps a general cleanup to tie in with the LWP re-issue? Thank-you for the review Paul.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Not sure to be honest, although fairly sure the celeb stuff was shot beforehand.

      • Ivan says:

        What were you expecting, Paul? If you really know George’s career as you do, this misdirected and partial viewed documentary was all to be expected. I stand by your analysis 100% about everything you have commented on about it. I don’t wanna rally about it anymore, since he is no more and his own decisions about his own body or work have always been highly disputable. If he had ever had anyone to point him into the right direction career and personal life wise, he would still be here with us, but he was a disaster since he lost Anselmo onwards, with spots of brilliance, absolutely, but so vague. As for a great documentary I would highly recommend “A Different Story” (2005) which he heavily promoted after “Patience” release and that was exclusively released directly on DVD and sold during his “25 Live” Tour in 2006, played on screen before his shows in 2007. I’m not sure about the 2008 shows…

    • Adam says:

      For all the Aussie fans out there reading this: It’s going to be shown on Channel 9 on Wednesday night at 8:30. They’ve been advertising it a lot.

  62. Daniel ( from Berlin ) says:

    i like GM music since the beginning !
    but i don’t really like the whole re-issue.
    -missing mixes ( digital mix of “too funky” / instrumental version of “cowboys and angels” )
    -missing demos ( for example “crazyman dance” with alternate lyrics ),
    i have a fantastic demo of “too funky” incorp. “happy” with complete other lyrics.
    this would be a better bonus track than the new “fantasy” mix by nile rodgers.
    and: the complete missing “cover to cover” concert”
    i will not buying it.

  63. Yani P says:

    I watched it and (to me at least) it felt like GM had way too much control of the content so I guess by default we were never going to get a balanced both sides of the equation story – I agree it was quite a fluffy documentary, nothing that exciting, no real insights into what really went on.

  64. bob says:

    I completely agree with your review Paul.
    I am glad that LWP got a good amount of airtime as it is my favourite George Michael album, but his last album Patience didn’t get a single mention.
    Also given how much he spoke about Anselmo, he mentioned nothing about his 15 year relationship with Kenny Goss.

    • Johnny K says:

      To be fair, the focus of the programme was not meant to stretch beyond the mid 90s, hence no Patience or Kenny Goss. The main focus was always intended to be the LWP era…

  65. Andrea says:

    What the Rolling Stones have to do with Waiting For That Day?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      He sings “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the end of that song, hence the shared songwriting credits.

  66. Nuno Bento says:

    No mention of the LwP v2 aborted album?

  67. Nuno Bento says:

    Stellar review. Thanks, Paul.

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