Interview by Joe Smith
This interview with George Michael has never been broadcast before. It was recorded on November 10, 1986 and we uncovered it in the Joe Smith Collection at the Library of Congress. Joe was recording interviews in connection with his oral history of music, Off the Record.
The Complete Unedited Interview
The Animated Transcript
I’ve always had a very strange sense of my own future and as a child, even though I had no idea that I could write or sing, I was convinced that I was going to be a pop star. I had no real inclination to shout about it because I just felt it was going to happen. I don’t think it was until we made the album, Make It Big, that actually I accepted that I was a singer. I was going to be a singer that could actually get some respect from people.
When the decision was made that you wanted to go on your own, what do you want to be?
We could have just kind of kept on being Wham! and me gradually making George Michael records but that would have been a real sham. Everyone is right now expecting me to move into the kind of artist that they have been comparing me to for the last couple years, i.e., another Elton [John].
But I do have the advantage of youth. I’m going to make two types of music: one is the type that people are expecting me to make because it’s really what I’m best at and what I would imagine whatever happens from now on or probably be remembered the most for is my songs in terms of structured ballads and stuff like that with strong melodies. You know, I’ve done that, I’ve done Careless Whisper.
But also there’s a kind of sexuality that I haven’t really made the most of with the first part of my career. I suppose obviously as a 22 year old, 23 year old, obviously I’m more experienced sexually than I was as an 18 year old. So maybe it’s time for that to start reflecting in the music.
What was the China experience like?
It was pretty horrendous actually. The idea of playing to those people, being the first people to play a real kind of Western pop music to those people, it was a great privilege. It was just that the place is so oppressive, the actual atmosphere.
We played two concerts that’s all we did. One in Beijing which is, or, Peking. What happened basically was that we opened with a black deejay and this guy did just about everything that deejay could do. He did break dancing. He spun the records, scratching and everything. People were jumping up and down. They were out of their seats. He ran around the auditorium dancing and stuff to our music. The people were kissing him and trying to dance like him. It was absolutely brilliant.
There’s about 15 minute break before we came on. There was an announcement, obviously, in Chinese, so we didn’t understand it at the time, made to the audience that there was to be no dancing for the rest of the evening and they wanted people to remain in their seats. So we went out and played to nothing. We went out and played to 13,000 people sitting down.
There was one funny thing, actually, is that when you tried to get the audience to clap, they have no perception of clapping in rhythm. So you’d clap and they would just applaud you.
Everyone was smiling but basically we just felt, the first feeling was of failure. That there was no way we could communicate. When we actually found out what had gone on, I was just furious. I mean obviously I felt responsibility at the time to represent my generation from the West in a good light, and pop music in a good light. I felt that was what we were there to do. After that, realizing that they had no real intention of allowing people to absorb what we were doing, I just felt really betrayed.
Oh, I suppose what I really want is to be able to do what I want creatively, succeed publicly, and be able to progress without screwing the rest of my life up. That’s the way I see it really. In 10 years time I think I could be a very, very big star as opposed to just a star. Although there is that half of me that wants it, there’s another half of me that’s very frightened of it, as well, because I don’t think it has a good effect on people’s lives. I don’t want to be dragged into the kind of downsides of this business that are so easy to fall into. I’m very excited about the future but at the same time it worries me.
I’ve had songs swimming around in my head for about two years. I just keep the songs and the arrangements in my head and it’s very, very silly in one sense because I mean I might go bang my head tomorrow or something. Where’s wood? There’s no wood to touch [taps wood]. Touch wood. I mean, I might go and have a nasty fall or something and lose an album’s worth of material but I have this thing that if it’s in my head and it’s still there it’s because it’s meant to be there. I have kind, it’s like a superstition.
“Everything She Wants” Wham!
“Careless Whisper” Wham!
“Take You Serious” Loz Netto
“Eighties Sound” Loz Netto
“Disco Fever” Loz Netto
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