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Then and Now: George Michael
The past twenty-five years have been nothing if not colourful for George Michael. He does what he wants when he wants, creating trends and sometimes ignoring what seems like good sense, all in the name of making pop music.

Since there always seems to be something preventing this pop star from putting out a new CD ~ battles with record companies, prolonged periods of grieving for departed family and friends, arrests for lewd behaviour ~ his latest release Twenty Five is cause for a celebration. Named in reference to the number of years he’s spent in the music business, the new double CD chronicles the career of one of the world’s most popular and controversial artists.

George Michael ~ Then
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in North London, it was while he was at school that he teamed up with mate Andrew Ridgeley and began to create music. Georgios would sing while Andrew accompanied him on the instruments, and by the late seventies they had formed a ska band called The Executive. After playing at local clubs together, they changed their name to Wham! in 1981 and began to seriously shop their music around. At the same time, Georgios took on the name George Michael. Six months later, the duo procured a record deal and released their first single Wham Rap. The single barely reached the Top 30, and it was their second release Young Guns (Go For It!) that really took off and became the first of their many Top 10 hits. Number one singles like Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, I'm Your Man and Freedom transformed Wham! into one of the biggest pop groups of the 1980s.

George Michael ~ Now
Now that Michael has spent a few years being better known for his travails with the Los Angeles police than for his catalogue, the new album Twenty Five is a timely release to bring the attention back where it belongs. Celebrating his 25 years in the music industry, this is a new 2 CD compilation of Michael’s biggest hits ~ from the early bubblegum pop of Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go to singles like Careless Whisper and Fastlove, songs that have made him an international pop phenomenon. To promote the launch of the new CD, in an exclusive interview, the extremely private George Michael sat down and talked candidly about his life and career:
Twenty Five celebrates your quarter century in the music business. That must feel good…
George Michael: I feel incredibly lucky because the music I loved to make just happened to be the same kind that a lot of people love to buy. (Laughs) It’s a good time to be able to centre on music again, for the media has tried to make it about everything but my music...

That’s true. You’ve been in the news a lot these last couple of months…
Michael: (Laughs) Yes. I've been on the front covers of at least 15 or 20 newspapers this year. The only thing of note that has happened to me as a person this year is that I fell asleep in my car, and you know it's a serious thing to do…so don't get into your car so knackered that you're likely to fall asleep. The police on the scene said I was okay and the police at the station said I was okay but that's not what the public thinks. The public thinks I’m a man on the brink of some kind of breakdown because apparently I also hit a parked car and because I cruise as a gay man. (Laughs again)

You’re quite a positive person aren’t you?
Michael: There’s always something going on in my life that'll make people forget about the last scandal. (Laughs) I can't bear to be negative in this world. I can't bear it. I’ve spent 25 years trying to make music that I think on an emotional level is taking people up or connecting them with their lower moments...and that has been done from the best part of me. At the end of the day, all I can do is be honest.

When you look back at your early work, is there anything you would have done differently?
Michael: I find my early recordings quite clear-cut and boring cause I didn't know much about know? (Laughs) I genuinely used to believe that I was unlucky not to have been born 10 years before...I had no idea how unlucky it would have been to be born 10 years God can you imagine! (Laughs again) The thing about being born when I was and being 17 when I was is that when I walked into record companies in 1980 or 1981 with a four track demo that we made for 20 quid...we had enough gall to walk in without an appointment. The way Andrew and I did it was, we'd go the receptionist and tell her that she screwed up and that we had an appointment with somebody, and we'd pretend to really get pissed off about it. And if you had that kind of cheek they let you in because you might tell them something they didn't know.

You can read the rest of our feature on George Michael: Then and Now in the January 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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