An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 1 – The Wham! Years

Dear George

George, George, George…, Georgios Kyriacos, Gorgeous one – I probably knew that you had not been “looking after yourself” (as my mum would call it) for some time, but when I heard the news yesterday morning that you had passed away from heart failure, on Christmas Day of all days, it was the first time this year that I actually uttered a guttural roar on the hearing of such news. A loud, “No, no, no……” could be heard emanating from my person followed by a few punches of my pillow. I eventually pulled myself together however and headed off to our little office to see what the world wide web was making of it all. Shitty, shitty 2016.

First of all you were just a tad younger than me, and British, so of all the shiny stars from the world of entertainment who have passed on this year, you were the one I could identify with most (me being an international singer/song-writing superstar an’ all) – But seriously, you appeared in my life just as childhood and the artificial world of the student was coming to an end so you have been with me for the journey that has been my entire adult life. In a non-interfering, almost unnoticed way, you have provided one of the soundtracks to my life and have been there at a few of the most pivotal points. You will never be forgotten.

I spotted you for the first time, as was usual in those days, on Top of The Pops in the summer of 1982. We had just finished our degrees but were allowed to stay on in our Halls of Residence until the new term started in October – This was the first time I had lived in Halls over the summer but I had a job, my 5 best friends were with me, there were no lectures or exams, and the sun was shining – What a great time we had and on Thursday nights at 7.30pm we all piled into my little room for TOTP (as unbelievably in those less technology saturated times, I was the only one who had a little portable telly).

And there you were, joyously strutting your stuff with best mate Andrew, the other half of Wham!, and the girls Pepsi & Shirlie (the future Mrs Martin Kemp). I was, at 22 by this time, too old to be smitten by such teen-dream fodder but hey, it was summer and Young Guns (Go For It) was feel-good pop of the highest order. What not to enjoy. We’d already had New Romanticism with all the falderals and excess that it entailed, but here were a couple of young lads from Hertfordshire having fun in their loafers and rolled up jeans. I am ashamed to admit it now (no, not that I really liked this stuff, as that would never happen), but it was Andrew I was smitten with at first. He was indeed very cute back then and I feel bad about that now, as we all know you had real self-image issues over the years, but as time went by you did kind of grow into yourself and became a very attractive man.

Young Guns (Go For It) by Wham!:

But life moves on and we all decanted to flats in the city centre and became part of the real world, getting ourselves “proper” jobs and entering the 9 to 5. I have written about this before but during these transition years there is usually an overlap with the life left behind and for a while we still tended to frequent the old haunts of our student days. As time went by however, more socialising was done with new colleagues and our haunts of choice changed – This was Aberdeen, the Oil Capital of Europe for goodness sake, money was plentiful and bit by bit we moved up to the much more yuppified side of the town. I feel embarrassed by it now considering what was happening in other parts of the country at the time, but hey, we were young, it always felt like it was summer and life was being played out to all of your great chart singles, Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Careless Whisper and Freedom

I have already written about you twice this year George, once when Careless Whisper became a “random pick of the day” and once when recounting how your song Freedom was the key to securing a place in the final of the prestigious Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. Can be found here (George Michael, Careless Whisper and the Summer of 1984) and here (Pop Quizzes, George Michael and Freedom) – Fun times. But all fun times have their day and ironically that happened soon after we tried to recreate those wonderful scenes from your video for Last Christmas.

Last Christmas by Wham!:

About 10 of us booked a New Year break, not in a swish Alpine resort as per the video, but in the Cairngorms. Scotland was having an uncharacteristically mild winter that year and instead of snow we had…, well whatever it’s called when it’s winter and not snowy…, brown. No matter, we had a great time with days out and about and nights spent eating, drinking and playing games. When I said that all fun times have their day, that is exactly what happened. Hubby and I call it “cottage weekend syndrome” – You have this great time with like-minded single friends of both the male and female persuasion, but one by one everyone starts to pair up and become couples. The very thing that was the catalyst in getting them together in the first place leads to its demise once mortgages and children come along, which is sad, but, it seems that as humans we are destined to want to be couples. I know you have not had an easy time of it George in the relationship department, but I do hope that at the time of your death you had someone in your life who really cared about you. I find it hard to believe that such a fuss was made when you came out as gay in the late ’90s. First of all, I am pretty sure that all of us who were fans knew anyway (you were always just so well-groomed) and secondly it really didn’t matter – I can see that during the ’80s however, when that new virus came along that could lead to AIDs, it would have been a difficult time to tell a loving mother the truth.

My last major recollections of your days in Wham! were during the summer of 1986. After a very long-winded, on-off relationship with the old school boyfriend, who became the student boyfriend, the early ’80s boyfriend and finally the mid ’80s boyfriend, by the summer of ’86 it was definitely over for good. This was a new found freedom I had not experienced in years and it was embraced with open arms. It coincided with the announcement that Wham! were also finally calling it a day and what with the release of a farewell single, The Edge of Heaven and a singles compilation album called “The Final” you were never out of the media. There was also a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium and the world premiere of the film documenting your landmark tour of China. Put it down to giddy delirium at being single again, but I reverted to being a love-struck teenager and bought both original albums “Fantastic” and “Make It Big” as well as the new one. Very embarrassingly I also acquired some posters and put them up on my bedroom wall but there was also method in this madness. I was very conscious of the fact that being single again after many years as a couple, I could make mistakes of the rebound nature – Having posters of you and Andrew on my wall would surely stop any rash impulses being acted upon. (It worked to a point, but it turns out that if necessary it takes less than 30 seconds to rip down blu-tacked posters, so not as great a barrier method as hoped.)

That summer was also the one I went on holiday to Greece, your father’s country of birth. Those were more demure days when the hedonistic stories of sun, sex and sangria-fuelled partying did not feature as much when travelling to such places (or maybe we just went to a particularly nice island). Anyway, during the holiday we all ended up having little romances and lo and behold the boy I fell for was also called Georgios. I clearly remember shedding a little tear on the way home on the plane and then suffering the embarrassment, once back at work, of having to tell my boss that the password to my computer was indeed “Georgios” when he needed access in a hurry!

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Swimming with George in Greece

So George, my memories of those years, 1982 to 1986 are now complete but there are so many more post-Wham! memories which I am going to leave for Part 2 of my tribute to you.

I have been conscious of late that because I am no longer writing in a vacuum and actually have a few followers, that I perhaps need to be a bit more selective with my choice of featured songs. I chose not to write about Last Christmas the other week as I do still get a bit embarrassed that back in the ’80s my social conscience temporarily left me, and I was swept up in a sea of Club Tropicana and Careless Whispers. But, the received wisdom is that you should always write from the heart and be true to yourself. No-one ever said that you can’t like a variety of musical genres anyway and my mantra has always been that I like music of great quality, whatever the style, so it is perfectly possible to have loved The Smiths as well as Wham!.  

So long then, to the young Greek Adonis of my youth. Until next time, RIP George.

george-1

Young Guns (Go For It) Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Hey sucker
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker
Hey sucker
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker
(Now there’s nothing you can do)

Well I hadn’t seen your face around town awhile,
So I greeted you, with a knowing smile,
When I saw that girl upon your arm,
I knew she won your heart with a fatal charm.
I said “Soul Boy, let’s hit the town!”
I said “Soul Boy, what’s with the frown?”
But in return, all you could say was
“Hi George, meet my fiancée”

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

Hey sucker,
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker!
(Now there’s nothing you can do.)

A married man? you’re out of your head
Sleepless nights, on an H.P. bed
A daddy by the time you’re twenty-one
If your happy with a nappy then you’re in for fun.
But you’re here
And you’re there
Well there’s guys like you just everywhere
Looking back on the good old days?
Well this young gun says CAUTION PAYS!

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

I remember when he such fun and everthing was fine,
I remember when we use to have a good time,
Partners in crime.
Tell me that’s all in the past and I will gladly walk away,
Tell me that you’re happy now,
Turning my back
Nothing to say!
“Hey tell this jerk to take a hike,
There’s somethin’ ’bout that boy I don’t like”
“Well sugar he don’t mean the things he said”
“Just get him outta my way, ’cause I’m seeing red
We got plans to make, we got things to buy
And you’re wasting time on some creepy guy”
“Hey shut up chick, that’s a friend of mine,
Just watch your mouth babe, you’re out of line”

GET BACK
HANDS OFF
GO FOR IT!

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

14 thoughts on “An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 1 – The Wham! Years”

  1. A fitting tribute, Aly. I was never a huge fan, but I did love his pop sensibilities when he was in Wham!, and his ear for a killer ballad when he went solo. As someone who has lost an icon from their childhood recently – a day earlier (don’t worry, I’m not going to hijack this) – I know exactly how you feel. I would strongly recommend, if you haven’t done so already, you venture onto Twitter and see some of the stories of George’s incredible generosity that have been posted therein the last couple of days. Truly a sad, unexpected, loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the one that has affected me most. He has just been with me for my entire adult life. I have actually read some amazing stories of his generosity over the last couple of days but will venture further afield. As it turns out it possibly wasn’t that unexpected a loss to those in the know, but it was to me, which is why it has come as such a shock. Shitty, shitty 2016.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this as I haven’t seen it before – The live performance of this song will feature in Part 2 of my tribute and nothing could have been of more pivotal importance to my current life. Watch this space!

      PS I fear for Seal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “It is perfectly possible to have loved The Smiths as well as Wham!”

    Ironically, although I became a bigger Morrissey fan in the long run, I hated the Smiths when they were around and would much rather have listened to George back then. Only now can I look back and say I loved them both. George was always easier to love than Morrissey though: you have to really work at that sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I was in my 20s it really was possible to love both, and I did. I kind of feel as if no-one would believe me around here (considering the kind of songs I choose to write about sometimes) but as I say, it’s all about the quality, not the style or sub-genre. As for George he made quality pop and then quality ballads in his later years. Very, very sad.

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  3. I really enjoyed this lovely, warm tribute – a great, funny but poignant read, and I love all these little snippets of your life and their links to George and Wham! – memories and music really are inextricable. This year has just been so crap with so many losses…. what else can we do but hope for a better 2017.
    (Hope it’s not too much of a culture shock being back at work today)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – Thing is I only wrote about the 4 years of Wham! here so not sure how I’m going to fit in the next 30 years into one post! Will try. I’m guessing you probably weren’t a big fan C, and to be honest I wasn’t really (other than during my “giddy” summer in ’86) but he was always there or thereabouts creating the soundtrack to my life with great quality songs.

      PS – It sounds as if each post I do revolves around the splitting up with a boyfriend. Just to be clear, it was the same boy, 3 times over a long period! Just happens to coincide with a lot of this era of music.

      Work ok as not many people in and I got a prime car-parking space. Home now though so a short day.

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  4. This is such a touching tribute Alyson, interspersed with lovely glimpses into your own life and history with George. I was working in a record shop by the time those early Wham records appeared, where the staff were (as you might imagine) a little cooler than thou at times. A little gang of us (known as The Furious Five at the time) hung out together a lot, frequenting the pubs of Suffolk after work, talking terribly earnestly about music and generally putting the world to rights. At chucking out time, depending on our state of inebriation, we generally did one of two things a) Linked arms and did a drunken approximation of the Monkee walk, singing ‘Here we come, walking down the street, get the funniest looks from….’ etc until we collapsed with laughter or b) Sang our surprisingly faithful interpretation of ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’, probably a bit too raucously for the local population at that time of night. The song was our gang’s theme tune for a while, as I was reminded by a fellow member of the Furious Five by text when we heard the news of George’s passing, ‘We were all young guns once….’ he noted, a tad dejectedly.
    Here’s the Sid Griffin from the Long Ryders brilliantly summing up George’s cultural impact, on BBC breakfast. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0zK-4Bw6nI

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just watched the Sid Griffin interview which I had missed but he does a really good job of summing up the man and not just the pop star. Glad to hear you have fond personal memories of some of his songs as well and I suspect, like with me, those years in your early 20s were just full of friends and fun – Life moves on but good to have the memories. I really picked a rubbish year to start having a nostalgic trawl back through the “Tracks of My Years” – It has been heart-rendering, but always a new tribute to write.

      What is good about having waited until now to start blogging, is that I have carte blanche to write about whatever and whoever I want in the music dept. – I no longer have to worry about whether it is cool or uncool to like someone as I no longer care! If their music made me smile (or cry) it is worthy of being included. Sadly the obits are coming just a bit too fast and furious for my liking and none of us can really keep up. Have a terrible feeling that 2017 will be the same as just reaching that point in the evolution of rock and pop.

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  5. You said “This is the one that has affected me most.” and maybe I know what you mean, I think it’s the age thing, he was the same as me and you (almost, as you said), and it just seems a great shame. There was a piece in teh Guardian a couple fop days ago, the writer recalling when he was a given a lift home by George Michael, and George, at the writer’s request, rang the doorbell. Door opened by daughter. You can;t imagine to many pop stars doing that can you? He just seemed like a nice bloke, somehow, and a litlte bit lost, not really knowing what to do with his life.
    Nice article, looking forward to parts 2 (the sole superstar years) and 3 (2000 – 2016)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to have you drop by George but so sad it is because of another sad departure. Yes unlike some of the other shiny stars he was of my generation and he was “ours”, not American, so all the cultural references in his songs really resonated. He had definitely lost his way of late which is such a shame considering he could be so generous (much of which we are just finding out about now) and also be self-deprecating if need be (for those great comedic sketches). Don’t know if I’ve got the stamina for another 2 parts but I definitely have one in the tank as another of his songs played a big part in a very important moment in my life (and my daughter’s). Watch this space!

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