« Desert Island Discs

Classic Desert Island Discs - George Michael

2022-05-22 | 🔗
Kirsty Young's castaway this week is George Michael, in a programme first broadcast in 2007. As a singer and songwriter he has enjoyed massive global success for a quarter of a century. He's sold more than 100 million records, won two Grammy awards and notched up countless number one hits. His ability to write, produce, and perform perfect pop songs is unquestioned. But along with the career highs, there have been lows too: he lost a long wrangle with his record company, was crippled by bereavement and for years questions about his sexuality were a matter of newspaper headlines until he was spectacularly outed a decade ago. In a rare interview, George Michael talks candidly to Kirsty Young about how he regained his emotional and professional confidence - and is now a happier and more peaceful man. [Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs] Favourite track: Love is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse Book: Any book of short stories by Doris Lessing Luxury: DB9 car.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Previously sounds music radio broadcasts lower in the van? Yet what taking our east to break so until about gonna? How, as showcasing a few programmes from our archive as usual, the music spin shortened for rights reasons, this week's guest is a singer and some writer, George Michael, he was castaway by kirsty young in two thousand and six in the the my castaway this week is george Michael for more than twenty five years he's been an international
more than one hundred million records sold countless number one's armfuls of prestigious awards and an army of loyal fans. His ability to write, produce and perform perfect pop songs is unquestioned, but, along with the career highs that have been lows too, he lost along wrangle with his record company faced bereavement and for years. His sexuality was a matter of intense newspaper speculation until he was spectacularly outed a decade ago. Within a few years he said he lost. His lover lost his mother and lost his dignity. Just because you're, rich and famous he once said, doesn't mean your life is problem free. My problems are not any greater or lesser than when I was seventeen that is different. Sir George Michael will vote to cast you away on this imaginary desert island. Would you welcome the solitude
right. Now I would actually right now. I would because I've obviously just done a year's touring, which was closely followed by some community service, so I'm quite quite ready to be on my own for a while, it's been an extraordinary twelve months. You finish this too, at which I was a sell out was a smash hit, got great reviews. You opened the new wembley stadium the day before that you were standing in the dock of brent magistrates, court charged with that driving whilst unfit through drugs. I mean have these twelve months seemed almost unbelievably extreme while ye I mean it is it's been. Am I she'd been a bizarre lawyer has been very bizarre. You because you can't imagine what is like playing to people who ve been loyalty for twenty five years and haven't seen you for fifteen. That's just been the most life coming thing I could down I'm so glad I did it and yet, on the other side I feel like you know, it's been shown to me time and time again, very, very strongly recently that the truth is nothing like is important, as a good story in store is not
to you, I mean given what you have been. As I said in the introduction very very famous for quite a long time do. Do you still get buffeted by the headlines? Well I don't like people thinking that I've been done for for grass and and other drugs when I've been done for sleeping pills, but I can't only the thing about the fate of the story last longer than the fact that you ve told people it didn't happen. You know when I realized it was that one sided and really may telling people the truth and doesn't make any difference. I just really of of managed in the last eighteen months to master the art of not eating them, which I should have done twenty years ago, red x or those of the low, but for the last twelve months you said quite a while back when you decided not to again. You said you know. If I wanted adulation, I too, I dont want actually has a little bit of adulation been quite nice. Well, the isolation. That's been nice is the absolute warmth. Actually is the complete generosity. I genuinely believe that you know the purpose of why do is positive
I really do genuinely believe that most of my sons, a life affirming in some way you know actually people who don't care about your music thinking. Lots of things about you aren't true, three doesn't matter in I re doesn't matter most wonderful is the love and the diva naturally really don't care, so on such a lucky. Man is annoying to have people, try and give the impression that world the world is a totally screwed up place, and I really needed those people in front of me night after night to tell me that it wasn't. You know I really needed it so badly. I'm so grateful to them. Tell me about your first choice. This is the best for you male vocalist. I've heard my entire career and one of the best writers. So all I can say is please please understand how brilliant you are and I will show every every success in the future. no, she can get past the media. I'd I'd, I don't know she can get past other things, but she's a fantastic talent and we should support this is anyway
it's the the story, the
Amy, winehouse and love is a losing game. George, Michael, you were saying and intriguingly when we were listening to that your great admiration for her talents, and you were talking about the fact that for yourself, you've never really been sure about anything in your life. Apart from the fact that you have the ability to create music, that people wanted to explain more about that cause, that's very untrustworthy! Well, I'll tell you! This is really! I have never said any of this before, but it's odd, I'm just kind of ridiculously ready to say these things now, but I have a huge propensity for guilt, because I was the boy in a in a greek family who, do what you liked from a very early age and did because the culture in the family and culture was patriarchal and it was to indulge the boy of two wonderful sisters who never got their wised as young greek girls. Obviously- and I grew up with this terrible feeling of guilt- I had feelings of guilt.
As a small child, knowing that I was always the one that was gonna, get the easy ride and I carry that propensity for guilt in strangest ways and I think I've finally realized one of the reasons my life has been so extreme and it's felt so in some ways. Self destructive is that it sounds arrogant, but I never had any feeling that my talent was going to. Let me down, I had a feeling that I had a huge advance,
which, over a lot of other people in the industry and a lot of other people in my own life. Obviously that I love and care about very much and I think in a strange way, I've spent much of the last fifteen or twenty years trying to derail my own career because it never seems to suffer. I suffer like crazy. I suffer all around. I've suffered terrible things, obviously bereavements and and public humiliations and blah blah blah, but my career just seems to always write itself like a duck in a bath. Has a black plastic duck in a bath, and I think in some ways are resent that when you were very very young, you decided you wanted him. I mean They all got liberate strategy absolutely, but by the time I was twenty two and twenty three. I knew that I was chasing something it was making unhappy. Can we want to live a little bit then to childhood? Your father was a greek cypriot immigrant first generation.
Your mother was born in england. As you say, you were the last of three children. What was life like growing up? My father was the absolute archetype ho. You know. Nineteen fifties immigrant from Cyprus, very determined and every single member of his family made something of themselves in this country. You know really their typical immigrant family that worked their asses, often and reap the rewards, and so he started off as as a waiter and ended up having his own restaurants, loonies and business successfully very successfully and and moved us out of a very working class environment into a middle class, one that didn't seem so incongruous, because my mother, strangely enough, found out when, when her mother died, that her mother had in fact been jewish. So actually her origins were in english, but she was incredibly victorian because her mother had been disowned for marrying a gentile
but her mother came from a very wealthy jewish family and my mother carried with her some very victorian ideas that really did not go tore. Well with my father's up. Would you know about my mother? Absolutely had no, no ambition for money. Thought money was the root of all evil, so being half my mother and half my father genetically was never going to be an easy ride. So much to talk but tell me about your second record: roxy music at both ends of the spectrum brown fairies made some of the sick the music of the last thirty years. It's so original, and it's so sexy and it's so insistent. I suppose this is called do strained. fandango
the roxy music and do the strand not particularly chosen george, because you were playing that when you must have been nine or ten when that came out yeah I mean struck that didn't actually stop me from listening to the best elton John and the best queen records, but something strange happened. The age of about eight, I had a headache. Jerry, and I know it sounds bizarre, an unlikely, but it was quite a bad bang added stitched up and stuff, but all my interests change everything changed in six months. I had been
sesar with insects and creep cronies? I used to get up at five o clock in the morning and guiding this fail behind our garden and collect insects before anyone else go up. And suddenly are all I wanted to know about was music it just the very very strange thing. I have a theory that maybe it was something to do with this accident- gives out this whole left brain right, brain thing: nobody must he seemed to notice, but I became absolutely obsessive amused. can and everything changed after that at so, when you were in your early two meetings. You met her friend called andrea, richly and famously of course, you would go on to form. Wham what about seventeen when lamb had its first hit, it was very, very young indeed. Well now I think we were eighteen just turned eighteen. When we got signed and we were, I think we were still eighteen by the time we had the first rapporteur and that in a very big deal getting signed. Can you remember my god? I had five hundred pounds. I'd I'd, I'd, never been more flush, and I thought five hundred pounds is quite a good deal for thirty years, actually
he's better desiring already only just free of the original contract. Now so you signed the we innocence your creative life in that, firstly, we absolutely lily and apparently that's. Ok, can you remember what you spent at first five hundred pounds it took a long time to spend it. That's the shocking thing when you've, just given up your job at the cinema, five hundred pounds is like I went into that office and gave up that job as though I'd just become a diamond dealer So so you everything's relative, isn't it took me a while to spend a year and you were born euro scary acquasparta. You're too was ok, I'll, say it for me, your skip over. By did. I was very good. All you have to do is kind of soften all the continents. If he's a your horse, giddy I'll go back I'll, do that's! That's it! I'm, whereas it reads: georgiadis carry across penalty right that sort of life, and- and there is a very early.
need for stage name rights as your that's your destiny, so George Michael was the name was a creation, but was the persona? A creation at seventeen well I thought it was at some point. I realized you know everything you do. Is you even? If it's the lies, you tell even if it's an act, it's the part of the real maison it, because it's what I want people think I am tell me about your next record. Number three is miles barkley. I think it sold fifty percent of all singles in the first six months of last year, and that's really saying something: You know an amazing song is amazing song. Occasionally something left field comes through and people. Say it for what it is, which is one of those old classics and overcome records recent here quite often, and it stands, head and shoulders above everything else,
the time has come now. Sparkling increases, interesting, your selection is, will see as we go through here, George Michael, that you have chosen very contemporary music. You dont, you don't seem to be somebody who's. Harking back to the musical past is. Is that because you always want to be on top of things is it because you're tired of what's gone before no one to do it, I'm not into things that too. In fact, I was actually just telling you. I mean some fairly tragic for someone who's lived for the radio, but since I have a license, I don't listen to the radio anymore, because I listen to the radio and the car so the next
he is my radio listing is proving to be the slim. They still play a lot of you. Of course, you are. I understand the most played artist on british radio Am I mean those early days of wham when you were very very young and you are pumping out lose hits in things like when wrap in club tropicana. Wake me up. If we could last christmas a great big lonely, what was life like going from being this boy who wanted fain to this boy, who suddenly got it and then some while for one, it was just absolutely magical playing out I'm with your best, might you know playing out your fantasies. It was just a dream, obviously, but I think we have what I was doing was. I was supremely confident that I was writing pop classics. To be honest with you, I was also supremely aware that if I kind of left the imagery a bit more to andrew kids can loved it. You said so a moment ago that you were living out, your fancy them in what were you fantasies that you anything else in the world? But I will tell you all of them go on.
image that stuck in my head of what I wanted to be was David Cassidy came to england for the first time and there was a shot that stuck with me anything else there was a shot him in slow, ocean heading a football around on the top of the elder beauty building. They then panned over the side of the elderly to building, and they were just thousands of these girls screening, obviously, but they couldn't get. and there was all the adulation and they couldn't get to him and somehow my desire for safety. You know because I was quite an insecure child and my desire for fame or kind of locked up in that moment, the insecurity that you were talking about there. That did not come from the insecurity about being able to write these platinum plated pop songs. The insecurity came from what the way the way he looked just from who I was was like. I had found it hard to make friends. I made plenty of friends I just dumb. I had no physical confidence whatsoever and I
It's up to andrew on on such a level because he just oozed confidence out of every pore and then suddenly we were massively successful and I went from being andrew's kind of shadow as a sexually comfort Being too being ready in the centre of attention and at that level, somehow I lost all my Evidence disposal also the realisation that bisexuality was no longer a reality for me and I suddenly felt like a fake. So the whole thing to say mean to someone who really felt the camera. Was it my enemy? Let's talk about that in just a moment, for neither tell me about your fourth choice. My fourth choice is navona. This record is the best produced wrought record in the history of of rock. Having is not, as are the greatest song, is a phenomenal record. Obviously it was a music industry. Changing readily changed everything
paragraph. Annoying because it's an absolute classic nirvana smells like team spirit. The came out that, just in time there towards Michael you have said the headbanging you were saying if you are on an island, you'd be angry anyway, so that would be like if I was on an island I'll, be so furious. I think not need to vent anger every once in a while generally mean Oprah Winfrey once said, if you come to, not knowing who you are, it will define you and I'm wondering that, given the lamb and thin hit you so early, did you begin to be a little disoriented by that magnitude of fame? There's a level of
of deification in america that you just don't get hey you get. You notice, you gotta, find quite the opposite overhead. Are you for an english boy, that was kind of I was twenty, four and, and still quite afraid, are still not known. To be honest with you how to spend money, I was terrified of My lifestyle may be removing my ability to connect him to. Why did I on I freaked out, I said isn't making more videos. I don't think I'll ever tour again I'll have to step back to those of us buying your records at the time and and watching the videos. It was a very, very to sexual image I mean I remember so I really did think so. Watch the videos. In honestly, I watch the video to I want to your sex. I thought that man is clearly of any had to say see there was. I was with a caffeine in the video, and you know this was based on you weren't having a cup of tea. Let's
no not really. Now absolutely- and this was you know, it wasn't as though it was a complete lie. You know it's not the. I had stopped having sex with women, but I was all We fully aware that in itself was alive, because what I really had made a connection to was an emotional part. My sexuality, It was clearly gay, so there was all that feeling fraudulent as well, because I'm not, I think what people have to acknowledge if they know my behavior since I've come out or since I outed myself accidentally, but probably not accidentally, I think there's a level of honesty that is quite obviously natural to me that I'm uncomfortable with anything else. I try to understand. Firstly, how much I love my family, and the aids was the predominant feature of being gay in the eighties and an early nineties as far as any parent was concerned. my mother was still alive and every single day would have been a nightmare for her thinking about what I might be subject to so so
yeah. There are all these kinds of reasons and were you out to some people and not to other lawyer, because I'd be lights out to a lot of people. Since I was nineteen, I wish to god. It happened, then I have to be honest. I don't think I would have had the same career. My ego might not have been satisfied in some areas quite as much, but I think I would have yeah man did you wrestle with iran about age nineteen year when I was nineteen, I came out to various friends and one of my sisters, and I said I was gonna talk to my mom died and was persuaded in no uncertain terms that it really wasn't the best idea by by friends, but they were really running over trying to protect my career or back reasoning. They would literally just thinking of my task cause. You know when you're nineteen that's as far as you that you look at your parents is all don't tell your dad, my god, you're dad who hit the roof and then Soon, after that everything changed aids was was just not something I was prepared to bringing my parents
life. I was too young to immature to know that I was sacrificing much. There was tell me that you next record, so the next record, quite appropriate. Is being boring by neil tenant increase low patch up boys, Neil at a certain point in the eightys- was writing the most beautiful songs no wants to hear frightening terrifying songs about aids, but they do if their gay and they ve lost friends. They do to hear those people referred to and remembered and on it- and I think some of those work did that easily
This picture boys and being dwellings interesting, George Michael, but you haven't chosen any ruins. We do not. Actually, I probably just listen to my songs. On a day to remind myself, I was once known and famous because I'd be explaining its crustaceans. Wouldn't at one of them was pointed songs. I think you ve written is Jesus to a child, and that was written for essentially your first love. How did you meet your first love? Well, what happened was actually it was a step
in strange thing. I don't know if this, if people relate to this, but there have only been three times in my life that I've really fallen for anyone and each time on first sight, I had something as in my head that told me I was gonna, know that person and it happened. With Anselmo across the lobby, so I met him in that lobby Am I didn't understand why the click happened. This is me in a brazilian hotel, I'm never going to see him again, why did this happen? I didn't understand what was going on. This was the first love of my entire life, and this was the first person I ever shared my life with, and it was tragic that I lost him, but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience meeting him. I will do either. I was twenty seven and I just started my first proper relationship
Which is pretty old? Isn't it really, unfortunately, within six months, I knew that he was terminal souls A strange first love. You know it was. He was very distorted by the situation, but it was also a wonderful experience, and so he died in that wasn't. Ninety ninety three: ninety nine three. An aids related illness out three months before I lost my court case. Yes, there was not a good. It was is related yeah. I mean he was a couple of years. the me he very likely picked it up in new york before people had any inkling that new york was actually a hotbed of fur. This new disease, one is the signatures, have been truly and deeply in love, of course, is that you want to sing about it from the rooftops. You want to tell everyone I open where you love affair with the. Unfortunately, I wasn't writing anything I've already just released now when I met him and then by the time. She made another album, he died, which is what the outcome was about and, to be perfectly honest, I think my best album. I think it proper
We will always be my best album. I, and I never want to be that inspired again, as I say, to people unite, has a very bitter sweet situation. Isn't it that your most creative period, something that and also one of your most popular albums elders- is something that came out of the such pain, can you reconcile those two feelings or will they always be a degree of dissonance with between? Now? I think I'm out Absolutely I think the album is a beautiful reminder of him. wouldn't go through it again to make great album. Don't get me wrong. You know this man's life was was much more important to me than and detain people. I know want to feel that loss. I'd never want to feel that debt through emotion. Again, I hope he's very, very proud of it somewhere. Tell me that you next record an extra toward gold frat that first go trap. Album felt mountain is great gray. Album, you know, is amazingly
Elegant production, I'm really of her voice, Yes, The itchy the go fast and paper bag. You mentioned just a moment ago, and indeed its been something of a theme. It was at the beginning that the derision with which you talk about record companies and record executives. You had this big nasty, high court battle with sunni that lasted about six.
Once. I think it was, and were you propelled by anger about different things into that? Was it actually all about the record company? Well, I mean I did sign a piece of paper aged eighteen that if effectively considering I've only been able to be sold rather than be free effectively. The results of that deal of only just ended, I'm just free. You called it at the time professional slavery, which, of course, was beautifully calculated well turned phrase, but if, at the same time, which made in the context of your record here that you didn't particularly want to put yourself out there. You didn't want to go on the radio show on the tv shows and make the videos in there he had won the sharp suit. Looking grit you didn't want to do. Any of that might reasonably have been expected to respond by saying where we want really play the game either, for Lastly, they ve been if what they re reasonably could have expected was when you just made hundred million dollars for a company. You expect them to have a little bit of patients with you know. It was very
this that I was going through something personal that men I couldn't face the world while I was actually going through personally, was dealing with the fact that personally I cared for in the world how to turn loomis. How long that terminal illness would be no. When I would ever be happy enough to write another song, I was terrified. I was absolutely terrified at that point in time I had no idea what to do, and it was such a dark period of my life, and I thought it is just going to continue that way. Already dead sire I struggled with huge depression, especially after my mother died on us. I struggled with huge depression and is a bad combination. Here is there's. Somebody doesn't take bereavement very well at having any views to the sum of the suffering take longer to recover. and there's a situation where your own boss, so no one's kicking you out the ass to get out there. Live again and see the positive you know, but to bereavement losing a love
and your mother within the space of three is: is tough one. Let's take a break for your sentence record that, to reasons of a chosen this record, there are certain recalls that literally I just can't not move too, and this is one of them. The lyric makes me laugh is completely brutal, completely sexist. Surprise, surprise, coming from american hip hop record by it's funny is funny. Gold digger see tat when he died. friend in the old eu, the gold digger were over town that digs only the cc code. The window broke
please go. We know well that was cameo west and gold digger did you come to a point, after you were wholly in treating the you said, not really forcibly I've said, but you know, Happening to everybody knows about wasn't just on every front pages. On every front page, about ten days you were in the park as everybody knows, and in the toilet you were busted by policemen, undercover because of sexual advances you made to him, you were forced to come out here, Well, what are you going to do say? It was a one off right. In my case. You know I always knew it was gonna happen. Some time I was going to get out in one way another and the reason. The reason I it took me a good year to to admit mit myself that it was subconsciously deliberate, and I read that you said of course, because I read it, I don't nestle know if it's true, but that it
not have happened. If your mother will your mother been alone, and I would never found why I'm not saying cruising when it happened. I'm sorry, I will never have put myself in the stupid position of doing in america where I knew the level of homophobia. I think to me to do that. I was absolutely tempting fate. I think I was sick of of sacred. Now there wasn't any reason to be quiet now that that my mother is no longer in this world and was proud of of my sexuality. Strange way of going about telling the world, but I think it was almost like a had to be that the backslide played with the press with so much one of privacy, and I felt so- loathe to actually sit and say I am gay, the three white words they want it for years. It really wasn't something that he did holding onto any more, but I just couldn't do it in the room in the regular way. I think I had to do it and for myself I had to fool myself that that had been dragged out of me did. Did you feel that a burden had been lifted
oh god you, because I am not alone until honest. today, my hair onto embarrassed to die my head, I'm not alive in her, but this was one lie that I've been been kind of, going to tell people in my own wife years and years, and I don't know some something in me picked the most difficult way to do it. When you were talking to me about your mother at the very beginning of this conversation, you said that she was very victorian and our values. How did she react when you had come after all, you see one when I came out to my mother I wrote a letter the day after in summer died because it seems absolutely simple. It seemed like if there was a message at the moment of his if it was well. This is when you tell your parents, because this is the only part of yourself you haven't opened up, and what about the recent payment
as you mentioned you, you no longer have a driving licence in you for two years. You want bill to drive because you will find No, it's reporting, and you do take issue with a lot of the reporting on this, that you will find slumped at the wheel of your com. You are capable of driving and you were found guilty of that. You ve done community service for that. But how long did you do for community service? I've done half of my community service. I did some very interesting work with people with mental health problems and with people with drug addiction, and I Oh, you know, scrubbed down some very dirty rooms in and made chicken for heat is for some homeless people, which was nice of quite good. Apparently that is my first time chicken feed is. Do you think you have a problem with drugs. It depends what you could problem really unhappy man and I can my marijuana, so that's not a problem. I am. I am constantly trying to smoke less really. I would like to take absolutely outlet stateless, no question into that today.
The greatest problem is a problem in my life does it is again in the I have my life in anyway. I don't think so relenting, so you said a little earlier that this is a time in your life when Poli, unlike any other, you find peace and a degree of contentment, and you know you back on the road, with all the attention that that has gone at? What do you think it is? Essentially that's brought you that peace. I think. Well only neurons t nobody died on me in years two years for me to believe that these blows weren't gonna keep coming term about your final record. Actually, this is the heaviest lyrical record on on this list and from a gay artists could Rufus wainwright and he's written this sancho going to a town town really laying into the bush administration talking about america
no soaking, the body of Jesus Christ in blood and fantastic lyrics. All over this record and dumb someone at peevish definite check out. to cease sir.
Wainwright's and going to town, and so at this point on the island, I will give you george Michael, the bible, the complete works of shakespeare and you're allowed to take another book. What would you like to take? I take any book of if I'm getting the bible. Yes right, I'm getting shakespeare, which I won't read by the way, I'm not undertake a jolly book, but I think I would take a book short stories by doors lessing. You may have that then, and of course, you allowed a luxury on this island to make things more bearable. What would you luxury be? Well, I thought about this and oversee and not allowed to have a part in this. I couldn't take kenny now. So that sound botz on a desert island who is gonna now have not got a driving licence. so I can drive around in a db nine I'll. Just
I have a round around my little desert island on my db. Nine, because I am obsessed with cars, and you know next two years, I'm not going to get to drive on it to us and if the waves were to crash to the shore and threatened to wash away these eight discs that you've chosen. What's the one you would run to save? Oh, my god, I think I'd have to say- and you house You can have it george, Michael. Thank you very much for letting us here you're. Does it frankly kirsty? Thank you so much the the
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.