RIP George Michael
Some of you may know I worked with George Michael and Wham! in the eighties. He made such a difference to my professional life and I was devastated to hear of his death. Even though it made me really sad, it was good to be able to pay tribute and share some memories on BBC Radio 2, in The Guardian and on ABC News….I thought I’d share some here too.
Early eighties…oh the leg warmers!
It was 1981 and I was a session backing singer in my very first job working with Mari Wilson and the Wilsations. When Wham’s first single was such a big hit they were suddenly wanted on the road for a tour, I heard that they were auditioning for backing singers but the tour manager told me it was unlikely we would have a look in, as they were auditioning Kokomo (big time US vocal section). I rang a friend Janet Mooney who was a singer and Gee Belo (from Light of the World) we had done some sessions together. Nothing to lose we said, so we rehearsed a few Wham harmonies and rocked up, the MD was Tommy Eyre, George heard us jamming with the band, and chose us for the gig, we were young, fresh and super ambitious, even then George knew exactly what he wanted!
I had the most awesome few years touring with the band, it was literally like Beatlemania and the guys had to be ferried out of the gigs in Black Maria’s while the audience waited for the encore that never came, I remember we played Whitley Bay Ice Rink, and while we were sound checking the crew found a couple of literally frozen fans who had stowed themselves away from the night before to get close to the front!
This pic of me on the left with George was taken backstage on one of the first tours, I remember that amongst the merchandise were dolls of George and Andy, the guys would have a little competition at each gig to see whose doll sold the most, George used to get quite miffed if Andrew Ridgeley’s sold more! The first trip to the US was amazing, we played the Apollo Harlem, (wow the history) and the Limelight club, just two years later we went back and did a stadium tour. I remember playing an open air stadium in Dallas Texas, on stage at about 11pm in blistering heat – we were supported by Chaka Khan and The Pointer Sisters, I remember Elton John came to that gig – I mean why wouldn’t you!
George was always a perfectionist, when we played China – we were the first Western band to go there, it was a bizarre experience, before any changes, tickets to the gig cost the equivalent of several months wages out there, we gave some freebies to the cleaners in the hotel. Wham’s management were making a feature film and we had a huge film crew, after the first few scenes were shot, George and Andy looked at the rushes of the film and George was seriously unhappy with his hair, so he flew his sister out to sort it, (the lovely Melanie – a hairdresser). He knew exactly how he wanted to look and how he wanted his music to sound.
The feature film eventually came out on video Wham in China. Check it out – great fun!
Factoid – Even though my colleagues and I were the backing singers on all the live gigs and the live videos, he rarely used session singers in the studio? Why? Because he was SO brilliant he did all his own ‘BV’s’ – infuriating for us, but what a star!
Factoid – The awesome ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ came about because Andrew left a note on the door for his mum one morning, he wrote…’wake me up before you go go’… and the rest is history…
One of my fave memories is doing a series of nights at Wembley arena when Last Christmas was a hit – I thought it was magical, fake snow et al…
In more recent years..
I was invited to his Cowboys and Angels birthday party, (must have been 1998) we had to go in fancy dress, I was eight and half months pregnant so couldn’t really go as an angel…(though there were some incredible wing-spans in sight that night!) but I managed a cowboy outfit, it was all just after the ‘shenanigans’ had gone on (George being arrested in the public loos) …The invitations said…Please note there will be no public conveniences so please go before you come…he had a fabulous sense of humour, that’s why he was so beloved.
George was very much a family guy, his dad ran a restaurant in North London and would often invite the whole band there (I remember being introduced to fried zucchini) they were a close family and I’m not sure he ever got over the death of his mother, she was the most lovely woman, so proud of her son and we had several long discussions about the horror of losing someone to cancer so young, (I had just lost my mother in law around the same age as George’s mum).
In recent years I’ve come across Family Constellations –read my article on it here http://www.familyconstellationsherts.co.uk/#!articles and I can see how George’s experiences shaped who he was, I SO wish I could have taken him along to a session, he could have found some peace. The last time I saw him was a few years ago when he came into Steve Wright in the Afternoon to be interviewed. RIP George…. you were such a hugely important part of my life.