Category: George Michael

Born on this day: June 25, 1963 – Pop vocalist…

Born on this day: June 25, 1963 – Pop vocalist, songwriter and producer George Michael (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in East Finchley, North London, UK). Happy Birthday to this pop music icon on what would have been his 56th Birthday.

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On this day in music history: June 3, 1987 – “…

On this day in music history: June 3, 1987 – “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael is banned from both radio and video airplay by the BBC in the UK two days after its release. Written while working on his first solo album, the song that evolves into “I Want Your Sex” is the result of an equipment malfunction during production. Working in the studio with recording engineer Chris Porter, George Michael is recording a track, attempting to trigger a synthesizer off of the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) function on a drum machine he has programmed. Slowing down the tempo of the recorded drum track, the MIDI doesn’t do what he intends, with the synthesizer going to a random sequence instead. The keyboard begins playing a “squelching, pumping” synth bass line to the drum machine. Michael is so intrigued by what has happened, that he abandons the original song he had been working on, and begins writing a new one to that sequence. A huge fan of Prince, Michael takes inspiration from Minneapolis musician’s racier material when he writes “Sex”. It is issued as the first single from the former Wham! lead singers first solo album “Faith”, four and a half months in advance of the LP, and on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy comedy “Beverly Hills Cop II”. Two versions of the single are released, as a two part 7" single, and three part extended 12" single titled “The Monogamy Mix” (on vinyl, cassette single, and CD3) running over thirteen minutes. In the UK, the 12" single release comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve with the complete lyrics printed inside, and a limited second edition in a single pocket sleeve with a free poster of George Michael. The BBC issues a statement regarding the ban, feeling that both the song and the music video are “too sexually provocative”, and believing it to promote promiscuity in spite of its actual message of being in a monogamous relationship. In the US, many radio stations refuse to play the record for similar reasons, with panic over the worldwide AIDS pandemic reaching a fever pitch around this time. MTV makes Michael re-edit the video three times before they accept it for daytime airplay. CBS Records also provides radio with a special edit of the song that excises the word “sex” from the track dropping in the words “love” and “you” in the appropriate places. In spite of all this, sales of the single are strong both in the US and UK, though the reduced exposure it receives prevent the record from reaching #1 in either country. “I Want Your Sex” peaks at #3 on the UK singles chart, and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 1, 1992 – &…

On this day in music history: June 1, 1992 – “Too Funky” by George Michael is released. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the fourteenth single release for the singer, songwriter and producer from Bushey, Hertsfordshire, UK. Following the disappointing sales “Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1”, and locked in a legal battle with Sony Music, George Michael scraps the planned follow up album. Instead, the musician donates three of the songs to a compilation titled “Red Hot + Dance”. Assembled by the Red Hot Organization, the royalties generated by the album, go to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS. One of the new songs Michael contributes is titled “Too Funky”. Recorded in 1990, the song mirrors its predecessor “I Want Your Sex”, with one partner making a plea to another to have sex. “Funky” features samples of dialogue from “The Graduate”, with actress Anne Bancroft stating “I am not trying to seduce you… Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”. It also cleverly incorporates a synth hook from Jocelyn Brown’s club classic “Somebody Else’s Guy”. For the music video, Michael hires French fashion designer Thierry Mugler to design the clothing and direct. Known for his highly theatrical fashion shows, the concept is to recreate one of Mugler’s shows for the clip. A who’s who of top fashion models appear in the video including Eva Herzigova, Linda Evangelista, Nadja Auermann, Emma Sjöberg, Estelle Hallyday, Shana Zadrick, Tyra Banks and Beverly Peele. Performance artists Joey Arias and Lypsinka make appearances, and actresses Julie Newmar (the original Catwoman from the Batman TV series) and Rossy de Palma. The then fifty nine year old Newmar’s appearance stands out, by a sequence of her bursting out from the backstage, then prowling the runway seductively in a tight fitting black cat suit. However, things do not go as planned, when the pair clash over the vision each has for it. After three days of filming, Mugler has only come up with a minute’s worth of usable footage. Having spent nearly a million dollars of his own money, George takes the reigns, and kicks Mugler off of the video shoot, finishing it himself. Not originally intending to appear in it, “Too Funky” features a few brief shots of the singer sitting behind the camera. Due to Mugler’s dismissal, the video ends with the “Directed by ?” credit, making reference to the off camera drama. “Too Funky” (b/w the non album track “Crazyman Dance”) peaks at #4 on the UK singles chart and #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1992. Aside from the “Five Live” EP recorded with Queen at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, “Funky” is the last new music from George Michael for nearly four years, until the release of the single “Jesus To A Child” and the album “Older” in 1996.

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On this day in music history: May 28, 1988 – “…

On this day in music history: May 28, 1988 – “One More Try” by George Michael hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, topping the Adult contemporary chart for 3 weeks on the same date, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on June 18, 1988. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the fourth US solo chart topper (seventh overall) for the British singer, songwriter and musician born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. Since its release in October of 1987, George Michael’s first solo album continues to generate one smash hit after another. Released on April 11, 1988, the plaintive ballad “One More Try” is issued as the albums fourth single. Entering the Hot 100 at #40 on April 16, 1988, it climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later. The success of this particular single also helps send the “Faith” album to number one on the R&B album chart (spending six weeks at the top beginning on May 21, 1988), making it one of only two times in Billboard chart history that a non African American artist has held down the top spot on the R&B album and singles chart simultaneously. This does not occur again until 2006 when Robin Thicke tops the R&B singles chart with “Lost Without U” and the album “The Evolution Of Robin Thicke”. “One More Try” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 13, 1996 – &…

On this day in music history: May 13, 1996 – “Older”, the third album by George Michael is released (US release date is on May 14, 1996). Produced by George Michael and Jon Douglas, it is recorded at SARM West Studio Two in Notting Hill, London and Aegean Studios in London from Mid 1993 – Early 1996. The pop superstar’s first full length release in nearly six years, it comes after a long legal battle with Sony Music. Michael battles his label for his release over the terms of his contract, and what he feels was the under promotion of the “Listen Without Prejudice, V.1” album by the US division. He winds up losing the case, and remains bound to Sony until 1995, when Virgin Records in the UK and the newly formed Dreamworks SKG label jointly owned by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Their company purchases George Michael’s contract from Sony, for an undisclosed sum. In the interim period, Michael has been working on and off on new music, though for the first time in his progress is slowed by writer’s block as well as dealing with other issues in his personal life. Having met Brazilian fashion designer Anselmo Feleppa after performing at the Rock In Rio festival in 1991, Michael enters into his first committed relationship with a man. Tragedy strikes when only six months later, Feleppa discovers that he is HIV positive. Michael himself is not infected, but ceases all work to care for his partner who passes away on March 26, 1993. Shaken by the loss, Feleppa’s death is the catalyst for one of George Michael’s most poignant and moving songs, writing the lyrics to “Jesus To A Child” (#1 UK, #7 US Pop) in just an hour and a half. Once again confident in his creative ability, Michael begins writing and recording again. Musically, “Older” picks up where “Listen Without Prejudice” leaves off, taking on a moodier and jazzier feel and is a direct reflection of what the singer has experienced over the previous three years. The album is an immediate smash in Europe and throughout much of the rest of the world, though the response in the US is decidedly muted and less enthusiastic, with American fans being more accustomed to Michael’s more pop oriented material. It spins off three singles (six internationally) including “Fastlove” (#1 UK, #8 US Pop) and Spinning The Wheel" (#2 UK). In 1997, an expanded edition is released in Europe with a bonus disc titled “Upper” featuring six bonus tracks including remixes and two previously unreleased songs. “Older” spends four weeks at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 2, 1986 – …

On this day in music history: April 2, 1986 – “A Different Corner” by George Michael is released (UK release date is on March 28, 1986). Written and produced by George Michael, it is the second solo single for the singer, songwriter and producer from Bushey, Hertsfordshire, UK. In spite of having phenomenal worldwide success as one half of the pop duo Wham!, by the end of 1985, George Michael feels that the group have gone as far as they can musically. Just before the split between he and his childhood friend Andrew Ridgeley is announced, Michael records and releases his second solo single. Only twenty two years old at the time, the singer has already achieved fame and fortune beyond his wildest dreams, the only thing missing from his life is true love. Becoming increasingly aware of his true sexual identity, but also wanting to guard his privacy, George pens the ballad “A Different Corner”. The song is written about wanting a relationship with someone, and then discovering that they do not share the same sentiment. The track is recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, North London in February of 1986, and features George performing all of the instrumentation and vocals. The song is accompanied by a simple black and white video, with George singing the song in a stark white room. Issued worldwide in late March and early April in the US, the single is an immediate smash in the UK, entering at #4 on April 6, 1986. It leaps to #1 two weeks later, spending three weeks at the top. At the time, George Michael makes UK chart history as the first solo artist to have his first two solo singles reach the top of the pop singles chart. And Michael is the second artist after Stevie Wonder to reach the top with a single entirely written, produced arranged and performed by him alone. Wonder had achieved this in the Fall of 1984 with “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Also released in the UK as a 12" single, it is lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve, designed by Peter Saville Associates (New Order). The cover features the title and artist name printed on the front in black print, framed in a thin black border. The inner gatefold photo taken by photographer Trevor Key, features the same image used on the front of the 7" picture sleeve, but in color and blown up to LP size. “A Different Corner” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at #57 on April 26, 1986, peaking at #7 seven weeks later on June 14, 1986. The song is included on Wham’s compilation albums “The Final” and “Music From The Edge Of Heaven”. An alternate mix of “Corner” later appears on George Michael’s solo hits compilation “Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael” in 1998. The remixed version omits the acoustic guitar solo and background vocals during the songs’ instrumental break.

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On this day in music history: February 27, 198…

On this day in music history: February 27, 1988 – “Father Figure” by George Michael hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #6 on the R&B singles chart and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the third solo chart topper for the British born singer, songwriter and producer. Originally composed as a midtempo dance track, Michael removes the snare drum from the track while mixing it, completely changing the flavor and mood of the song. Issued as the third single from “Faith” on January 2, 1988, “Father Figure” quickly becomes another smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #49 on January 16, 1988, it climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later.“Father Figure” is the second of four consecutive chart topping singles from the Diamond certified album. The single is supported by a music video directed by Michael and Andy Morahan. The clip features fashion model and actress Tania Coleridge, who plays the singer’s love interest, with the backstory depicting a love triangle in which she is also carrying on an affair with an another man (the photographer). The video for “Father Figure” wins an MTV VMA Award in 1988 for Best Direction Of A Video. Also issued are a 12" single, CD single and CD3, with those configurations including a live cover version of the Stevie Wonder song “Love Is In Need Of Love Today”, recorded on April 1, 1987 by Capital Radio in London. The song is later included as a bonus track on the deluxe boxed edition of “Faith” released in 2011. “Father Figure” is later sampled by PM Dawn for their hit single “Looking Through Patient Eyes”, and by LL Cool J" on “Father”.

On this day in music history: December 12, 198…

On this day in music history: December 12, 1987 – “Faith” by George Michael hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the second solo chart topper for British born singer, songwriter and producer. The initial idea for what becomes the title track for George Michael’s first solo album comes from the singer’s music publisher Dick Leahy. Leahy suggests to Michael to write a song with a rock & roll feel. Taking the suggestion to heart, Michael writes the song quickly, utlizing the classic “Bo Diddley beat” as the template. “Faith” is recorded at PUK Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark using the Synclavier 9600 Tapeless Studio, making it one of the first major hit singles to be recorded on a computer hard disk system rather than on analog or digital tape. The track features Michael and Chris Cameron on keyboards and drum programming, Hugh Burns on guitars, and Deon Estus on bass. Burns records his acoustic guitar part using an old aluminum bodied resophonic guitar found lying around the studio. Initially, George wants to wait until another guitar is delivered to the studio to cut the part, but when it doesn’t arrive in time, the other guitar is used instead. For the song’s intro, Michael adds a cathedral organ (actually a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer, using the pipe organ preset) playing the chorus section of Wham’s song “Freedom”, both as an in joke and a play on “religious faith”. The lyrics for “Faith” are written as George meticulously records his lead vocal on the track, line by line and in some instances punched in word by word until it is complete. The single is accompanied by a simple but memorable music video, directed by long time Wham collaborator Andy Morahan. Most of the clothing worn by the singer are his own personal items, with the BSA leather motorcycle jacket being purchased at a shop called Leathers And Treasures in the Melrose district in Los Angeles, just prior to the video shoot. The Gretsch G400 Synchromatic Arch Top guitar played by Michael in the video, is found at a pawn shop near where the jacket is purchased. The clip becomes instantly iconic, cementing the visuals in the public’s mind. Something that proves to be a double edged sword for the musician, who symbolically destroys props from the video in the clip for “Freedom ‘90” in an effort break free from that image. Issued two and a half weeks before the album on October 12, 1987, “Faith” is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #54 on October 24, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The single is Michael’s fifth number one single in the US overall (including three with Wham!), and is ranked the top selling single of 1988 by Billboard Magazine. “Faith” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: October 30, 1987…

On this day in music history: October 30, 1987 – “Faith”, the debut solo album by George Michael is released. Produced by George Michael, it is recorded at PUK Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark and SARM West in London, UK from Late 1986 – Mid 1987. Having outgrown the pop duo Wham! (with childhood friend Andrew Ridgeley) after five highly successful years together, the group split in June of 1986 following a major farewell concert at Wembley Stadium in London. Afterward, George Michael begins work his first full length solo album. Utilizing many of the same musicians that have played on past efforts including Wham! stalwarts Deon Estus (bass), Hugh Burns, Robert Ahwai (guitars), and Chris Cameron (keyboards), Michael records most of the album in Denmark throughout 1987. The songs demonstrate yet another dramatic leap forward in the then twenty-four year old singer and songwriter’s artistic progression, with Michael’s innate sense of blending pop and R&B hooks and rhythms into a seamless amalgamation. It is one of the first albums by a major artist recorded using the Synclavier 9600 Tapeless Digital Recording Studio, an early computer hard drive based recording system that is one of the predecessors to Pro Tools recording. It is a huge critical and commercial success upon its release, selling over twenty five million copies worldwide. In the US it spins off six top five singles including “Father Figure” (#1 Pop, #6 R&B), “One More Try” (#1 Pop and R&B), and the title track (#1 Pop). The original CD and cassette editions of the album contain the Shep Pettibone 12" remix of “Hard Day” and “A Last Request (I Want Your Sex Part 3)” as added bonus tracks. In the US, a special promotional CD package is prepared, featuring a see-through holographic rendering of the cover artwork and blue silkscreen labeled CD, rather than the standard silver CD. “Faith” also wins the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year in 1989. In 2011, the album is reissued as a deluxe boxed two CD edition packaged in a 5" x 5" forty page hardbound book with extensive annotation and photos. The first disc includes a remastered version of the original CD edition, with the second disc featuring nine bonus tracks, and a DVD featuring all of the music videos from the album and two interviews. It is also issued as limited edition LP set featuring more memorabilia exclusive to that format, coming housed in a 12" x 12" box. “Faith” spends twelve weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, six weeks at number one on the R&B album chart, and is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, receiving a Diamond Certification.

On this day in music history: October 13, 1990…

On this day in music history: October 13, 1990 – “Praying For Time” by George Michael hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the Adult Contemporary singles chart on the same date. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the ninth solo chart topper for the singer, songwriter and producer from Bushey, Hertsfordshire, UK. When George Michael begins work on the follow up to his massively successful debut solo album “Faith” in December of 1988, the pop superstar consciously goes in a decidedly different musical direction. Seeking to be taken more seriously as a songwriter, the material Michael writes for the new album takes on a more serious and introspective tone, reflecting on his own personal struggles and various issues in the world at large. “Praying For Time” is a meditation on issues such as poverty, hunger, greed, hatred, injustice, and seeking relief and healing from loneliness. The track is recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London in October of 1989 with George Michael on lead vocals, keyboards and drum programming, Phil Palmer on guitars, and Deon Estus on bass. Seeking to lower his own profile in the world media after the exhaustive world tour and press done for the previous album, Michael tells his label Sony Music that he does not wish appear in any of the music videos for any of the singles, simply letting the music speak for itself. Upset at the prospect of one of their biggest artists making such a move, the singer obliges them by making a music video for “Time” directed by Michael Borofsky, featuring the lyrics of the song appearing against a stark blue and black background. Released as the first single from “Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1” on August 13, 1990, it is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #41 on September 1, 1990, it races to the top of the chart six weeks later. Released just after the album, is an hour long music video (on VHS and Laserdisc) simply titled “George Michael” which features behind the scenes footage of the singer working on the album and interviews, including clips of him in the studio recording his vocals on “Praying For Time”. The single release of “Praying” is backed with a live cover version of the Gladys Knight & The Pips’ classic “If I Were Your Woman” re-titled “If You Were My Woman”. Only available as a non-album B-side (included as a bonus track on the deluxe edition reissue of “Listen” in October of 2017), it is recorded at Wembley Stadium in London on June 11, 1988, during the 70th Birthday tribute concert for South African leader Nelson Mandela.