Tag Archives: Guardian

2016 ➤ Britain stunned by sudden death of George Michael, our biggest pop superstar of the 80s

GEORGE MICHAEL
25 June 1963–25 December 2016

George Michael, Wham!, pop music,

Wham! on The Tube, 1983: George Michael with his partner Andrew Ridgeley on guitar (Photo: ITV)

“ Five albums in 25 years is not exactly prolific
but I think pretty good in terms of quality. . .
The body of work is safe now. If I get hit
by a bus tomorrow, people will remember
what I have done and they’ll still enjoy it ”
– George Michael, 2008

WHAM! SOLD 40 MILLION RECORDS WORLDWIDE in four years after emerging from London’s innovative clubbing scene in 1982. As a solo singer-songwriter George Michael then sold another 100 million records, scored seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits in the US. He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, with Billboard magazine ranking him the 40th most successful artist ever. And he won every major world music award, often more than once. Yet his career was sporadic, interrupted by odd breaks, bouts of melancholy, health problems and in recent years a series of run-ins with the law over reckless driving, drugs and sex.

On his music, disc jockey Paul Gambaccini says: “George is likely to be remembered in two different ways: in Britain he’s a pop star and in America he’s a soulboy.” On his hedonism as propaganda, author Mark Simpson in Rolling Stone concludes: “Whatever the long term effects on his happiness, being ‘openly closeted’ for so long seems to have been key to not only making Michael a commercially-successful artist but also a surprisingly subversive one. And perhaps it also lay behind his determination, once out, not to go back into the biggest closet of all: respectability.”

OBITUARY HIGHLIGHTS

➢ Singer who became Britain’s biggest pop star
– Guardian obituary:

George Michael, who has died aged 53, was Britain’s biggest pop star of the 1980s, first with the pop duo Wham! and then as a solo artist. After Wham! made their initial chart breakthrough with the single Young Guns (Go for It!) in 1982, Michael’s songwriting gift brought them giant hits including Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Careless Whisper, and they became leading lights of the 80s boom in British pop music.

From the late 1990s onwards Michael was beset by a string of personal crises and clashes with the law caused by drug use. He had always felt ambivalent about the demands of stardom, and found it difficult to balance his celebrity status with his private life. After years of concealing his homosexuality, he eventually came out in 1998, after being arrested for engaging in a “lewd act” in a public lavatory in Beverly Hills, California. . . / Continued at The Guardian


➢ One of the more enduring musicians of the 80s generation – BBC obituary:
His talents as a singer, songwriter and music producer made George Michael one of the world’s biggest-selling artists. Blessed with good looks and a fine singing voice, his stage presence made him a favourite on the live concert circuit as he matured from teen idol to long-term stardom.

After early success in the duo Wham! he went on to build a solo career that brought him a string of awards and made him a multi-millionaire. But there were times when his battle with drugs and encounters with the police made lurid headlines that threatened to eclipse his musical talents. He admitted that he often went out at night seeking what he called “anonymous and no-strings sex”. . . / Continued at BBC online

“ Outside of Elton John, I’d say he is
probably the greatest philanthopist
in popular music ” – Paul Gambaccini

➢ Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline founder:
For years now George has been the most extraordinarily generous philanthropist, giving money to Childline, but he was determined not to make his generosity public so no-one outside the charity knew how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children. Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him – to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped through supporting Childline.

Kenny Goss , George Michael,

George with Kenny Goss in happier times… they met in 1996 and broke up in 2009 (Photo: Rex)

“ The truth is my love life has been a lot more turbulent than I’ve let on ” – George Michael

➢ Spending time together with love of his life – The Sun:
George Michael had secretly become close again with the love of his life Kenny Goss, just weeks before his death. George had reached out to Kenny following their difficult split. A close friend revealed: “George and Kenny are back spending time together again and it’s an exciting time for those of us who have been so worried over the last few years. The pop superstar split from Texan art dealer Kenny in 2009 after 13 years and his life quickly spiralled, culminating in a lengthy stint in the world’s most expensive rehab clinic in Switzerland last year.

On the opening night of his Symphonica tour in 2011, the singer admitted: “In truth Kenny and I haven’t been together for two and a half years. I love him very much. This man has brought me a lot of joy and pain”. . . / Continued at The Sun online

➢ Jim Fouratt, US 80s club host and activist:
No one seems to remember the incident between George Michael and the president of Sony Music America, Tommy Mottola. I do. George Michael set up a meeting with Mottola, having sold 80 million records worldwide, reaping huge profits for the company. Michael was not happy with how his new album was being marketed. Suddenly, from behind closed doors, the Sony staff could hear Mottola shouting: “Get this faggot out of my office!”

George left. Mattola’s homophobia shocked him. He went back to England. Sued Columbia and spent six years without a release in the US. Finally David Geffen signed him to his new label Dreamworks after settling the lawsuit which gave Dreamworks all rights in the US for a new George Michael album. A hit. George Michael was back on the charts in the US. Then the arrest in a public bathroom in Beverly Hills made headlines across the world. Michael (finally) came out.

Very sad to learn of George’s passing. But he stood up for himself after he was very publicly outed. Yes, he could have come out earlier – but Mottola’s action gives one insight into why he did not.

➢ Owen Jones, Guardian writer:
The popstar’s openness about his sex life, and his campaigning for LGBT rights, offered a liferaft to many – particularly at a time when anti-gay sentiment was rife. As a closeted teenager back in 1998, it is impossible not to recall the courage and defiance of George Michael. A talented and much adored musician, yes. But also a gay man, and a gay icon, who made the lives of so many LGBT people that little bit easier.

➢ 20 essential songs: The best of the pop icon George Michael’s hits – at Rolling Stone:
George Michael swiftly transitioned from teenage pretty boy to outspoken pop force. “It says something for the power of the music,” he told Rolling Stone after the release of his smash 1987 solo debut, Faith, “that I’ve managed to change the perception of what I do to the degree that I have in this short a time. Because it’s something that a lot of people thought wasn’t possible. . . / Continued online

CELEBRITY TRIBUTES

Andrew Ridgeley, schoolfriend, partner in Wham! – “Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. He had a voice that would transport you, he was the finest singer/songwriter of his generation & has left the best of himself for us. RIP.”

Michael Lippman, Michael’s manager, told Billboard that he died of heart failure and was found “in bed, lying peacefully”. . . “I’m devastated.”

Spandau Ballet – “We are incredibly sad at the passing of our dear friend George Michael. A brilliant artist and great songwriter.”

Simply Red – “It’s hard to take in. One of our most talented singer- songwriters has left us. Such sad, tragic news.”

Mark Ronson – “George Michael was one of the true British soul greats. A lot of us owe him an unpayable debt.”

Paul McCartney – “George Michael’s sweet soul music will live on even after his sudden death. Having worked with him on a number of occasions, his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humour made the experience even more pleasurable.”

Tony Visconti, producer – “I lived through early grief of my pop idols dying on me. Nothing, however, prepared me for this year. Of course the biggest blow was when David Bowie passed. He was my colleague, but more importantly a friend for 48 years. I’m just barely in the acceptance stage with that; my philosophical attitude, ‘this just happens’, helped a lot. But today, with the death of George Michael, this is a little too close to home. Wham made their first album in my Good Earth studios with Chris Porter engineering and he eventually producing George Michael. As my office was in the studio I would pop my head in and say hello. This has happened too much this year. As of today it feels like a damn conspiracy.”


Chaka Khan – “Performed a few shows with George Michael when he was with Wham in the 80s. Here’s a clip of him covering Ain’t Nobody from 1991.”

Sir Elton John – “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.”

THE TERRY WOGAN SHOW, 1984

TALKING ABOUT A FILM OF HIS LIFE, 2005

‘MY OWN SELF-DESTRUCTIVE STREAK’, 2007

➢ 2016, London’s young guns remember George Michael

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2010, Rich List puts George Michael top of the popstars from the un-lucrative 80s

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Bowie: “He collapsed” at his last public appearance

David Bowie, Lazarus, final appearance,death, Ivo van Hove

David Bowie’s last appearance in public, attending the premiere of his musical Lazarus in New York on Dec 7… Its director Ivo van Hove has told The Times: “I could see the tears behind his eyes because he was not a man to show off his emotions. He was really deep in fear.” Photo © Vantagenews

➢ BBC coverage in full

➢ Bowie collapsed backstage during his final public appearance despite fans saying he looked fit – The Sun

➢ Bowie obituary at The Guardian: “The world is never short of self-absorbed would-be artists, but Bowie was able to break out and become the first misfit megastar. That undoubtedly had a good deal to do with talent.”

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➤ “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah

David Bowie, death, obituaries, tributes, rock music, Man Who Fell to Earth, media, videos, films,

A humanoid alien comes to Earth with a mission… What a spooky coincidence that David Bowie played the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie, death, obituaries, tributes, rock music, TheTimes, UK, newspapers

Today’s Times: the masks and the man behind them

◼ ALL 10 BRITISH NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS filled their front pages today with the death of David Bowie at 69 – and so did scores of newspapers overseas. The last pop star whose death justified such deification was Jacko in 2009; and the last British pop star to do likewise was John Lennon, in 1980. The Times of London dedicated 18 pages including an outer broadsheet wrapper to honouring Bowie, plus an editorial comment as blessing. The Guardian topped that with 20 pages, plus the most enlightened editorial comment of them all. Not only did this misfit megastar and cultural icon radiate consummate flair as a performer but he displayed “an instinctive affinity with his times”. He had a “way with the zeitgeist”.

All media, notably social media, captured the dominant sentiment of generations of fans suddenly plunged into mourning. Again and again they claimed: He changed my life. . . He taught me how to be myself. . . David was my inspiration. . . David was my tutor. And most could quote their own favourite song lyric expressing their faith: Oh no, love – you’re not alone. . . Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. . . It’s only for ever, not long at all. . . All you’ve got to do is win. . . We can be heroes just for one day.

David Bowie, death, obituaries, tributes, rock music, front pages,media, newspapers

Blanket coverage: Bowie on all UK front pages… Image updated 14 Jan to include news magazines

➢ ‘THE WORLD HAS LOST AN ORIGINAL’ DECLAREs THE GUARDIAN – MORE OBITUARIES AND KEY VIDEOS INSIDE AT SHAPERS OF THE 80S

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2015 ➤ Weird and wonderful new Bowie – his Blackstar man is set to blow our minds

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

Blackstar: Bowie being messianic and ghoulish

◼ SET ASIDE 10 MINUTES AND HOLD YOUR BREATH. David Bowie’s first video for his January album is titled in plain English Blackstar, though the album itself is titled ★ following the Princely principle of symbols. The video is ghoulish, disturbing, eerie, messianic, ritualistic, jazzy, baffling – and a little mousey. His tale of a starman’s legacy out there in a faraway galaxy is musically immaculately orchestrated and makes compelling viewing and listening. It will have the geeks mining for references in its overwrought and folksy narrative. A momentarily real-world Bowie actually thumbs his nose at us singing “You’re the flash in the pan/ I’m the great I am!” yet the overall gist seems relentlessly morbid and we’re not helped by not being able to catch crucial lyrics, which for a music video is a drawback.

Directed by the Swedish music video maestro Johan Renck and premiered last night on Palladia TV, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Natch.

➢ Blackstar is also pre-bookable on vinyl

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

➢ Nov 23: “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” says producer Tony Visconti. “The goal was to avoid rock & roll” – Rolling Stone reveals all about ★ the album

➢ “As a taster for the forthcoming album, it works perfectly” – Alex Petridis reviews the single Blackstar in The Guardian:

The influence of latterday Scott Walker still appears to be making itself felt in the lyrics – they’re elliptical, filled with images of fear and death (“Take your passport and shoes and your sedatives”) and clearly just waiting to be unpicked by the more dedicated Bowiephile – but the music drifts episodically: from an ambient opening to vocals floating mournfully over a jerkily propulsive drum pattern and synthesisers squelching in vaguely acid houseish style to a sax solo to a beautiful, slow middle section with both a lovely melody and electronically-treated backing vocals. . .

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

YOU MIGHT ALSO HAVE LIKED THIS

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2011 ➤ Stand and deliver: Adam Ant versus Marco in a battle of bands

Guardian , Adam Ant,video, Stand and Deliver,pop music

➢ Click picture to run video in new window — Today at Guardian online Adam Ant gives a video interview in the strand: How I wrote … Stand and Deliver, his chart-topping hit from May 1981. When he starts strumming the tune, why not try cueing up the video below by Marco Pirroni, his onetime lead guitarist in the Ants and songwriting partner, then compare the results? Adam and Marco shared an Ivor Novello Award for this number

❏ Adam explains the song’s mix of images… “I very much like the 18th century, and the traditional sayings that everyone knows like ‘Stand and deliver’ and ‘Drop your drawers and ten bob’s yours’.” Adam says he wove together various other themes in the song: a touch of Tommy Steele’s Where’s Jack? based loosely on DickTurpin, plus Native American Indians and a bit of piracy. Result: “The lyric wrote itself. It was really a manifesto of what was to come… I knew I’d cracked it when the window cleaner round my house was singing it and changing the lyrics and didn’t know it was my flat… I was very flattered by that.”

+++
➢ Click this link to hear Marco Pirroni’s interview with Marcella Puppini for Shoreditch Radio last Tuesday — it is still online

❏ As Adam’s songwriting partner in the Ants, Marco co-wrote five number-one singles, a further four top tens with him, their two number-one albums, plus many more songs during 20 years together. When Marcella Puppini asked about his songwriting with Adam, Marco said: “I don’t think it’s something I really want to talk about at the present time.” Of his input into the music, he said: “I don’t write lyrics generally. I work with riffs and you keep playing. You have a moment when you think I really like playing this and the person you’re working goes: ‘It’s really good’. There are no rules. John Lennon’s tragic death kept us off No 1 [in Dec 1980], then I remember doing Stand and Deliver and thinking that’s going to happen. We weren’t going to be No 1 with just anything. I thought that’s catchy, that’s going to work.”

THE ANTS Mk3 ‘WON’T INCLUDE MARCO’

Adam Ant, Marco Pirroni,

Early 80s: Adam and Marco in happier days

➢ Adam Ant: back from the brink— in today’s Daily Telegraph Andrew Perry listens to Adam like a respectful fan while interviewing Stuart Goddard with the care of a concerned parent…

After numerous tribulations, he’s to make a dramatic comeback to music next month, with his first full tour in more than 15 years. A couple of years ago, Goddard gradually withdrew from antidepressants, and the songwriting came back… He’s recorded a double album, which he plans to release himself in January 2012, entitled ‘Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in: Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter’.

Goddard, now 56… talks of fronting an association for misdiagnosed bipolar sufferers, and of an album he’s writing for a third version of Adam and the Ants, which won’t include Pirroni. (“He did something to me which I won’t forgive him for. I’ll never go on stage with him again in my life.”) It’s equally difficult not to worry that all this hare-brained scheming is merely a manifestation of the old “manic” self. Now he’s off the medication, can he cope with those desperate mood swings? … He says: “You’ve got to be crazy to be a rock-and-roll singer”.

➢ Tour dates for Adam Ant & the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse — 25 stages in a stately, historic progress from Nov 10 at the 850-capacity Cheese & Grain (the 19th-century Market Hall) in Frome, Somerset… to Jan 22 at the 900-capacity former Art Deco cinema, “The Tiv” nightclub in Buckley (once famed for its brickmaking), Flintshire… while taking in on Nov 20 the 2,661-capacity Grade II listed Troxy (view online the virtual tour of this fabulously renovated Art Deco cinema, designed by George Coles) in East London… Somebody has been thinking about these things.

‘ZIGGY PAVED THE WAY FOR JOHNNY ROTTEN’

Siouxsie and the Banshees debut at the 100 Club punk festival, 1976: with Steven Severin, Marco Pirroni and John Ritchie (later Sid Vicious) on drums. Photograph by Ray Stevenson

❏ A lynchpin of the UK punk scene, Marco Pirroni became an integral part of Adam and the Ants in 1980 as lead guitarist and co-songwriter, until they went their own ways 20 years later. Today he is a songwriter, producer and guitarist in a rock-and-roll garage band called The Wolfmen, along with another ex-Ant, Chris Constantinou, making a sound described by Mojo magazine as “exuberant filth — Chris and Marco do growing old disgracefully with style”.

➢ Read Mark Youll’s very thorough interview with Marco Pirroni last March at Word of Noise…

“ Q: So it would have been stuff like Roxy Music that inspired you to play guitar?
A: Yeah, Roxy and Mick Ronson. Aladdin Sane made me want to play.
Q: How important would you say glam-rock was to the advent of punk?
A: It was really really important. The glam thing laid the ground rules and maybe the foundations. I know there are lots of punk fans out there that say it’s nothing to do with it, but you can see direct parallels between Ziggy Stardust and Johnny Rotten.

➢ The Wolfmen play the Georgian Theatre Stockton-on-Tees
on Feb 25, 2012

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