A new bi­og­ra­phy of George Michael re­veals how the trou­bled pop star was doomed by ad­dic­tion

He wrote Care­less Whis­per at and was a multi-mil­lion­aire by ... but the seeds of his de­pres­sion and drug abuse had al­ready taken root. A new bi­og­ra­phy charts the rise and dev­as­tat­ing fall of the Wham! le­gend

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - CONTENTS - BY SEAN SMITH

It was as he stepped onto a bus to take him from his day job as an usher at a Wat­ford cin­ema to his night job as a restau­rant DJ that the melody came to him. He sat at the back of the bus and started jot­ting down lyrics in­spired by his break-up with a girl­friend. Just six words be­came one of the great lines of pop­u­lar mu­sic: ‘Guilty feet have got no rhythm.’ It was 1981 and George Michael was still only 17.

Born Ge­or­gios Panayiotou, he was the third child and only son of a Greek Cypriot fa­ther, Jack, and a Bri­tish mother, Les­ley. Grow­ing up in Lon­don and Hert­ford­shire, his prin­ci­pal in­ter­est was na­ture un­til one day he fell down the stair­case at school when he was run­ning for lunch. He told Greek tele­vi­sion: ‘I had a very bad fall, cracked my head and, in the year sub­se­quent to the ac­ci­dent, not only my in­ter­ests but my abil­i­ties seemed to change. Be­fore the ac­ci­dent, I was very in­ter­ested in na­ture and bi­ol­ogy. But af­ter the ac­ci­dent, lit­er­ally within two weeks I brought home a vi­o­lin – un­for­tu­nately a vi­o­lin – and within months was ob­sessed with mu­sic.’

At sec­ondary school, he met An­drew Ridge­ley, who shared his love of mu­sic, and they be­came de­ter­mined to make it in the busi­ness. But Care­less Whis­per, the song George wrote on the bus, wasn’t suit­able for them. They needed tracks that show­cased them as the fun-lov­ing soul boys they were.

One evening at a club, An­drew was bop­ping about, show­ing off, when he started ex­claim­ing: ‘Wham! Bam! I’m the Man’ and do­ing a rap. It gave George the idea for a song that be­came Wham Rap! (En­joy What You Do).

The pair then came up with the band name Wham!, hired a por­ta­ble stu­dio and recorded

Wham Rap!, Club Trop­i­cana and Care­less Whis­per at An­drew’s par­ents’ house. Their tape got them a con­tract but Wham

Rap!, re­leased in June 1982, just be­fore George’s 19th birth­day, was a flop, fail­ing to make the top 100. The sec­ond sin­gle, Young

Guns, reached num­ber 42 – still a flop. Then came their lucky break.

A BBC pro­ducer hap­pened to be in Stringfel­lows night­club when Wham! did a per­sonal ap­pear­ance and thought they would be per­fect for Sat­ur­day Su­per­store, a chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion pro­gramme. Their per­for­mance on that put them on the radar of Top Of The

Pops and when an­other act pulled out at the last minute, Wham! were booked to do Young

Guns on the first show of Novem­ber 1982. George was on fire, com­mand­ing the stage, bare-chested and toned in a leather waist­coat. Af­ter­wards, drip­ping with sweat, he turned to gui­tarist David Austin and told him, ‘This is it. This is the rest of my life!’

Young Guns went to No 3. Fol­low-up Bad Boys reached No 2. Their al­bum Fan­tas­tic, re­leased in July 1983, topped the charts.

One evening George and An­drew were

sprawled out in front of Match Of The Day in the lounge of George’s fam­ily home in Radlett. George sud­denly yelled out and ran up­stairs and An­drew am­bled up to George’s room to see what was up. George was singing into a tape recorder, wor­ried that if he didn’t do it there and then he might have lost the song that be­came Last Christ­mas.

It was not on the al­bum Make It

Big, but was re­leased as a sea­sonal sin­gle. The video, filmed in the Swiss Alps, turned into one big hol­i­day for George and An­drew’s friends. George in­sisted that their mates and fam­ily should travel with them, first class. He picked up the bill. ‘It was a riot,’ re­mem­bers one of the in­ner cir­cle on the trip. ‘Andy couldn’t be filmed be­cause his eyes were so swollen through laugh­ter and booze. Dur­ing the din­ner party scenes, they wanted it to look post­meal, so the booze had to be con­sumed – and it was.’ Kept off the top of the charts by Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s

Christ­mas?, Last Christ­mas was the biggest­selling num­ber-two record of all time.

Make It Big also in­cluded Care­less Whis­per and the video for George’s solo song was shot in Mi­ami over two days. Ev­ery­one loved the footage – ex­cept George. He hated his hair, telling his man­ager that it was ‘too long, too posy and too poofy’.

An SOS call was made to his sis­ter Me­lanie, the only per­son he would trust to look af­ter his hair. She took the first flight out of Lon­don and her trim be­came one of the most ex­pen­sive cut and blow-drys ever be­cause the en­tire video had to be reshot at a cost of more than $60,000, dou­bling the orig­i­nal bud­get.

Care­less Whis­per climbed ef­fort­lessly to the top of the charts.

By 21, George was a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire. Though he moved out of his par­ents’ house and rented a flat in Knights­bridge, his mother would pop in to make sure he was look­ing af­ter him­self and to take his wash­ing away.

Spec­u­la­tion about his sex­u­al­ity was now al­most a na­tional pas­time. He re­fused to con­firm or deny the ques­tion about the gay ru­mours that slipped into ev­ery in­ter­view and con­tin­ued to re­in­force the im­age of Wham! as two het­ero­sex­ual boys hav­ing fun. The ridicu­lous na­ture of the predica­ment that George found him­self in was per­fectly cap­tured in his ‘re­la­tion­ship’ with the Amer­i­can ac­tress Brooke Shields. Wham!’s 1985 Amer­i­can tour opened with a cou­ple of nights in Chicago. The whole world seemed to know of his date with Brooke in the restau­rant at the ho­tel where they were both stay­ing. Af­ter the meal, George po­litely es­corted her to her room. Brooke, who fa­mously re­mained a vir­gin un­til she was 22, re­called: ‘He left with­out even try­ing to kiss me. I was so touched by what a real gen­tle­man he was.’ George was happy to keep the photo op­por­tu­nity go­ing when, soon af­ter, Wham! played New York. They had din­ner to­gether and Brooke ob­served: ‘He was ob­vi­ously aware of my hes­i­tance re­gard­ing sex.’ But af­ter a third date, at a party for Grace Jones, Boy George mis­chie­vously went up to Brooke and whis­pered: ‘He’s a poof.’ Ac­cord­ing to Boy George, ‘She didn’t know what it was, but looked wor­ried.’ In 1986 George an­nounced that Wham! were split­ting. Asked what would hap­pen to his friend, he replied sim­ply, ‘An­drew will be all right.’ In­deed, An­drew knew the split was in­evitable and was very com­fort­able fi­nan­cially. Roy­al­ties from Care­less Whis­per alone would al­ways be his pen­sion.

George went to live in Los An­ge­les, but he felt down and was drink­ing far too much

George Michael aged five, in 1968; with An­drew Ridge­ley as Wham! at Lon­don’s Lyceum Ball­room, 1983

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