Updated Dec 26 2016 to form a tribute to the great George Michael who sadly passed away Christmas Day.
A boy of 7 in 1987 knew who George Michael was.1984’s number one hit ‘Freedom’ was one of the main tracks on the Hits 1 compilation that I had on double vinyl (see earlier) – which also had ‘Careless Whisper’ on side 3 or 4. They followed that with ‘Last Christmas’- one of THE Christmas songs. If you disagree with that, and like me, childhood through your Christmas shopping centre were ameliorated with THAT introduction then sorry, but you’re totally wrong and trying too hard to be trendy.
Wham! The Final was the first CD album to be owned at my parents house. The shiny gloss of the new system, the smell of fresh plastic. The new digital technology.Wham!’s back catalogue opened itself with that CD. The genius of ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’ and ‘Club Tropicana’ and the more grown up and edgy works of ‘Everything She Wants’ and ‘Battlestations’ later on in the CD (track 12). What a why to enter the world of the CD was a greatest hits of one of a great singles band. Yeah, I knew who George Michael was.
1986 saw him solo, and at number one again with ‘A Different Corner’. The video saw him languishing in a white room, dressed also in white, his powerful beard and blow-dried hair standing out against the starkness of the backdrop. A minimalist wonderwork.
And in 1987, he was back – with a near perfect track to whet his audiences appetite before what was to come next.
My cousin was a chef by day and an aerobics teacher by night. He ompiled his workout tapes in his bedroom in my Nanny’s house. Since early 1985 he looked after me, and his record collection was the thing. Nights and nights I’d be listening to his amazing collection of hi-energy 12” singles – ‘Energy is Eurobeat’ by Man 2 Man and the ace Suburban Boys megamix of Jimmy Sommerville sung tracks called simply ‘Commumix’ were favourites. Thanks to his tastes in music I’ve always liked a bit of dance music, especially if it’s chart friendly and in 12” form. And also, if it’s a bit camp, I’m there. There were imported Divine EPs in there too.
So I had Wham! The Final, and respect for George Michael. My cousins CDs weren’t as much on show, he had Erasure’s Wonderland which was cool because that was before they got famous but I can’t remember many more – the Street Life compilation by Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry was another. But this was interesting, and I am having trouble remembering how it was assimilated into my collection. It was a CD, not in a plastic case, but a card gatefold sleeve. A shiny cover of a scrumpled bed and the title printed in stark lettering. The song was split into three parts – a thirteen minute single. This was ‘I Want Your Sex’ – George Michael’s new offering.
It was phenomenal. I asked if I could borrow it and because it was George Michael, it wasn’t a problem. The track itself was a joy – the intro especially, a stuttering keyboard pattern breaking out into louche drums, and George’s treated, straining voice. I had little idea about what he was going on about in the song, and it was eventually banned by the BBC (I never saw the offending video) but the banning hadn’t worked. Like ‘Relax’ it had made the song seem even more subversive and it got to an impressive number 3 in the charts.
As a boy, I loved it. I once had a very odd dream about one of my friend’s mums at Cocks Moor Leisure Centre with the song playing in the background, opening her rubber zip top with her boobs. The chorus’ refrain and melody was infectious, and I still think it’s one of his best tracks. I was allowed to keep it, and it went filed into my expanding collection – and in a few weeks, it was joined by The Firm’s ‘Star Trekkin’ which I had on 12” single and A-ha’s ‘The Living Daylights’ on 7” – still resplendent with WHSmith’s 90p sticker that I got at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre in Northfield. 1987 was a great year for pop, and that Christmas, along with Michael Jackson’s Bad on CD, I also was lucky enough to receive this on vinyl. And what a superb cover.
However, in the 1996 cull when I took a job lot of my childhood records into The Swinging Pig to part exchange them in order to slim my collection down (part-exchanged for the Beatles’ ‘The White Album’ and Japan’s ‘Tin Drum’) I believe that both ‘I Want Your Sex’ and ‘Star Trekkin’ went in that initial batch. (‘The Living Daylights’ is a survivor, and is still in a red basket upstairs in the attic. I’m not sure why this is, I think it’s possibly because it’s always been in great condition and because I’m a completest it looks good alongside my limited edition 7” of Duran Duran’s ‘A View To A Kill’ which had the Bond gun-site on the front and the pose of Roger Moore firing his gun on the label itself.)
But on Sunday the 13th of May I went into Music and Goods Exchange on Smallbrook Queensway….
Going first through the dance music tracks at the shop I was thrilled to spot a copy of the JAMs ‘1987: What the Fuck Is Going On’ on vinyl – going for a neat price of £9 (reduced from £15). True, it wasn’t in the mintest of conditions, it’s sleeve scuffed, torn and worn, with tea-stains and sticker marks on it, and a helpful label saying ‘Marks on record’ on it, but I didn’t care. I’ve never been one for only buying mint condition records to file them away or sell them on. No.My records are played to death and wear their scratches proudly, until they get unplayable (see my copies of Atom Heart Mother and The Faust Tapes.)
Rifling through the CDs, I was hoping for some 2nd wave of Britpop for a pound. Looking sadly at my Helen Love “Long Live the UK Music Scene” 7” in the loft the other day, I’d wished I hadn’t been so militant in my choices made back in the post 1996 boom. I was with Bis when they mocked Northern Uproar (how rude) in their ‘Starbright Boy’ 7” initially, but these days, I would gladly trade some of my Bis collection and the aforementioned Helen Love single for some Ocean Colour Scene or Shed Seven 7”. I’d been spurred on by my charity shop purchases earlier on in the week – Pulp’s His and Hers and ‘This is Hardcore’ CDs for £1 each (£1! Admittedly This is Hardcore’s inlay has its pages stuck together which, thinking about it adds to the seedy paranoid man in cheap sh*t room ness of the great album) and was after some good old post 94 indie, just to have a look and a reminisce – but halfway through – there it was.
The scrumpled bed, the stark lettering.
Yes. George Michael’s ‘I Want Your Sex’ – the CD single, in all its gatefold glory. Going for 50p. My girlfriend asked me if there was anything I wanted there, but I said no. Not because I was dreading the question ‘Why do you want that?’ – it was because I knew that to buy this, I’d have to go in undercover and sneak it in my bag. It had been banned by the BBC after all. This was contraband, and I’d have to act quickly, otherwise it might disappear like the copy of Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’ 12” that I’d seen in the Metal racks (which had also gone in the 1996 The Swinging Pig cull.) There was also a few other George singles as well – including a mint copy of the terrific 1996 release ‘Fastlove’ – one of his greatest songs in my opinion on CD Single which would replace my original copy with the torn sleeve held together by sellotape.
George Michael sadly passed away on Christmas Day 2016. All the best man, you were fantastic xxx