Rest in peace George Michael. So, after David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Caroline Aherne and dozens of others taken before their time, 2016 had another unwelcome trick up its sleeve. We heard the news on Christmas night after we returned from a long and enjoyable lunch with friends. It wasn’t on the 10pm news, which we heard while driving back from North London. My wife read about it on her tablet just after 11pm, just before she went up to bed. I stayed up till 3am, reading the comments and tributes as they poured in, and checking out old Wham! videos.
As a fan of the Clash and other (mostly less successful) bands from the late 1970s and early 1980s I learnt long ago that there are many conversations about music that should be avoided. Ten years ago my wife and I went to “The Best Disco in Town” at whatever the Hammersmith Odeon was called at that time. We went specifically to see George McCrae (“Rock your baby”, “It’s been so long”, “You can have it all”) and Tavares (“Heaven must be missing an angel”) but the Three Degrees, Odyssey and Heatwave (I think) were also on the bill. Soon afterwards I mentioned our evening out to a songwriter whose work I admired. He had nothing but contempt for anything bearing the word “Disco” and wouldn’t accept that McCrae and Tavares were soul artists. If it had been packaged as “Classic 70s Soul Acts” maybe he’d have viewed it differently, but I had used the word “Disco” and that was enough for him.
These days there are many people from my old post-punk tribes that I don’t hang out with, and I probably won’t anytime soon. Some of them, I have no doubt, will not have been saddened by news of George Michael’s death, but I am. Some of them, I recall, actively celebrated the death of Michael Jackson. Even when I did hang out with those old tribal post-punkers I knew better than to defend a song like “Wham Rap” which I regard as one of the great songs.
Sat at the kitchen table on Christmas night, watching George Michael videos on my laptop, I could sing along to “Club Tropicana”, “Young Guns (Go for it)” and the great “Wham Rap” word-perfect. I have been singing along to these sings for over 30 years and will offer these words, from the last-named, as advice for the coming year: “Do you enjoy what you do? If not, just stop, don’t stay there and rot.”