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Review: George Michael / Freedom

Disappointing documentary skims the surface of a complex artist

The first inkling that there might be a George Michael documentary in the works came back in 2016, when George reached out to fans via his website to ask for rare photos and footage “from 1988 through 1994”.

In the end, I didn’t see much in the way of such fan content in George Michael: Freedom last night, a new documentary (shown in the UK last night) that took us through the now fairly familiar stages in George’s career – Wham!, tight shorts, Top Of The Pops, Making It Big, Going Solo, Mega-stardom with Faith – before finally slowing down the frenzied pace in the very late 1980s when George attempted to step back from the rather crazy level of fame he had attained at that point.

The particular focus was on 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice album (which is reissued on Friday) and the infamous Sony court case. Watching Freedom was inevitably incredibly poignant, given the fact that George is no longer with us, but in an attempt to dispassionately judge the merits of the documentary, we really need to put the sad events of last Christmas to one side. Also, let’s not forget, Freedom wasn’t made as a tribute to a deceased singer, it was more or less finished before George passed away. An introduction by Kate Moss and a final image of a smiling George with ‘1963-2016’ underneath were the only references to his passing.

One of the main problems with Freedom was a lack of focus. Was it a career-spanning overview? Was it about the making of Listen Without Prejudice (like those normally excellent ‘Classic Albums’ docs)? Was it an examination of George’s personal life, of grief and lost love, or was it concerned with the Sony dispute – a courtroom drama?

In the end, it was bits of all of the above, but anyone really interested in one aspect may have been left disappointed. George was a brilliant songwriter and a superb singer, but he wasn’t renowned for his documentary making skills. He directed Freedom (with longtime friend David Austin) and narrated it. How impartial can you really be when the subject is yourself?

What I really wanted was a forensic examination of the Sony court case. One of those documentaries where everyone involved gives a detailed account of what happened when, and why. But we got nothing like that. To be fair, George did give time to record executives like Sony’s Paul Russell and Clive Davis where they tried to put their point of view across, but it was obvious where your sympathies were supposed to lie, and that’s one of the reasons this issue isn’t as engaging as it should be. It’s hard to share George’s sense of burning injustice. Sony in the USA didn’t apparently “get behind” Listen Without Prejudice, so it underperformed in America. This was an album for which he only made one video and refused to do anything to promote. As he explains in the documentary, with his second solo album George wanted to put behind him the ‘character’ that was the George Michael of the Faith era (sunglasses, leather jacket, gold earring) and focus on the art; the songwriting and recording music. However, crucially, he wasn’t prepared to make this change and just shrug off any resulting lack of sales. Record companies do need tools to do the job of promotion, and when Clive Davis likened it to a film star not getting on the bandwagon and going to premieres to promote a movie, he had a point. Although the Listen Without Prejudice album sold better than Faith in the UK, the singles still suffered, badly. Yes, Freedom ’90 is a great song, but it only reached number 28 in Britain and that was the one track that actually had a video!

David Bowie was as big a rock star as it gets, especially in Britain, in the early 1970s, but he didn’t retreat to Berlin in 1977 to make Low and Heroes expecting to have a hit album like Ziggy Stardust. Neil Young made On The Beach after Harvest. As he said in the sleeve notes of Decade, “Heart Of Gold put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there.” In some ways George was echoing both of those moves, but when it was a ‘rougher ride’ (and the LWP album didn’t perform as well as Faith) he threw his toys out of the pram.

Similarly, when George wanted to walk away from his Sony contract, because of how relations had broken down (they had a “lack of respect” for him) it comes across as very naive, him thinking that they aren’t going to fight to enforce a legally binding contract. There was a lack of detail and a lack of analysis in terms of the court case. As this excellent 1995 report in The Independent testifies, after George lost the case, David Geffen paid $40m to Sony to buy him out of his contract. Why didn’t Freedom contain an interview with the man who was willing to spend $40m on him?

There was no serious examination of the Listen Without Prejudice album in Freedom. We had to watch as people like Liam Gallagher, James Corden and Stevie Wonder listened to tracks such as Praying For Time and endure them telling us how good they are (we already know, thanks). Compare and contrast this to the insight that Francis Whately’s David Bowie Five Years documentaries offered, where multi-tracks are studied, and musicians and singers who worked on the recordings were interviewed (and were mostly perceptive and enlightening). Where were the contributions on Freedom from people like engineer Chris Porter and bass player Deon Estus, both of whom worked on Listen Without Prejudice and both of whom had been with George since the early days? The documentary was more preoccupied with showing us the surface glamour – with endless shots of supermodels on various video shoots – where it should have been digging below the surface and getting to some deeper truth.

The documentary was also overly reliant on giving George’s contribution via archive interviews. He didn’t know it of course, but it’s sad to think that George had one final opportunity to tell his side of the story on camera but chose not to, presumably because he was unhappy about his appearance.

The best section of Freedom was the exploration of George’s relationship with Anselmo Feleppa. This was really moving and even though I knew most of the basic facts, it was revealing and interesting, for instance, to hear how Anselmo being terminally ill, had informed George’s astounding performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert.

Ultimately, George Michael should have narrowed the focus of Freedom. There was too much ground to cover in too little time and it felt mostly like light entertainment. I’m really not interested in what James Corden, Ricky Gervais or Naomi Campbell think of George and his music, but there was undeniably an element of lets-get-lots-of-famous-people-to-say-nice-things-about-me. Nile Rodgers was great value (as always), and Elton John also contributed well, but any documentary that purports to be exploring the life and contradictions of George Michael should have included something from his old pal Andrew Ridgeley; the man who gave him the confidence to perform in the first place.

The truth is, a better, more insightful documentary would have been made by an independent, experienced film-maker with a grittier more journalistic approach, but for better or for worse, George typically wanted to control everything. He wanted to be the director, he wanted to be the narrator. It doesn’t necessarily make for a better finished product. You can trace this behaviour right back to 1985 and the sacking of acclaimed director Lindsay Anderson, when George didn’t like what he was doing to the Wham! in China Foreign Skies film, to even earlier in 1984 when he rejected Jerry Wexler’s version of Careless Whisper (that was a good decision) and to stepping into David Fincher’s shoes to direct the supermodel-laden Too Funky video.

In the end, Freedom didn’t really properly explore George’s contradictions and ego –  it suffered because of them. A great documentary film on George Michael is still waiting to be made.

Did you see Freedom? What did you think? Leave a commentListen Without Prejudice is reissued on Friday 20 October 2017.

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track_listing

George Michael / Listen Without Prejudice reissue - super deluxe box set

Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 1 – 2CD deluxe

CD 1 Listen Without Prejudice remastered
1. Praying for Time
2. Freedom! ’90
3. They Won’t Go When I Go
4. Something to Save
5. Cowboys and Angels
6. Waiting for That Day – George Michael / The Rolling Stones
7. Mothers Pride
8. Heal the Pain
9. Soul Free
10. Waiting (Reprise)

CD 2 – MTV Unplugged
1. Freedom! ’90
2. Fastlove – George Michael / Patrice Rushen
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me
4. Father Figure
5. You Have Been Loved
6. Everything She Wants
7. The Strangest Thing
8. Older
9. Star People
10. Praying for Time
11. Fantasy (featuring Nile Rodgers)

George Michael / Listen Without Prejudice reissue - super deluxe box set

Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 1 – 3CD+DVD super deluxe

CD 1 Listen Without Prejudice remastered
1. Praying for Time
2. Freedom! ’90
3. They Won’t Go When I Go
4. Something to Save
5. Cowboys and Angels
6. Waiting for That Day – George Michael / The Rolling Stones
7. Mothers Pride
8. Heal the Pain
9. Soul Free
10. Waiting (Reprise)

CD 2 – MTV Unplugged
1. Freedom! ’90
2. Fastlove – George Michael / Patrice Rushen
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me
4. Father Figure
5. You Have Been Loved
6. Everything She Wants
7. The Strangest Thing
8. Older
9. Star People
10. Praying for Time

CD3: B-Sides And Mixes
1. Soul Free (Special Radio Edit)
2. Freedom! ’90 (Back To Reality Mix)
3. Freedom! ’90 (Back To Reality Mix Edit)
4. Fantasy ’90
5. Freedom! ’90 (Edit)
6. Cowboys and Angels (Edit)
7. If You Were My Woman
8. Too Funky (Edit)
9. Crazyman Dance
10. Do You Really Want to Know
11. Happy
12. Too Funky (Extended)
13. Too Jazzy (Happy Mix)
14. Fantasy ’98
15. Heal the Pain – George Michael with Paul McCartney
16. Desafinado – George Michael with Astrud Gilberto

Disc: 4 – DVD
1. The South Bank Show 1990
2. Freedom! ’90
3. Praying for Time
4. Freedom! ’90 (MTV 10th anniversary)

 

SuperDeluxeEdition.com helps fans around the world discover physical music and discuss releases. To keep the site free, SDE participates in various affiliate programs, including Amazon and earns from qualifying purchases.

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[…] We’ve had event-based projects such as the sycophantic ‘Freedom’ documentary (read the SDE review), the awful ‘Last Christmas’ film, the high profile flogging of George’s modern […]

[…] date been the only George Michael product to be released since his death on Christmas day in 2016. The Freedom film, which was screened on TV networks across the world later that same year, has not been given any […]

[…] a related note, 14 months on from its TV debut, it’s surprising that the Freedom documentary film wasn’t scheduled for DVD/Blu-ray release in the latter part of this year. Things have never […]

[…] news, the new ‘Director’s Cut’ version of the George Michael: Freedom film (read the SDE review) will receive its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival. According to George’s friend […]

Ian Nipper

I agree wholeheartedly with your review. As someone who wasn’t a fan but did buy some of his singles I was interested enough to want to watch this… then found it dragged on. Also, what was that with Kate Moss? She said her piece then sat there staring at the camera. I was thinking “Come on then, start the film proper”.

Fernando Grund Guzmán

Wich arte is directed by George? All comments talk about him in past. So these interviews were made after George is dead.
Also missed Chris Cameron.

Barnaby Dickenson

They weren’t. If you listened carefully you will have noticed that people were very much talking about George in the present tense. Only Kate Moss’s intro and the conclusion were done after his death.

[…] of music fans still mourning George’s death, coupled with well-timed broadcasts of the new Freedom documentary and the airplay that Nile Rodgers’ reworked Fantasy achieved were all undoubtedly […]

Pim

Just finished watching it. Is it just me or was the ‘writer’ just a stand-in? It almost looked like stockfootage to me :-D

Barnaby Dickenson

It was a stand in. He was in the credits at the end.

John Moore

The documentary was superb and a fab overview of the highlights of an amazing career from an artist that was so special. A lot of the review misses the point of the documentary- looking for something quite different which was not the aim of it – the reviews from the serious press in the UK such as the Telegraph, Guardian etc have been excellent and the overall fan reaction fab too. And yes the highlight was Liam Gallagher who was as cool as ever and contributed with some memorable quotes. A truly excellent overview of a very special artist who will be remembered for a very very long time!

Patrick

Another George release for the future would be a DVD of ‘Wham in China’ An earlier edit of this (the preferred version of director Lindsay Anderson) was found in a university archive a few years back so that would be a great extra.

Patrick

I agree with your comments Paul. One interesting part around the beginning that will be of note to fans of this site is that a snippet was played from George and Andrews pre-Wham band The Executive. This demo to my knowledge has never surfaced online and was generally thought to be ‘lost’ but as George was behind the doc perhaps he had a copy all along. It was only played for a few seconds with talking over the top so perhaps George was not overly keen on giving it a proper airing. Unlikely that these tracks will ever appear on any official release and they have not been bootlegged to my knowledge.

professormouse

Can I just ask WHY do Labels insist on using this ‘slide-out’ [the cd !] approach to packaging CD’s ?
I once saw German [?] CD Singles by Depeche Mode that replicated the 12” Singles covers almost exactly [but obv smaller] AND they put ther CD in an ‘inner bag’ like LP’s do.
Made of some no doubt non-scratch cloth ?
It just seemed such an obvious idea, so you could get the disc out the cover without really touching it.
I bought an ‘Expanded Edition’ of one of Stevie Nicks LP’s on CD and tore the cover TRYing to prise the disc Out of it’s cover !
Why can’t they make these Super Versions with a bit more thought about the disc ?
Or is this them thinking it will be played once to ‘rip’ and never touched again ?
The Film ?
Lot’s of Famous Faces saying that the Now Officially Gay George Michael wasl A Genius.
We knew !
If these releases don’t scoop up Every Mix/Edit etc never mind the Unreleased, what’s the point ?

Phil Fogel

HBO Canada and Showtime in the US is showing the documentary tonight Saturday 20th if anybody is interested. I still am, it might not be perfect but it was what George wanted.

Phil Fogel

Sorry I meant Saturday the 21st

SR

Great review Paul but I think you nailed it there William_M.

The docu speaks volumes of where George was mentally just before he passed away – and the absence of Kenny et al screams to us even louder. This was a story of a man reminiscing on the time in his life which he clearly felt was the peak for him both personally and professionally. As George himself said, it was the happiest time in his life, and he clearly felt it impossible to ever return there. The docu was partly George trying to cement his own version of his legacy, so all the ‘dodgy’ stuff had no place here.

You could even argue that the docu was actually (somewhat paradoxically I accept) an explanation for all that was left unsaid – I’m referring of course to some of the saddest parts of the rest of George’s life, from the drugs to the driving offences, to the infamous M1 ‘accident’, and perhaps most ominously even to the events surrounding his eventual passing. RIP George… Legacy secured.

James Baker

When you make the unboxing video, please ensure you point out the spelling errors! 2 blatant ones on the belly wrap alone (__liable ?? and Freedom! __ ??) and a rather dodgy looking Epic logo too (I think?!?). The photo of the box set looks like it was done on a very old iPhone, very poor positioning and poor composition. That’s before I’ve even opened it!!

Can’t wait for the remastered music and to hear the classic MTV Unplugged again. I thought the documentary was quite good. Yes no real insight but well put together and nice comments (especially from the potty mouth Liam!) Go on Son!! :)

William_M

you can sum the documentary up as , not an insight into Georges career and a dissection of the evolution of his music, but as a love letter to Anselmo, quite simply it made clear that before he met Anselmo his life was drifting, he had no anchor, Then he met Anselmo and finally found the happiness he deserved and yearned, only to lose it and be set adrift once more, he never recovered from his broken heart, the loss of Anselmo and his mother were unsurvivable for him and that’s what came across in the documentary.

Robert

Paul, are you going to make an unboxing video for “Listen Without Prejudice” boxset ?

Robert

Thanks, I will be looking forward to see this video !

Narve Nico

User review found on amazon.co.uk: “Love George, part of my life for song long and I am still saddened at the loss of such a beautiful talented man. BUT – the version of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ on the MTV Unplugged CD is not the actual MTV Unplugged version at all. Listen to this and then go to YouTube and make the comparison. The version in this CD is the one on the Older album, it has just had applause added. I had the original MTV Unplugged live version downloaded for years and it was my absolute favourite song, and the best version. I know every note and every inflection of his voice. When he passed, that version that I had on iTunes and Deezer just disappeared. This version on this CD is not the same. I don’t know why that would be but I urge you to go and try it for yourself and you will see what I mean. That song on this CD IS NOT the actual version from MTV Unplugged”.

Henry Watson

I Can’t Make You Love Me isn’t on Older?

Barnaby Dickenson

George did two Unplugged sessions around that time with the same set. One was for MTV and one was for Radio 1. It’s likely the version you knew previously was from the Radio 1 session and this is from MTV’s broadcast.

[…] George Michael‘s last interview, with Kirsty Young, will next month be broadcast in almost all its entirety, on BBC Radio 2. George had asked Kirsty to interview him in December last year and some of his answers to her questions can be heard as part of the narration to the recently aired Freedom documentary (see the SDE review). […]

mick lynch

Fully agree with you Paul. Im a huge fan and would have known the history. This feature was neither a ‘Classic Album’ or a documentary. There could have been so much more. I preferred his ‘A Different Story’ documentary from the mid OO’s. A lot more revealing and interesting. Im guessing we’ll have to wait for the 25th Anniversary of ‘Older’ in 2021. A missed opportunity.

Naj hysn

Paul you were involved in the tracklist for Cd 2-

I am 100% that Gm would not have allowed the artwork of the 2 cd edition – that is a SONY / David Austin decision and it goes against the whole ethos of GM not promoting his image for Lwp- but if it means future generation are listening to it then -LISTEN without PREJUDICE

Phil

Great review Paul. As Paul Brady said once: “Fame is the sum of fan’s misunderstandings about you”. Certainly applied to George who had one of best voices with greatest range.

Henry Watson

Enjoyed the documentary, but Paul’s review nails it for me. It’s appears to have tried to become something it wasn’t originally intended to be as a result of George’s unfortunate passing.
Other random thoughts:
I could do without Adele and Chris Martin (pretty much in any circumstances!).
Seems ironic, given the fuss over George not appearing on the cover of LWP, the re-issue has his photo on the cover.
Sad to realise that the final 20 years of George’s career albums wise basically consisted of one album of original material (with a couple of greatest hits, a covers album and a covers-heavy live album making up the rest)…

Naj hysn

Yes I don’t think GM would have allowed that cover – or release nike Rodgers remix of fantasy. That is pretty much David Austins decisions-

His family have given him the creative decisions and he is thier go to person .

Barnaby Dickenson

The rerelease uses a slightly cropped version of the original Weegee Coney Island photo. They may have used photos of George in publicity shots, but not on that e actual cover.

Naj hysn

David Fincher directed freedom 90 , George stepped in
Thierry mugler directed Too Funky, George stepped in as he had a conflict over the direction of it

Dan

Did anybody notice ‘As’ was apparently released as a single in the year 2000? I’m pretty sure I bought that in early 1999.

Michael Khalsa

I have not watched the documentary yet. I did however re-read ‘I’m coming to take you to lunch’ by Simon Napier Bell recently. Who managed Wham! from 1983 to 1986. That’s a lot of fun & pretty revealing.

I did not know about the 40 million from Dreamworks. Not sure whether that is true. George Michael did have damages for $5 million pounds awarded against him which he put on his answering machine after the court case. From my understand the relationship soured when George was called a fag by one the higher ups from Sony. Also their promotion of ‘Mother’s Pride’ offended him.

baward

To me, its the height of creepyness doing a duet with someone whose died. So I fast forwarded through the Chris Martin bit.

Not enough Nile Rodgers, Stevie and even Elton John and far, far too much Tracey Emin, James Corden, Liam Whatsit and Gervais.

Tony Orwell

I watched the documentary and found it to be very entertaining, cant say i am a massive fan but faith and LWP are two of my favourite albums, never really listened to older but i think it deserves and in depth look. Regardless of all the comments it is best to just put the records on the deck and enjoy the music

joel

here in the US, it is coming out on saturday on showtime. a little bummed it doesn’t go into more detail about listen without prejudice…and lord knows i don’t really care about star people giving their endorsement…unless they worked with him and it has to do with that work…im sure i will enjoy watching it, hopefully it is more than a vh1 behind the story thing

andrew davis

I think a very fair review Paul. For fans of George Michael this was a long awaited documentary with added poignancy since his death.
I found the scenes at his London house with an actor playing the part of George at the typewriter were plain odd. If George didn’t want to appear as ‘himself’ due perhaps to issues on how he looked at the time of production why have the scenes at all?
I was also unsure how much of the voiceover was done just for the documentary and how much was culled from older interviews. Still either way it was how George wanted to present both how Listen without Prejudice was made and released and what came before and after.
Like others I was baffled why George ever re-signed with Sony for Patience in 2004. I’m sure all the record company personnel had changed but on a point of principle to go back to the same company always seemed an odd one for me. It might have been the best money deal but at that stage of his career there would have been other options. Am I the only one who has struggled with Patience, there are a lot of songs here but it does feel pale compared to earlier work.
There was a lot of rare live footage that presumably will see no further release. For someone who did spend years out of the spotlight he was always able to perform well on the big stages. I wonder what’s next for the reissues, presumably Older where the Unplugged set would have made a better fit.
Still with some regrets it was good to see a great artist both at high and low points and with songs a lot of people will always remember and listen to. I’m really looking forward to another listen without prejudice this friday.

bob

Andrew, whilst many of George’s voiceovers were from the archives if you listen carefully you can hear the difference in his voice on the newly recorded sections. His older voice is different, deeper and a little croaky. This may be a side affect of the car accident from a few years ago, when George ‘fell’ out of a speeding car on the motorway and was airlifted to hospital.
It made me think that perhaps George had lost his singing voice if it cheanged his speaking voice.
You are not alone with Patience, I found it a huge disappointment. Yes we had an album with plenty of tracks (for once) but the whole album just went on and on going nowhere. It was a poor album given George’s very high standards.
I really hope that we get some good unreleased music eventually but I won’t hold my breath.

Iain McCarthy

According to the credits at the end, it said that the George interview was conducted by Kirsty Young….who also interviewed him for Desert Island Discs. I haven’t re-listened to Desert Island Discs though to see how much was duplicated for the documentary.

Paul kennedy

Great review Paul !!! I love a lot of music don’t claim to be a GM fan at all
Watched it and to be honest I can’t get over someone who wanted to be that famous and then suddenly want to climb off the showbiz wagon !!!! Like a lot of artists he just came across as very needy ….His biggest mistake was splitting up wham !!!

mike

Faith would beg to differ that view from every point of view!

andres

The article in the Independent is really fascinating. Paul, do you now how did all parties involve fare after the deal? I doubt Dreamworks made a significant profit over their investment especially considering that the multi million selling Greatest Hits record was mostly owned by Sony.

Martin

To be honest I was not surprised as it felt like one of those promo’s that is on an artists giveaway on CD/DVD reissues. Totally surprised by the lack of any input from Ridgeley and he came across as a spoilt child. I have the vinyl on pre-order and will pick up the SDE if it drops in price but the programme was a disappointment

RJS

I’m not a massive George Michael fan (the only recordings of his I own are the Freedom ’90 CD single and MP3s of Everything She Wants and Last Christmas) so I watched it with an open mind. I thought the selection of talking heads was bizarre. He’s one of the biggest selling singer / songwriters ever and Liam Gallagher, James Cordon, Tracey Emin and Ricky Gervais are nobodies in comparison and didn’t even know him for the time period the documentary covered (up until the 75 minute mark if felt like it was part one of a two parter of his solo years – the last ten years of his life were very briefly glossed over). Elton John and Stevie Wonder, yes but I really think he could of (and should of) got some bigger and more authoritative people on board. I think GM’s voiceovers from the 2016 would have worked better if they’d been recorded in an interview format. They sounded (and obviously were) very scripted. I enjoyed it but I can perhaps understand some of the frustrations of the diehards. Personally I think it would have worked better it had covered three periods in better details – the Wham! years, the Faith / Listen Without Prejudice / Sony years and the Older years on onwards.

Steven

Enjoyed the documentary as I took it for what it was. His point of view on his career told his way.

Mark Bickerdike

Good review and having read all the other comments (left up to now) I get the different angles pepole are taking both those that enjoyed the documentary (I certainly did) and those that felt it skimmed over a lot of interesting part of George’s life (definitely, on reflection).
I think it seems that it was meant as a launch film for the re-release of LWP and, if things hadn’t taken such a horrible turn with his premature passing, there could have been more films planned for future re-issues to cover other eras. Such a tragic waste to never have that.
I would love for a more balanced review of his musical life with some of the relevant personal stuff as well i.e. the bits that informed his writing, his decision to end Wham!, the abandoned projects (LWP Vol 2), Trojan Souls), setting up his Aegean record label with his cousin Andros) the work with other artists (David Austin, Deon Estus, Lisa Moorish, Toby Bourke and I suspect more that most of us haven’t heard about).
There was a great BBC radio interview a couple of decades ago that talked about recording Trojan Souls and if I remember right, they were duets with the likes of k.d. lang – he told a story about her coming up to his house (I think they were in L.A.) and she said she’d come on her bike and said something like “poor cow, cycling up this steep hill to the house” and she turned up in leathers having ridden her motorbike!.
That’s the sort of stuff I’d like to know more about and maybe it’s down to the people that were part of that bigger story (Andrew, David and other collaborators maybe even his estranged cousin Andros as I’m not sure if they ever made up after the Aegean record label fallout) – it’s still stuff that’s relevant to fans and others without going into the truly personal celeb type digging that I hate.
We can but hope…

Rough cut

I am a fan. I have’t seen the documentary, but I enjoyed the review, in spite of it being somewhat negative. It seems the author is objective in his criticism which makes it truthful and authentic. I enjoyed some of the comments negating that criticism as well, they make for a nice counterpoint. I look forward to seeing it and forming my own opinion.

Linda Carter

How ghastly to have your career interjected with comments by Ricky Gervais, Liam G in a Jimmy Saville shellsuit and James Corden.

jms

No discussion of Trojan Souls, Songs From The Last Century or Patience, admittedly the history of Trojan Souls is a little murky (though he does say in the unreleased film that he’s signed to Warner Brothers) but to not mention albums that sold millions does seem a little odd. Also, there was nothing about leaving Virgin, going to Universal for two singles, re-signing to Sony and then leaving once more for Universal. Mind you that in itself is probably a 90-minute documentary. The other slightly baffling point was that all the way through Andy Stephens was captioned as a Sony employee, after leaving them he managed George for well over a decade.

Tryone

I was hoping a wealth of rare footage. Obviously this is a celebration of George rather than a candid doc.

Auntie Sabrina

No Andrew Ridgeley, no Pepsi or Shirlie, but Ricky Gervais and Tracey Emin? The Adele cover of Fast Love was a nice surprise though.

lee bowler

I loved it – for me, far too emphasis on the court case and his private life (heard it all before) but I did love the way it was put together, starting with Adele and ending with his ‘duet’ with Chris Martin on ‘A different corner’. I enjoyed the majority of the celeb thing – especially Stevie Wonder, Elton and Mary J. Yes, I would have wanted more in terms of abandoned albums/tracks etc. We need to remember, it’s only because of his passing that people were expecting a full career documentary but right from the beginning it was only meant to be from Wham to LWP – the whole emphasis was about that album (promoting it for it’s re-issue), how it came about, the reasoning for non-promotion and him stepping away from that side of the business, which I thought was properly explained – from both sides. It should have ended there, rather than start to delve into the ‘Older’ era – I think this caused confusion. Being a life-long fan, I did see and hear things that were new to me and for that reason, I was happy with it

Christian

As a casual fan of George Michael, I thought the documentary was pretty good even though I did know some things. There was quite a bit revealed in it that I didn’t know. I’m not really interested in the private personal lives of celebs, but his discussion of his first partner does shed light on his song Jesus to a Child. But as others have stated, there was much more that could have been included in this documentary. Maybe this is a mantle that can be taken up by Andrew Ridgeley or George’s manager.

Simonf

I watched the documentary and was fascinated to hear a snatch of a demo by the Executive (George and Andrews’s pre-Wham! band), how many demo’s exist? Will they ever see the light of day, and also what looked like very professionally shot footage of the final Wham! gig at Wembley. Why has this never been released as a proper CD/DVD package. I have a bootleg of that gig on cassette and it sounds like it just the most wonderful time for all that were there. I came so close to going myself but that’s another story.
Agree with most of your points Paul, but I guess we all knew with Mr. Michael directing and producing it was never going to be a wart ‘n’ all production. Also totally agree with Alan about Cordon and Gervais. Maybe Liam Gallagher got it right when he described George as “modern day Elvis”. The comparisons between those two and the way their careers both came off the tracks resulting in their inevitable deaths are many…

Chris Squires

I have been in archiving family histories for nigh on 20 years now and am amazed at how well old technology survives the kind of trauma that would have new technology dead and useless.
Most humans haven’t got around to thinking of digital stuff as real and hence it gets lost. When people die, people gather round for the distribution of record, books, photo albums etc. because they are real. Digital stuff gets forgotten.

A 16 year old George Michael, 13 year old Kate Bush, a 17 year old Stephen Duffy committed their first doodlings to real cassette tape, which most likely languished in an old desk forgotten but safe and so it is still available today once re-located, which is exactly what happened to the first Duran Duran recordings. In all likelihood if they were that age today it would have all been lost when their first MacBook went tits up or got stolen.

Mind you most people will never hear any of it due to artist embarrassment, but that Executives clip just shows what is there. It would make a wonderful addition to any “Fantastic” SDE. Far more interesting and valuable than something like one of the well known instrumental mixes or the Club Fantastic megamix. It would make that mythical SDE a certain buy for most people I would guess.

Paul H

There does exist a full professional video recording of The Final gig at Wembley Stadium from 1986. Allegedly, though, George always refused to release it as he thought that Elton John turning up at the end dressed as Ronald McDonald tainted it. For one who was there I thought it was a great concert and would love to see it again (here’s hoping). The only thing that tarnished the memory was the booking of Gary Glitter as support (but hindsight is a wonderful thing).

I have only watched the first part of the documentary so far and can’t agree more about the talking heads. Not sure what Liam Gallagher is doing there at all as can’t see him showing the slightest interest while George’s career was in full swing.

Gis Bun

Odd how the 2CD version contains Fantasy (featuring Nile Rodgers) but not the SDE.
As for documentaries, some are hits, others are misses. You can’t show a career of anyone with a descent lengthy career in 60-90 minutes. For example, how do you do it for someone like Clint Eastwood who’s been in the business for something like 50 years and examine his pre-Hollywood years and then go through the number of movies he starred and directed in 90 minutes. You can’t.
I’d like to see someone do the Rolling Bones in 90 minutes.

Simonf

There is a very good Stones documentary of around that length, okay it maybe two hours in all; it’s been a very long time since I last saw it. Titled 25 x 5 The Continuing Adventures Of the Rolling Stones, it covers the story from 1963-’88 and certainly remains the best Stones documentary I have ever watched. Far better that the messy overblown Crossfire Hurricane. I used to borrow it on VHS from my local library on a regular basis until they stopped stocking VHS video. I don’t think it has ever been issued on DVD. Highly recommended.

Daryl

Great comments MusicFan!

Russell

I found it incredibly moving. I was more interested in his version of things because,as someone for whom Wham and George Michael had just provided background music for the 80’s – I had loved Wham Rap and then didn’t care again until the Queen tribute performance- this made me look at his music anew. You posted a brilliant clip of George and Morrissey on the same 80’s programme together and what came across on reflection was how far ahead of Morrisey he was as an artist and a thinker.

The documentary explored his frustration with that not being understood by those whose approval he sought. I agree that the celebrities, many bizarrely listening to the same turntable – which one was it? – sometimes seemed annoying as talking heads often are – but they were chosen to earn that missing respect and understanding that so bothered him. However, all the celebrities had records with their names on with specific tracks to listen to – I felt he was saying, they listened without prejudice, now please pay me the respect of doing the same,too. The irony being that this was at last promoting the album.

I think to judge the documentary as something that. It wasn’t is inherently unfair. It was his voice that came across and he had his reasons for telling his story in his way. It left me stunned and others I watched it with in tears. Autobiography, as a dialogue mediated by celebrities, is potentially alienating, if you are not a celebrity, but it is a reflection of the world in which he walked, arguably taller than many spectators could see.

Quite an act.

His life ended in loneliness and misunderstanding. Arguably,he wanted a connection that in his mind and heart,was withdrawn from him by the travails of living a mediated life.

It made me completely reassess my feelings about him as an artist.

Chris Squires

It was a Michell turntable, it even got it’s own credit at the end….

RJS

“a brilliant clip of George and Morrissey on the same 80’s programme together and what came across on reflection was how far ahead of Morrissey he was as an artist and a thinker”

Good point. On the strength of that programme alone, it was clear that George Michael’s intellect and articulation was in another league to that of Morrissey. Just about to watch the documentary on 4OD.

Peter Muscutt

Is there a chance this was perhaps an ‘edited’ version for TV? Is there an actual full-length DVD/Bluray release on the cards that may have additional interviews/segments etc? Although saying that, the doc was on for a fair while anyway, so can’t really see that happening.

Stu

I would happily watch an entire show of Stevie Wonder jamming along with the songs, those sections were magical.

MusicFan

Disappointing? How can anyone think that?

George made this to give everyone an open and honest view into his life and motivation.

This was not and was never intended to be a timeline of causal events.

This documentary was about the key points in his career that shaped him, shaped his audience and shaped the view we have of him.

The Wham! pastiche, the contrived creation of a Faith superstar, the stripped approach to LWP making the music the focus, the relationship with Anselmo Feleppa, the bereavement expressed in Older…. it’s all there!!!!

The footage of George and Anselmo was deeply personal to George and it took a lot from him to feel comfortable to show this.

George said he wanted everyone to take just one thing from his career which is the fact that he did everything with integrity.

If anyone did not get this from the documentary, I suggest you re-watch this, but this time take note of what is being delivered rather than looking for what you expect to be missing!

George did an exceptional job!!!!

FredHolmes

I have to agree with you. It was exactly that, a documentary made by the artist. If it was made by someone else it would have been different.

I loved it ! A TV event like 20 years ago today in 1987.

adam shaw

I also didnt like the celebs input to this documentary but I did enjoy the music .
I am not a George fan and havnt followed his career , I appreciate his talent but dont own any of his or Wham recordings .
I didnt know the album apart from the singles so the film done its job as im thinking of purchasing it .
And thats what this was all about , marketing , unfortunatly for most fans it wasnt the insight you were expecting .