George Panayiotou (1963-2016)
There are some very clever things going on in some of George Michael’s beautifully-produced songs. Claim to fame: at different times, we went to the same college ‘Cassio College’ in Watford. What strikes me is how often he would use any sound to-hand (a [now] cheap synth. and drum box patch), and bring them together to make magic. He’d have been rightfully insistent about getting the best session musicians he could find.
Club Tropicana (1983) opens with simple aural imagery of a car arriving at a beach resort. Sea wave effects join the middle of the song rhythmically.
Bad Boys (1983) has a snare drum that sounds like a whip cracking. The synths and drum boxes in Everything She Wants (1984) seem almost bedroomy, but what a song! The way Michael uses delay on the vocals, pushing alternately left and right, literally turning about, blindly trying to ‘find a way out’. There was a tension apparent in his songs, between the public sexuality he felt he ‘should’ have, and his true feelings. The words: “Somebody tell me” are heartfelt. Praying for Time (1990) is a haunting song.
Too Funky (1992) has a wonderful, funky, bleepy, synthetic sound. Star People (1997) mixes depressing lyrics with dancing synth. arpeggios, a full brass backing and one of the tightest, funkiest basslines I’ve ever heard (played by Deon Estus*?). Freeek (2001) features a panoply of sound effects in its opening, followed by computerized vocal transformations. The gloss and commerciality of his music sometimes hides much cleverer things going on inside. Despite seeming to be open, he was a very private man who passed away too soon.
*In an interview, Deon Estus said that “after you learn a song, it just becomes energy”.