16
Nov 09

GEORGE MICHAEL – “A Different Corner”

FT + Popular137 comments • 11,125 views

#568, 19th April 1986, video

At first brush “A Different Corner” sounds too diffuse and tentative to count for much – the kind of single that gets to #1 when its maker is a big enough star that anything will. But this is misleading – “Corner” is wispy and cloudy because it’s an attempt to capture a particular kind of confusion and despair in a pop song. Listen more closely and its politeness – all those nouvelle cuisine dabs of keyboard and guitar – is revealed as paralysis. Michael is impotent: he’s worse off for falling in love, he would go back if he could, he’s terrified of the rejection that might follow if he goes further. A strange fear grips him: in its sketch of sensitive abjection, “A Different Corner” touches the same nerves and explores the same pitiable ground that mid-eighties indie was making its own. “I don’t understand it, to you it’s a breeze / Little by little you’ve brought me to my knees” – you could imagine David Gedge writing that!

You couldn’t imagine him singing it like this, mind you. “A Different Corner”‘s kind of wandering, choked-up slow soul would end up being a key part of George Michael’s repertoire, the style he deployed when he wanted people to know he was getting personal. It’s been the source of his worst performances as well as his best, but “A Different Corner” avoids self-indulgence by its relative concision – just two short, tightly written verses given plenty of space in a simple arrangement. The delicacy of that arrangement is fragile – even a touch like the acoustic guitar between verses on the album and video version seems to overload it. But the single mix keeps its balance between comfort and sparseness, its broken-up piano lines halfway between the wine bar’s consoling ambience and ABBA’s icy, grown-up pain. This song of disillusionment and ruined hopes is remembered as a minor single, if at all: for me it’s the best number one George Michael’s been involved with.

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Comments

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  1. 121
    Mark M on 20 Nov 2009 #

    Re 120 You may find that if you read the word Sukrat backwards you’ll discover something…

    Also: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/old-ft/essays/2002/07/tarkus1/

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/old-ft/nylpm/2005/10/tarkus-watch/

  2. 122
    AndyPandy on 22 Nov 2009 #

    Interesting,I never realised that!

  3. 123
    Lena on 23 Nov 2009 #

    I now feel a bit less strange for having loved New Pop and then being totally taken (hmm, interesting verb, but the only accurate one) by The Smiths; once I went to the WHSmith at the mall just to look at a picture of them in Newsweek in ’85 in total awe. A year later I began to really pay attention to the UK music papers (I was already buying Star Hits, the US version of Smash Hits) when I could find it.)

  4. 124
    Lena on 23 Nov 2009 #

    When I began to realize the mixture of voices in the UK music media I was charmed and baffled and a little overwhelmed – I could barely understand how so many people could exist in what my guts told me was a very small space and have such different opinions. That The Smiths were great was pretty much agreed upon by everyone (save the Soulboys, who must have at least admired Morrissey’s flair for clothes) and beyond that it was out-and-out head-desking despair – the indie crowd vs. the goths vs. those who enjoyed strangeness (not long after I began reading the UK media I discovered The Fall) and those who solidly believed that if it was popular it was good, and vice versa. What kept me reading was the sheer enthusiasm I could find from various writers, and a depth of feeling unimaginable at, say, Rolling Stone.

    By the way, I went all the way to Toronto to get the first Smiths album on cassette and stayed faithfully with them as they negotiated their highwire way through the decade. And Johnny Marr remains one of my favorite guitarists; to me he seemed androgynous on the guitar, if that makes any sense.

  5. 125
    Lena on 24 Nov 2009 #

    I also have to add that The Queen Is Dead remains (for me) their best album; Strangeways Here We Come I always associate with my father’s deterioration and eventual death. I watched him go and I watched The Smiths go and it was a very sad time indeed. But I feel I’m getting ahead of myself here – “Panic” was THE song of the year and I got the NME with him on the cover and nothing else, of course!

  6. 126
    anto on 24 Nov 2009 #

    Hi Lena. Your comment about Johnny Marr makes a lot of sense.
    I think a lot of people who don’t generally go in for ” gutiar heroes ” admire Johnny Marr. In The Smiths he always seemed to be expressing himself through the gutiar whereas too many other gutiarists are merely expressing what their gutiar/amp/fx pedals are capable of.

  7. 127
    rosie on 25 Nov 2009 #

    For the record, this was number one when Chernobyl went critical: perhaps the single most significant event of the 1980s.

    Me, I was travelling around Wales at the time. It rained. And rained, and rained, and rained. There was, allegedly, lots of fallout in the rain, enough to make the local sheep suspect for many years afterwards.

    I’m doomed, doomed I tell you! Although 26 years on I show no ill-effects that can’t be accounted for by aging.

  8. 128
    Jimmy the Swede on 26 Nov 2009 #

    I actually had a package trip planned to what was still called the Soviet Union when Chernobyl came along and knackered it. I think my lost holiday was probably fairly low down on the list of that terrible disaster’s victims.

  9. 129
    Erithian on 26 Nov 2009 #

    Rosie – so you survived being rained on in the days of fallout, which is good. Then you moved just down the road from Sellafield, which is pushing your luck a bit!

    Back to poor old George Michael, since about two of the last hundred posts have been about him and this record – a beautiful piece of music, a fine vocal and yes, sadly underrated. It seems to have fallen into the void that Marcello often refers to where there’s only room for one song of any given type by any given artist on oldies radio – and since this isn’t “Careless Whisper” (and maybe because of its sparse production) this one loses out. Certainly one of the more unjustly obscure 80s number ones.

    Anyway, back to the Smiths, the rest of you. I didn’t follow them avidly at the time aside from enjoying their singles (my girlfriend and I used to sing at each other in mocking Morrissey tones “but I’m still fond of yeeeewwww, whoa-hooooo”) and I’ve come to enjoy their albums since, but I’ll leave this discussion to the experts. (Tom, someone should compile a guide to the unlikely tangents we go off on…)

  10. 130
    Steve Mannion on 26 Nov 2009 #

    I’d mistakenly thought ‘Faith’ had been his big comeback single after this and am a bit baffled that ‘I Want Your Sex’ actually preceded it (tho I do vaguely recall the controversy surrounding it that Summer), because it seems that ‘Faith’ would’ve stood a much better chance of being Michael’s third consecutive #1 and put him up there with Gerry and Frankie on that record (Wham! efforts notwithstanding).

    Would say the two singles after those are actually stronger (‘One More Try’ is not one I remembered at all when I saw its title but as soon as I heard it I was ‘oh its THAT one’) which also seems unusual.

  11. 131
    Mark M on 30 Nov 2009 #

    Re 114 etc, in this month’s Mojo, Alicia Keys says that YouTube clips of Keith Emerson circa 1971 are her favourite musical discovery of the year.

  12. 132
    lonepilgrim on 30 Nov 2009 #

    re 131 bizarrely there was a picture in one of the antique roadshow music mags recently of Keith Emerson all smiles with John Lydon

    blimey, this thread has got off topic…er George Michael what was with the mullet and where had it gone by the time of the next Wham video?

  13. 133
    Tom on 30 Nov 2009 #

    This is now the most commented on FT post of 2009. Well done all!

  14. 134
    LondonLee on 1 Dec 2009 #

    Looking forward to Alicia Keys’ triple concept album!

  15. 135
    Hofmeister Bear on 7 Jul 2010 #

    The guitarist Issac Guillory (Al Stewart, Elkie Brooks and err Barbara Dickson) blamed the previously mentioned Chernobyl-influenced rainstorms which lashed Wales for the cancer which killed him in 2000.

  16. 136
    Billy Smart on 13 Nov 2010 #

    Ultra-rare clip of George Michael and Morrissey together!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCZkVrpYupY&feature=related

  17. 137
    flahr on 26 Dec 2016 #

    Farewell to George Michael. 53, which isn’t much of an age, but you can’t say he didn’t live it.

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