Nov 13


Popular70 comments • 7,644 views

#738, 4th May 1996

fastlove “All that bullshit conversation, baby can’t you read the signs?”. This is a curious record: there’s little in pop like the way “Fastlove” marries seductive form – the discreet grind of its mid-to-uptempo groove – with an impatient candour that undermines it. Other seduction jams enjoy their playfulness, however frank they are about its endgame. “Fastlove” is wary of allowing itself that generosity.

“Into the night” the singer goes, and in the night details are obscured. The setting is anonymous, the partners are anonymous, and so the music we’re hearing slips into anonymity too. A snatch of a different record – Patrice Rushen’s “Forget-Me-Nots” – drifts across the track, like a song you half-notice in a bar when your mind’s on other things. Later singles along these lines suggest that this kind of glossy light funk is something Michael is drawn to, or at least feels suits him – on “Fastlove” there’s a suspicion that the setting is deliberately generic, just more of the “bullshit conversation” – tiresome requirements before the singer scratches his itch. And then what? Back into the night, I guess.

Anything you can use to build you can use to fill a hole: sex is no exception, and “Fastlove” is as clear-eyed about motives as it is about everything else. “In the absence of security,” Michael lays it out, “I made my way into the night…. I miss my baby.” You can, if you like, take the song in a dyad with “Jesus To A Child” – the outcome of a healing process on one hand, some of its less solemn detail on the other – but while that single demanded an autobiographical reading, here it feels more of a reach.

And anyway, “Fastlove” protests too much. Lyrically George is playing the pick-up artist, but the record is never as brittle or cold as it threatens to be. If this is him on numbed autopilot, it just shows that his sweetness and flirtation runs deeper and comes more naturally than the exhaustion. He’s a humane performer even when he pretends otherwise.



  1. 1
    Tom Ewing (@tomewing) on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Popular entry – George gets his groove on. http://t.co/P8lNvpdtdB

  2. 2
    The Woose on 3 Nov 2013 #

    About time Tom!

    This is a much better record than I thought at the time – it didn’t fit well with the retro Britpop stylings.

    Did we all still think George was hetero then? I only ask because I’m lining it up with the lothario of Careless Whisper and I Want Your Sex.

  3. 3
    Lazarus on 3 Nov 2013 #

    There were some of us, and I slowly raise my hand, to whom the incident with the police officer came as a surprise – if only because many of us assumed, during the Wham years, that George and Andrew were shagging for England, with no gentleman callers involved. If he cultivated a more staid and sophisticated image in the 90s it wasn’t evidently because his preferences had changed – it might just have been a natural maturing of a man entering his thirties. This record and the ‘Older’ album got played a lot at ours in 1996 but that was largely for the benefit of Mrs Laz – he’s always had more of a female fanbase, I suspect. It’s a daytime radio staple to this day and I never mind hearing it, I’d go along with the 6.

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 3 Nov 2013 #

    I’ve been fairly sniffy about GMs last couple of hits – repelled by the obsessive studio sheen that (for me) shuts out the more human elements of the song. Here the obsessiveness serves the theme of the song perfectly, with ‘Forget-me-not’ suggesting more vulnerable qualities.

  5. 5
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Nov 2013 #

    It didn’t fit well with the retro Britpop stylings, and all the better for it; this returns some groove and sophistication to the charts, from a Briton (just like Return of the Mack, but this record’s got a much more agreeable personality. Too young to understand what was going on in the video but thought he must be, in the words of Matchman from, er, MATCH magazine (it’s OK, it was 1996, R**** T***** wasn’t invented) a true babe magnet. Little did I know.) 8.

    There’s another number 1 coming up next year that also cribs from Sending Me Forget-Me-Nots, but in the wrong way.

  6. 6
    Tom Lane on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Had to go look it up, but it was true. This is the last record he charted on the US Hot 100, outside of “Last Christmas” getting a single release. A very good song, which I always thought at the time was meant to show that he could still knock out a catchy dance confection whenever he wanted. Definitely an 8.

  7. 7
    Billy Hicks on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Worth noting early on that there are two main versions of this song along with many of the ‘Older’ singles – the original album/video version ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQVWYu4BdMo ), and the housier ‘Forthright Edit’ which bizarrely got included on Now That’s What I Call Music 35 and can be listened to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2whVR3uYqlM .

    I (along with most) am only familiar with the original and agree with a lot of what’s been said already. What surprises me is that both the song and video have two things that you’d think would be censored on daytime television but whenever I’ve seen it on the music channels it’s always been uncut at all hours, one the word “bullshit” and two the closeup of a woman’s breast/nipple at 1:59 in the video. Is it simply getting away with it because he’s George Michael?

    On buying my first iPod in 2007, I found this song excellent for walking home to on a cold winter evening.

  8. 8
    Birdseed on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Isn’t that a man’s breast? (Or a trans-woman’s breast, acceptable through society’s strange double-standard.)

    I dig the Forget-me-nots connection, to one of the all-time great slow-burning dance tracks, but it doesn’t stand up all too well in comparison. In grand 90s tradition there’s just too much going on in the production for it to really gel, (despite the nice horn/melody interplay). It’s not long until garage comes and sweeps that away, thankfully.

  9. 9
    swanstep on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Wham’s Young Guns basically hymned fastlove over matrimony/babies etc. too, but it did so with wit, hooks, and energy galore, all of which are largely absent here. The ‘Oooh Oooh baby baby’ section with the horns, on which ‘Forget Me Not’ eventually drops, is the only part of this track I rate, although I agree with Birdseed,8 that it’s dangerous for Michael to invite the comparison. The syndrome here is ‘2 bars in search of a song’ I’m afraid, whereas a younger Michael wrote and arranged tracks that burst at the seams with ideas and that couldn’t stop giving pleasure.

    Glossy and confident, but incredibly lazy where it counts, for me ‘Fastlove’ is a (grumpily bestowed):

  10. 10
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Well, I like this more than “Young Guns” because the ideas here are executed with more finesse, and probably closer to the real GM, where the former seemed more down to the blueprint..

  11. 11
    AlexN on 4 Nov 2013 #

    This is a strong 8 for me. The whipcrack snares, the cyberpunk-lite video, the ghostly backing vocals buried at the back of the mix – an exciting precursor of the Timbaland/nu-r’n’b stuff just around the corner.

    And there are some cracking quicksilver lyric hooks: “I won’t bore you with the details baby / I hope you get there in your own sweet time”. Best of all is the quatrain in the second verse:

    “Looking for some affirmation
    Made my way into the sun
    My friends got their ladies, they’re all having babies
    But I just want to have some fun”

    Very tidy indeed.

  12. 12
    anto on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I recently heard ‘Fastlove’ at about 3a.m and it suddenly made a lot of sense. It sounds just right for that time of the morning and for me it’s the one George Michael single where he acheives some sort of balance. ‘A Different Corner’ is under-rated but the vocal is overdone. ‘Outside’ is too self-consciously camp while the sax solo on ‘Careless Whisper’ has always been a bit too ‘Enjoy the rich taste of Kenco ‘ for me. In contrast the sax on ‘Fastlove’ is supple and sensuous. Also the interpolation of ‘Forget Me Not’ is more imaginative than it’s use on another song which I don’t think I’m allowed to mention yet.
    This is one occasion where I’ve heard the track in a completely different way to the review. It sounds fairly joyous to me albeit a vulnerable sort of joy – something like ‘yes one-night stands are empty and unfulfilling but they can be quite enjoyable too ‘. Like I say, ideal for 3a.m.

  13. 13
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    It’s funny that Anto describes this record as making sense at 3am. I had a similar sensation actually but, when listening to it, it put me in the mind of a late night, somewhere in Central Europe, jetting away from a nightclub. It’s very sleek and the seductive quality of George’s voice lends it a slightly blurry edge, as you might have at 3am after leaving a club, punctuated by the slightly more urgently sung “make a little room in my BMW” like certain snatches of a night leap out at you when you’ve had slightly too much to drink.

    It’s a pretty good aural picture – at least in my mind – I think I’d give it an 8. It might be getting bonus points for being a bit more outward looking than the prevailing trends at this time though. As a rule, there weren’t too many Britpop bands evoking Central Europe at about now (and using BMW not Jaguar – a particular favourite of Noel Gallagher – as the signifier of a certain level of automotive class) and I couldn’t picture George doing anything as jingoistic as plastering the Union jack on his guitar or all over his clothing. It was a welcome point of difference, I reckon.

  14. 14
    James BC on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I could swear that this song was allowed to keep its “bullshit” uncensored on the radio and Top of the Pops. Can anyone confirm this? If so, why the exception? Were there complaints?

    As for the song, it takes a while to grow but I rate it by far the best single from Older.

  15. 15
    weej on 4 Nov 2013 #

    It’s not a word to throw around too lightly, I know, but this record is boring. I’m sure it will do servicably well as background music in a bar, but I’d like my pop to be a little more ambitious than that.

    And as someone who spent their early 20s in Central Europe, going out a lot more than was sensible, I can’t think of anything more inapplicable to the 3am-outside-a-club feeling than GM, but I’d have been on a tram rather than a BMW, and, so maybe my Central Europe is just one of many.

  16. 16
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #15: Ha*. I guess being outside any nightclub anywhere in the world is going to be pretty similar – I don’t see why Munich need be that much different to Birmingham when you’ve had a bit too much to drink and have danced fro 4 hours, and so also feel a bit knackered. Having never been to a Central European nightclub, nevermind been to a sophisticated one where you jet off in a Beamer afterwards, this is a fantasy made whole cloth from my own mind.

    *In memoriam, Mrs Krabappel

  17. 17
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I’m quite meh about this one. In my mind, as I try and recall the tune, it’s kind of the “Forget Me Not” bits that stand out and the chorus. The rest of it is anonymous smooth sheen that might or might not drift into a #2 from 1998 at any moment. So I’m going to keep my powder dry until I’ve re-acquainted myself with it.

  18. 18
    weej on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #16 I think my problem with this kind of music is that sophisticated nightclubs of any sort are my idea of hell.

  19. 19
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #18: I think I’d broadly agree – at this time, I was trying to sneak my underage self into the local indie clubs and later in life, the lower the ceiling, the hotter the room and the louder the music, the better I thought a club would be. Something suave never really entered the equation.

    I guess I am picking up all of my thoughts on what GM is evoking here from TV and Film. Bowie in the back of a car, film stars staring out of windows at neon lights. That sort of thing.

  20. 20
    Chelovek na lune on 4 Nov 2013 #

    It worked in Odessa – definitely on the Eastern side of the Eastern/Central European boundary. The song was oft pumping out from speakers, day or night, along the Deribas, “the most beautiful street in the world”, as its inhabitants claim it to be.

    And the track does say, to me: dark car, with dark glass in its windows, late at night, in a sophisticated city.

    I like this: slick, smooth and a coherent whole. I loved the whole conceit of the “Older” album: a more polished, mature, and I think less temperamental, more in control, GM: and damn, some of the album was superb. Not really groundbreaking, perhaps, and not GM’s finest moment ever, but competent, sophisticated, slick and honest. Possibly, indeed, almost certainly, the last really good single he released, too. (Although a case is to be made for “December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)” being cruelly overlooked, much later on, but that very much a late exception).

    Probably a 7 from me.

  21. 21
    Tom on 4 Nov 2013 #

    This is it for George, isn’t it? For some reason I thought “Outside” got to No.1, but no. Well, it’s been fun.

    As for future singles, I was quite tickled by “Shoot The Dog” and “Freeek!” at the time, obviously flawed though they were. Haven’t heard them in years though.

  22. 22
    Ben Cook on 4 Nov 2013 #

    14 – I remember Richard Madeley once claiming on their Channel 4 teatime show that he was allowed to say bullshit on TV but not shit for some reason. Cue a cringing Judy as he repeatedly used the word.

  23. 23
    mapman132 on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Debuted in the US Top 10, but dropped down rather quickly, just like his last single. Someone already said this was his last US hit. For me, the video was more memorable than the song itself. 5/10.

  24. 24
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #22, well, “Beat Surrender” has to have a ‘radio-play’ version with the line “that rubbish is rubbish, it just goes by different names”, in 1982

    But, yes, I do believe Bullshit was one side of the ‘acceptable line’ and shit was on the other.

  25. 25
    iconoclast on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I thought very little of this at the time, but seventeen years on I’m a bit surprised to find that it isn’t actually at all bad. In its favour are some effective chord changes, a nice bass-line, a general unhurried tempo and a pleasant ambience all round. Against it is the feeling that it’s a bit too grown-up and air-brushed for its own good. Somewhere between inoffensive background music for parties and something to drift off to at night. SEVEN.

  26. 26
    Nixon on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Since this is the end for George on Popular, this both prompts and is an excuse for me to ask a question which has been nagging me, namely: what’s the big deal?

    I don’t mean that he’s not good or anything (he is, obviously), but I’ve never understood how he was (and to an extent still is) treated by the media, in all forms and at all levels, not just in the UK but internationally, as a mega-level Big Name superstar.

    Perhaps it’s a generation thing, perhaps I’m just the exact wrong age to get what the fuss is about, but from the moment I started Getting Into Music in the earlyish 90s, George Michael seems to have been an institution, with the assumption that (a) we should all accept it has ever been thus, and (b) so it always shall be.

    His return from the label dispute being treated like the second coming, the comeback singles anointed on their “obvious” path to #1 (when as far as I knew he’d not really been regularly troubling the very highest reaches of the singles chart as an unaided solo turn), was just deeply confusing. Not unwelcome, I’d give both this and Jesus To A Child at least 8, but *confusing* – the mid-90s legend of George the superstar seems to me to have been augmented to coincide with his comeback, making him out to be far, FAR more famous (or more of a National Treasure) than he was before.

    So many weird things stick in the memory: this record’s pervading atmosphere of I’m George Michael, Get Over It (“bullshit” going not only unchallenged on both radio and TV but unremarked upon; the f*ck-you gesture of the “Fony” headphones in the video attracting no meaningful criticism that I can remember, not least from Sony themselves) didn’t die out quickly. I remember TOTP giving George airtime to launch his new label (first single: a godawful duet with some limp-voiced acoustic chancer), played in full *and* with a spoken video intro; years later, when he’d shuttered the whole enterprise, Channel 4 gave Freeek a World Exclusive premiere special… (I know Freeek has a great video, and C4 has since done quite a few of these premiere things, but I remember George’s being trailed all evening, to which our sofa response was… buh? Shouldn’t this guy’s “level” of fame be somewhere on a scale between Seal and Bono?)

    And the negatives too: FAMOUS MAN IS GAY, fine, it was still a newsworthy headline (may still be), but f*cking hell, the viciously homophobic, leering coverage of his arrest was so widespread you’d have thought it was the Pope. (And yet in my head the Sun et al realised they’d f*cked up and misjudged the popular mood, because all I remember for Outside’s disco urinals and calling the greatest hits “Ladies & Gentlemen” is a ‘good old George!’ smirk reaction, not a BAN THIS SICK FILTH episode.)

    Nobody’s interested in NetAid? George offers to spill the beans on his personal life in return for suitable coverage, and nobody stands up and says “What the hell are you talking about?”… I was always confused. And he kept making rather good pop records, and yet nobody really talks about George Michael’s post-Older pop records, nor do they get played on the radio (I’d hazard a guess that of all his singles, this is the one you’re most likely to hear/see while flicking through channels, and it’s 17 years old). The records are accessories, something to be added to the appendix of the next updated biography, addenda to the real story: look, it’s George Michael!

    Educate me, for I am ill-informed.

  27. 27
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I must be honest, I am not an expert on George Michael by any stretch of the imagination (I had quite a tin ear for him until relatively recently) but, having a stab, is his position (as of ’96) not a little bit of:

    -The Live Aid effect (one of the few “new” artists to be given the seal of approval from the Boomer era stars at that event) putting him in the mainstream public’s eye as a “serious artist”,
    -Faith becoming enormous in the late 80s, thus capitalising on the boom in MTV in the USA and
    -The scarcity factor due to his label disagreement, making it seem like he was a returning King from a previous era.

    That’s how we got here, I think, though as I say, I’m no expert. Someone who knows more will be along in a minute to prove I know nothing.

    But if we’re talking about the George video you see when flicking the channels, I would say it would be Faith, Freedom or Outside, dependent on which channel you’re looking at. Fastlove would probably come after those I think.

  28. 28
    Tom on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #27 Add in the generalised UK industry panic over ‘faceless’ dance music in the early-90s which led to the fast-tracking of surviving 80s stars into “icon” status – at the time there was a real anxiety over where new stars might be coming from, which meant strong commercial performers like George and Annie Lennox were massively and continuously promoted.

  29. 29
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #28 I guess that would be right – The KLF even reference it in The Manual – something about faceless DJs standing behind some decks losing its appeal on TOTP after 2 weeks or so.

    Thinking about it, the other George videos that get played a lot on certain stations (Magic for one) are Careless Whisper and (given we’re coming up to the time of the year when loads of those music channels hiding about 350 on the Sky Guide will be owing George royalties) Last Christmas.

  30. 30
    glue_factory on 4 Nov 2013 #

    The “in the abscence of security” part (is it a middle-8?) has always reminded me of the section in Careless Whisper which begins “tonight the music seems so loud”. In both a relatively buttoned-down, restrained song, suddenly seems to spiral away as George has to get away/get out there.

    And I love the line about his BMW. Somehow I can’t imagine Mick Hucknall getting away with that.

  31. 31
    MikeMCSG on 4 Nov 2013 #

    # 21 Yep and it’s nearly it for me too. I think I mentioned that George Michael had a habit of being number one at key points in my life and here he is again in the week I met my future (and still current) wife. With other things that were happening – my father’s declining health, professional studies and a massive bust-up in the social club I was involved in – something had to give and following the charts in any meaningful way was one of the things jettisoned. We’re not far away from the first number one since 1972 to by-pass me altogether so my contributions are going to be scarce from now on.

  32. 32
    @octojon on 4 Nov 2013 #

    6 is a little harsh – it’s a solid 8 (welcome back, Popular!) RT @tomewing: Popular entry – George gets his groove on http://t.co/A8XyAo9lvg

  33. 33
    Andrew Farrell on 4 Nov 2013 #

    Surely there’s also the generational thing of a boy-band member self-consciously making the jump to ‘proper’ music at the same time as their demographic, sealing love for him* in their hearts forever? Later generations had Robbie (using George’s song!) and Justin, earlier ones had Michael Jackson and er all the Beatles.

    *I can’t actually think of any female examples, but I’m sure one will pop along immediately afterward I post.

  34. 34
    hardtogethits on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #26 etc – I think it’s dreadfully simple to explain George Michael’s status – “treated by the media, in all forms and at all levels, not just in the UK but internationally, as a mega-level Big Name superstar”.

    The attention bestowed upon him began with chart success. I feel uncomfortable presenting SUCH a factual case (see below), not least because when presented so starkly it makes me seem like some kind of George Michael superfan – which I’m not – but there have been points where I have wondered if the UK media have actually come to terms with how successful he has been – even though, as you say, the media have responded to his success by treating him as a superstar, I’ve not seen any of the “almost as big as / bigger than the Beatles” press-release type facts that have celebrated the achievements of … hmmmm… probably too close to spoiler territory but there are at least 5 examples I can think of with ease.

    To recap: By the time this made number 1, it was the 7th UK number 1 single on which GM was a named artist. Add to that the 4 Uk number 1s he achieved as part of Wham!, and his contribution to the Band Aid single and already one can make a case for him being the biggest UK singles chart star other than Elvis, the Beatles and Cliff. And of course, he’d had the best selling #2 UK hit of all time.

    All four of his studio albums (Wham! and solo) had entered the UK albums chart at number one (and the fifth was about to follow suit).

    He had (as pointed about above) become massive in the US, scoring 10 (ten, videprinter, TEN) number ones – six of which weren’t UK number ones.

    And so on.

  35. 35
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2013 #


    But APART from all that….

  36. 36
    Nixon on 4 Nov 2013 #

    #34 obliged! The point about the media not acknowledging how successful he was is a very good one, and really at the heart of my question – it always seemed he was much talked about, but the explanation as to why (for those like me arriving late) always got skipped. I’d entirely forgotten at least 3 of those earlier number ones – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever even heard A Different Corner.
    There was an extra paragraph in my original post which I cut for length asking specifically about being Big In America (as well as if Wham were fondly regarded post-split, as I couldn’t work out why GM made it into the mid 90s with his commercial stock rising but not eg Simon Le Bon or Adam Ant.)

    But like I said, I didn’t *disagree* or begrudge the extent or nature of the coverage, I just didn’t get where it was coming from as it didn’t really seem to be based on the music. Even though I quite liked the music.

    33: I get the boyband transition to adult star thing but essentially I missed the transition; Listen Without Prejudice (or really most of George Michael 1985-1992) is missing footage.

    28/29 yes, that makes a lot of sense and jibes with what I was feeling before HTGH’s potted CV put it in more perspective – we need stars, bankable names to put on the cover, proper pop stars to write gossipy articles about.

  37. 37
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2013 #

    I’m guessing, as Tom did, “Fastlove” could be paired with “Jesus To A Child” as twin aspects of the tail-end of his grieving process. In the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief model, JTAC could be “acceptance”. “Fastlove” is what follows, or a continuation of acceptance, an attempt to move on without entering the scary closure of commitment to the next life-partner who can expunge that grief and fill the hole, once and for all. In the interim, a string of empty one-night stands and meaningless encounters prove to become inevitably unfulfilling, but this is what he’ll settle for now, without exposing himself* to anything as daunting as real feelings. The video presents a string of increasingly sexually aggressive holograms. So in a sense, the fast love that George seeks out comes with the usual “proceed at your own risk” caveats. But when he’s hurting still, he’ll take comfort where he can find it. But these “holograms” suggest he has shut himself away, sealed himself from human contact in his stylish future-prison cell he’s created for himself. And he hasn’t entirely shaken off stage 2 of his Kubler-Ross grieving process with those “Fony” headphones. A bitchy little snipe at his former paymasters.

    Yes, I was a little ambivalent towards “Fastlove” earlier, and I guess I was at the time of release. But now, the subtleties and the backstory make this song, and I suppose most of the content on “Older” worth a re-examination. Maybe 7 is a reasonable score.

    *That particular incident isn’t a million miles away, either.

  38. 38
    ciaran on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Before anything did Fastlove not make Number One on the 28th April Tom?

    A tough one to analyse this.

    Part of me can see merit in it as its the most experimental if not the most daring single from Older.George brings his usual high craft to proceedings here aswell.At the time I preferred it to the somewhat laboured JTAC.

    On the other hand having listened to it for the first time in an age last night I didnt enjoy it as much as I might have done in 1996.It seems a bit boring now.It got massive airplay for a considerably long time which maybe has led to a sense of meh about this although It seemed to ‘disappear’ after the events in Los Angeles in 1998.Probably due to the bold video which is highly camp around the middle.The new GM image was a bit strange aswell.

    I can see the promotional effort behind it with how left-field prodigy and babylon zoo (and even late 1995 jacko!) would have been to some at this time.George was a safe pair of hands (in 96 anyway!). The other thing about 1996 is with the exception of about 2 acts which we’ll get to America had a lean year popular wise so little competition from them for GM.

    I could go as low as 5 or as high as 7.There is a lot worse marks to come in 1996 and seen as this is an accomplished entertainer still riding high and making a better go at it than most a 7 from me.

    Could be on my own here but I would have preferred Spinning The Wheel and Older to this.Star People and You Have Been Loved were really scraping the Barrel however.

    Outside would have been a 9 had we got round to it.

  39. 39
    Billy Hicks on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Lots of very good points raised, being a 1988 stork-boy he’s someone who was always simply There and you accepted his mega fame. Ask me fifteen years ago who he was and I’d not only tell you but draw you a picture of his bearded face. I think I mentioned it in a previous thread but I enjoyed ‘Outside’ as a pre-teen having no clue about any of its context and saw it as simply someone who wanted to go outside in the sunshine, not quite understanding what urinals had to do with it all in the video.

    It is, however, fairly surprising that he was still essentially guaranteed top 10 with everything he did right up to 2004, by which time he was really phoning it in – ‘Flawless (Go to the City)’ is one of the laziest hits ever, a dance track from three years earlier with a couple of repetitive “You’re beautiful! Always the same! Yeah yeah!!” etc soundbites from George over the top for five minutes. Inexplicably it reached 8, one place lower than the original ‘Flawless’ did in 2001.

  40. 40
    Alan not logged in on 5 Nov 2013 #

    re the date, at some point we aligned with the official dates of number ones as originally showing in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, data that matches the official charts dates http://www.officialcharts.com/all-the-number-ones-singles-list/_/1996/

    HOWEVER, those days, currently, are SATURDAYS. (If you go back to the 60s you’ll see other days of the week are the official date of some number 1s). Now a bit of me seems to recall reading in the GBoBHS that the date they show was the saturday at the end of the first week of the song’s reign. I may have that backwards, but as Sat 4 May 1996 is indeed the Saturday after the Sun 28 Apr 1996, that accords with ciaran’s recollection.

    this may blow a few people’s minds. of course if I have it wrong, i’ve blown my own

  41. 41
    Doctor Casino on 5 Nov 2013 #

    I definitely appreciate Nixon’s comments, and the responses – as an American born in 1981, I sort of missed Wham!, and a lot of the stuff after that didn’t make an impact (at least on whatever I was listening to).

    However, I was always fond of “Fastlove”; my brother had the CD-single (including the b-side, “I’m Your Man ’96,” a somewhat flat affair that was nonetheless my first introduction to the song). The A-side is cool, almost icy, like freshly minted breath…no dance club here, but maybe a particular stiff art opening, wine coolers and unexciting money in the room. If he is driving home with a lover, the dominant feature isn’t the cologne but the new car smell. 6 is about right.

  42. 42
    Astronaut Omens on 5 Nov 2013 #

    An 8 from me, the gentleness and subtlety of the chorus melody was a brilliant contrast to overblown Britpop stuff, as were the lyrics describing a complex emotional situation:
    Not knowing much about the world, I had figured out that people could sometimes be promiscuous for sleazy transgressive exciting William Burroughs-esque reasons, in the manner that Placebo would sing about on “Nancy Boy” the following year. But I hadn’t really figured out that someone who was hurt might want to shag around a bit, and might even be honest with sexual partners that that was what they were up to.

    The thoughtful-looking bloke in the cardigan at 2:09 in the video always made me think of Graham, the character Alan Bennett plays in his “Talking Heads” series. I thought that alongside all these virtual reality super-ripped boy and girl models, George wanted a virtual over-sensitive, unhappy man who can’t get away from his mother and reads chess magazines.

  43. 43
    Alfred on 5 Nov 2013 #

    The top ten placements of “Jesus to a Child” and “Fastlove” in America were tips of the hats to a fading superstar whose time had passed. I don’t remember hearing either on top 40 radio except for countdown shows. However, the rather well-manicured electrogroove of “Fastlove” was most refreshing in late spring ’96; I played it enough to warrant placing it in my year end top twenty.

  44. 44
    Alfred on 5 Nov 2013 #

    PS: We haven’t talked much about 1992’s “Too Funky,” which like “Fastlove” hearkened back to a time and musical context in which GM no longer fit. It did get significantly more airplay though.

  45. 45
    Steve Mannion on 5 Nov 2013 #

    ‘Too Funky’ is his best post-80s single I think. ‘Amazing’ is…OK.

  46. 46
    Doctor Casino on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Boy, do I wish we’d get to talk about “Shoot the Dog”…

  47. 47
    Mark G on 5 Nov 2013 #

    You get to talk about it now!

  48. 48
    Doctor Casino on 5 Nov 2013 #

    It’s interesting! Maybe pertinent to the issue of GM not really ‘translating’ – it was inescapable on British music TV when I was there in the summer of 2002, but I’ve never met another American who’s heard of the thing. Obviously it’s full of Brit-specific references, and the sonics aren’t exactly poised to dominate the American airwaves but it’s a catchy enough song (mainly the “GOOD puppy!” bit) that you could have imagined it at least turning up as American NOW! filler…. if not for the politics. It made #12 in the UK and #1 in Denmark (!), hardly the best performance of the [i]Patience[/i] singles but better than you’d expect if people were just buying it as an anti-Blair gesture. As far as I can savvy, it either wasn’t released in the US or didn’t chart if so – just like all his other post-“Fastlove” songs.

    The other thing is that the video gets quite self-referential at one point, with cartoony versions of previous Georges – Wham!, Faith and Fastlove – with the last possibly being presented as “current” in 2002 even though it looked to me like a parody. The whole thing makes no sense if you’re not already invested in George Michael the star.

  49. 49
    MBI on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Are the whoo-hoos sampled from “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”?

  50. 50
    Lazarus on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Heh, good spot – similar, but a different key surely.

  51. 51
    Izzy on 5 Nov 2013 #

    ‘Forget Me Nots’ returns to no.1 in just over a year’s time.

  52. 52
    Cumbrian on 5 Nov 2013 #

    Shoot The Dog also got to number one on the Wallonia chart in Belgium but only 46 on the Flanders chart. Presumably these are based on airplay? Anyway, big with the Flemish is George.

    And yes, I picked this up off wiki. Movements on the Belgian charts not usually being my forte.

    I think STD (top acronym there) is alright but from memory it was a bit of an inflexion point for George. Thereafter he has not had that much success on the UK singles chart at least. I suspect that if he comes back at this point with something of the ilk of Fastlove it might not garner much attention. He’s going to need something that really stands out to break back up to the top of the charts I think.

  53. 53
    thefatgit on 5 Nov 2013 #

    “Shoot The Dog” would have been a great #1 if only for the “Love Action” lift.

  54. 54
    Cumbrian on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Anyone want a pair of football boots? I believe Adidas are good.

  55. 55
    Izzy on 6 Nov 2013 #

    He did As later with Mary J Blige. I think it might’ve been a tack-on to the Best Of. I liked it – it would’ve been hard for those two to cover any Stevie song badly – but I found the video, in a club populated by dancing George & Mary clones, somewhat nightmarish.

  56. 56
    leveret on 6 Nov 2013 #

    I had no idea he had managed as many US number one singles. I’ve never even heard of ‘Monkey’ (UK no. 13) and ‘One More Try’ rings only a vague bell.

    Were these number 1s based on genuine big sales figures amongst the US public or was radio play largely responsible?

  57. 57
    Alfred on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Both, at least in my neighborhood. Those Faith were — all of them — massive.

  58. 58
    AMZ1981 on 9 Nov 2013 #

    A few thoughts;

    Fastlove is, as others have said, the last number one for George Michael but four further singles in the two and a half years that followed hit the runner up spot and at least three were victims of lousy timing; Spinning The Wheel (held at bay by Wannabe), You Have Been Loved (Candle In The Wind 97) and Outside (Cher’s Believe) – Star People was blocked by a landfill number one.

    His commercial peak perhaps came when his Ladies and Gentleman compilation proved massively successful over Christmas 1998. However in the new decade he seemed to be more interested in stirring controversy rather than giving the public what they wanted; Amazing showed he could still score with a good song but the other singles from Patience, while fine in an album context, were perhaps too vague to crossover. Leaving aside his troubles with the law it’s perhaps a little bit unfair to write him off as the result of recent unsuccessful singles – his contempories are hardly setting the singles charts afire either. If he could put together an album that would be the best litimus test of his commercial clout.

    This is a bit shameless but as somebody mentioned Shoot The Dog here’s my take my from my blog (not in Tom’s league but few blogs are) http://amz1981.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/great-moments-in-flop-history-part-1-shoot-the-dog/

  59. 59
    Patrick Mexico on 11 Nov 2013 #

    STOP BUNNYING! Oh, it’s okay, you’re remapping the Axis of Evil.

    In his first week at No. 1, George held off stern competition from the “oh, they were a bit good last decade” mob – new entries from PSB (No. 7), The Cure (No. 15), and Springsteen (No. 26)*. I guess few except hardcore fans would say they were career bests.

    The Ghost of Tom Joad is apparently an understated, warm-the-cockles-of-t’heart, album, mind – a shame we won’t see the omnipresent Boss on Popular. However, to quote Dennis Bergkamp channeling IDS in a rubber mask of Alex James**, there are other sites. Then again, there are other formats.

    It was the year of the awful, Cantona-inspired FA Cup final; Michael also nobly blockaded Move Move Move (The Red Tribe) and Pass and Move (To The Liverpool Groove) from glory; when the parentheses follow the half-Greek groover, it is because they think someone will be born out of the sea.

    And lo, they were, in the promo for Sleeper’s Sale of the Century. (#10 new entry in Fastlove’s first week.) One of Britpop’s most mistreated bands, often by the same magazines that once saw Louise and.. you know, them, as standard-bearers for that Maconie emotion. The efficient dourness of the George Graham-era Arsenal back four spearheaded by a glamorous, idealistic frontwoman; we’d seen this happen in other peoples’ lives and Melody Maker didn’t like it if it happened in theirs. Especially someone singing about pebbledash driveways and spilling wine on the sofa.

    Yes, like many of their ilk, they read the future in prosaic suburban beige, used a Supermarket Sweep theme for one promo, and covering Atomic for Trainspotting was a cute, knowing reference point or the worst “Start digging upwards” for a British band since, oh, well, Duran Duran’s Thank You.

    However, SOTC was a delight of a single; sidelining the “songs about chip shops” (in Mat Osman’s beautiful phrasing) for a non-stop erotic cabaret (note lower case), vision of a city that never sleeps, if that city really was London. It definitely isn’t prosaic, and it could be anything from a conversation between a young woman lusting for a much older man to manning an antique submarine.

    Uses an all-too-familiar riff.. hello, No One Knows! Hello, Black Velvet! Hello (next year), Waltzing Along! Hello, the theme tune from CBBC spy spoof Marlene Marlowe Investigates! (Is this up there with Tiger Girl from I Hate This House as a memory of nineties popular culture only acid casualties could recall in the A&E ward?) But it uses familiar elements to WORK as something genuinely iconic and memorable, especially the chiming, Siamese Dream-esque bit towards the end.

    Speaking of which, the Smashing Pumpkins hit #8 in the third week; if Sale of the Century eschewed the horrors of Britpop going all too generic, this fought the same corner for grunge, or at least the broad church of whatever the hell “alternative rock” means. The liberal use of strings brought to mind A Design For Life; the passion and sense of Corgan nobly avenging his demons, brought to mind the Boss in more stadium-rock guises (but not losing passion) and the rest of Everything Must Go, particularly the “most generic, yet most perfect” Australia; and this was made by a band paying homage to Georges Méliès; who in turn on Top of the Pops got their late keyboardist to perform aided by a cuddly toy.

    Like its parent album, Tonight Tonight was confusing, contradictory, and utterly captivating, and it never once brought to mind – as Maconie said as he imprinted Lambretta tyre marks onto Eddie Vedder’s face; “people who’d come to clean up a canal towpath”, or “Oh God, do I have to tidy my room?”

    There was apparently something called Salt Tank in the lower, ahem, depths of the charts. Was it, he, she, or them any good? Or were they kissing cousins with Scanty Sandwich?

    * And Def Leppard, though I fear that sort of band will not be appreciated on Popular.

    ** In Fastlove’s second week, Charmless Man went straight in a #5. 17 years on I’m still unsure whether it’s their finest three minutes, or Crocodile Rock covered by the Inbetweeners in hell.

    Oh, and.. Jubilee. Public Enemy gave us “You’re blind baby, you’re blind because you’ve been watching that garbage 24/7”, the British response is “He gone divy, too much telly, He’s been watching 24 hours of RABBISH!” Ali throws the first punch, the second comes from Norman Wisdom.

  60. 60
    Cumbrian on 11 Nov 2013 #

    Minor point from me: I can’t think of anywhere I have seen Ghost of Tom Joad described as heart warming. Understated, yes. But about the only warm thing there is the production; if it had been too rough and ready, it might well have invited even more comparisons with Nebraska. It’s mostly a, pretty spare, hard times album, with an undercurrent of both sorrow and serious anger so obvious that a band, that we will get to in the fullness of time, was able to cover the title track as a hard rock number so effectively that the lead guitarist wound up filling in for the E Street Band’s Steve Van Zandt for stretches of their last tour down under.

    Re: Sleeper. Of the female fronted Britpop bands, I preferred Echobelly or at least Dark Therapy beat everything in Sleeper’s back catalogue and I thought both King of the Kerb and Great Things had more winning choruses than Sale of the Century and Inbetweener. And following the Great Britpop Poll, I have more time for Kenickie than I did back in the mid-90s. Sleeper run at least third from this (rather sexist) grouping.

  61. 61
    fivelongdays on 11 Nov 2013 #

    If I had to sum up this in one word, it would be Tasteful. It’s a tasteful tune, with smooth vocals about how George will meet you in a Tasteful club, buy you a Tasteful drink, take you back to his Tasteful apartment and have Tasteful sex with you. Tastefully.

    It always sounds like background music, and, although it wasn’t at number one for as long as I remember it being (it was there for three weeks, but to my recollection it felt like six) there’s not really much I can say about this. Four.

    Incidentally, Sale of the Century isn’t as good as it’s B-side, the reply rather fantastic Package Holiday. Sleeper were unfairly maligned, that’s true, and The It Girl isn’t THAT good, but their debut, Smart, is the rarest of things – a sexy indie record.

    And Tonight, Tonight? Just LOVELY. Would undoubtedly get a ten.

  62. 62
    wichita lineman on 13 Nov 2013 #

    “You can take the song in a dyad with Jesus To A Child…” That’s how it has always sounded to me, which makes Fastlove a very honest record. The way it splits in two with the (pretty cheesy – intentionally?) scratching dividing impatient, groping George on the first section and mourning George (“In the absence of security”) on the second is, I think, quite remarkable.

    He seems a smooth mover, clubbing and shagging with that cheeky but rather melancholy synth-whistle hook as his motif. But it’s only an attempt to hide an absence that he can’t shake off – this is only revealed on the later section, with Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots as the ghost of his lost love. George shakes his head, quietly singing to himself – “I miss my baby” – as his one night briefly stand looks away. He’s still on the pull, though (“that’s right!” he winks, unconvincingly), and the song eventually dissolves into un-seductive electronic noises that are closer to Gary Numan’s Telekon than Luther Vandross.

  63. 63
    Billy Hicks on 15 Nov 2013 #

    59 – Salt Tank’s entry at number 40 was the actually quite beautiful early trance track ‘Eugina’, the radio edit of which can be listened to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoZ9PFBT5LY . Only discovered it recently from a friend who had the original vinyl.

  64. 64
    dpf removal liverpool on 3 Feb 2014 #

    hi! , Everyone loves ones creating incredibly a good deal! write about we all communicate more roughly your post about America online? I will need a professional on this place to fix our trouble. Could possibly be which is a person! Writing about onward to peer you actually.

  65. 65
    Andrew Farrell sent back from the future on 3 Feb 2014 #

    Classic series 20 spambot there, tortured glimpses of sentience but nothing threatening as yet – the series 30 would at least have enough contextual nous to finish “Writing about onward to peer you actually, bay-beh”.

  66. 66
    Tom on 20 Jan 2015 #

    If you’re a subscriber to Maura Magazine, the new issue – first under Brad Nelson’s editorship – has a piece from me expanding on and revising this piece and the “Jesus To A Child” one. http://www.mauramagazine.com/issue/537cf406c873d91fb3ee934e/hard_day

  67. 67
    Erithian on 7 Jan 2016 #

    Enjoying this on re-listen, rather more than I recall doing at the time. I found myself wondering about the kind of person who would go on the pull with this as the soundtrack – a BMW driver or someone who aspired to be, whose friends are all having babies but he still reckons he’s it, while looking to others to be two stops short of Alan Partridge. And maybe that’s the character George is portraying in the song, while the video shows what a more interesting proposition he is himself. The new image is consciously Odder as well as Older, as if he senses that being outed is just around the corner but he can handle it. I found the song boring at the time, but I reckon I can take it on its own terms now – well-produced, confidently delivered by a bloke who knew what he was doing.

    I forget though – have we discussed the dreaded Olympic closing ceremony appearance anywhere?

  68. 68
    Izzy on 7 Jan 2016 #

    He was alright I thought? Giving it his all to connect with the folks in the front row – some eighty yards away. Wearing all black, and shades, and debuting a new track, all brave if questionable choices in the circumstances.

  69. 69
    Chelovek na lune on 8 Jan 2016 #

    #68, I think Sir Humphrey might reasonably describe George Michael’s cover of New Order’s (quite, quite brilliant) “True Faith” as “brave” (and it really was that, in all senses of the word), but the Olympic appearance was surely some way beyond that – quite possibly he was going through a tough spell at the time, but debuting a new, far from instantly (if at all) appealing or catchy song to a global audience during a ceremony of major national import…..I’m not sure that “ill-advised” begins to cover it. I’d be interested to hear a coherent case arguing that he didn’t completely blow it, but I would take some persuading…

  70. 70
    hectorthebat on 5 Mar 2016 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 25
    NME (UK) – Singles of the Year 45
    Pop (Sweden) – Singles of the Year 20
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 5

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page