Long before the sobbing fandom over One Direction’s Zayne Malik retiring at twenty-two, each decade has introduced its own hunky crooners from Sinatra to N’Sync. In my mind, none of these phenoms can hold a candle to my teenage musical crush, George Michael. To this day, if a George Michael song comes on the radio, I listen to the end.
In high school the burnouts drove 1970s gas guzzling relics with the pounding sounds of Zeppelin and Quiet Riot seeping through the cracks (along with smoke). I was their target. I can’t tell you how many times my locker’s Wham! collage was ripped up and its confetti remains left on the floor for me to clean up.
On Wednesday mornings I eagerly attended a telecommunications class where I recreated Wham’s “Young Gun’s” video while the guys in class produced a video to Pink Floyd’s “Money”. I ignored the snickering in the corner while my best friend Kathy and I choreographed a little dance to the video, wearing pegged jeans, faux leather jackets and our hair slicked back in pompadours.
I had debates with this kid Michael who wore glitter in his hair and worshiped Cyndi Lauper. Even he teased me that George Michael paled in comparison to Cyndi.
On August 11, 1989, I turned twenty and saw George Michael’s Faith Tour at the Hartford Civic Center. If I screamed loud enough maybe he’d know I was there. He’d be impressed that I knew the lyrics to all his songs, could win an impromptu George Michael trivia contest including how to spell his real Greek last name, Panayiotou.
By 1992, the musical tides had turned to the Seattle sounds of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. There was a recession, and my college degree only managed to earn me a $10 an hour job and I was still living with my parents. Things weren’t looking great for George Michael either. The Worcester Centrum Stadium had too many empty seats at his Listen Without Prejudice Tour. He was suing his record company and refusing to help promote his new album. I had the sneaking suspicion that George was tired of the silly, screaming teenage girls who failed to appreciate that he wrote and produced all his music. These teeny boppers didn’t care that his Faith Album sold 20 million copies or that he craved some critical acclaim or that his South American boyfriend was dying of AIDS.
In a flash I was forty with tickets to see George Michael and his 25th Anniversary Tour in Boston. For some reason I was nervous about going. I was married, a mother, mid-level manager, my best friend Kathy had recently died of cancer and thoughts of mortality popped in my head more than I liked. No longer a teenager or a twentysomething, I wasn’t sure if I was happy with my new demographic of middle age. I also worried that George would be old too — an Englebert Humperdinck of the millennium, speaking his lyrics because he could no longer hit the high notes.
I was relieved. George Michael’s concert was one of the most joyful experiences. It was like a three hour time capsule where we were all young and perfect and every song was my favorite. I think he was even having fun.
If I saw George today I’d likely have the maturity to curb any screaming and crying. I’d shake his hand and thank him for bringing so much joy to my life …. Ah, who am I kidding, I’d pull him into a hug, slide my face close to his, breath in his fabulous scent and then feel his trademark five o’clock shadow against my cheek.
George Michael provided the soundtrack to my teen years and no matter the song, time stands still and I am young again, not a care in the world because George is crooning to me — just to me.