Love Fast, Love Free – George Michael (1963-2016)

Fuck you 2016. You just added George Michael to your list of victims and you know what the the worst part is? I get the feeling you aren’t even done yet. C**t. Now for a brief anecdote:

I owe the bulk of my childhood musical education to my cousin Henna and partly to our late uncle, my mum’s brother Laxman. My uncle Laxman owned and ran an electronics warehouse in East London and he made sure that he provided his entire extended family with an endless supply of transistor radios, TDK D90 cassettes, portable cassette players, headphones and rechargeable Uniross batteries. Years later, Uncle Laxman would also give me my first real job in sales, which would then lead to my introduction to turntables through my cousin Puneet who managed the store.

My cousin Henna lived and went to college in Delhi, I think it was the Apeejay College of Design or something like that. Early on, she’d turned this gift of cassettes and music players and batteries from Uncle Laxman into an obsessive need to make mixtapes of pop songs. I don’t know where she got her music from then, and I never asked, but every month or so for years on end, a D90 cassette or two filled with tunes would arrive at our house in Bombay for my mum, brother and I to listen to.

I now remember this wasn’t just a random selection of songs. This was, in fact, my first introduction to the world of music curation. I like to think Henna put a lot of thought into how this music was sequenced over two sides of cassette tape, though I get the feeling these were compilation albums she’d replicated side-for-side. I could be wrong though, and no, I never asked. Her obsession was contagious and would soon turn my brother and I into daily tape-fiends before CDs became a thing and the Now That’s What I Call Music! series of compilations from the UK came around and changed the game for us (more on that later in a retrospective).

Lording over almost all of Henna’s mixtapes back then was the late (as of this morning) George Michael. I think Henna had a huge thing for him, as would I over the years. How could you not though? Smooth-talking, hair-slicked-up, aviators-with-the-gold-rims, “I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me”, sex-machine George Michael. After a couple of years of listening and singing along to ‘Freedom ’90’ and ‘Faith’ and ‘Father Figure’ and God, what is with George and all these F-songs, came the year 1996. I count the summer of 1996 as the period I really, really, really got into my own musical skin.

The summer of 1996 represented the biggest dualities in my life as music lover. It brought us the Spice Girls, but also introduced me to Underworld via ‘Born Slippy’. Robbie ‘BabyFacedFuckBoy’ Williams repurposed George’s ‘Freedom 90’ into his needless and anodyne not-to-mention fuck-all cover version ‘Freedom’ and dominated radio play, but it also saw ‘California Love’ move West Coast gangsta-pop outside of the United States. It was the summer of ‘Killing Me Softly’ as well as ‘Return Of The Mack’ by Mark Morrison, a song I remember hearing for the first time sat on the carpet floor of the living room of my aunt’s house in Kent, and also the summer of Children by Robert Miles, which at the time, my brother really, really got into, I still struggle to figure out why. Many will remember it as the summer that Oasis’ truly milked their year before’s hit ‘Wonderwall’ otherwise known as pop music’s version of chlamydia, but it’s easy to forget it was also the summer that Pulp’s Common People made its way to the CD racks at Rhythm House in Bombay. That summer I also got into Everything But The Girl’s ‘Wrong’, the memory of which was recycled in my head as recently as two weeks ago during Call Super’s sunrise set at Magnetic Fields Festival, when he closed with edit of the song. I remember standing and thinking what a fucking wonderful thing music is.

At centre of the summer of 1996, however, was ‘Fastlove’. 10-years-old by then, I deemed myself old enough to understand what it meant. “I won’t bore you with the details baby… baby I ain’t Mr. Right… some bad love, some fast love is all that I’ve got on my mind.” It would be a couple of years before my tastes turned acutely towards rap music, but I’m pretty sure this was THE player’s anthem of 1996. ‘Fastlove’ still came off as a pretty sad song though. If George was really feeling all of that (and it’s absolutely my fault here for reading into his lyrics so much whilst knowing they could just be complete fiction), I don’t think he was feeling all that great about being the player. When he sang “my friends got their ladies, they’re all having babies, but I just wanna have some fun”, I can’t help but think he also wants to get in on a little of that permanent action himself. I mean, unless you’ve chosen to be a deviant of sorts, I doubt you wouldn’t welcome love of that kind into your life. I know I wouldn’t.

In 1996, George was 33, not too much older than I am right now, just a couple of years and a half in fact, and George, I wanna say that I finally get what you mean. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I fucking love the song. ‘Fastlove’ most likely changed a lot of me and for me when I ponder over it now and I still jam to it this day 20 years later, but I think I’ve finally rolled back the years (musically) and started welcoming my ‘Father Figure’ phase. Though not exactly how you meant it. No, George, really, really not how you meant it at all.

Rest In Peace George Michael. A good man. A man of love and emotion and timeless music and quite importantly, a wicked sense of humour. A true man of the people. You will be missed by all.



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