Stage names are funny things. Sometimes a white sandwich loaf is re-labelled as a baguette, or pane de casa, or Tibetan mountain bread. And sometimes horiatiko psomi is re-labelled as … white sandwich loaf.
This is pretty much what happened to Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. Born in London of Greek heritage, he became known to the world as George Michael. He was, first off, part of a boyband with possibly the stupidest name in the long history of stupidly-named boybands.Wham!
There is a 1948 movie called Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, which stars Cary Grant as an advertising executive. It is a comedy, poking fun at American consumerism. A subplot deals with the Grant character’s struggle to come up with a slogan promoting a variety of tinned meat called Wham. It is obvious that Wham is actually Spam, and Spam is what you slice up and put in a white-bread sandwich.
It is unlikely that whoever coined the band name Wham! was thinking about Mr Blandings. What they were thinking about is anybody’s guess. Anyway, George Michael has had to carry the burden of having been half of Wham! ever since.
“Faith” was the title track of his first solo album. I was intrigued to discover that while I have heard the song perhaps hundreds of times on radio, that the DJs don’t have to nerve to play the whole thing. There is an into, played on a church organ. Sounds like this:
But the Radio Rule (if you can hear it on commercial radio, you won’t find it on Planet Vinyl) dictates that we go for the B-side.
“Hand to Mouth” is lower-key, different. It is smooth synth-pop, but it is – well, it’s a protest song, about the gross inequality of American society. And it’s nicely done – the slick production draws you in, and the lyrics are sufficiently subtle that you only gradually realise that George is singing about violence, poverty and prostitution. It is, in musical form, the irony of American life, a polished Cadillac cruising past a crack house.
One of George Michael’s albums was titled Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. I don’t think there was ever a volume two, but clearly it was partly a plea for people to stop judging him for the early-1980s blonde tips and just listen. Do that, and you might discover unexpected substance in the white bread.
- Artist: George Michael
- Single Title: Faith
- Track: Side B “Hand to Mouth”
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm
- Label: Epic 6511197
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1987
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