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Behind-the-scenes archive documentary where BBC music presenter Bob Harris follows Queen as they record their 6th album, NEWS OF THE WORLD, shoot videos, promote it, rehearse and ultimately embark on a groundbreaking tour of North America.
2016 will be remembered by pop music fans as the year of so many untimely deaths. Amongst others, I suppose the two which stood out, if that's the right phrase, were those of David Bowie and Prince before George Michael succumbed on Christmas Day to blight his many fans seasonal joy and cap a miserable year for celebrity demises. Although his fame had diminished somewhat in America, he unquestionably remained hugely popular here in his native UK and it was certainly a shock to learn that he too had died so young.
With voiceovers by Michael himself, although he's coy about making an actual appearance on camera as we see a back view of him, at least I think it's him, sitting at an obviously favourite writing desk in his London home battering away at an old typewriter, by using the tried and trusted device of contemporary footage and celebrity endorsements, this is a loving, indeed at times adoring portrait of the artist as a young man.
Michael more than once equates himself with the three other acknowledged mega-stars of the 80's, Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson and on the musical evidence here, he certainly deserved that accolade. Good looking, with a fantastic voice and a prodigious writing and production talent, he left his previous group Wham! at the height of their success before spring-boarding to even greater initial solo success with the release of his "Careless Whisper" single and "Faith" album.
This documentary focuses on his three-album run from "Faith" to "Listen Without Prejudice" and "Older" especially the middle album which became a cause-celebre at the time of its original release with Michael famously failing to promote it to protest at his US record label's failure to recognise his artistic pretensions at the time. Thus we see celebrity pals like Elton John, Ricky Gervais, Stevie Wonder, Jean-Paul Gaultier and a very unlikely Liam Gallagher lining up to fight George's corner, although of course he lost his infamous "professional slavery" court case against Sony Records at the time.
Michael also opens up about coming out as a gay man, although not until after the death of the great love of his life, Brazilian Anselmo Feleppa and how this, plus the death of his mother plunged him into both personal and artistic depression. There's relatively little coverage of the various, usually drug-related incidents in his personal life which fuelled the tabloids which tends to make what we see probably a little too adulatory and uncritical.
After he died, I remember stories coming out in the press about his generosity and philanthropy, usually done with anonymity, bolstering the strong central message that this on-the-face-of-it most photogenic of pop stars was actually shy, troubled and insecure. Poor little rich boy, some may sneer but seeing him ensconced in his London home hardly seeming to live the remote, luxurious rock-star life, you're left with the sad thought that like Michael Jackson, Prince and Whitney Houston, his celebrity status failed to bring him true happiness.
Better then to focus on the often wonderful music he provided and regret that he was denied the opportunity to return to the musical scene he once dominated. More human and approachable it seems than many in the music industry, his was a sad loss and another of those gone-too-soon exits which makes you wonder what he might yet have achieved had he lived.
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