Revealed: the plot to keep George Michael silent

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I ALWAYS try to get up to London on a rail strike day. The place seems much emptier, almost bearable, especially when Wimbledon has drained a lot of the excess people off down to SW19. The most exciting thing I saw on Wednesday was a businessman walking along the street, cradling his mobile phone and shouting into it: 'Take off the bet on Graf] Put it on McNeil]' I didn't know you were allowed to do that during a game.

Towards evening I drifted along to Soho, my old stamping ground, and found my steps going unerringly into that grand old sporting pub, the Manager and Coaches, where I saw the familiar shape of Adrian Wardour-Street inspecting an empty wine glass.

'Just in time, old boy,' he said. 'You can buy me a bottle of Chateau Fantin-Latour.'

I bought a bottle of something much cheaper and sat down with the doyen of the public relations industry. 'What have you got to celebrate this time?' I said. 'Don't tell me you've signed up Max Clifford to spill the beans about his life story?'

'Pshaw]' he grunted. 'We in the PR business wouldn't touch Max Clifford with a bargepole.'

'Why not?'

'Because we are always two lengths behind him, that's why. No, I am here to celebrate the victory of my client in a big case.'

'Your client being . . . ?'

'The Sony Corporation in its case against Mr George Michael.'

I had heard something of this case. Mr Michael was a pop musician who had achieved the miracle of being perpetually half- shaven. He had also created a number of pop records, none of which I had heard. I had made no particular effort to avoid them. I just avoid all pop music, that's all. It is a harmless hobby, but one that has brought me much pleasure.

On the other hand, I had a sneaking admiration for Mr Michael's stand against Sony. 'I feel sorry for old Michael,' I said. 'Shouldn't he be allowed to make music the way he wants?'

'Have you heard his music?' asked Adrian, pouring out his second glass from my bottle.

'No.'

'Well, then.'

'I didn't say he should be able to play it so I can hear it. Just so that he can play it.'

'But if Sony came across a way of letting him play and stopping everyone hearing it, you would be in favour?'

I thought about this for a second, perhaps less. 'Certainly.'

'Well that is what this court victory today means.'

'You'd better explain.'

'The Sony Corporation is an incredibly successful international company, run by the Japanese, right?'

'Yes.'

'The Japanese parent company recently bought the Columbia Film Company, which owns many of the greatest black- and-white classics.'

'Yes.'

'That's because the Japanese are old softies at heart. They like old black-and-white classics. They like jazz. They like baseball. They're into nostalgia.'

'Yes.'

'But one thing they don't particularly like is pop music.'

'Hold on,' I said. 'Japanese teenagers are crazy about pop music.'

'I'm not talking teenagers,' said Adrian. 'Teenagers everywhere like pop music. That's because teenagers don't know anything about nothing. But teenagers don't do one thing. They don't own Sony. When I say the Japanese don't like pop music, I'm talking the kind of people who own Sony. Old Japanese. Jazz-generation Japanese.'

'Right.'

''They hate pop music. They have tried to like it, and failed. Finally, they have gone on a crusade. However much it costs them, they are going to hire all the artists who seem to be most of a pain in the ears, commmit them to an exclusive contract and then not record them.'

'You're joking.'

'Do I ever joke?'

'Are you telling me that Sony is committed to keep George Michael to his contract in order to prevent him ever appearing on record again?'

Somehow Adrian sensed that he had already said too much. 'Look here, dear boy,' he said, 'not a word of this in your column. Otherwise I might get in trouble, and you wouldn't want that, would you? Now, would you like a couple of tickets for the Centre Court . . . ?'

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