Toby Bourke has given an interview in today's Mirror newspaper, the key parts of which are shown below:
GEORGE Michael's career has gone up in smoke because he would rather puff joints than record new songs, a former musician pal claimed yesterday.
Toby Bourke, who dueted with George on the 1997 single Waltz Away Dreaming, claimed: "Drugs have turned him into a stoned waster and made him depressed. Dope is his poison."
Toby, who says he watched George chain-smoke 20 super-strength skunk joints a day, added: "Dope destroyed his will to work. When you smoke as much as George has done you simply cease to function. Cannabis has wrecked his career. All that dope put paid to it."
George, 42, has not released an album since Patience in March 2004. And he has not done a world tour for 15 years, although one is said to be in the pipeline.
But Toby said: "I don't think you'll see much more work from him. He is basically lazy – and it is all the cannabis he's smoked that has made him like that."
Toby, who recorded with George when the ex-Wham! star was in his heyday in the mid 1990s, said it was clear even back then that the singer had a serious drug problem.
He added: "He was stoned all the time. It was pretty much a haze of dope the whole way through the recording sessions.
"He would smoke skunk joints in the studio when we were meant to be working. He was easily getting through 20 joints a day. The joints were in a Marlboro box and had been rolled by one of George's lackies. He would smoke one, take a break, then spark another one up.
"I remember how smelly and pungent it was when he was smoking them. But nobody was allowed to complain."
Toby said George regularly had a joint for breakfast and arrived at the studio in a stupor.
Often he walked out without having sung a note because he was too stoned to work, Toby claimed.
Toby, 41, was one of the first acts signed to the doomed Aegean record label that George set up in the wake of his acrimonious bust-up with Sony.
He fell in love with Toby's ballad Waltz Away Dreaming and asked him to rewrite it so they could release it as a duet.
Toby said: "He told me he played it in his car just hours after his mother died and knew that he wanted to release it as a single. I did a small re-write and agreed to let George sing on it. Everything seemed to be rosy."
But things began to go wrong when it came to recording the track. Toby said: "George would turn up stoned out of his mind. It was pretty much impossible to work with him.
"He wouldn't put the work in. He was so lethargic. He often wouldn't talk to me at all. He wasn't crazy when he was high, he was just odd. During that time, occasionally something would get him going.
"But 99 per cent of the time he was out of it. Some days he wouldn't turn up at all. Another time he was so stoned he forgot he had left his dog Hippy in the car outside the studio. Fortunately, someone told us and we went and rescued the poor thing."
Waltz Away Dreaming was eventually released in June 1997 and became a Top Ten hit.
Toby claims George's devotion to cannabis made him paranoid. The star had not then revealed he was gay – and was scared the truth would leak out.
Toby, from Fulham, West London, said: "There was deep-seated paranoia even back then. He was terrified his big secret was going to come out." Toby said George tried in vain to give up smoking at one stage with the help of television hypnotist Paul McKenna.
He added: "George got Paul McKenna to hypnotise him but it was a disaster. He told me it just didn't work."
The singer also became obsessed with feng shui – the ancient oriental art of arranging items in a room to allow the flow of "positive energy." Toby said: "George had a big thing for feng shui for a while. It was as though he thought that V would solve all of his problems, which was ridiculous.
"I hadn't heard a dickie bird from anyone on George's label for two months, then the manager rang out of the blue and sounded really excited. I was hoping he was going to say that George was ready to get back in the studio. But instead he told me things would soon start going again – because they had feng shui'd the office."
George's fledgling record label Aegean, overseen by his cousin Andreas Georgiou, also allegedly suffered because of his drug-induced lethargy. Toby said: "The waste of young talent that went through Aegean was a disgrace.
"It was almost as though George could not be bothered any more. We could do nothing without getting the okay from George, but he was too hammered to give us that okay.
"The label was wasn't doing to great but George didn't seem bothered. He was too off his face to care."
Toby said the only time anything seemed to get done was when the recording studio had VIP visitors. He added: "If that happened they wanted to make the place look professional.
"You could always tell when they were visiting, because it was the only time the place wasn't full of dope smoke.
"I was paid to go in and twiddle knobs on the mixing desk. Basically I was pretending to work. They put a cassette on so it looked like I was doing something."
After two years on Aegean, Toby finally got a phone call to say it was closing and he was being dropped. He added: "To be honest, it was a relief. But it was a sad way to end."
Toby, who now runs a successful telecoms business, says he looks back on his time with George with a mixture of joy and sadness. He said: "It was a good experience to be a part of a big hit single. But at the same time it was heartbreaking to see someone as talented as George in such a state.
"And it is even more heartbreaking to see how much worse he has got in recent years. I fear he's putting his life at risk. He needs to get professional help before it is too late."