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 The autographed guitar has been kept in a glass case in the Malaga Youth Department for 27 years
The autographed guitar has been kept in a glass case in the Malaga Youth Department for 27 years / SUR

What George left behind on the Costa del Sol

  • Only 12,000 people went to La Rosaleda stadium for the George Michael concert and the city hall calculated losses at 130 million pesetas

  • After his only concert in Malaga, in July 1989, George Michael left his autographed guitar in the city

George Michael only performed once in Malaga but he certainly left his mark on the city. A poor turnout of 12,000 people went to his concert in La Rosaleda stadium, and the event turned out to be a major financial disaster for the city hall, with losses to the tune of 130 million pesetas (780,000 euros). His visit also left its mark in the form of a signed guitar used by the pop star in his Malaga concert. Today, the instrument is kept in a glass case in the municipal Youth Department.

We need to go back to 1989 to learn how the souvenir got there. That summer the city hall increased its budget for its series of summer concerts known as the Serenatas de la Luna Joven, to 267 million pesetas. This was five times the amount spent the previous year and the aim was to earn Malaga a place on the international concert circuit. Top names included George Michael, Duran Duran, Paul Simon and Deacon Blue. But things did not go as well as expected. The first three concerts generated substantial losses and Deacon Blue cancelled their tour at the last minute.

The concert given by the British pop star found dead on Christmas Day was by far the greatest financial fiasco of the programme. George Michael's appearance fee and production costs amounted to 155 million pesetas, and only 24.5 million was made on ticket sales. There were fewer spectators than expected and far too many nonpaying special guests, according to some reports.

In fact the concert very nearly didn't go ahead at all. The pop star had suffered a detached retina while practising watersports in Ibiza the day before and by the time the stadium gates opened he still hadn't confirmed that he would perform.

"Michael arrived at Malaga airport from Ibiza at 23.50 and reached his dressing room at La Rosaleda at 00.10. His show started at 1.20 in the morning and at 2.20 he slipped away with his detached retina to who knows where among bodyguards and companions," wrote SUR journalist Antonio Rosado.

Beforehand his fans had been entertained by supporting acts Toreros Muertos and Grace Jones. George Michael had hardly had time to enjoy his dressing room specially equipped to meet his outlandish demands: from a massage couch to space-invaders machines and telephone and fax lines. There, he was seen by an ophthalmologist who confirmed that he was well enough to perform.

He left Malaga having met the conditions of his contract: to perform for at least an hour and to donate a signed guitar to the city. The council considered auctioning it off to make up for its losses but never did. Now its sentimental and financial value has multiplied.