Meet Wham! [PHOTOS/VIDEOS]
“Wham!” is George Michael’s “old band.” He teamed up with Andrew Ridgeley, and together, worldwide, they sold more than 25 million records between 1982 and 1986!
The soon-to-be duo met at the Bushy Meads School, near the town of Watford, in Hertfordshire, England.
Initially, they teamed up with three other school friends, forming the short-lived ska-band “The Executive.”
Afterwards, they formed Wham!, and signed with “Innervision Records.” Shortly, they sued, and signed with Columbia Records.
George Michael took on most of the band’s jobs: composer, producer, singer and instrumentalist. Still in their teens, Michael and Ridgeley promoted themselves as carefree youngsters!
June 1982 brought the release of their first single “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do).”
It was one of the first records by a British group to include rapping. It was a double-A side…one side was the “Social Mix.” On the flip side, the “Anti-Social Mix.” A music video for each of the mixes was produced!
BBC Radio refused to play the song, thanks to its use of profanity. Hence, the single didn’t chart.
The next single, “Young Guns (Go For It!)” also stalled out…but then fate stepped in!
When a big-name band backed out on an appearance at the last moment, the influential BBC weekly TV show “Top Of The Pops” had to look outside the “Top 40″ to fill the gap. As “Young Guns” was closest to #40 (and still climbing the charts), Wham! got the nod.
The nightclub feel of the dance routine gained critical acclaim…and teen girls started to notice Wham!
Young Guns” went to #3 on the British carts.
“Wham Rap!” was re-issued…
“Club Tropicana” followed.
By the end of 1983, Wham! was competing with Duran Duran and Culture Club for the title of England’s biggest pop act. The band’s tour antics filled the papers and celebrity-driven TV shows.
All this….and we still hadn’t heard of Wham in America…yet.
Over time, Ridgeley convinced George Michael to swap the band’s moody, leather jacket image, for a more up-beat, pop-friendly, fashionably attired look…just in time for world-wide stardom!
“Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” was an international #1 smash hit!
George Michael penned the catchy (some may say annoying) tune upon hearing about a note that his band mate wrote! Ridgeley had mistakenly written “Wake me up up before you go go.” Seeing as he had mistakenly written “up” twice…he decided to complete the error by writing “go” twice! The rest, as they say, is history!
Jersey’s “Big 80′s” fans will remember the “CHOOSE LIFE” and “GO GO” shirts in the video…maybe YOU still have one tucked away in a box in the attic…
“Careless Whisper” was the next single. It went to #1 in New Jersey, and in England, in early 1985. In England, it was credited to George Michael, although Ridgeley got co-writer credits. Here in the U.S., “Careless Whisper” was credited as “Wham!, featuring George Michael.”
At this time, George Michael started distancing himself from Wham’s “playboy image.”
“Everything She Wants,” another of “Jersey’s Favorite Hits” rocketed to #1 (1985).
That made for three #1 hits in a row!
“Freedom” was the next Wham! single. It shot to #1 in England, and #3 (1985) here. Originally, the hit song was released without a video! The video (above) that we saw later on MTV was pieced together out of footage from Wham!’s historic tour of China!
In England, a double-A sided single, “Last Christmas/Everything She Wants” would soar to #2 on the British charts. It would become the highest-selling single to land at #2. It stayed just shy of #1 for 5 weeks…and to date has sold over 1.4 million copies in the UK (alone).
All the proceeds were donated to Ethiopian Famine relief…at the same time as Band Aid’s fundraising single “Do They Know Its Christmas” (which kept Wham out of the #1 slot).
It is interesting to not that George Michael hit #1 on the charts three separate ways in 1984: as a solo artist, as part of a duo, and as part of a group for charity!
At the end of 1985, Billboard (the Hot 100 charts) listed “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” as the #3 song of the year…and “Careless Whisper” was the Billboard #1 hit of 1985!
Back into the Wham! timeline…in April 1985, the band took a break from the recording studio, and embarked on a lengthy world tour, including a groundbreaking 10-day tour to China! This drew worldwide media attention…the film “Foreign Skies” documents the tour. “Queen” had wanted to be the first Western rock group to tour China, but it wasn’t meant to be…
Remember “Live Aid” in the summer of 1985 (July 13)? London and Philadelphia?
Both Michael and Ridgeley appeared…but did not sing together as Wham!
George Michael joined Elton John in a duet of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” Andrew Ridgeley joined Kiki Dee in the row of backup singers.
“I’m Your Man” was released in the fall of 1985, and went to #1 in England. It would stall at #3 here in the US (1986).
At this time, both Michael and Ridgeley claimed in the press to be in relationships…and Andrew Ridgeley took up a new hobby: race car driving. Meanwhile, George Michael sang backup on two Elton John hits: “Nikita” and “Wrap Her Up.”
1986 would bring the “amicable” breakup of Wham!
George Michael wanted to focus his music on a more “adult” audience…rather than Wham!’s teen base…but first, they would release a farewell single and album, and go on a farewell tour called “The Final.”
In England, the final single, “The Edge Of Heaven,” went to #1 in June 1986.
It was a #10 hit in the USA…
Wham’s last single in America was called “Where Did Your Heart Go.” (#50/1986).
The last album in England, called “The Final” ended up being a compilation of hits, and extended mixes. If you bought the album in New Jersey…it was a pared down version of the English original, with some different tracks, and it was called “Music From The Edge Of Heaven.”
On June 28, 1986, at London’s Wembley Stadium, “Wham!” said goodbye in front of 72,000 fans…in an 8 hour show…that included other support artists.
The China Tour documentary “Foreign Skies” world premiered as part of the festivities! Check it out, in full, above!
In the post-Wham! years:
George Michael embarked on a very successful solo career…and for the first few years, he had little good to say about the Wham! years, in public. He complained about the constant pressure. That the band was mistreated financially. He had less-than-kind words about much of the Wham! music catalog…especially the songs on the first album.
Andrew Ridgeley moved to Monaco, and took up Formula Three Motor Racing. When that didn’t work out, he moved to Los Angeles, and tried his hand at acting (along with singing). By 1990, he was back in England.
In the meantime, CBS Records had an option on solo albums for both Michael and Ridgeley…so, an Andrew Ridgeley solo album, “Son Of Albert ” hit record store shelves in 1990. There was no second solo album…
In 1991, Ridgeley joined George Michael on stage for a few songs, during Michael’s encore at the “Rock In Rio” concert in Brazil.
And, while there were rumors of a Wham! reunion in 2012, in celebration of the duo’s first record, the chatter was just that….speculation.
Above, check out an interview about the split…filled with clips…and comments years later…
Stay tuned…for George Michael…the solo years…in a future article, here at nj1015.com!