Wham!, the Story of a Band
|1984 Wham! music poster|
The Origin of Wham!
The pre-Wham History
Born just a day apart George Michael (then Yorgos Panaiotou) and Andrew Ridgeley met when they were at Bushley Meads School, Watford. They first performed together in a band called the Executive which was a rock and roll band.
The change of name coincided with the signing of a record deal and Wham! had taken their first step towards superstardom!
Wham!'s Fantastic Days
The First Album
Their first album was Fantastic and this spawned the singles Wham Rap!,Young Guns, Bad Boys and Club Tropicana.
Their first single released was Wham Rap!(Enjoy What You Do) in June 1982, it was a double A side single with a Social Mix and an Anti-Social Mix. The profanities on the Anti-Social Mix saw it becoming banned in the UK and it only reached number 45 in the UK Single Chart.
Their second single was Young Guns(Go For It), the Wham boys got lucky with this song as the Top of the Pops program in the UK scheduled them for a performance while their single was still outside of the Top 40. With their good looks and their great performance the single climbed the charts climaxing at number 3.
Following on from the success of Young Guns Wham decided to re-release Wham Rap in January 1983. It was a hit!
Both of Wham!'s singles told stories and the video's told stories which appealed to the audience and contributed to their success. Wham Rap was about a leisurely life with no work or commitments. Young Guns is a story about a guy (played by George) pleading with his friend (Andrew) not to throw his life away on an early marriage.
Before their next single was released George and Andrew lost one of their original back-up singers D C Lee, they replaced her with Pepsi DeMacque. Pepsi and original back-up singer Shirlie Holliman continued to be in Wham until the group split up when they formed the duo Pepsi and Shirlie.
Their third song was about a rebellious teenager and his worried parents. The single was Bad Boys and it reached number 2 in the UK charts and even entered the US Hot 100 at number 60.
In July 1983 Wham! released a send-up of the Club 18-30 scene with their single Club Tropicana. This song made it to number 4 in the UK charts. By the end of 1983 Wham posters were adorning bedroom walls all over the UK and were talked about in the same tone as Duran Duran and Culture Club.
Wham!'s Legal Problems and a Change of Direction
Andrew Steps In
It was around this time that Andrew Ridgeley became conscious of legal problems with their recording contract and Wham! decided to take action against Innervision and Mark Dean (the record company's founder). Eventually Innervision admitted that they had shortchanged Wham! with their royalties and ended up dissolving soon afterwards.
Andrew then decided that Wham! needed a change of image, so out went the denim jeans and leather jackets and in came the more fashionable clothing. The posters also started to show them laughing and smiling instead of the moody, contemplative looks of the "Fantastic" days.
Wham! Make It Big
May 1984 saw Wham! release the first song off of their Make It Big album the song was Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. This song saw Wham! get their first number 1 single and not just in the UK, but in the USA, Australia and Ireland as well.
It also saw George, Andrew, Pepsi and Shirlie in the famous white t-shirts declaring CHOOSE LIFE and GO GO.
The hit song was apparently inspired by a note from Andrew to George. Staying in a hotel, Andrew left a note to George
Don't forget to wake me up up before you go go.
The rest is history.
Up until now George had been the group's songwriter, but the next song released was co-written by Andrew. The song was Careless Whisper and was a solo release for George (although in the US it was released as Wham featuring George Michael).
Careless Whisper was a number 1 hit around the globe as well and rumors of the Band splitting up started to do the rounds
October 1984 saw the band release their next single Freedom. They then released their second album Make It Big which reached number 1 in the Album charts.
In November George Michael contributed to the Band Aid single, although this usurped their own chance of a Christmas number 1 that year.
|Wham! at the airport poster|
In December 1984 Wham! released a double A sided singe with Last Christmas and Everything She Wants. The single reached the number 2 spot behind Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas. It actually made a record for being the highest selling single ever to peak at number 2 in the UK charts. Wham! donated all of their royalties from this single to the Ethiopian famine appeal.
In 1985 Wham! went on a world tour including China. It was reported in the UK at the time as being the 1st Western pop group to ever tour the country, but in fact Wham! were beaten into number 2 space by a little known Kiwi band called Spyz (they toured in 1982).
Both George and Andrew performed at Live Aid in 1985, but not as Wham!.
In November Wham! released the single I'm Your Man, having waited for nearly a year their fans snapped up the single and it went straight to number 1 in the charts. During 1985 the boys had both been busy.
Andrew had met Keren Woodward from the girl group Bananarama. George apparently introduced them and they are at the time of writing still together. Andrew also took up rally driving making the news for crashing a car at the end of this year.
George had started to lend his voice to other singers this year as well, providing backing vocals for Elton John's Nikita and Wrap Her Up.
Last Christmas was re-released again in 1985 and made it's way to number 6 in the charts.
Edge of Reason - Wham!'s final album
In 1986 both Andrew and George decided that they wanted to take their lives in different directions so instead of allowing frustrations to build they decided to end the group and keep their friendship.
Music From the Edge
They released a double A sided single with The Edge of Reason and Where Did Your Heart Go along with their final album, also called The Edge of Reason. They also planned a big farewell concert at Wembley Stadium. June 28th 1986 at Wembley Stadium, London the boys said good-bye in a concert aptly named The Final.
George Michael went on to solo chart topping success, Andrew Ridgeley wasn’t able to find success as a solo artist, but has been lucky in love. Wham’s two back up singers and fellow actors in the videos went on to taste fleeting success as the duo Pepsi and Shirlie.