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Over on the Groovelates’ Blog for March, we are considering the concept of Guilty Pleasures and surely global phenomenon Wham! would fall into this category for some people! Not us here at Groovelates though! Oh no, we are proud to declare from the rooftops our love of all things Wham! Just try stopping us! And, why not?
The world would have been a much duller place without those four magical years when Wham! were conquering the world with such hits as “Club Tropicana”, “Bad Boys”, “Wake Me Up Before Go-Go”, “Freedom”and “I’m You Man”, becoming one of the most commercially successful pop acts of the 80s managing to sell 30+ million records in an incredibly short period of time…and THOSE t-shirts, don’t forget the Katharine Hamnett t-shirts…CHOOSE LIFE and GO GO!
Wham! consisted of George Michael (Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) and Andrew Ridgeley who were school friends and originally part of a ska band called The Executive before forming Wham! The name Wham!, as Andrew Ridgeley explained, was the result of the duo needing, “something that captured the essence of what set us apart – our energy and our friendship – and then it came to us: Wham! Wham! was snappy, immediate, fun and boisterous too.” (Ridgeley, A. (2019) Wham! George & Me)
In February 1982, after trying continuously to get in front of record executives, small label Innervision Records offered Wham! the chance to record a couple of singles to test how things would go however, debut single “Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)” failed to make the Radio 1 playlist at the time, scuppering any realistic chance of success for the release, due to the double A-side single (Social Mix & Unsocial Mix) initially being regarded as promoting a lifestyle of work avoidance, and the Unsocial Mix containing ‘profanities'!
Wham!’s big break came after an unexpected appearance on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops in 1982. Follow-up single “Young Guns (Go For It) was struggling just outside the UK Top 40, when Wham! received a call-up to appear on the iconic music show due to a last-minute cancellation by another act. George & Andrew appeared on the show together with two backing singers, long-time friend Shirlie Holliman and Dee C. Lee. (Dee C. Lee left the band in 1983 and started to work with Paul Weller of the The Style Council eventually joining the band; she also had a UK No.3 solo hit in 1985 with "See The Day" during this time.)
With Helen ‘Pepsi’ DeMacque replacing Dee C. Lee, the partnership of Pepsi & Shirlie as ‘the other members of Wham!’ was formed! After Wham! split, Pepsi & Shirlie recorded in their own right with singles “Heartache” & “Goodbye Stranger” reaching No. 2 and No. 9 respectively in the UK.
Wham!’s appearance on Top Of The Pops that night is now legendary as it changed everything for them, and the single ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’ flew up the charts eventually reaching No.3 in the UK. The rest, as they say, is history. Follow-up singles “Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)”, a re-release, “Bad Boys” and “Club Tropicana” were all Top Ten hits, and debut album Fantastic reached No.1 in the UK album charts, culminating in the sold-out Club Fantastic Tour at the end of 1983. In a very short period of time, the popularity of Wham! matched that of acts such as Duran Duran and Culture Club.
In 1984, Wham!’s popularity went global with the release of second album Make It Big which included the hit singles “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Freedom” & “Careless Whisper” (which was released as a Wham! single in some territories). Make It Big was No.1 in the UK and USA, as well as Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway & Switzerland, and its success took them on tour again, this time around the world including a 10-day trip to China; Wham! became the first Western group ever to perform in the People's Republic!
At the height of their success, Wham! announced that they were splitting as they wanted to end on a high! Farewell single “The Edge Of Heaven” was yet another UK No.1 for the band and their last album was entitled The Final, a greatest hits compilation of all their singles to date including extended versions of some tracks.
On 28 June 1986, in front of an audience of 72,000 at Wembley Stadium in London, Wham! said goodbye to their fans and each other at a farewell concert entitled The Final.
“Young Guns (Go For It)” (No.3*)
“Wham Rap” (No.8)
“Bad Boys” (No.2 & USA No.60 as ‘Wham! UK’)
“Club Tropicana” (No.4)
“Club Fantastic Megamix” (No.15)**
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (No.1 & USA No.1)
“Freedom” (No.1 & USA No.3)
“Careless Whisper” (No.1 & USA No.1)***
“Last Christmas/Everything She Wants” (No.2 & USA No.1)****
“I’m Your Man” (No.1 & USA No.3)
“The Edge Of Heaven” (No.1 & USA No.10)
“Last Christmas” (No.1 & USA No.4)*****
Fantastic (1983) (No.1)
Make It Big (1984) (No.1)
The Final (1986) (No.2)
The Best Of Wham! (1997) (No.4)
The Final (1999) (No.19)
Last Christmas - OST (2019) (No.9)
*UK Chart Position (OCC Official Chart Company) & USA Chart Position (Billboard)
**Released by Innervision, Wham!’s record company at the time, during a legal battle over contractual issues. The “Club Fantastic Megamix” was a medley of non-single album tracks from debut album Fantastic released against the wishes of Wham! and subsequently denounced by the duo. Innervision eventually settled the case with Wham! out of court.
***Released as Wham! featuring George Michael in the USA and other territories, although a George Michael solo release in the UK and elsewhere.
****“Everything She Wants” was a stand-alone single release in the USA.
*****USA No.4 in 2023
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