How To Conquer The World In Just 24 Songs
September 29, 2019 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Andrew Ridgely and his friend George Michael enjoyed quite a bit of success as pop stars with their 80s band Wham!. Across two albums and some compilation releases, they changed popular music and launched a defining career. Their first album, 1983's Fantastic, came across both as satirical social satire and an expression of the attitude of a generation - parties, dancing, and living on the dole: Bad Boys [video], A Ray Of Sunshine, Love Machine, Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) [video, substantially different rhymes from the LP version], Club Tropicana [video], Nothing Looks The Same In The Light [George's first experiment in "I played everything" production], Come On, Young Guns (Go For It!)

Their second album in 1984, produced by George Michael, basically exploded around the world. Make It Big: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (video), Everything She Wants [original album track runs 5:01, full track and video featured here], Heartbeat, Like A Baby, Freedom [*heart* the bass in this!, video which featured footage of their tour of China, the first western artists allowed to tour in generations], If You Were There, Credit Card Baby, Careless Whisper [which led to a dispute where George Michael released the track as his own solo track (video)]

Wrapping up a group this successful, but also obviously at its end, led to two 1986 releases. Both had old tracks and "new" (mainly b-sides). One was The Final: Wham Rap'86, Young Guns (12" Version), I'm Your Man (Extended Stimulation) [5 stars, highly recommended], Blue (Armed With Love), A Different Corner [video], Battlestations, Where Did You Heart Go? [video], The Edge Of Heaven [video]

Wham!'s other final release was Music From The Edge Of Heaven, which along with material already linked here, also featured the only album release of their ubiquitous single Last Christmas.
posted by hippybear (22 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Freedom '90 is really where it's at, though.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:22 PM on September 29, 2019 [18 favorites]

the first western artists allowed to tour in generations

posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:55 PM on September 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I remember feeling a little bad for Andrew Ridgely. I know he made some early money and still gets royalties from Wham recordings, but you took one look at that duo and immediately knew George Michael had to be planning on going solo.
posted by pracowity at 11:47 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

...planning on going solo.

Sadly, Ridgely never woke him up before he went went.
posted by mochapickle at 12:05 AM on September 30, 2019 [16 favorites]

He did record a solo album of his own. Critical response was...not kind, and I think he just lives rich in the English countryside somewhere.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:33 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remember being intensely confused by the advent and popularity of the first anti-abortion pop band, but it was Reaganthatcher’s hatey-eighties, so it made sense to bitter teen me.
posted by sonascope at 2:56 AM on September 30, 2019

*heart* the bass in this!
Deon Estus
posted by thelonius at 4:03 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Whenever I hear of Wham or Andrew Ridgeley this Spitting Image* song "Hey George" pops back into my head. It dates from about 1986 when Wham split up and it plays on the idea - widespread at the time although probably quite unfair - that George Michael basically did everything.

* Spitting Image = 80s satire puppet show. Its an 80s UK thing.
posted by memebake at 4:32 AM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ridgeley's book is coming out this month: Wham! George & Me
posted by chavenet at 4:33 AM on September 30, 2019

One of my favorite factoids that I learned here on Metafilter is that Ridgeley ultimately married one of the members of Bananarama, which seems optimally appropriate.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:15 AM on September 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

"Guilty feet have got no rhythm" is the best worst lyric ever.
posted by rikschell at 5:15 AM on September 30, 2019 [7 favorites]

* Spitting Image = 80s satire puppet show. Its an 80s UK thing.

Spitting Image was briefly popular in the US, and the Land of Confusion video was pretty popular at the time.

posted by Fleebnork at 5:48 AM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think [Andrew Ridgeley] just lives rich in the English countryside somewhere.

I got curious enough to look it up:

He first moved to Monaco and tried to get into Formula Three racing. Then he tried launching an acting career in Los Angeles, and finally gave up in 1990, moved back to the UK, married one of the members of Bananarama and bought a house with her in Cornwall. (They split in 2017.)

He still makes thousands of pounds a year in royalties for doing some of the writing on "Careless Whisper".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:10 AM on September 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Spitting Image is coming back
posted by memebake at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2019

Thank you for this!

I was a huge Wham! fan back in the day. Still have Make It Big on vinyl.
posted by Annabelle74 at 6:41 AM on September 30, 2019

He still makes thousands of pounds a year in royalties for doing some of the writing on "Careless Whisper".

Possible urban legend but the story I have heard is that he had nothing to do with the writing of "Careless Whisper" but George had him added as a credit after the fact to ensure he was taken care of.
posted by Twinge at 9:05 AM on September 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

^Ridgeley disputed this in a Dec. 30, 2016 tweet: #CarelessWhisper For the record, I wasn't 'added' to the writing credits, I co-wrote it & co-writers are always credited #GM

Per Michael himself, back in the Nov. 20, 1986 issue of Rolling Stone: Both songs ['Wham! Rap,' ‘Careless Whisper’] were true collaborations. According to Michael, "Careless Whisper" was based on a Ridgeley chord pattern; Andrew also contributed some lyrics. Michael wrote the vocal melody, the balance of the words and the songs trademark sax line.

(In the same article, it's made clear that later Wham! songs are not collaborations.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:55 PM on September 30, 2019

What's interesting is that during it's run on MTV it was credited as Careless Whisper by Wham! featuring George Michael. And it was widely seen as his take-off ramp into recording Faith and launching his ridiculously successful solo career.
posted by hippybear at 9:04 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

In the mag article, that's explained as a deliberate marketing ploy, made with Ridgeley's consent: The reason for issuing “Careless Whisper” in Britain as a solo record (Columbia put it out as a Wham! single in the U.S.) was a practical one, and Michael insists he had Ridgely’s hearty approval. “We both had a definite attitude toward what a Wham! record should be about. Right up to ‘Go-Go,’ they’d all been young and optimistic. It didn’t seem right to abandon it for this one ballad.”

Oh, man, I owned that RS issue, and I forgot that Michael was only 23 when he went solo. David Fricke portrays him as a brilliant, thoughtful, micro-managing workaholic with a keen business sense and the ability to poke fun at himself:

The strain of management doesn’t seem to bother him. He even gets some good laughs out of some of it, like the constant offers he gets — and turns down — to license his songs for commercial use. “There was one where ‘Go-Go’ was supposed to become ‘cocoa.’ Imagine, ‘Waking up to some cocoa.'”

Does it hurt to have one’s work reduced to such trivia? “Well, that just shows how sensitive I am. I write things that are trivial, and I don’t want them changed.”

Then there's the penultimate paragraph's sucker punch opening: At his age, Michael has a whole lifetime ahead of him in which he can get all that music out of his head...

Thank you for another terrific post, hippybear.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:16 PM on September 30, 2019

Michael produced Make It Big. Like, on his own, produced it. Fantastic was the last time anyone other than George Michael produced music for George Michael on an album.

Brilliant, thoughtful, micromanaging workaholic sounds entirely what I'd expect hm to be like especially in the recording studio. He achieves very specific things that are pretty much very much His Oeuvre even if they are very different from each other. He's very much like Prince in that he works on his own or only with people who can create the sounds in his head.

And there I go using present tense for two of my dead heroes. *sigh*

I have other thoughts, but not tonight. Listening through this group of songs was... enlightening.
posted by hippybear at 9:25 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

It will never not be funny that Wham! was seen as some sort of Thatcherite yuppie scum band thanks to songs like Club Tropicana and then the Wham rap had them shouting DHSS in the back vocals while they went on about how you're a fool to work when you can get on the dole so easily.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:04 AM on October 1, 2019

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