Since early in my life music has been a part of my every day. But not until I was nine years old, my devotion for an artist had come around. I am still obsessed with him and whoever knows me, even if it is just for a little bit, knows who I am taking about. My favorite artist and the muse of my devotion started his career with a pal, and they managed to be one of the most important, influential and amazing duo of the eighties: WHAM!
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were school mates at the Bushey Meads Comprehensive Schools in Hertfordshire, England. They started hanging out after school, writing music and with other mates, David Austin (George’s biggest friend and collaborator), Harry Tadayon and Andrew Leaver. Together they formed the band called The Executives. They soon split leaving George and Ridgeley to form WHAM! The year was 1983.
Once WHAM! signed a record deal, George assumed most of the responsibilities like singing, playing most of the instruments and writing. Their first song released was WHAM! Rap (enjoy what you do) but due to censorship regarding strong lyrics it did not do well on the charts. Their next hit called Young Guns (go for it) was issued and they performed it at UK’s show Top of the Pops and the success was immediate.
Joined by dancers Shirlie and Pepsi, WHAM! became a staple at Top of the Pops during the eighties. Shirlie and Pepsi participated at the videos too. Club Tropicana was their all time collaboration.
Club Tropicana, Bad Boys soon followed and WHAM! was fighting against giants as Duran Duran and Culture Club for the number one on the charts.
In 1985, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go launched. This is when it all started for me. The song was written inspired on a note Ridgeley left for his parents. I was in NY visiting my Grandparents and my Grandfather used to have a huge radio where he used to pick up news stations from all over the world. One of the afternoons, he put on a music stations and Wake Me Up was playing. He told me that the young kids all loved that song and group. It was love at first sight. I became a WHAM! addict trying to follow everything I could about them !!!! Did you know that George’s Mother is the one who made the famous t shirts for the video?
Careless Whisper exploded worldwide (a song that, according to George does have no meaning, since he wrote it during a bus ride while bored), Freedom, Last Christmas, Everything She Wants were WHAM!’s last hits. The band did one last gig for Live Aid singing with other music monsters Do They Know It’s Christmas.
1986 was their busiest year but also their final one. WHAM! toured China ( something never done before) and had a mega final 8 hours concert at Wembley Stadium. For this final concert they released The Edge of Heaven and Where Did Your Heart Go.
George continued with a successful solo career and Andrew got involved with car racing. In 1991, they reunited for Rock in Rio.
WHAM! showed to the eighties era that it was OK not to take yourself seriously, it was fine to change your style and to evolve. This is my rendition to them, this short lived duo that sparked my life’s obsession.
By Márcia Schwarz Perel