The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
A Decade in the Life
of
Wham!

"Generally acknowledged as the most commercially successful English pop group of the 80s"
-- Colin Larkin, The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music

George Michael (b. Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, 6.25.63, Finchley, London) and Andrew Ridgeley (b. 1.26.63, Windlesham, Surrey) become friends while attending Bushey Meads Comprehensive School. Together they form a ska band called the Executive, along with Ridgeley's brother Paul and two others. The band is short-lived, but Michael and Ridgeley continue to write songs and cut demos together, penning such tunes as "Careless Whisper" and "Club Tropicana." They take the name Wham! from a painting by pop artist Roy Liechtenstein.


January 1982
Using a rented Portastudio, Wham! records "Wham Rap!," "Come On!," "Careless Whisper" and "Club Tropicana". Mark Dean, who had just founded a small label called Innervision, offers Wham! a contract through a loan arrangement with CBS Records. Over the next few months, Wham! perform a series of club gigs to promote their debut single, "Wham Rap!" The song, initially intended as a disco parody, fails to crack the UK Top 100.
October 1982
"Young Guns (Go For It)" becomes the duo's first charter, and after two months reaches UK# 3, thanks in no small measure to a stunning performance on BBC1-TV's Top of the Pops.
February 1983
"Wham Rap!" is re-released and this time climbs to UK# 8.
May 1983
"Bad Boys", written by Michael and accompanied by a black-and-white video made on a shoestring, hits UK# 2.
July 1983
Co-produced by Michael and Steve Brown, Wham!'s debut album, Fantastic, enters the UK chart at # 1. The single "Club Tropicana" soars to UK# 4.
August 1983
Michael records a solo version of "Careless Whisper" with Jerry Wexler at Muscle Shoals Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. Unhappy with the result, he re-records the song in London with keyboardist Andy Richard. Meanwhile, "Bad Boys" stalls at UK# 60.
October 1983
The duo's first concert tour, Club Fantastic, is launched in Aberdeen, Scotland. Wham!'s attorney informs Innervision's Mark Dean that the duo intends to break its contract with him.
November 1983
Innervision releases a mix of album cuts entitled "Club Fantastic Megamix" which climbs to UK# 15.
January 1984
Wham! has a hugely successful tour in Japan.
March 1984
Free of Innervision, Wham! signs with Epic Records.
June 1984
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", written by Michael, soars to UK# 1. Wham! is now Britain's top teen sensation. Michael shoots a solo video clip for "Careless Whisper" in Miami, FL.
August 1984
"Careless Whisper" is released in Britain as a solo effort by Michael and stays at UK# 1 for three weeks, becoming Epic's first million seller in Britain. Over the next six months it will be a chart-topper in many other countries.
November 1984
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" tops the US singles chart on the same day that Wham!'s second album, Make It Big, hits UK# 1.
December 1984
Michael sings on Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which hits UK# 1 and prevents Wham!'s "Last Christmas" from achieving the chart's top spot.
January 1985
The B-side of "Last Christmas", "Everything She Wants", clings to UK# 2 for four weeks. The disc goes platinum. The duo tour in Australia, Japan and the U.S.
February 1985
Wham! wins a BRIT Award for Best British Group. "Careless Whisper" tops the U.S. chart for three weeks.
March 1985
Make It Big hits US# 1 and remains there for three weeks. It will sell five million copies. Michael receives Songwriter of the Year honors at the 30th Annual Ivor Novello Awards. He is the youngest person ever to receive that award. "Careless Whisper" wins the Most Performed Work trophy.
April 1985
Wham! enjoys the distinction of becoming the first western pop group to be invited to perform in China. Their show is held in Beijing's Workers' Gymnasium.
May 1985
"Everything She Wants" hits US# 1 and remains there for two weeks. It is the third Wham! single in a row to top the chart in the U.S.
July 1985
Accompanied by Elton John on piano and Ridgeley on backing vocals, Michael performs "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" at the Live Aid show in London's Wembley Stadium. Wham! then embarks on a U.S. tour.
August 1985
"Freedom" peaks at US# 3.
November 1986
"I'm Your Man" tops the UK chart. Privately, Michael and Ridgeley agree that Wham! will split up in 1986. Michael performs backup vocals on Elton John's "Nikita", which climbs to UK# 3.
January 1986
Wham! wins Favorite Video (Duo or Group, Pop/Rock) at the 13th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles.
February 1986
The duo receives an award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music at the 5th Annual BRIT Awards in London. "I'm Your Man" peaks at US# 3.
April 1986
Michael's solo effort, "A Different Corner", soars to UK# 1 and US# 7. Wham! The Video is certified gold. The duo make public the decision that Wham! will split up.
June 1986
Wham!'s final single, a four-track ER featuring "The Edge of Heaven/Where Did Your Heart Go", tops the UK chart while the duo plays a farewell concert attended by 72,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. A best-of compilation entitled The Final reaches UK# 2.
August 1986
The American greatest hits album, Music From The Edge Of Heaven, climbs to US# 10, while "The Edge Of Heaven" reaches # 10 on the singles chart. Michael and Ridgeley both have solo contracts with Epic. The former will enjoy a successful solo career in music, while the latter concentrates for a time on acting and car racing.
November 1986
CBS/Epic Records exercises an option for five more albums from Michael.
February 1987
Michael's duet with Aretha Franklin, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)", produced by Narada Michael Walden, tops the UK singles chart. In April it will top the US chart for two weeks.
June 1987
Michael's first post-Wham! single, "I Want Your Sex", which is featured on the soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop II and has all vocals and instruments by the artist, stirs great controversy. In the UK it is banned from the radio; in the U.S., the video is re-edited thrice before MTV airs it (but only after 9:00 pm.) The song reaches UK# 3 and US# 2.
November 1987
Michael's debut solo album, Faith, climbs to UK# 1. It will remain charted for 72 weeks. The single "Faith" will top the US chart for four weeks. The album will hit the # 1 spot in the US in January 1988, remaining charted for 87 weeks. It will eventually sell over nine million copies in the U.S. alone.
February 1988
Michael is named Best British Male Artist at the 7th Annual BRIT Awards in London's Royal Albert Hall. Michael launches his Faith tour in Japan while the single "Father Figure" tops the US chart.
May 1988
"One More Try" becomes Michael's third #1 hit from the Faith album in the US. (It peaks at # 8 in the UK.) It will also top the US R&B chart.
August 1988
Michael has his eighth # 1 hit of the 1980s with "Monkey" -- a record topped only by Michael Jackson (with nine).
September 1988
"Father Figure" takes the MTV Video MUsic Award for Best Direction.
January 1989
Michael wins Favorite Male Artist (Pop/Rock), Favorite Album (Soul/R&B) and Favorite Male Artist (Soul/R&B) at the 16th Annual American Music Awards.
February 1989
Michael receives an award for Album Of The Year (Faith) at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards.
April 1989
Michael wins Songwriter of the Year honors while "Faith" takes International Hit of the Year at the 34th Annual Ivor Novello Awards in London.
September 1989
Madonna presents Michael with the Video Vanguard Award at the 6th Annual MTV Video Music Awards.


Fantastic (Epic, 1983)
Bad Boys
Ray Of Sunshine
Love Machine
Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)
Club Tropicana
Nothing Looks the Same in the Light
Come On
Young Guns (Go For It)

"The pace is a steady 100mph without a single stop for lachrymose reflection....This is white hot disco...easily the record of summer '83."
Sounds

"Wham! are a period piece as surely as Darts or Mari Wilson; they sing about the early and mid-70s, last exit to boomtown."
New Musical Express

"Even at their best Wham! don't cut the cake with the same degree of sharpness as their predecessors in the white soul vocal stakes."
Melody Maker

Make It Big (Epic, 1984)
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
Everything She Wants
Heartbeat
Like A Baby
Freedom
If You Were There
Credit Card Baby
Careless Whisper

"It even had me humming along, that's how insidiously clever it is."
Melody Maker

"It is too synthetic and transparent. It rings hollow, without invention or mystery....They should have called it 'The Art Of Pandering'."
New Musical Express

"[O]ne is tempted to conclude that Mr Ridgeley had a bit of time to kill after the soft-focus sessions were complete."
Record Mirror

Music From The Edge Of Heaven (Epic, 1986)
Edge Of Heaven
Battle Stations
I'm Your Man
Wham Rap! '86
Different Corner
Blue [Live]
Where Did Your Heart Go?
Last Christmas

The Final (Epic, 1986)
Wham Rap!
Young Guns (Go For It)
Bad Boys
Club Tropicana
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
Careless Whisper
Freedom
Last Christmas
Everything She Wants
I'm Your Man
A Different Corner
Battle Stations
Where Did Your Heart Go?
The Edge of Heaven

"Four sides that put the full stop on the first half of the Eighties"
Record Mirror

"Feted  by teen magazines and increasingly photographed in exotic climes, the group soon found themselves a symbol of vainglorious beach-brain hedonism and nouveau riche vulgarity."
Colin Larkin, The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music

"Andrew may be rather terrible at driving and George may be completely useless at shaving but these songs...show just how good they are at being pop stars."
Smash Hits


In December 1986, George Michael had the distinction of being featured on four songs in the UK Top 20 -- "I'm Your Man," Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", a re-released "Last Christmas", and as backup vocalist on Elton John's "Nikita".

In 1988 George Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award (Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group) for the hit single "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)".