Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
Wham! – Netflix
4 out of 4 palm trees
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were childhood friends that created the band Wham in 1982 with dreams of touring the world and topping the charts when they were only 18 years old. Due to their meteoric rise in fame and pop culture in the early eighties, it’s a surprising fact that the band Wham was only together four years, playing their final show at Wembley Stadium on June 28th, 1986. Their magical journey is shared primarily through the scrapbooks that Andrew’s mother made that included press clipping, chart ranking, photos, art from fans and more, starting with their very first record deal with Innervision Records in 1982.
George was eleven he moved to a new school where he met Andrew who was a year old. George’s birth name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou and was very awkward, shy, a little pudgy and very studious. Andrew was the opposite, being very confident and outgoing, just wanting to have fun. Together they had a good time making up skits, listening to music and dreaming of one day being famous. In 1979, when they were both about 16 years old, they started their own band playing ska music called The Executive.
In 1982, they changed the band name to Wham and moved toward pop music and songwriting. The first song they recorded was a political statement about what was going on with youth in Britain at the time called “Wham Rap”, followed by “Club Tropicana” and then “Careless Whisper” which was eventually released in 1984 reaching number one in ten countries and selling 6 million copies worldwide. Contrary to the general assumption by most, it was Andrew who was guiding the band’s direction musically, as well as choosing their fashion. They added two girls to the band for background vocals and dance routines, one of which was Andrew’s longtime girlfriend Shirley.
Their first big break was in November 1982 when Wham was asked to perform due to a last minute cancellation on the well-known UK show Top of the Pops, which televised music stars like Elton John, Queen and the Rolling Stones. They performed “Young Guns” which rose to number 3 and by 1984 had their first number 1 single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”. They had a string of hits and a successful UK tour but had no money due to their contract with Innervision where they got 4% a piece on singles in the UK, 2% in the rest of the world and no money on the 12 inch records which was the biggest selling. They decided they needed management to change the trajectory of their earnings, so hired Simon Napier-Bill and signed a new deal directly with CBS.
In 1984 George produced and released Careless Whisper as a solo artist, something Andrew had anticipated happening and was fully supportive, and it was released in the US as Wham featuring George Michael. In October November 1984 they launched their hugely successful US tour with their album “Make It Big”. They then came back to the UK and decided to do a world tour including Sydney, Japan and mainland China, where they were the first rock band to ever be allowed into the country.
Though they achieved great success, George was stifled by struggles in his personal life, being primarily that he was gay but unable to express that part of himself, so he internalized the issue by making music his life and basing his worth on his achievements in music. By 1986, after performing in Band Aid’s “Feed the World” and doing a performance of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Elton John at Live Aid, it was clear that George’s talent had moved far beyond Andrew’s and the band Wham.They amicably decided to do a final show at Wembley Stadium in June 1986, after which George pursued his solo career selling over 120 million records.
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