1986 Wham! – The Edge Of Heaven
Several students at the Bushey Meads School, a high school level school in Hertfordshire, England, formed a ska group in the early eighties. The band fell apart and two of the members, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, went on to form the group Wham! The band’s name didn’t originally included the exclamation point, that was added by a graphic designer.
The pair tried writing their own music, and it quickly became clear that while Andrew could contribute, George was the more talented musician. They recorded some demos and persisted in playing them until they signed a recording contract with Innervision Records.
Their first single, Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do), came in two flavors on the two sides of the record: social and unsocial. Because of the raw language in the unsocial version, the BBC refused to play either version, and the record sank quickly.
Their second single, Young Guns (Go for It), did better, but did not initially reach the top forty. When another band failed to show up for a scheduled performance on Top Of The Pops, Wham was invited to take their place. The reaction to their appearance was electric, and within a few months their previously stalled single had reached #3 in the UK.
The re-release of the band’s first single and two more singles from their first album also reached the top ten in the UK before the end of 1983.
Andrew figured out some legal issues existed in their contract with Innervision and the pair began negotiating to end their contract. Without any consultation with the band, the label put together a medley from songs on their album and released it as a single. The band and the label settled out of court and Wham signed with Epic Records (in the US, their music would appear on Epic’s parent label, Columbia).
The band’s first single on their new label, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, reached #1 in both the UK and the US. Their next single repeated that feat. Careless Whisper had lyrics based on some mistakes George made when dating as a teenager and music devised by Andrew.
The label in the US credited Careless Whisper to Wham! featuring George Michael, while the labels in most other countries simply listed George as a solo artist without reference to Wham. It was a hint of what was to come.
Four monster hits came off the band’s second album in 1984, and the year ended with their now perennial holiday hit, Last Christmas.
By early 1986, George and Andrew had decided to end Wham, allowing Andrew to pursue his interest in racing cars and George to have more control over his recordings. They announced a final tour and promoted The Edge Of Heaven as their farewell single.
The single once again topped the charts in the UK, but only reached #10 on the US Hot 100 in 1986.
The b-side of the single got re-released as its own single in most countries. David and Don Was of Was (Not Was) wrote and recorded Where Did Your Heart Go? in 1981. Even though their version never charted, Michael covered the song, and the new single peaked at #1 in the UK. Americans are probably not familiar with the song at all since it stalled at #50 in the US.
After that, Michael began releasing solo singles and Andrew moved to Monaco and did his best to become a race car driver.
In a strange twist of fate, Wham’s music may outlast Michael’s far more successful solo work; thanks to rules related to streaming, Last Christmas reached the top of the UK chart and the US top ten in 2020, and is likely to return there annually.
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