Interview of Andrew Ridgeley and then-girlfriend Bananarama singer Keren Woodward by Peter Robertson and published in Hello! magazin on December 13, 1997.
At Home in Cornwall with Girlfriend Keren Andrew Ridgeley Recalls Life in the Fast Lane with Wham! and Tells Why He Wouldn’t Return to the Music Business
It’s been over a decade since mega pop group Wham!, comprising George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, went out with a bang at their spectacular “Final” concert at Wembley Stadium.
The adulated twosome had 10 Top Ten singles in the UK – four of which were Number Ones, including Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Freedom – and many more in the US and around the world. Their songs were recorded in 12 languages, they sold records in 50 countries, and they were the first pop band to tour China.
But, while George has gone on to have enormous solo success, Andrew has in recent years opted for a life away from the music business.
Three years ago, he moved to north Cornwall with his girlfriend Keren Woodward, of pop group Bananarama, and Thomas, her 10-year-old son by her previous relationship with David Scott-Evans.
Now, however, Andrew’s name is back in the press as The Best of Wham!, a new compilation album, hits the record shops. In an exclusive interview, 34-year-old Andrew gives an extremely rare and frank insight into his past, present
Andrew, you met George Michael when you were kids at Bushey Meads Comprehensive School. What was he like then?
Andrew: What I imagine most new children at school are – apprehensive and not particularly outgoing, but likeable. We certainly got on from the word go, especially with our shared love of music, and that was the very beginning of our friendship.
How did your shared love of music initially develop?
Andrew: When George and I were about 16, we formed a ska/reggae band called The Executive with my brother Paul, and our friends David Austin and Andrew Leaver. Unfortunately, it disintegrated after a couple of years. George and I then continued writing songs, including Wham Rap!, Club Tropicana and Careless Whisper which were to become hits years later. My brother and David Austin joined other bands but, unfortunately, Andrew Leaver died of cancer when he was quite young.
What effect did Andrew Leaver’s death have on you and George?
Andrew: A profound effect. It was a very sad and tragic waste of a life. We’d known him for a very long time, although neither one of us saw him regularly once The Executive folded. But we dedicated the first Wham! album to him.
Did you and George always know you would become stars one day?
Andrew: No. Our sole ambition was to make records. Fame was never really a factor. But, when we started recording, we knew we stood as good a chance as any. And, when we got our recording contract in 1982, we felt we were on our way.
Is it true that the Wham! hit Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go was inspired by a note you once left for George?
Andrew: I’d left a note on my bedroom door saying “Wake me up before you go-go” for my mother and father, and George just happened to see it. I guess it must have fired something in his imagination.
That note must be worth a fortune as a collector’s item – does it still exist?
Andrew: I don’t think so. It was probably screwed up and thrown out.
It always seemed that George was furiously ambitious, and you were just happy to go along for the ride – was that the case?
Andrew: Yes, pretty much. My ambitions were never as strong as George’s. It was enough for me to be in the band, having realised a childhood dream. I had no desire to do anything else with my life.
So were you surprised at the extent of Wham!’s success, especially worldwide?
Andrew: Yes, I never anticipated we would become that big. George may have done, but I didn’t.
Were there ever moments when the two of you felt like pinching yourselves to take in all the success?
Andrew: There were many. I particularly remember the time when a limo taking us from our hotel to a show, while we were in the States in 1985, was escorted by eight motorcycle outriders. George and I were on the floor of the limousine writhing in embarrassment that anything quite so extreme should be considered necessary for us.
What were the more memorable times you had involving fans?
Andrew: Girls throwing their bras and knickers on stage, that was always memorable! The crew had to take all the underwear off the stage in case we fell over any of it.
All the attention you and George received meant you weren’t able to live a normal life like most men in their early twenties. Did that worry you?
Andrew: No, I don’t think so. It was strange coming literally from school to playing to thousands of people just a year later. Only towards the end of my time with Wham! did the issue of one’s lack of private life
It always appeared that you were more popular with the female fans than George was then…
Andrew: It’s certainly true that, out of the two of us, I was perceived more as the glamorous one. But I think a lot of that was just the media needing to make a distinction between the two of us – me as the pretty-boy sex-symbol and George as the hard-working, talented one.
Did George mind that?
Andrew: No, I don’t think he did. It suited him in a variety of ways to be perceived as the quiet, talented, unsung hero. It took a lot of the pressure off, having a lot of the media interest directed at me.
And how did you feel about George constantly being referred to as the talented one?
Andrew: Well, I don’t think there was ever any doubt that he was more talented than me. My material contribution musically was less than George’s, and George and I have both always been very open about that. We made a decision very early on that George would be the main songwriter because it was very apparent to all of us that he was better at it. People have often asked me why I don’t respond to the criticisms that have been
rumoured that, while George was happy to move on from Wham!, you wanted the band to stay together…
Andrew: That’s an absolute falsehood. It was a joint decision. Wham! was about being young and in a band and, in that sense, it was limited. We could both see that George’s ambitions were taking him onwards and Wham! wasn’t going to go with him. And the increasing inability for us to have proper private lives by that stage had precipitated our decision to wind Wham! up.
Since then, have you ever regretted disbanding the group when you did?
Andrew: Not as such. But I think if we had recorded another album, we would have consolidated our success in America and perhaps worldwide. It would have been interesting to see how that would have meant us being perceived in the States now.
Have you and George ever discussed reuniting Wham! since the famous ‘Final’ concert on June 28, 1986?
Andrew: No. One of the promises we made to each other was that Wham! would never be resurrected because, as I said, it was about being young.
What did you think you’d go on to do once Wham! had disbanded?
Andrew: I had no ambition to go on to do anything. At the time, I was simply interested in pursuing my interest in motor racing. I wanted to get as far away from the music industry as I could.
Was there ever any fall-out between you and George?
Andrew: We had our spats along the
Have you ever been jealous of George?
Andrew: Not jealous. I’ve never been jealous of anything. But I’ve certainly always been envious of his talents. He’s a very good singer, lyricist and melodician.
Would you like to have become a megastar of his stature?
Andrew: That’s a difficult question to
In May 1990, you made a recording comeback with your debut solo album Son Of Albert, which was slated by the critics and didn’t sell well – how disappointing was that for you?
Andrew: It was disappointing and depressing to receive quite such a beating over that album. The whole thing had been tongue-in-cheek and it was misconstrued. But it was perhaps ill-conceived style-wise and in timing on my part.
Was that the end of your recording career?
Andrew: Pretty much, yeah. I’ve done bits ‘n’ pieces since for my own satisfaction, but they’re just lying around my house on tapes and will never be released.
So there will be no more Andrew Ridgeley material released?
Andrew: I shouldn’t think so, no. And I don’t think that’s any great loss to anyone. First, it would be a real uphill struggle to re-establish myself should I want to, which I certainly don’t, and secondly I’d have to make too many sacrifices in terms of lifestyle, and I don’t want that either.
Would you like to work with George Michael now?
Andrew: I’d love to. But then quite a lot of people would.
Would it be fair to say that your involvement in Wham! meant you could afford to never work again?
Andrew: The legacy which Wham! left me has enabled me not to have to go back to any sort of manual labour, yes. When I say legacy, I mean continuing royalties – and long may they continue!
Are you still in touch with the music business and your friends in it?
Andrew: Neither of us really made many friends in the music industry, and I don’t think that’s unusual. But those I did make friends with, I’m still friends with now.
What is the extent of your friendship with George now?
Andrew: Unfortunately it doesn’t extend quite as far as it used to. And that’s purely down to the fact that our lives have taken different routes since Wham! split. He spends a lot of time abroad, and I tend not to leave Cornwall these days. But we speak on the phone every now and again, and I saw him earlier this year.
When the two of you get together, do you get nostalgic for the great days of Wham!?
Andrew: No, the old days are never on the agenda. That’s not something we sit down, hands over each other’s shoulders, and get weepy-eyed over!
Do you ever miss those days though?
Andrew: Not really. I don’t miss having Number One records and being perceived as a successful artist. I do miss getting chased by lots of young women though, but I’m not allowed to be now! No, my needs these days are fulfilled by other things.
How did you first meet Keren?
Andrew: We bumped into each other on numerous occasions when my career was active, then I got to know her socially through mutual friends. When I returned from the States in the late 80s, we saw more of each other and things developed from there.
Had you always been attracted to each other?
Andrew: I’d always thought she was very attractive.
Keren: I can’t say I did fancy Andrew the first few times we met. But I do remember, exceptionally early on, being fixed up with George Michael on a blind date by Smash Hits magazine and thinking ‘Oh God, why couldn’t it have been with Andrew?’ But I can’t say I had a burning desire to date Andrew until we met again in the late 80s.
Was settling down together a natural step for you both?
Andrew: I think it was fortuitous that our relationship started when it did. Keren had had long-term relationships throughout her career. And I’d been through the period of my life when things were a constant whirl of different glamorous women. I don’t think I could keep up the pace I had set for myself! So I think it was the right time.
Did you surprise yourself?
Andrew: It surprised me that my lifestyle changed so swiftly and so significantly when our relationship started.
Keren: It didn’t surprise me. I’m never very good at casual relationships. I’ve always wanted to settle, but this is the first time I’ve felt completely settled and happy.
Andrew, when and why did you move to Cornwall?
Andrew: Three years ago. I often came on holidays to the West Country with my family, as a child, so it’s always held an affection for me. And I took up surfing seven years ago, which brought me down to the West Country. I’d always fancied living near water, preferably the sea.
Keren: I’m originally from Bristol, and I also used to come to Cornwall for holidays. I somehow always saw myself ending up somewhere like this, and I immediately felt at home here.
Tell us about your home.
Andrew: Some of the houses
Is there any evidence of your Wham! days in the house?
Andrew: Not really. I think there’s evidence if you look for
How do you spend most of your time?
Andrew: We live on a farm. There’s a fair bit of land which we let out. So most of the time these days I seem to spend on some form of paperwork, whether it’s the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries or just general administration and keeping the place running. I’m also in partnership with a friend in a surf clothing and accessories business in France, where we have a shop. Otherwise, both Keren and I are lucky in having a lot of time to ourselves.
Do you ever get bored?
Andrew: No, I don’t. There is an infinite number of things one can do down here. We thoroughly enjoy the countryside and the lifestyle here.
What are the chances of the two of you getting married?
Keren: It’s never been very important to me. Maybe because previously I’ve never been confident of a relationship lasting and didn’t want to go through the hassle of being divorced. Andrew and I have discussed it though. Maybe if we’re still together when we’re 40. But then, as we are fine as we are, what would the point be? If I do do it though, it would be the ultimate romantic commitment. I wouldn’t just do it for the sake of it.
Andrew: It’s difficult to see what it would bring us and change for the better if we were married. It’s always been difficult for me to see what the point of being married really is.
For the sake of any children you may have…
Andrew: Well, Keren has her son Thomas, so I’ve got one of those ready-made. And I don’t see myself having children. Certainly not at the moment anyway.
Keren: If I was going to have more children, I would have wanted them closer together. Thomas is very independent and we get on really well. I don’t feel the need for another child and I don’t really want to go back to square one dealing with nappies and so on. That may sound awful, but I’m quite happy with Thomas.
Andrew, do you assume a paternal role with Thomas? How do you feel about not being his real father?
Andrew: To a certain extent you have to, don’t you? There are certain responsibilities you have to face up to if you’re living within a family situation. As for not being his real father, it’s just the way things are. So no, I don’t mind. He’s a very good boy and we have a good relationship.
Keren, how much does Thomas see of his real father, David? And do David and Andrew get on?
Keren: Thomas sees his dad as much as possible. David and Andrew get on fine. There was a time, when we were living in
But most of the time you, Andrew and Thomas act as a family?
Keren: Oh yeah, we are very much a family and we do ordinary family things together. Thomas and Andrew like planes and cars and horrible boys’ things. Andrew takes him surfing, too. But Thomas has been so busy since we’ve been down here that neither of us
Andrew, do you ever record with Keren?
Andrew: No, and it’s never been an issue. She works with Sarah and everyone else involved with Bananarama, and she doesn’t bring her work home.
Keren: Andrew’s mother has often come up with the suggestion that the two of us should make a Christmas single together, but we just laugh hysterically! I couldn’t possibly contemplate it. No, I’m too busy doing my own stuff.
Andrew, do you like Bananarama’s music?
Andrew: I’ve enjoyed some of it immensely, yes. I think they’ve done some superb stuff over the years.
Keren, what did you think of Wham!’s material?
Keren: I liked a couple of their tracks. I didn’t buy their albums, but I bought a couple of their singles.
What has happened to Bananarama?
Keren: We have been doing the usual occasional trips abroad, and we had an album out a few years ago everywhere apart from England. Sarah Dallin and I have been working quite leisurely on new stuff. There’s just the two of us now, and we’re happy with it like that.
Andrew, do you intend to keep this way of life forever, or do you have any career ambitions at all?
Andrew: I have no ambitions or aspirations, outside of learning French and a few other things I haven’t got round to! I’m not ruling anything out, and things may change. But, for the moment, I can’t see any change.
Are you still involved in motor-racing?
Andrew: No. I had to give that up when I went to the States in 1987/88. I had been racing in England and France in ‘
How often do you visit London now?
Andrew: The last time I went to London was in February to see friends. I don’t enjoy going to London otherwise. I never liked living there. I was brought up near the country and that’s always where I wanted to end up.
Would you say you’re both living your dream existence now?
Andrew: Yes, I would. It’s always been a dream to live in a place like this. The way things have turned out, I’ve been fortunate. And I certainly wouldn’t shed any tears if it never changed now.
Keren: I’d like things to continue as they are, yes. I can’t see any way of improving on what we have now. I certainly have no intentions of moving away from here, now or ever.
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- George Michael Interview on the David Letterman Show (1998)
- George Michael’s Interview with the Gay Magazine ‘The Advocate’ (1999)
- Desert Island Discs: George Michael Interview (2007)