This interview about Wham!’s first concert tour was written by Paul Simper and published in the No.1 magazine on October 22, 1983.
Wham!’s first tour was billed as “Club Fantastic Tour” (also advertised as Club Fantastic ‘83 Tour) to support their first studio album Fantastic (1983). The tour, held from October 5 to November 26, 1983, was sponsored by Fila sportswear. Gary Crowley (of Capital Radio) was the opening DJ act.
Wham are one of Britain’s biggest pop groups but until now they’ve never played live. Ever.
So how will their fans react to seeing them in the flesh, in shorts?! Will they scream or scram?
And what of George and Andrew themselves? How are they enjoying their early days under the bright lights? Have they done what they set out to?
And who are all these other people working in the Club Fantastic …
A NATION WAITS
From recording a demo in their front room with a broom handle as a mikestand, through four hits on Top Of The Pops, and onto a ‘Fantastic’ best-selling debut album, Wham have moved mighty fast. And they’ve done it with style.
Now they’re facing their public for the first time.
They’ve packed their bags and hit the road to blustery Aberdeen for the opening night of their 30-date tour.
It seems as though the whole world’s come along to see how they fare. All of Fleet Street’s prowling the band’s hotel, hoping for a quick exclusive. There’s cousins, sisters, mums and dads, record company execs.
And somewhere amongst all the excitement are George and Andrew — nervous, but thrilled to bits.
They needn’t worry. When they leap on stage at about a quarter to nine, after Capital DJ Gary Crowley has warmed everyone up with boisterous song and dance, the crowd go bananas.
And Wham deserve it.
They’ve put a lot into this live show, bursting with palm trees, badminton racquets, cowboy outfits, dancing … and even home movies (an At Home And Through The Ages special with Andrew and George which comes in the middle of the set).
They finish with Chic’s ‘Good Times’ and it’s a wholly appropriate ending to the evening. The bad boys have taken a deep breath, a giant step and tonight they’ll sleep safe in their beds.
And after a good night’s sleep they’re ready to talk …
THE BlG NIGHT
George: “The band were great the first night and I was just glad that my voice didn’t break up.
“I was really nervous before I went on. I wasn’t expecting to be, but we came back to the hotel about three quarters of an hour before the gig and …”
Andrew: I thought I’d be incredibly nervous — almost sick …”
George: “But it was me! Andrew was just jumping up and down, running round the bedroom, doing the dance routines and getting really worked up while I just sat there trying to relax.
“I got my sister to massage my neck. I was so worked up!
“The minute we walked on though we were OK. The audience reaction was really good. I thought it might be quite hard in Aberdeen but they were great.
“There’s no feeling in the world like playing live. We were sitting in our bedroom yesterday after the show thinking what on earth could we be doing now that could make us this excited.”
Andrew: “We didn’t do much physical preparation before the tour. We played badminton for a couple of weeks (as they demonstrate by wacking the odd shuttlecock into the audience during the show) but then we were too busy.”
George: “The rehearsals in themselves were quite hard work, but I think we’re both fairly fit anyway.
“The choreography for the show was done really late because we already had most of the routines from Top Of The Pops.
“We had to show Pepsi (the new girl) the routines but we didn’t have time until the day before the tour started.”
Andrew: “We’re really pleased with the programme. We spent three nights working it all out ourselves.
“We’ve seen a bootleg programme selling for the same price though which is disgusting. Ours is the white one—don’t buy the other one because it’s really bad quality.”
THE SHOW WITH A DIFFERENCE
George: “One of the main points of this show is to let people know that we don’t intend to just go around doing the average old rock routine for the next ten years.
“Maybe showing home videos is doing too much but we want to keep doing things that are different.
“This show is the climax of all we’ve been working on before. Anything like America will just be doing it again in another country. This is really exciting.”
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
George:” I stopped going to shows when I was about 15 but when I was younger I went to see Elton John at Earls Court who was really good
“And I saw Queen. Freddie Mercury’s a very very good showman.
The only band I’ve seen in the last two years that I’ve really enjoyed is Shalamar “
George: “One thing we thought would be a complete waste of time was a support band. It’s cruel to the audience and to the support band
“Getting Gary Crowley to do the records is a much better idea. If he can get the audience singing along in Aberdeen, as he did, he’ll be brilliant anywhere”
George: “The idea of the home movies in the middle of the show is to get away from the image of us being untouchable. Hopefully a lot of the kids will go home feeling they know us a little bit better.
“I couldn’t believe it though when the girls started screaming at the video.
“The only bit that wasn’t realistic was us getting out of bed in the morning in pajamas. We couldn’t have done it how we normally sleep—in the nude.
“Anyway, it was very cold that morning!”
FILA THE NEED!
George: “The idea of wearing sports gear (sponsored by Fila) onstage just carried over from what we’d been wearing in Ibiza in the ‘Club Tropicana’ video.
“I guess it’s a bit out of place now, being winter. We’ll probably get loads of parents suing us cos their children have caught pneumonia!
George: “We picked ‘Good Times’ by Chic because firstly it’s one of our favourite records, and secondly the whole mood of it and the lyrics are very representative of what we do.
“Like ‘Love Machine’, it’s pretty faithful to the original and obviously there is a fault in not doing something new to an old record. But both were always intended to be played live and in that context they work really well.”
DEAR MUMMY, DEAR DADDY . . .
Andrew: My dad was a bit ‘iffy’ about coming up for the first date but I think all our parents still haven’t really grasped what it’s all about
“It was only when we did Capital Radio’s Junior Best Disco at the Lyceum that they saw— and we saw — the hysteria. Before that they’d just seen us on Top Of The Pops
“I think they’re quite shocked by it all.”
George: “It was my idea to get Andrew to introduce my solo single ‘Careless Whisper’. We want to get rid of all this rubbish about us splitting for good.
The fact that Andrew went out on the first night and openly denied that we were splitting probably helps to strengthen our resolve.”
I DON’T NEED THIS PRESSURE ON
George: “I don’t know yet how I’m going to cope with all the attention and exposure that this tour obviously gives us. All I know is this tour is the most important thing at the moment — more than my solo single or anything
“We decided there was no point having a George Michael single out in the middle’ of a Wham tour.
“We like to devote all our energies to one thing at a time otherwise you start to not give your best.”
Andrew: Oh for a quiet life'”
Gary, who has two weekend shows of his own on Capital Radio, is the Club Fantastic DJ. Playing records like ‘Burn Rubber On Me’ by The Gap Band and ‘(Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew’, it’s his job to get the joint jumping before Wham come on.
“I was really nervous the night before the first show because I’ve never done anything like this before but the kids are really enthusiastic. They’re brilliant.
“They were even singing along to records like Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel which they’re probably too young to remember.”
Wham on Gary: ‘You can’t help but be affected by his exuberance. You can see and hear how genuine he is and you just react to that.”
Deon is Wham’s bass player and it is his band Dream Merchant who are backing the boys on the tour.
“I did a bit of the singing on Bad Boys’ and I’ve worked with them and producer Steve Brown since then as well as with people like Blancmange, Steve Walsh and Blue Rondo. In fact, I’ve worked with pretty well every young British band since I moved over from America.
“Wham are nice boys but they need to get in shape because it’s a long tour. I get up and go running at about 5.30 every morning and so in the evening you’re really buzzing.”
Wham on Deon: “He’s great. We were really impressed from the first time we saw him. His bass playing and Trevor Morrell’s drums are just so tight.’
Shirlie Holliman’s been with Wham since the beginning and does a lot of the band’s choreography.
“The show’s not as hectic as I thought it would be. We have five costume changes but there’s plenty of time for us to get our breath back.
“The dates I’m really looking forward to are the London ones. The crowd have been alright so far but they’re a bit older than I thought they’d be.
“One strange thing is that this is the first time I’ve met any of the band, because I don’t spend much time in the studio.
“In fact me and Pepsi hardly saw the boys during rehearsals because Yog (George) has lo be with the band and there’s no mirrors in the studio to practice our dancing in front of.
“Luckily Pepsi dances quite like me so she’s fitted in well.”
Pepsi replaced Dee when she left Wham. Like Dee she was formerly a session singer.
“I always thought the tour would be very energetic so it’s very much how I expected it. I’m totally enjoying myself!
“This is so different from session singing. It’s more exciting and thankfully everyone’s been really nice.
“I love it on stage .. touching all the hands, everyone going crazy. I just get on such a high!
“I never ever imagined I’d end up dancing on a stage as well as singing.”
Wham on Pepsi: “The name automatically attracted us to her and she’s fitted in very well She’s got a good positive attitude to everything and she’s quite easy-going, which helps.”
Melanie is one of George’s two sisters (the other is Yioda). and she’s in charge of make-up on the tour. Apparently presentation hasn’t always been her brother’s best feature…
“The worst thing George ever did to himself was to dye his hair black. I told him if he wanted it black the darkest he should dye it was dark brown but he wouldn’t believe me.
“He got a real shock when he saw himself. Our dad wouldn’t sit at the same table as him’
Andros is the godson of George’s dad, Jack. The boys’ fathers grew up together in Cyprus. For his 21st birthday present George paid for Andros to come up to the first shows.
“I wasn’t surprised by George doing this and doing it well. He was always music mad.
“I didn’t think he’d do it with Andrew though because Andrew didn’t come on the scene til senior school when he was about 13
“If anything I thought he’d do it with David (Mortimer) who lived down the road.”
Formerly guitarist with Wham, Dave now has his own band called Great (originally Fantastic before George made him change it!). George has written a couple of songs for him. one called ‘Golden Soul’, and Great will be using Deon’s band. Dream Merchant.
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)