The article “Think Big” was written by Jim Reid, and published by Record Mirror, on November 3rd, 1984
If Wham! were a tag wrestling team – imagine it! White trunks, white boots with red stripes – ‘The Mediterranean Maulers’ –
They have little need for the furrowed brows of pop stars making art. They don’t need the big statement, because, quite sensibly, they
The Wham! boys understand all about the charts and the market and videos and all things like that. They understand about their career and where they’re going and where they’ve just come from and what they’ve done wrong and what they’ve done right. The Wham! boys have the absolute conviction. And they’ve just notched up their third number one in a row. They just want to make good commercial records and sell them. That’s practically the whole point.
Wham! make their practical point very well. Lounging in the immaculate
And the score is: ‘Make It Big’, a new album that dumps the disco orientation of yore for a thorough reworking of various pop mainstreams. You can dance to ‘Make It Big’, but its main impact is to reinforce Wham!’s saturation of pop’s middle ground – crafted ballads and winsome love songs.
In an interview that runs over two weeks, listen to Wham! talk about making it big, the pressures of stardom, sixth form college, mum and dad… and Arthur Scargill…
Things have happened so quickly for you this year. After a long lay off, three number one singles and everything. Tell me why…
George: “When we started at the beginning of the year with ‘Wake Me Up’, that was the first surprise of the year for me, because I could see that in commercial terms it was a great leap. We already knew we had ‘Careless Whisper’ to come out, also we already knew about ‘Last Christmas’ – which is our next single – ‘cos I’d written that in February. It’s real slush, sleighbells
On ‘Make It Big’ you’ve moved away from all those ‘Good Times’ soul boy influences and stuck yourselves right in the middle, nice ballads and well, one of the tracks even sounds a bit like Billy Joel…
George: “There are two ballads instead of one. It’s not dance orientated in late Seventies or early Eighties terms, but all the tracks on the LP, except for the ballads, are dance tracks. It’s just that they’re taken from the Sixties and Seventies, just those different feels. It’s just as much a black LP as the last one was. In fact, it’s more of a black LP than the last one was. It’s a black/pop LP as opposed to a black/disco LP. The first LP was us trying to find our market. Through ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Careless Whisper’ as a writer I realised I could basically write what I liked ‘cos what I liked was always going to be commercial. What I wanted to write was always going to be commercial. With the first LP we were kinda looking for a market, with the second LP I’ve just written what I liked and got rid of my influences all in one go. I suppose the next LP will be more or less a case of us having to find our own sound or me as a writer having to find my own niche. Not so much putting more thought into it, but not having to depend so much on being derivative. Not that I think there’s anything wrong in being derivative – but this is a very derivative LP – it makes the next LP a challenge. ‘Make It Big’ has been derived from so many different areas that it hasn’t left me very much that I know.”
Why did you record the LP in France and how did you go about writing the songs for it?
Andrew: “Tax reasons primarily. We could have gone to Montserrat or Nassau, but it was hot down in France and we fancied a nice summer.
George: “I went over with five basic ideas and I though ‘oh, I’ll muddle my way through ‘cos I felt very good at the time. On the way to the airport in the taxi I got the chorus line for ‘Freedom’ and when I got there it kept going round in my head, so we worked on it and did ‘Freedom’ on the third day. I loved ‘Freedom’ so much I thought the ideas I’d had earlier on in the year just weren’t up to it. So we all just sat around the pool for five days and waited until I could think of the next thing, then we recorded everything as it came. With the rhythm
How did you feel about the hostile reaction you got when you played a benefit gig for the miners recently?
George: “It was the final proof that we don’t want to appeal to a market that reads Sounds, NME and Melody Maker, they’ve got such a
Did you meet Arthur Scargill?
George: “Yeah, we did. I didn’t like Scargill at all. I think he’s the worst thing the miners could have at the moment. You couldn’t get two worse people involved in an argument than Thatcher and Scargill – between the two of them they are capable of bringing this country to a halt. I wish more of the miners knew a bit more about
Andrew: “The reason I wanted to do it was that there are families who really aren’t living properly. Kids and women who really don’t have enough money to live on. It might sound cliched, but that’s the reason I did it.”
George: “We don’t know enough about the political side of it for us to have done it for any other reason. But when I met him, I
Soul on the dole and ‘Bad Boys’ haven’t really got much relevance to the Wham! of 1984. Why did you dispense with the soul boy image so quickly?
George: “I think because that wasn’t really us. It makes me laugh when I think how many people bought that image ‘cos it was a load of shit. Yet the minute we presented our music in an escapist fashion and wrote very escapist songs and become popstars, we owned up to that and became honest, we were seen as selling out and putting on some sort of facade. Which was a total load of bullshit, ‘cos most people put in that position and given the opportunity to go that way, would have gone that way. It’s just that we knew we had the songwriting ability to push us that way very quickly and make us much more successful than we were.”
Next Week: Are Wham! arrogant? Why was Andrew so pretentious at sixth form college? Fame. Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Nose jobs and family life in Bushey…
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- A Year in the Life of Wham! as Told by George Michael (Smash Hits Yearbook, 1986)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)