The article Wham! was written by Neil Tennant for Smash Hits on 28 October 1982.
Two 19-year-olds from Bushey, Herts, who play all-British rap and funk? I meet all sorts in this job, claims Neil Tennant.
“I’VE KNOWN SINCE I was about seven that I wanted to be a pop star but I never really thought about how I was going to do it”
George Michael of Wham! is a very confident young man. When he and his co-star, Andrew Ridgely, talk about their career — past, present and future — their conversation is littered with words like “fantastic”, “brilliant”, and “great”, all, of course, being applied to their particular talents.
The two are old school mates who met in the second year at Bushey Meads Comprehensive in Hertfordshire.
“I didn’t really have time to get to know anybody else,” says George, “because he decided that I was going to get to know him and that was that.”
When Andrew quit school at 16 to go to college, he decided that they might as well form a band. It was then that George realised this was how you set about becoming a pop star. They sat down one night and wrote their first song, ‘Rude Boy’. Needless to say, it was “incredible”.
“If it had been done by professionals, it could have been a hit,” claims George. Unfortunately none of their group, The Executive, could play like professionals. Their finest moment came when they played at the local scout hut. Andrew gets very excited at the memory of it and reckons it was “absolutely brilliant”.
“All our mates came along, everybody was jumping about. There was such a good atmosphere — we probably won’t get that again even with an established band.”
Having peaked in the scout hut, The Executive fell apart and George and Andrew started to get back into their first love, funk. One day, while listening to a Level 42 LP, George had a bright idea.
“I thought it’d be really good to take a funk formula riff and put a really un-disco lyric to it and do a rap. So I made up this lyric about unemployment, played it to Andy and we took it from there.”
Andy in fact took a tape of the song down the road to Mark Dean, a fellow resident of Bushey, Herts. He promptly signed them to his new Innervisions label and put them in a studio with Junior’s backing band.
You might think that two inexperienced 18-year-olds might be a little nervous about playing with a bunch of experienced musicians. You’d be wrong. They went ahead and made ‘Wham Rap’, one of the most striking dance records of the year.
“Basically we’ve both got such strong ideas,” says George. “With all this new pop stuff — Dollar, Bucks Fizz — pop music is all starting to be run by older people again, whereas from 1976 onwards it started to be run by kids. We’re reacting to that, in the studio at any rate, because everything’s controlled by us. But so many producers won’t accept that two 19-year-olds might know what other 19-year-olds might want to listen to. It’s ridiculous.”
George actually co-produced their current single, ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’ and went to New York with Andrew to re-mix ‘Wham Rap’ with a famous American disco producer. They didn’t think much of him.
“We hated what he was doing, so we sacked him,” says Andrew with a grin. “George did the re-mix while I fell asleep.”
The third Wham! single will soon be recorded. Apparently the song’s “a killer.” “We’ve got some conventional songs concentrating more on really good melodies that we know are going to be bigger hits than the ones we’ve released,” says George with certainty. They’d never intended to do two raps in a row, anyway, but they don’t think it’s a mistake.
“We wanted to get our attitude across first. With rap, if you’re trying to make a point in the lyric or say something funny, it comes across much barter — people listen to the words a lot more.
“The two things we’ve got going for us are, one, that we’re so young and, two, that we’re not singing about ordinary disco stuff.”
So now you know.
Neil Tennant, 1982
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Wham! Interview: The Morals of Funk (Sounds, 1982)
- Wham! You’re On Your Own, George (Sunday Times, 1986)
- Wham! Young Brats Go For It! (New Musical Express, 1982)