The article “Wham! Tan-Tastic” was written by Simon Tebbutt for Record Mirror published on August 20, 1983
Keep a tight hold on your bags if you bump into Wham!’s handsome heart-throb Andrew on holiday this year. You’re likely to find half your stuff gone. “It was in Ibiza a couple of weeks ago when we were shooting the video for ‘Club Tropicana’,” explains the budding tealeaf. “We all went for a boat journey and there was a real swell and everyone was sick. We were all honking up over the side of the board. I fell asleep for about an hour and woke up with heatstroke and wanted to put a T-shirt on. I leant over and started rummaging around in this bag and I felt these two people looking at me. I looked up and it was this woman’s bag I’d been rifling through. They must have thought I was mad.”
Not that Wham! have to resort to petty crime to make a crust or two these days. Three hits behind them and the new single, ‘Club Tropicana’, shooting up the charts means that these bad boys are making good. “It’s a shame but you start to get really blasé,” says the hunky George. “If a record isn’t top three you feel it’s failed.”
“We were really disappointed that ‘Wham Rap!’ only got to number eight,” adds Andrew. “It’s not the same status.”
George: “To be really honest, we’ll be disappointed if ‘Club Tropicana’ doesn’t get to number one.” The chances of that happening now are pretty high, especially as Wham!, along with Spandau Ballet and Paul Weller’s Style Council, are being tipped by those who think they know what they’re talking about as the new breed of songwriters. George isn’t so sure. “I don’t think Spandau or us are a new breed of anything,” he says. “Paul Weller is trying to move into areas he’s not gone into before. But they are still standard areas. He’s becoming more conventional. And Gary Kemp is definitely going with the real conventions. Even more than we are really. You can say ‘the new breed’ in the sense that we’re young and successful. But I don’t think there’s anything particularly innovative about us. For better or for worse, probably worse, things seem to have ground to a halt on the originality stakes. It would be wrong to pretend we’re doing something new because we’re not. We’re just very good at what we do. It’s standard but it’s still very enjoyable.”
With its rich and ritzy images, ‘Club Tropicana’ is certainly a radical departure – as we say in the business – from the group’s previous themes of teenage rebellion and defying parents. But that’s the image George and Andrew are still stuck with in most people’s eyes. “Yes, we are stuck with that image,” admits George. “The whole young sociologist thing we’ve been trying to get away from for the past five months. People really took that so seriously. You’d go down to places like the Dirtbox – and ‘Young Guns’ is the most un-Dirtbox record I can think of – but people listened to the lyrics and it was trendy and socially acceptable so they danced to it. And incredibly a number of people our own age liked that and saw it as a lot more subversive than we ever did. We never intended to be even slightly subversive. We were just writing songs that we thought were right and that we believed in. Lyrics that didn’t insult us personally and that we felt happy with.”
“Those three songs were a trilogy,” adds Andrew. “We’re not going to write any more ‘Young Guns’ or ‘Wham Rap!’s. They were about situations that we were in at the time. We’d feel false writing about that now. It gets boring as well.”
George and Andrew still live at home up in Hertfordshire and, believe it or not, have a jolly healthy relationship with their parents. So how did they react to the whole wild ones scenario, particularly the rather pointed scenes in the video for ‘Bad Boys’?
“They took it all really well,” says George. “But the ‘Bad Boys’ video was so tongue in cheek, and my parents are intelligent enough to see that. But ‘Club Tropicana’ has been a break away from all that. We didn’t mean what we were singing. There was no way that I meant a line like ‘I’m handsome, tall and strong’. But people take you so seriously.”
People not being able to see the tongue in cheek humour in Wham! is still a problem. Those who don’t stil brand them with the ‘Bad Boys’ tag are accusing them of selling out to the glitter and glamour of places like those depicted in ‘Club Tropicana’.
“When we originally wrote ‘Club Tropicana’, about two years ago, the lyrics were exactly as they are now,” says George. “I’d started going to the Beat Route about four or five months previously when the publicity surrounding the place had really swelled up and the music press was making this huge thing about how fantastic they were. After the initial excitement of seeing all these outrageous people had died down and I could actually take the evening for what it was, I just thought how funny it was. So the song was actually taking the mickey. Brushing shoulders with the stars and all that stuff. Making up this dream club that couldn’t possibly be true. The beach and the free drinks. But no one really sees the tongue in cheek side. They just see it as a glamorous lyric and that we’ve gone completely mainstream. That we’re not writing about the experience of the majority anymore. But we’re still young and still experiencing things, even though they’re not the things most young people are going to relate to. We’re still experiencing them from a young person’s point of view. We can laugh at a lot of things we won’t be laughing at in five years time. So hopefully we’ll still be able to write about our situation and it will still come across as being fresh.”
- Wham! Teen Dreams Come True (NME, 1983)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Wham! Nothing Looks The Same In The Night (Melody Maker, 1983)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)