Here’s the article “Review Special: Wham! The Last Week” that was published in Smash Hits magazine on July 2-15, 1986.
They started off their final week on the cover of Smash Hits and followed that with the front cover of just about every other magazine in the country. Then they played two “warm-up” shows in aid of charity, “The Edge Of Heaven” EP reached number one, they appeared on Top Of The Pops for the last time as Wham!, turned up on Radio 1 every day talking to Simon Bates, recorded a Tube special and George celebrated his 23rd birthday. Then, of course, there was the farewell concert at Wembley in front of 72,000 people. Sniffle, blub, etc…
“I think it should be the most amicable split in pop history.” That’s what George Michael promised when he officially announced that Wham! were splitting up at the beginning of March. No-one really believed him though – after all, if Wham! were to finish, surely it meant that he and Andrew had fallen out and that any attempt at a “farewell” would be a rather awkward and, well… embarrassing affair.
But then George and Andrew knew that that was what everyone expected and, just as they’d been determined throughout their career to do things better than anyone else, they were determined that their farewell concert would end their life as a pop group in a way that no-one had ever done before…
Preparations started weeks ago – George finished off the “Edge Of Heaven” EP and began rehearsing with the backing group for the farewell show while Andrew, still spooking around in his plush rented Monaco apartment with girlfriend Donia, helped out by doing some of the magazine interviews they’d planned. Everything was timed so that in the week leading up to “The Final”, as they’d decided to call the concert, people heard and saw more of Wham! than ever before.
That Monday, June 23, anybody in London who woke up listening to Capital Radio was in for a shock. Wham!, the DJ kept announcing (rather nonchalantly), would be playing a concert tonight at the Brixton Academy, a large South London hall where they’d had their equipment set up for days to rehearse for the Wembley show. Not only that but tickets would cost – gasp! – just two pounds! It was a “consolation” to those fans who hadn’t got tickets for the Wembley show and the profits were to be donated to Capital Radio’s favourite charity, Help A London Child.
So that night 4,000 rather disbelieving people crowded into the Brixton Academy expecting to see a rather “rusty” and ramshackle performance only to find Wham! running through every single song they’d ever recorded bar three – “Nothing Looks The Same In The Light”, “Come On” and “Blue (Armed With Love)” – as well as something they’d never played before, a version of snoozesome American singer Carly Simon’s “Why” (rather appropriate. fact fans, as this was the very “artiste” featured on the first record ever purchased by George!!). And not only was the music incredibly brilliant but George and Andrew also skipped through a couple of costume changes each – George ending up in a fantastically horrible frilly suede jacket and matching brown trousers with a disgusting denim “cod piece”. The two of them seemed delighted to be back on stage (amazingly enough their first British “performance” since Christmas I984), joking and chatting between songs, especially just before “A Different Corner.”
“Some people have suggested,” George muttered softly, “that this song is about Andrew – he’d be a bit worried if it was. Suffice to say that the person it’s about is here tonight. And,” he paused, talking to the mystery woman (or man) concerned, “you’ve got to get it wrong a few times before you get it right…
The week’s Wham! hysteria really got into its stride. “The Edge Of Heaven”, which had been kept from the number one slot by Doctor & The Medics’ “Spirit In The Sky’ the week before, finally made number one, meaning that all of the last seven Wham! or George Michael singles (apart from “Last Christmas”, which was only stopped by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which George sung on anyway) went to number one. Phew!
They celebrated by opening the doors of the Brixton Academy again, this time not bothering with the costume’changes (thank goodness) but with George looking particularly pleased at the chorus of “Happy Birthday” he received when he admitted that at midnight tonight he’d be 23 years old.
After the show George was spotted at trendy London club Cafe de Paris snooting around with Wham!’s bass player Deon Estus and several chums. He managed to dance to loads of “funky sounds” and sup a few fruity drinks before the autograph hunters cornered him and he left…
Last night may have been his birthday but George still had to get up to record Top Of The Pops for the last time as Wham!. They didn’t just record “The Edge Of Heaven” but also “Where Did Your Heart Go?” – the slow track on the EP – which will be shown this Thursday July 3) if the record is still number one.
Meanwhile all the “news” papers continued to carry the daily stories about Wham! (like “reviews” of the Brixton concerts by people who didn’t go). The “best” was surely The Sun’s interview with ex-Wham! trumpeter Colin Graham (about the squillionth group member to sell his story) who “spilt” the “beans” on the night when George got paralytically drunk and tried to wake up Joan Collins in the middle of the night on her yacht. The next morning George was apparently “wracked with guilt” when he realised what he’d done. Wow! What a scoop!
Wham!’s final Top Of The Pops performance was shown and Colin Graham’s story continued in The Sun, this time detailing George’s relationships with girls. Graham (unlike the other group members who had said that George was a non-nop “womaniser”), reckoned that he’d only seen George with a girl once – disappearing with someone after the “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” video. Apparently George said the next morning “there was nothing between her ears to turn me on – a decent mind is better than a decent body any day”. According to Graham, George is a “real mummy’s boy” and he recounted a birthday “surprise” when a strip-o-gram they sent him went horribly wrong.
“She stood there,” he explained, “in stockings and suspenders and sang this real naff birthday song we’d composed for him… George was absolute!y speechless. He went bright red and began stuttering uncontrollably. (Wouldn’t anybody? – Ed.) Then he literally turned tail and ran off the stage and hid until she’d gone. It was unbelievable. He was a millionaire heart-throb and he was behaving like a blushing schoolboy…”
And who could blame him with “friends” like that?
In the unlikely event that George or Andrew had got hold of a copy of The Sun on Friday morning, they wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that this “news” paper had been at it again. This time it was the most horrible man in the whole universe, Jonathan King (the one who thinks Live Aid stinks and that AC/DC make good records) “having his say” on the Wham! split.
“They should have called themselves WIMP!” he said “wittily”. “For the last few years they’ve released a rag-bag of frothy and unimportant tunes that most music lovers can’t remember… Their new single (i.e. “The Edge Of Heaven” consists of the little runts singing ‘Oh yeah yeah yeah wally wally wally’.”
They came out rather better that evening in a Tube “special”, Wham! Wrap (har har). Sipping drinks on a swanky boat in Paris with Paula Yates, they chatted about the last few years. George categorically denied that he was fat, ugly and retiring when he first met Andrew – “I was very fat and ugly, but I wasn’t retiring.” He said that success meant “you go to the same places and you just get a lot more drunk so that you don’t notice people,” and admitted that the “news” papers decision last year that he was the nice, clean-cut one while Andrew was the “animal” was all wrong: “I was probably doing something fairly similar in another club somewhere. But it had to be black and white – while Andrew was supposedly raping and pillaging I was at home feeding the cat.” He also denied that Andrew and he were to wed.
“We were going to be married,” he confessed, “but we discovered we couldn’t have children and we were arguing over who was going to be mummy…
By Friday night there were already well over a hundred people camping outside Wembley Stadium, playing Wham! tapes and waiting for two o’clock the next afternoon when they’d be able to rush in and claim their positions right next to the stage. By then a good chunk of the expected 72,000 crowd was there as well, trying to decide whether they should buy the cheap but ghastly unofficial merchandise – programmes, posters, drawings, t-shirts, carrier bags, mobiles – or the “nice”-but-pricey official stuff -t-shirts at £8, posters for £3 and programmes for £5!
They didn’t look too worried either way – on the train to Wembley squillions of people were singing “Wham! Rap” and a song of their own called “I Love George” (which seemed to go “I Love George/I Love George” etc. etc. for a very long time), and as more and more people arrived the crowd got jollier and jollier. The only people who looked fed up were the ticket touts. Normally at a concert like this they have bought as many tickets as possible for just a few pounds. expecting to sell them outside the venue to unlucky fans for a huge profit, but to spite them Wham! have secretly held back about 2000 tickets to sell on the day. And by three o’clock one depressed tout was prepared to sell a £ 13.50 ticket for just £4.50. (Ha ha.)
At four o’clock the show gets under way with, for some reason, Gary Glitter. He heaves his mighty bulk around the stage and belts out all his ancient hits. But oh dear… it looks as though the audience don’t know any of them. Still, he does hand out some free roses and no sooner has he trundled off than Nick Heyward appears, but without his old group Haircut 100 who had been rumoured to re-form for today’s show. He starts off with their hit “Love Plus One” and manages to fit in the other two huge hits, “Favourite Shirt” and “Fantastic Day” (twice) before he’s finished. And that’s when the “We want Wham!” chants start in earnest.
Suddenly the two massive video screens light up on either side of the stage and it’s time for the first ever public showing of the “Wham! In China” film Foreign Skies (a “Big Boys Overseas” production, the credits tell us). But it’s difficult to tell what the film is really like as the few bits of dialogue it contains get drowned out by deafening cheers from the crowd (especially when there’s a close up of George), but it does seem terribly tedious – just lots of footage of, Wham! having their photos taken with Chinese people and a few live songs. The only bits that stand out are George having a massage (!) and the two of them “lark” about playing football.
At 7.35 the beginning of “Everything She Wants” booms from behind the huge black curtain that has “The Final” written on it in gigantic white letters. Finally it opens to reveal George – the thinnest he’s been for ages dressed all in leather, wearing sunglasses and dancing in formation (and very well, too) with two other dancers. Then on come Shirley, Pepsi and Andrew. He takes off his long black coat and strolls up the huge walkways on either side of the stage to unpeel, rather dramatically, one black glove at a time. By the time he and George actually start the song the whole crowd is spellbound. But it’s not until after “Club Tropicana” that George finally says something.
“This,” he shouts, obviously moved, “is the best thing I’ve ever looked at. (Huge screams.) We’ve got four years of thank-yous to say this evening… (even bigger screams)… and I know we’re going to enjoy saying them. (Some of the loudest screams ever.) So let’s get started!” (A completely deafening roar.
He’s obviously really enjoying himself – during “Heartbeat” he makes everyone chant “woah woah” and during “Battlestations” (which at Monday’s “warm-up” show he’d confessed was his favourite song on the new EP) he goes up to one of the cameras projecting onto the huge screens and winks at 72,000 people.
Then it’s “Bad Boys” in which Shirley and Pepsi make one of their brief appearances (sporting stupidly huge bouffant wigs) and a brilliant version of soul group the Isley Brothers’ “If You Were There”. Suddenly a large white piano is wheeled on stage – time for the widely-rumoured appearance by Elton John. Except that the chubby little bloke with the funny specs that everyone’s expecting doesn’t materialise – instead on strolls this thing with a shiny red frightwig, a plastic red bobble-nose, a stripey red t-shirt and yellow dungarees. It’s Ronald McDonald! But hang on a “mo”. According to George it is Elton John! They’re joined by guitarist David Austin (the mate who was in pre-Wham! group The Executive) and it’s time for “The Edge Of Heaven”.
George splits the audience into three sections (24,000 in each!) and gets each part to sing a different bit of the “yeah yeah yeah…” chorus and from then on whenever there’s a silence the crowd launches into a stream of “yeah yeah yeah”s…
“This is a song which, if you happened to be passing through Leicester Square tube station seven years ago, you’d have caught myself and Mr Austin busking,” explains George before the next song. And they launch into the famous old Elton John weepie “Candle In The Wind”.
Then it’s back to the Wham! songs and the “up tempo” section. George starts the famous “suggestive” dancing (with lots of “pelvic thrusting”) that got the “news” papers so worked up at the Brixton shows. The audience get worked up, too.
“Happy Christmas,” shouts George. Blimey! 92 degree in the shade and Wham! are singing “Last Christmas”! George announces he wants the audience to do “The Wave” – everyone holds up the bright side of their programmes and a stunning orange wave sweeps around the stadium as ver lads leap into “Wham! Rap”.
“This song,” says George, “was composed in our friend Mr Ridgeley’s front room…” but the crowd are enjoying doing their “yeah yeah yeah”s so much that George finds it hard to shut them up.
“I did say in the programme,” he stutters “that this was probably going to be the best day of my life but, at the risk of sounding over-sentimental, it definitely is… you’re fantastic!”
Two songs later, after a perfect version of “Freedom”, they disappear – two hours after coming on stage. But they’re not gone for long. On they “pop” for “Careless Whisper” (which 72 000 people sing along to) and a brilliant “Young Guns”. George runs around the stage pretending to be an aeroplane, and then it’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”.
The audience won’t let them go and they return for one last time to do their final song as Wham! – “I’m Your Man”. At first they’re alone on stage. George takes off his jacket and Andrew appears in the truly revolting suede outfit with the denim “flies” that George wore on Monday night.
Lasers zip all over the place and they’re joined by a funny short bloke in a pink Mohican. No, it can’t be! It’s Elton John! And here’s a puffy-faced bloke in denim who knows how to sink boats. It’s Simon le Bon! And everyone is dancing round, even the police, going mad as George steps up to the microphone and sings the very last words Wham! will ever sing: “If you’re going to do it do it right!” Which of course is exactly what they did.
And that’s it – Andrew and George collapse into each other’s arms, their embrace being frozen on the huge video screens, and off they go to the £65 000 party they’re holding at London’s Hippodrome nightclub. Meanwhile thousands of fans sniffle into their hankies – they’ve just been to one of the most incredible concerts they’ll ever see and they’ll never get a chance to witness it again. You get the feeling they agree with Andrew’s closing words in the tour programme:
“Thanks, George – I’m going to cry now.”
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Last Wham! Interview: No. 1 Magazine (1986)
- Andrew Ridgeley on Life With and After Wham! (Hello!, 1997)
- George Michael’s Interview on Magic FM Radio (2007)