Owned since: 2009
Genre: 80’s Pop
Where I bought it: Thrift store
Pressing/label: CBS Netherlands
I love Wham!, it’s something I’ve been quite outspoken out on this site. Not that they’re one of those 80’s pop bands with surprisingly solid studio records; only Make It Big is really worth seeking out, but they are one of the few 80’s bands that seems 120% into knowing how kitsch their music was. Also, they really knew how to market themselves from the start. Before labels became involved the band for sure made George Michael and his smoldering good looks the main focus. While Michael is a great vocalist, the real power of Wham! lays with both guys having a great ear for making a catchy pop song. Even from the extremely kitschy debut single Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do), the band’s love for soul music and even its 12inch long cuts really was showcased.
The Final was released in the UK in place of Wham’s last studio record Music from the Edge of Heaven which is mostly included on here. Only Blue (live in China) and Wham Rap! 1986 didn’t make the cut. For the rest, it’s mainly made of the duo’s biggest hits mostly included as their extended 12 inch cuts. Which in most cases are by far the better versions, Wham’s music was made to really get stuck in that electronic soul/disco groove. Also a lot of really nerdy early hip-hop. So let’s cracking I guess with a track breakdown which seems the right way to cover this:
“Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” (Special US Re-Mix)
Wham’s debut single is here in the remix released in the UK and US a year later than the original. It’s good but I think it’s the only 12inch cut that really isn’t as good as the original. It stretches the intro bars a bit too long till we get to the bit that is George Micheal rapping like he is in the Sugar Hill Gang. It’s infectiously dorky, because boy Micheal doesn’t know if he is singing or rapping which makes him find some weird way in between. Lyrics are pretty politically charged, with him railing against his generation not really having any way to build to a good future and endlessly getting looked down on. For the rest, this sports an extremely infectious chorus and a really long extended chorus before it gets to the final bars.
Wham – Young Guns (Go For It) 12 version
Another George Micheal joint where he is again rapping. A lot better then on Wham Rap and it has an infectious Niles Rodgers-like bass line going on in the back. The lyrics are funny, pretty much a girl trying to verbally fight her boyfriend’s best friend for time to spend with him. Includes a rad little drum back in the middle that slowly edges to pretty much a Chic song. Great stuff.
Bad Boys 12inch version
Often overlooked, this is a fucking gem. Michael railing against his parents, about them questioning the stuff he is doing at night with him doing the voices of the parents’ counter-arguments also. The chorus of ‘Bad boys stick together, Stick together, never sad boys, Good guys, They made rules for fools, so get wise’, is so clearly written by a 19 year old under curfew it’s not hard to root for the kid. Some swamp-ass bass on this with some heavy great high pitched synthesizer trumpet stings and a glockenspiel(?). The 12inch version slows itself down in the middle and goes into a rad little electronic piano break.
Now we’re getting to the smash hits. Club Tropicana is the first song here co-written by Michael and Andrew. It’s one of the earlier Wham! songs they wrote and at face value it’s a pretty throwaway stuff about vacationing and 80s club/tropical culture. When reading a bit further into it is way more punchy then you expect it to be, the ‘All that’s missing is the sea, But don’t worry, you can suntan!’ line really is spit with quite a bit of venom on this one. Even more if you look at the video which sees the boys being ignored by girls the whole way through and in the end they all just seem to work for the same Airline. Loads of stingy horny samples on this and electronic congo drums.
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
‘Do the yitterbug!’, it’s Wham’s ode to throw away pop of the late 50s/60s which they nail. Honestly Cliff Richard could’ve recorded this with some slight skiffle-pop backing and it would’ve been a massive hit in 1958. It’s extremely hard to just write a pop song that for the rest doesn’t means allot more but man Wham! nails is here. From the break-down tempo chorus, the shouting of ‘yitterbug and the earwurm chorus it’s extremely hard to ignore this song even how hard you try. Really cool to hear what is clearly a Linndrum(a impressive drum computer for the 80s) doing the drumming on this and it’s muted monotone really gels well with the live band backing on this. Just the most perfect throwaway pop song.
Careless Whisper 12inch version
While this is of-course a Michael solo track he co-wrote this with Ridgeley, who wrote the guitar part, even that been discussed to death if this is not just a track he wrote solo. First appearing on Wham’s Make It Big in a other recorded version with a way more heavy focus on the synthesizer and the famous saxophone led version appearing here. What to say about Careless Whisper, it’s very melodramatic and the music sure dwells in that also. Pretty minimal warm electronic piano backing and drumming take up the most space beside of-course that saxophone. It’s pretty much a big power ballad that is a massive showcase for Michael’s vocal range. It’s never really been a huge favorite of mine. The start is terribly sappy but when the song picks up it’s tempo a bit later it becomes the great power-ballad that it is. This for sure is the best version
Back to Wham! with a song I always thought kind of recalls 60s country-pop like Connie Francis’s Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool. The pleading love song calling for your lover to be exclusive to each other and the other party not really wanting that. It’s a catchy little tune that has Michael’s vocals really sounding like there from a 60s Motown record. Even the songs build with the horns recalls allot of 60s/early 70s soul-pop hits down to the hammering 2 chord piano break and the backing chorus. Great song, not allot more to say about.
Last Christmas 12inch version
Well it’s THAT song. Even it’s been played to literal death I still really like Last Christmas even outside the yearly onslaught of plays it gets. It’s just such a sad-sack song for one of the happiest times of the years and boy this extended cut makes it even more depressing. Starting with a weird ambient guitar Chet Atkins-like intro that pretty rapidly goes into the well known terror of old romances. Just endless Michael wailing away about his ex and honestly it just is great.
Everything She Wants 12inch version
It’s another Linn Drum flavored track and maybe my favorite Wham! song. A pretty stingy breakdown, a new marriage with a baby on the way which sees the guy pretty much being reality checked he is working his whole life to support his family. It’s some well written stuff and honestly the weird funky nature of this synthesizer and drum machine song works so well with it even more with the tone-shifting backing vocals. Got that kind of bleepy juno synthesizer I just love. Sounds quite allot like the stuff on Micheal’s first solo album to boot.
I’m Your Man (Extended Stimulation Mix)
Drum claps galore on this Extended Stimulation and also allot of repeating of Michael screaming Man-man-man. After nearly 2 minutes of this 80s nonsense the song starts and boy what a song it is. Maybe the most Wham! song out there this song perfectly blends 60s soul(i mean just hear that chorus) and upbeat 70s disco pop in one giant dance floor filler. The lyrics aren’t much to write about but man if there is a song to get me up and moving it’s this one. The 12inch cut goes on for way too long with weird inter-cutting Max Headroom vocals getting a break before it ends on the original ending which is great. Skip this version, listen to the original it rules.
Blue (armed with love)
This is the version that was originally the b-side to club Tropicano but the live in Japan version is on Music From The Edge. This is a mostly instrumental dubby song with Michael mostly sighing through it and singing some sparse lines. Nice little song that wouldn’t be out of place of a dj set these days.
A Different Corner
Another Michael solo song that is very depressing to be honest. It fits in with the following song but it makes the whole b-side of the second record a bit of a weird fit after all the bouncy stuff on the first disc. A really strong ballad about Michael feeling extremely down at the band’s biggest period which is layered in some great ambient synthesizer work. Michael’s called it the most personal song he ever wrote and it shows. Very fragile and very beautiful, a bit of a odd fit here but such a great song.
Battlestations was the b-side of the edge of heaven 12inch and pretty much a proto-Michael solo record joint. Minimal drum backing, synth bass and keyboard with double tracked Michael singing about a relationship falling apart. It’s surprisingly mean spirited for Wham!
You don’t know how much I hate that answer phone
Are you standing there?
But, you won’t pick up the ‘phone
Why lie to my face?
(When you can buy a tape machine to give me bullshit in your place)
It never really finds a catchy chorus to really stick and it’s minimal backing, with electronic drum break midway, making it a bit forgettable. It feels like a duet, but it’s just Michael solo singing here beside some French speaking bits from a other vocalist. Sounds like a demo mostly for the Faith record, which for good reasons didn’t make the cut.
Where Did Your Heart Go?
A Was (not was) cover from their unique debut on ZE records. I prefer that version’s downbeat sound, but this is not a bad version of it. I think it suffers a bit from replacing the swampy bass (it’s still there, but way more in the back) the original has with some generic 80s guitar and the Careless Whisper saxophone. Another great showcase of some pleading love song singing by Michael, but not much more. A bit of a nothing and a weird note for Wham! to go out on.
The Edge of Heaven
Wham!’s single latest self written single before breaking up is one of its finest and a welcome song after the depressing nature of the last two songs. The Edge of Heaven is a powerful pop song based in soul which spots some pretty hard hitting lyrics about a relationship’s sexual frustration, which for sure can be read as the band hitting the rocks. Michael is very aggressive on the vocals which is a good fit for the bit harder production on this (it includes a full blown guitar solo) and heavy use of brass instruments. For sure less poppy and danceable. It feels like a band splitting up in a song but putting its frustration in one last spirited hurrah. The lyrics also, oh boy, ‘I ain’t got no more worries, I ain’t got no more time for you’ don’t really mince words.
As a last release for one of the biggest pop acts of the 80’s The Final does a great job covering why Wham! was such a beloved band. If it was just the hits, it would’ve been an easy massive favorite of mine. It just also spots all lesser songs from the weird ‘break-up complication’ and b-sides which seem to be quite a poor fit on the second lp. Still, grab it when you find it in a bargain bin, there’s so much good stuff on here and it’s really the only Wham! Album you ever need to own.