17
Aug 09

GEORGE MICHAEL – “Careless Whisper”

FT + Popular70 comments • 7,526 views

#537, 18th August 1984, video

Every songwriter seems to have one: the perfect tune they wrote at the very pre-dawn of their career, before fame came knocking. Does it bother Mick Hucknall, I wonder, that he’s never written a better song than one he wrote when he was 17? There are plenty who’d say the same about this, and for certain George Michael never again wrote a lyric as immediate as the “guilty feet” line.

If “Careless Whisper” hadn’t come upon the teenage George in a flash, you might be tempted to view it as a somewhat self-conscious attempt to progress his career by writing a ‘standard’. But only the credit was cynical: Michael dropping the Wham to make an early and crude stab at separating the goo from the go-go. It’s the same impulse that would lead him to the disaster of calling an album Listen Without Prejudice – and “Careless Whisper” issued that directive much more effectively.

You can hear it’s a young man’s song, though – it’s the record’s saving grace. “Careless Whisper” is a knot of confusion – it’s over, no, I want you back; I did a terrible thing – but wait, was it so wrong? Who’s betrayed who with who? Why does the music die when they hit the floor? Nothing’s truly clear except Michael’s own anguish at screwing up so badly, expressed most perfectly in the song’s killer moment: “Tonight the music seems so loud! I wish that we could lose this crowd -“ It’s a blurting rejection of the song’s steadiness, and some of the energy carries into George’s falsetto coda.

Certainly it’s a higher peak than the iconic horn riff, which – like the sad Spanish guitar flummery – doesn’t do much more than set a scene and telegraph its writer’s desire to make a cocktail soul classic. It’s worth noting, looking at the list of covers on Wikipedia, that despite “Careless Whisper”‘s undoubtedly massive success, few of the people who’ve taken it on are soul singers: there’s a feckless, appealing rawness to it which Michael’s overly smooth production can’t wholly conceal.

7

Comments

  1. 1
    Izzy on 17 Aug 2009 #

    7 seems awfully harsh from here – there really aren’t very many standards around, and coming up with one feels like it deserves extra credit in itself. Especially when it’s as good as this.

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Rather than ‘Marvin’ or even “Lionel’, I always imagine this being sung by Kristen Scott Thomas’s slimy Latin lover in Bitter Moon, all because of that ghastly sax line. It’s just as Bushey as the soul boy/dole boy banter on the first 3 Wham! singles. I was working in Our Price, Epsom, when this came out and it really struck a chord with the Surrey wine bar crowd. It’s intensely Home Counties

    The vagueness of the lyric I find quite appealing, the “wasted chance”, the “guilty feet”. I think the in-yer-face suntanned grins are what made me flinch at the sight and sound of Wham! Still think his best is yet to come, but at least this sign-posted a little depth, and that GM wasn’t only about Blue Stratos and blonde highlights.

    Simply Red’s song being Holding Back The Years? This was, at least, released pre-cocktail bar hit version – the Frantic Elevators’ 1982 single sounds more like a La’s demo and is (along with their preceding Searching For The Only One) at least as good as anything Lee Mavers has written.

  3. 3
    MikeMCSG on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Strange that on most Wham songs Mr Ridgeley’s input was deemed insufficient to merit a songwriter’s credit yet he is credited on this one (and has probably lived on it ever since) which then goes out as a George Michael solo effort. To compound the confusion it then appears on the next Wham LP. Go figure!

    Probably the first major hit about regretting adultery since “24 Hours From Tulsa” this is a very smart record which appropriates that Sade congas and sax supper club sound and establishes Michael as a major artist. It’s hard to be enthusistic about much of his subsequent output but this is an undisputed classic.

  4. 4
    will on 17 Aug 2009 #

    According to Simon Napier-Bell’s memoir of the Wham! years, GM had been badgering his manager to get his solo career up and running ever since the release of the Fantastic album. Careless Whisper was a dipped solo toe, the excuse being that it was “a George Michael-sounding record, rather than a Wham record” (or words to that effect).

  5. 5
    Tom on 17 Aug 2009 #

    #1 – in my head it was a 9, then the sax and somewhat oily production dropped it a couple.

    #2 – I was shopping in the Our Price Epsom at this point :) Well, when I got birthday or xmas money.

  6. 6
    Steve Mannion on 17 Aug 2009 #

    sax.gif

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 17 Aug 2009 #

    the rawness and confusion, as noted, are what saves it from being overly slick and controlled – something that has become a hallmark of George Michael’s later solo work.

    Maybe he should cover ‘Always crashing in the same car’

  8. 8
    LondonLee on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Well it’s a much better record than ‘True’ with which it shares space as the quintessential Disco-Pub slowie. 7 seems a bit low to me, as Tom said it’s an obvious stab at being “adult” but the fact that he’d written it long before makes me give George a pass on the careerist cynicism I felt about “Wake Me Up Before etc.” I think I’d go up to 9, despite the Essex boyracer smell that hangs over it it’s a very classy, seductive record.

    His later output does seem far too controlled and worked over in comparison, either he’s too careful or he’s not that prolific a songwriter. The latter I think, considering how long he’s been around his catalogue is very slim.

  9. 9
    Caledonianne on 17 Aug 2009 #

    When I said “next” re Two Tribes, I had no idea we were in for such a treat. Couldn’t stand the party-boy Wham! image, but kudos to the guy for a great song. I’m with the othes (for once!), 7 is too low. I think the song is a 10, the record (because of its 80s invisble braces-ness) a 9.

    The “guilty feet” line is a s close as GM will ever come to a Johnny Mercer-like “Huckleberry friend” tingler and be anthologised for decades. His stab at immortality.

  10. 10
    wichita lineman on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Re 3: Is 24 Hrs From Tulsa regretful or just shamefaced? “Told her I’d die before I would let her out of my arms” sounds more like a Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward situation – meeting the exact right person slightly too late (see also Elvis Presley/Ann Margret, though that ended in silent, Col Parker-inflicted tears). Either way, Careless Whisper sounds like fucking around and fucking up, but I like the way it’s left to the imagination (especially on the falsetto anguished parts).

    My workmate Simon at Our Price, Epsom, was Leatherhead born + bred and got me into Elvis (in depth) while at the same time being George Michael’s number one cheerleader (couldn’t convince me) – he saw him as an exact Home Counties, middle class contemporary. I related more to Philip Adrian Wright, a Captain Scarlet/pint of mild advocate, while George was, in my mind, a Blind Date/white wine spritzer enthusiast. Just shows the gulf that can develop in four pop years.

  11. 11
    anto on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Totally agree about the sax solo and plinky gutiar. Always puts me in mind of a coffee advert.
    I respect the manner in which George Michael seized his moment. Consider how every single he released between summer 84 and 1987 went to either number one or two. With no little dexterity did he switch from a seemingly clueless wannabe to a contender.
    Just out of interest how did Wham fans react to GM releasing a solo song so early on? Did Careless Whisper prematurely stoke rumours they would split or was it just accepted as a paralell manouver from George (who surely was already known as “the talented one” by this stage)?

  12. 12
    Tom on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Regretful adultery records – Everyhit has just confirmed the (astonishing IMO) fact that “Dark End Of The Street” has never been a hit in the UK, by anyone.

  13. 13
    Mark G on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Oh..

    There was another ‘version’ that George recorded with Jerry Wexler, that got issued as a limited edition 12″ single, but nowhere else, I believe. This was going to be the official version, but they preferred the demo…

    (wonder if it’s online somwhere?)

  14. 14
    Ben on 17 Aug 2009 #

    I remember this purely as the song that always used to finish top of Capital FM’s poll of the greatest songs of all time. Year after year after year, Capital listeners (back in the day when Radio 1 was your pop station and Capital was your slushy pop station and Heart didn’t exist) voted this to the top.

  15. 15
    Kat but logged out innit on 17 Aug 2009 #

    #14: Absolutely. Until Oasis turned up this always topped the annual Capital FM polls done over the Xmas hols, above Imagine and Bohemian Rhapsody. For ages I assumed anyone with a Capital FM bumper sticker liked this song, until I discovered that George owned a significant stake in said radio station in the mid 90s.

  16. 16
    Tom Lawrence on 17 Aug 2009 #

    First time I’ve really /strongly/ felt that you’ve under-marked a record, Tom – this is at least an 8.

    I know what you mean about the sax, yes, but… I don’t know. The “guilty feet” line alone ranks as one of the most poetic lines in pop.

    Is that a bit of the same synth choir fog that made 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” so memorable sneaking in at the end there?

  17. 17
    Rory on 18 Aug 2009 #

    My brother helped send this to number one for four weeks in Australia; as a lapsed Wham! fan, I probably thought it was another sign of George Michael selling out, although I suspect my main objection would have been the production rather than the tune or lyrics. At this remove, my respect for the latter quashes any lingering problems I might have with the former; I’ve heard enough melodies and lyrics by now to know a killer combination when I hear one. The production may be a “True” re-hash, but George’s vocals hold more appeal for me than Tony Hadley’s, and there are none of those overt soul-singer references in the lyrics – just that unforgettable line.

    Once again I’m caught by the Marks Out of Ten guidelines: going on ownership this would get no higher than 7, and on my desire for repeat listens it might be a 6 or even a 5. But that’s because the song has been so ubiquitous that I’ve never felt the need to own a copy and can bring it to mind whenever I want. Replaying it in memory strips away half the ’80s production and makes it even better, and the recording itself deserves marks for that, because so few recordings achieve that so effectively. (I have no desire, by comparison, to replay in my head the same tune and lyrics recorded in sub-Nickelback style.) This has to be an 8, and I could even be nudged to a 9.

  18. 18
    TomLane on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Oh hell, it’s a 10. And I love the sax solo. Like Tom said this is a defining ballad for George Michael. “Father Figure” as good as it is doesn’t have the universal appeal of this. In the U.S. this not only went to #1, but it got to #8 on the R&B chart. So, even though it hasn’t been covered by many Soul artists it’s more than likely to get played on Old School oriented radio stations.

  19. 19
    wichita lineman on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Re 11: It felt like a clear career move at the time and not a bid for freedom from Andrew Ridgley. No one thought Wham were about to split.

    RE 12: DEOTS again more guilt, not much regret. Can’t think of any other guilty adultery 45s off top of my head, apart from one coming up that’s Bunny-embargoed. The title – in the marble garbled vowels of the singer – sounds rather like a French cheese.

  20. 20
    johnny on 18 Aug 2009 #

    i have to agree with some of the others, this is a 10. in a year of nonsense gimmick-pop (i’m looking at you, lebon), finally a true standard which the author was smart enough to leave relatively sparse and open. what always strikes me when i hear “careless whisper” is there are no denials or excuses being made about the adultery. he is honest and accepting of the consequences. those lonely “da da da”s at the end always get me. a perfect contrast to the cold, clattering “two tribes”.

  21. 21
    Michael Daddino on 18 Aug 2009 #

    I hate this song primarily because of its three revolting instrumental hooks: the guitar solo, the synthy bit at the end (a phlegmier version of what you hear in “Moments in Love”), and the sax line. The last one–I realize for the first time–has always triggered unconscious associations with horn-based musical evocations of sexual sordidness like David Rose’s “The Stripper,” Charles Mingus’ Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and probably a dozen other things I have in mind but can’t exactly place. It’s kind of an overwrought–and yet still terribly bland–thing to have on a record like this.

    I hate this song’s video because it rests on such an obnoxious madonna/whore dichotomy: Girlfriend #1 is “sweet” and “nice” but Girlfriend #2 is obviously a HARLOT because she actually stoops to HAVE SEX with George Michael and gives Girlfriend #1 a smug little look about it, too.

  22. 22
    swanstep on 18 Aug 2009 #

    I always thought of the ‘guilty feet’ line as a howler, so it’s interesting to read that others love(d) it.

    Anyhow, beautifully arranged song that surprized at the time (in something like the way Time (Clock of the heart) had done earlier for Boy George): nobody quite suspected that something *this* polished was in the cards for Michael. And coming so quickly after the unstoppable ‘Wake me Up…”, it really did settle that Michael was a mega-star to be reckoned with. Best/peak moment? The beginning of the second verse that sets up the title: ‘Time can never mend’ as the bass tickles down some quicker notes. Bee-yootiful.

    No complaints from anyone about the vid.? (No complaints from me about, ahem, that swimsuit.) Not quite my sort of thing overall, but an admirable:
    9

  23. 23
    montgomery on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Regretful adultery… Billy Paul got to #1 in the US and #12 in the UK with Me and Mrs Jones.

    As for the song at hand, love the song but can’t go higher than an 8. The sax bit is a double-edged sword, it works as a great hook but, as others have noted, ultimately it’s an annoying one as well. There are much better sax hooks in the cannon (eg, Baker Street, Your Love Is King, most Coasters tunes).

  24. 24
    Pete on 18 Aug 2009 #

    As a big defender of overblown horn solo’s, I think Careless Whisper underblows a bit and thus underwhelms. The syrupy production cannot hide what is a terrific song, but if you ever do it at karaoke its stentorian pace and instrumental breaks give it an oddly deathly rattle. I own my sisters copy, and I think it may be the first single I can remember having that had an instrumental version on the B-Side. Which makes crystal clear that the fault in the song is in the production. Always felt more calculating than heartfelt to me, I will go with Tom’s seven here.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 18 Aug 2009 #

    I’ve not been joining in the game of allocating marks to Popular entries, but I should think this would be in the very upper ranges. It’s funny how people who dislike this sort of thing tend to ascribe descriptions such as cocktail-bar soul, Essex boy racer, which might have been familiar in their world and indeed that of the performer, but will be alien to a lot of people who nevertheless love the record. I was a world away from it in Manchester (heck, this was the summer I went to the Hacienda for the one and only time – to see Jonathan Richman!) but there was no escaping this and no mistaking its sheer quality.

    I’m not sure what time of year this was written, but it’s a perfect summer hit – the sultry saxophone, the languid pace, the overall tone redolent of the heat of a sticky summer night. The lyric flows beautifully, effortlessly, the vocal utterly convincing.

    Number 2 Watch – a grateful nation salutes George for holding off Black Lace’s “Agadoo” for two weeks.

    Channel 4 Top 100 Watch – this is the 34th best-selling single of all time in the UK.

  26. 26
    enitharmon on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Erm – was this George Michael? Well, blow me down! I saw this coming up and I thought “what? never heard of it”. And then when I heard it I just knew it, one of those songs that’s just part of the furniture, in a very agreeable way of course. It’s kinda not how I always imagined George Michael but then I’m now learning that most George Michael is not how I imagined George Michael. Perhaps I just thing in terms of early Wham! with a touch of disdain.

    But anyhow, this is something I am unwittingly very familiar with and one I have always liked a lot – but then I’m a sucker for a sax break. A very nice ditty, one that rises above the run-of-the-mill and packs a lot of spine-shivering power.

    You can see, can’t you, how by the second half of 1984 my relationship with the pop charts is finally disintegrating!

  27. 27
    mike on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Blimey, so much love for this? I’m considerably less fond. The verses drag tunelessly, the sax break grates, and the preening faux-sincerity fails to convince. So, yup, I was another disillusioned former Wham fan who thought they’d lost the plot in the quest to Make It Big. (And this isn’t a patch on “Nothing Looks The Same In The Light”, the sole ballad on the debut album Fantastic and a spot-on depiction of the aftermath of an ill-advised one-night stand, which I also took as an instant signifier of George Michael’s sexuality.) A grudging five from me.

  28. 28
    Tracer Hand on 18 Aug 2009 #

    There’s about 5000 reggae versions of this song, all of which are terrific. Which must count for something.

  29. 29
    Glue Factory on 18 Aug 2009 #

    For me, this is all about the fantastic middle-8 where George wants to “leave this crowd”, his control finally breaks and the melody spirals away from what had gone before. Listening again, I can hear that it’s a trick George returns to (at least once) on a future, bunny-embargoed record where he describes what he’d like to do in his BMW (not drive-into-the-back-of-a-lorry, unfortunately :-))

  30. 30
    Conrad on 18 Aug 2009 #

    I didn’t care much for this at the time, but by mid-1984 I was dividing my music listening between the Top 40 and, er, Bob Dylan, who I had discovered through hearing “Union Sundown” which I absolutely loved.

    In terms of the pop charts, I was more into Aztec Camera and the Smiths. Still, this was omnipresent throughout the summer of 84, as omnipresent as an England batting collapse in fact.

    I come to this objectively therefore – I’m listening without prejudice George – and while I don’t quite get the love-in, I do think it’s a beautiful song, recorded a touch too slowly. And I like the sax break -its memorable, it’s teetering on tongue-in-cheek, but clearly isn’t, and it helps give the recording a powerful earnestness.

    And it is a terrific vocal.

    7’s about right. On a good day an 8.

  31. 31
    Rory on 18 Aug 2009 #

    #22 – Interesting to hear the “guilty feet” line described as a howler. I can see why, but to me it perfectly evokes the shuffling gait of the hangdog. I wonder if people love it because it suggests that intriguing emotional explanations could lie behind their bad dancing. “I’m never gonna dance again… jilted feet do the disco hustle…”

  32. 32
    Steve Mannion on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Tracer’s remark about reggae cover versions has really highlighted for me the ease with which this song would fit the rhythmic parameters of that genre. And now I’m hearing a flawless segue from this into ‘Ghost Town’ :D

    I don’t rate this any more than ‘Hello’ tho. It’s some way off but GM’s next solo effort resonates far greater I feel.

  33. 33
    ace inhibitor on 18 Aug 2009 #

    the ‘guilty feet’ line was borrowed as the punchline to Big Flame’s epic ‘Why Pop Stars Can’t Dance’. which unaccountably failed to chart

  34. 34
    Pete Baran on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Other covers of note would include the excellent Gossip one from that Radio One covers pile of toss last year.

  35. 35
    swanstep on 18 Aug 2009 #

    @rory. ‘Guilty feet’ always sounded rather silly to me (‘Howler’ may have been a bit strong) in rather the same way that ‘suicide blonde’ in an inxs song years later also did. Maybe loosely personifying body parts just makes me laugh. (But I unreservedly *love* stuff like e. costello’s ‘the high heel that you used to be has been ground down’ from Man Out of Time – so it seems there’s a fine line for me between genius and risible lyrics).

    At any rate, your ‘shuffling gait of the hangdog’ is beautiful, and charity now suggests that that probably *was* essentially what Michael was getting at (which makes me thick/insentive at least in this particular). Double or nothing if you can save/explain the inxs phrase too!

  36. 36
    Rory on 18 Aug 2009 #

    It’s a DIY bottle blonde. Dyed by her own hand. A bit more groanworthy!

  37. 37
    Izzy on 18 Aug 2009 #

    That Gossip cover *is* good. I also liked the ‘Heavy Cross’ remix featured on blue lines revisited recently, so long as I ignore the awful lyrics – seems like they’re a good band so long as someone else does the heavy lifting.

    Any suggestions as to which reggae versions of ‘Careless Whisper’ I should check out?

  38. 38
    mike on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Spotify has a lovers rock version by Jerry Harris, but it’s pretty awful…

  39. 39
    Mark M on 18 Aug 2009 #

    Re 33: I was waiting to see if BIg Flame were going to get a mention…

  40. 40
    Conrad on 18 Aug 2009 #

    “Careless Whisper” reached Number 1 exactly 25 years ago today

  41. 41
    AndyPandy on 19 Aug 2009 #

    ‘Club Tropicana’ excepted I wasn’t converted to George Michael until ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (although his next SOLO number – nb not that apalling duet -has since become one of my favourite tracks of all time) but since then he’s become one of my favourite figures in popular music.

    That being said however I’ve always found this track quite cringeworthy and in particular have always found the middle eight about ‘lose this crowd’ etc particularly annoying – to me its not a culmination of a great track but more like a cynical (and quite predictable in its structure) attempt at wringing out very fake emotion.
    The complete antithesis of the honesty of the majority of his tracks since ‘Prejudice’.

  42. 42
    Elsa on 20 Aug 2009 #

    I think it’s both a great and terrible record – great in construction and performance; terrible not due to any particular element but as Pete said, the overall “syrupy production.” Part of this effect is the Spano-kitsch sound it has in common with Madge’s “Las Isla Bonita,” though I like that song less. Heard “Whisper” on the radio recently and the impressive and appalling sides of it rang loud and clear. I’d imagine most songwriters would be pleased to dream up something of this quality however.

  43. 43
    steve on 21 Aug 2009 #

    This is my theory of Toms scoring Method:

    1) Two Tribes – a really beefy MASCULINE song if ever there was one – you can hear it literally oozing testosterone!!!
    Tom is a man, he gives it 10.

    C/F

    2) Careless Whisper – Love song – oestrogen for miles around – FEMININE song.
    Tom is a man, he gives it 7.

    For me, both songs are each a masterpiece deserving 10, and yet if I was told I can only give 10 to one of them, it would be TT.(I’m a man, by the way)

    Much as you may protest over this generalisation – I defy any of you say that no songs have a gender bias that would affect your judgement, no matter what you may think about the “quality” of the production etc.

  44. 44
    steve on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Oh – I almost forgot – guess what’s coming next? Stevie Wonder I believe! This should be good. Another Million Selling LOVE SONG.

    If Tom was a sexy woman, he’d give it maybe….8 ?
    The male Tom can only give it…let’s see…I predict…3.

  45. 45
    Erithian on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Hmm, you might need the Sandi Thom tin hat for this, Steve…

  46. 46
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Hi Steve:

    Actually, there is a kind of embargo on starting discussions of upcoming songs till they actually come up — it usually comes with warnings about bunnies, for reasons lost to the mists of mentalism.

    In my opinion REAL men don’t need any stupid testosterone to be manly.

  47. 47
    Lex on 21 Aug 2009 #

    I love “Careless Whisper” because it’s basically a Sade song. Not quite as much as I love Sade, but an easy 9. I don’t agree with the “raw feeling” vs “smooth production” argument – the slick, smooth, adult glide of the sax/congas/synths is the perfect frame for the grown-up emotion of the song.

    (NB: I hate all Wham songs that I’ve heard, especially that awful “Go-Go” single that I didn’t have time to hate on when it came up.)

  48. 48
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Does anyone on the panel know when this species of late-nite sex-sax became a thing? I notice Daddino mentioned Mingus — did he start it? (Awesome if so…) And Gato Barbieri’s soundtrack for Last Tango in Paris was knida notoriois at the time…

  49. 49
    wichita lineman on 21 Aug 2009 #

    My shout (though a bit proto) would be Classics IV’s original version of Spooky from early ’68. Almost identical arrangement to Dusty Springfield’s now more celebrated version. More suggestive than sleazy, though.

    It felt like there was a real glut of sex-sax 45s in ’78, with B Joel’s Just The Way You Are top of the heap.

  50. 50
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Aug 2009 #

    It’s the kind of thing that’s a bit off the map of grownup jazz history, even though it overlaps with it: the kind of jazzers who pay attention to history tend to look down on it; the kind of fans who like it tend not to be good with history. You can probably go back to someone like Ben Webster or Coleman Hawkins for the germ of it: but neither did it as a colouring-smidgen for someone else’s singing, and had a lot of other expressive modes (= they were jazzers). 50s R&B favoured honkers: much less languid or citified. There’s a biiiig jump between swing and swinging couples: the sax behind Sinatra isn’t louche in this one-night-stand kinda way. Bah — something else I forgot to quiz R.D.Cook about before he died :(

  51. 51
    Tom on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Haha I hadn’t read this thread for a while – dead-on from Steve! (a surname identifier might be nice, I assume you aren’t a Steve I already know…?)

    Always happy to have my unconscious and conscious biases exposed! Popular is a wholly subjective exercise and I’m the product of my time, place, gender, race, background etc.

    (The embargo on discussing future #1s is partly to stop said discussion triggering my contrarian buttons)

  52. 52
    Tom on 21 Aug 2009 #

    If anyone wants to start a guess-Tom’s-marks betting shop backchannel though, I’d be all for it.

  53. 53
    Tim on 21 Aug 2009 #

    I was going to say: first Peter Saville sleeve on Popular? But then I looked it up, and it seems he did “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” too. I was surprised.

    So: first really obviously Peter Saville sleeve on Popular?

  54. 54
    Tom on 21 Aug 2009 #

    WMUBYGG’s sleeve is so much better than this, which looks like they got the intern to “do a Peter Saville”.

  55. 55
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Aug 2009 #

    PS did the WMUBYGG sleeve posted on popular — the one with the girlie who isn’t pepsi or shirley?

    Can I just say how incredibly boring and trite P.Saville’s work looks these days — far more date-tied and trashily transient than everyone who wasn’t trying so VERY VERY HARD to zelig their way into Art History

  56. 56
    MikeMCSG on 21 Aug 2009 #

    #10 Agreed.Shamefaced is the better word.

  57. 57
    Tim on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Sukrat: yes, according to this: http://homepage2.nifty.com/truefaith/tosq/petersaville/1982-1984.html (from here: http://www.tosq.com/petersaville/ ) I tend to agree, but I think some of the stuff still looks totally luscious.

    The ! of Wham! on WMUBYGG reminds me of the colour coding on “Power Corruption and Lies”. Just saying.

  58. 58
    steve on 21 Aug 2009 #

    Sorry Tom. But having read so many of your critiques on most of the records on here, I think i have you sussed….Great minds think alike! The surname won’t help – Smith!…not kidding.

    You may be intrigued by the fact that I’m 20 years older than you, but also consider myself a bit of an authority of No. 1 hit singles. Up to 1984, that is. i found that from ’85 onwards, I rapidly aged out of the pop music world, so from hereon in I will have few opinions about the second half of your brilliant and entertaining website…..I’ll still read it though.

    P.S. I live too far from London for your upcoming Party, but if ever you’re in Manchester……

  59. 59
    Billy Smart on 23 Aug 2009 #

    Hm, interesting to hear Dale Winton playing this in its 1984 context yesterday, and it made me enjoy it rather more than I was expecting. In the context of perhaps the most bombastic sounding chart music ever (for good in the case of Frankie, Laura Branigan and Iron Maiden) this thing sounded positively sedate, and exudes exactly the right sort of moodiness. And the flamenco guitar is lovely.

    I found it really plodding and boring at the time, though.

    No-one has yet commented on the obvious but rather wonderful binary complimenting of this and Last Christmas; Summer/ I done you wrong – Winter/ You done me wrong.

  60. 60
    Billy Smart on 24 Aug 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: George Michael performed ‘Careless Whisper’ on the Top Of The Pops transmitted on the 23rd of August 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Alphaville, Break Machine, Miami Sound Machine and Spandau Ballet. Mike Read & Tommy Vance were the hosts.

  61. 61
    Matthew H on 24 Aug 2009 #

    Erm, SmashHitsWatch: George didn’t really draw the solo distinction, referring to ‘Wake Me Up…’ and this bookending ‘Two Tribes’ as “a Frankie sandwich! Or maybe a Wham!burger!”

    I’m not particularly warm to ‘Careless Whisper’. Bought it like a Pavlov dog but it became one for the mums really, didn’t it? I found that alienating.

  62. 62
    DV on 25 Aug 2009 #

    I always think of members of the Guild of British Saxophonists citing this as an example of how great things were in the 80s.

  63. 63
    Billy Smart on 31 Aug 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: George isn’t on television all that often;

    ASPEL & COMPANY: with Peter Cook, George Michael, Jacqueline Bisset (1986)

    PARKINSON: Parkinson Meets George Michael (1998)

    PARKINSON: with George Michael, Alan Alda, Jamie Foxx (2006)

    PARKINSON: with Scissor Sisters, Stephen Fry, George Michael, Joan Rivers (2007)

    POP QUIZ: with Simon Kirke, Hazel O’Connor, George Michael, Jools Holland, Bill Bruford, Buster Bloodvessel (1983)

    POP QUIZ: with Jon Moss, Tracie, Steve Harley, George Michael, Curt Smith, Chris Rea (1984)

    THE SOUTH BANK SHOW: George Michael (1990)

    THE SOUTH BANK SHOW: George Michael: I’m Your Man (2006)

    STAR STORIES: George Michael: Watch Without Prejudice Vol 1 (2006)

  64. 64
    Brooksie on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Instant classic. Never really understood how something that’s forgivable for one artist is a stick to beat another. “Guilty feet” is a clunky line, but the song also features a lot of great lines and a cracking sax hook.

    “Tonight the music seems so loud / I wish that we could lose this crowd”
    “Maybe it’s better this way / We’d hurt each other with the things we want to say”

    Those lines alone are stronger than 75% of all ballad lyrics. They also have a ring of truth to anyone that’s been there. Even if it is well-executed calculation – it works.

    10 for me: George, you’re going to be a big star. Even if everyone knocks you, they’re just proving they can’t hear very well. You’re in another league. Kiss Frankie and Duran goodbye. Say hello to MJ and Madonna.

  65. 65
    flahr on 2 May 2012 #

    Coming to it a bit late, but I notice that the link at #57 reveals that the answer to the question at #53 is that the first Peter Saville sleeve on Popular is er Phil Collins’s “You Can’t Hurry Love” :/

    Tom is correct in pointing out how great the lyrics to the middle eight are; I don’t share his dislike of the sax hook, which is probably why I’d grade this one higher than him. For all it’s been overplayed it still sounds reet smooth.

  66. 66
    Erithian on 9 Jun 2012 #

    Who caught today’s Pick of the Pops rundown of the top 20 best-sellers of the 80s, during which Tony Blackburn sensationally revealed that this song was written by Andrew Ridgeley?

    He did correct himself after playing the record though, by saying that Andrew co-wrote it with George…

  67. 67
    Jimmy the Swede on 9 Jun 2012 #

    That puts me in mind of that wonderful old “Spitting Image” sketch which mocked Ridgeley mercilessly. Andrew’s puppet was asking who does this and that and that and this and a chorus popping up in reply singing: “We know it was George!” and Ridgley sheepishly admitting: “Alright, it was George!” Cruel but so true. Chocolate teapot, that bugger!

  68. 68
    punctum on 2 Jun 2014 #

    TPL on one of the most misunderstood of all number one albums.

  69. 69
    hectorthebat on 6 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Blender (USA) – Top 500 Songs of the 80s-00s (2005) 248
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone & MTV (USA) – The 100 Greatest Pop Songs Since the Beatles (2000) 89
    Soul Bounce (USA) – The Top 100 Soul/R&B Songs (2008) 74
    Musikexpress (Germany) – The 700 Best Songs of All Time (2014) 592
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  70. 70
    weej on 26 Dec 2016 #

    Not sure what to write here except really? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38432862

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