10
Aug 09

WHAM! – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

FT + Popular78 comments • 8,930 views

#535, 2nd June 1984, video

“We play it in marching band camp. fun song. no sharps or flats! yay”: this YouTube comment nails “Wake Me Up”‘s enduring appeal – it’s a song full of communal, kinetic, shade-free positivity. This might be nauseating but isn’t, thanks mostly to George Michael’s dynamism and his gleeful joy in his own fast-developing gifts. He produced the song as well as wrote it, and keeps things simple, building a supple funk-pop groove from keyboard and bass and then letting his own forcefulness fill the space. Two-thirds through the horns come in and the record bursts into renewed life – that trumpet-and-drum break shunting the track up a level.

In Wham!’s discography, though, “Wake Me Up” was a bit of a let down – their first three singles bounced in on a wholly addictive combination of magpied street-dance, pop shamelessness and a dash of hedonism. “Club Tropicana” took the shamelessness and the pleasure-seeking and turned them into a manifesto, saying things out loud the rest of the new old pop was coy about. All this tapped the same consumerist, individualist currents as Thatcherism, though Michael was no Tory (and the Iron Lady surely wouldn’t have approved off the off-your-bike pro-dole “Wham Rap!”). But Wham!’s early music feels more content-rich and speaks to its times more than anything their pop peers made. It helped that – as was frankly necessary for a band containing A.Ridgeley – they were utterly unafraid of looking naff.

But these songs didn’t get to Number One, and “Wake Me Up” did. You can absolutely tell why – it’s a blast, it ruthlessly sells George Michael as a pop star, but that’s really all it does, and while my disappointment at its lack of substance probably seems unfair, it’s only compounded by the way this has become the Wham! disco pick forever after.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Local boys made good. Whilst I love those early Wham! singles, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go is one of those records which grabbed me by the pop balls the moment I heard it. Record and Play for the second time it was on (little bit of Graham Dene’s voice at the end on my taped version). I think it is a mixture of the ridiculously high pop production values and the audicity of the nonsense lyrics. Unlike their contemporaries in Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, this period of Wham! told you up front that their song was a bit silly. Oddly, lyrically Wake Me Up makes a whole lot more sense than any of the Durannies numbers at the time, but there is a full frontal embracement of the silliness of pop that George Michael would flirt with for the rest of his career.

    Its this I go back to if I ever feel I can’t quite get my head around the nonsense of a Gwen Stefani or Fergie song. Not their best musical moment, but a defining pop moment for me. 8.

    (Oh, and a video that looks EXACTLY as you would imagine it. It doesn’t need to do anything else than bounce and smile.)

  2. 2
    logged-out Tracer Hand on 10 Aug 2009 #

    This was the first big hit I felt superior to, rather than just loathing. I still think it’s pretty bad, but the “Jitterbug” bits are superb.

    George Michael’s teeth wouldn’t be this white again until after the millenium.

  3. 3
    Tom on 10 Aug 2009 #

    #1 I just think I like George more when he gives in to his grouchiness or emoness a bit. I really hated this at the time, though, but I was a mental. The song that converted me to Yog is embargoed so more of that anon.

  4. 4
    Erithian on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Number one during Finals week! A piece of commercial pop, as frothy as they come, and utterly brilliant for it. This was one of the things that got us through that uniquely stressful week in our lives (along with the release of watching Liverpool win the European Cup on the night before the first exam). I can still remember the empathy with the girl who managed to spill a kettle of boiling water onto her writing hand on the eve of finals week, and coming to terms with the fact that from the bathroom window in our hall of residence you could see the building where the exam room lay – so no escape! Except for when you heard the number one of course.

    You might even say, Tom, that this has as many hooks as anythng since “Sugar Sugar” and is a damn sight more danceable. Maybe not cool for a 22-year-old bloke to like Wham!, but this was one I just couldn’t resist. As grim as the mid-80s political and economic scene might be for those on the wrong end of Thatcherism, its pop was a great party, which is why it’s so fondly remembered – whether it reflects its politics or escapes it. As Deniece was saying down at Number 2 Watch, let’s hear it for the boy(s).

  5. 5
    Tom Lawrence on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Ah, memories! I still wasn;t born when this was #1, but this is asong I have memories of, for a very specific reason – around the age of five I owned a small electronic keyboard, which I couldn’t play, but it DID have a dmeo feature, and an instrumental version of this (arranged for synthesised marimba and squashed duck noises) is what it would play.

    It would be some time before I would connect that strange annoying tune with an actual musical record, much less with the fgure of George Michael, who by the time I became aware of him was of course a solo artist.

  6. 6
    johnny on 10 Aug 2009 #

    i always mistook the line “don’t wanna miss it when you hit that high” as “don’t wanna listen when you get that high”. i like my version much better.

  7. 7
    Steve Mannion on 10 Aug 2009 #

    And there’s ultra-bouffant George up on deck now, long may well he reign.

    This is my least favourite #1 ft. GM with one possible 90s exception…and maybe one coming much much sooner. Rather like ‘Hello’ the naffness of the video outstrips the song’s own “problems” although those are all too abundant here anyway and for me boil down to the boys shifting from 70s influences (disco, funk) to the kinds of 50s/60s influences i care far less for – a retro-active step but it clearly paid off, and at least they’d follow it up with what sound like homages (or rip-offs if you’re feeling less generous) to past #1s I can tolerate more easily.

    Better opportunities ahead to discuss GM’s voice so will leave that until then.

  8. 8
    Rory on 10 Aug 2009 #

    In my first year of pop obsession a few bands loomed large, and one of those was Wham!, whose name – complete with exclamation mark – made for excellent block capitals in black permanent marker on the back of a wooden ruler. My obsession was based entirely on one song, “Wham Rap”, with its “D.H.S.S.” chant and get-on-down funkiness. It made me think that this rapping business might have something to it, but its early-’80s representatives on the Australian charts were all ring-ins – Wham!, Blondie, Malcolm McLaren – and by the time the real thing arrived, I’d lost interest.

    In hindsight, I started to lose interest in Wham! not long after their debut album came out, even though at the time it was a prized purchase. They showed some nous calling it Fantastic, an even more hubristic title than Thriller, and one that turned every mention into a review: “Wham!’s new album is Fantastic.” “Is it really? Thanks for the tip, I’ll pick it up.” But I wasn’t sure it was. I still loved “Wham Rap”, but the album tracks didn’t quite match its excitement, and the elusive singles “Bad Boys” and “Young Guns”, which I’d missed when they were in the shops (they were released first in Oz), were a little disappointing after all the anticipation. Only the Miracles cover “Love Machine” caught my interest. By the end of the year I had swapped the record with my brother and moved on to new rulers and new bands.

    So by the time “Wake Me Up” was topping the Australian charts (for seven weeks, including a return to the top after a week of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”), my love for Wham! had well and truly waned, and I dismissed the song as fluff. The whole white-shirts-and-teeth look seemed far too calculated to a sixteen-year-old mastering the fine art of cynicism, and the “jitterbug” intro sounded like an imitation of the hated “Uptown Girl”. I didn’t buy the single, or the album, or anything else to do with the band – not even when Rolling Stone went into Serious Grown-Up Music orgasms over George Michael’s Faith.

    So let’s see how it holds up on a fresh viewing, rather than in tainted memory…

    It’s great. I was a fickle teenage flake. 7, if not 8.

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 10 Aug 2009 #

    The fifties pastiche element is lifted from Happy Days rather than original source material, which gives it a cut-price, Wrigleys gum ad superficiality.

    It’s too squeakily positive for me, all winks and toothpaste grins, thin and silly underneath those brass blasts. Uptown Girl kinda gets away with it through its thick, NYC-size production; this sounds like Bushey’s retro diner. The number one WMUBYGG reminds me of more than Uptown Girl, while its emotional counterpoint, is the equally thin and silly Seasons In The Sun.

    Oh, isn’t “You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day” a first, gentle cri de coeur from still-closeted GM?

  10. 10
    Weej on 10 Aug 2009 #

    I was expecting to agree with you here. My memories of the song are pretty much as you describe – a harmless ‘fun pop’ hit with bags of energy and charm, but after watching the video I just feel a bit nauseated by the whole thing. It all just seems so contrived and hollow, a lowest-common-denominator shiny product with nothing underneath it. Even the horn break just grates on me now.
    On a side note, #5, I had that keyboard too! The song seemed perfectly suited to it for some reason.

    (A video link for those in the UK who can’t watch music vids on Youtube for silly reasons: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2aixj_wham-wake-me-up-before-you-gogo_music )

  11. 11
    Tom Lawrence on 10 Aug 2009 #

    #9 – The whole thing codes extremely camp now, even for the eighties where this sort of thing was commonplace. Doris Day references, short, tight shorts, falsetto swoops, plucked eyebrows and ear studs.

    But everything’s obvious in retrospect.

  12. 12
    anto on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Wham! become the last of the “big 4” to go to number one following Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club. Personally I think this particular 4 produced very few decent records between them and in an ideal world the big 4 would have been Dexys, The Associates, Altered Images and The Human League.

  13. 13
    Tom on 10 Aug 2009 #

    #9 #11 – the moment in early Wham! I’ve never been able to hear in quite the same way is George’s passionate stay-away-from-the-ladies plea on “Young Guns” – “But you’re heeeeere….”

  14. 14
    Billy Smart on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Good though it is, I do see this as being another staging post along pop’s retreat away from exciting modernist playfulness and into comforting retro signifiers of quality that’s the single defining bad trend of the 1980s UK singles chart. The sun shining brighter than Doris Day is a lot more agreeable than the emulatory “listening to Marvin all night long” for me, but is part of the same syndrome.

    While the first four singles do seem rooted in the world of 1982 North London, this feels like an attempt to write a “timeless pop classic” that could exist at any time and attract listeners anywhere in the world. It was clearly entirely successful in fulfilling this ambition; number one in America, listeners from generations other than young people in 1984, but it felt like something got lost along the way.

    Apart from perhaps in the Wham! single that only got to #2. But more of that anon…

  15. 15
    Billy Smart on 10 Aug 2009 #

    I think that I must have been rather like Tom as an eleven year-old, and this song was precisely the sort of thing that I should have felt was sent on earth to irritate me. However, I didn’t actually mind it all that much, which is some tribute to Goerge Michael’s way with a tune.

    Advertising watch: A series of London Transport posters of 1984 encourage us kids to get teenage day bus tickets with the slogan “Pick me up before you go-go!”

    That was an open invitation for defacing with sexist grafitti.

  16. 16
    TomLane on 10 Aug 2009 #

    A pure blast of Summer fun from the great Pop music year of 1984. A #1 in the U.S. as well. Come on! You can resist this?

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 10 Aug 2009 #

    #2 Watch: Two weeks of Denice Williams’ ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’

  18. 18
    Tom on 10 Aug 2009 #

    #15 Agree that something was lost Billy but I think after this something was found too, as George got more confident about his retro chops and started putting meatier content in there… but we’ll get to that!

    #16 like you say, a feast of classic pop around at the moment (Denice Williams!) so I feel able to be choosy ;)

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 10 Aug 2009 #

    While I quite enjoy Wham’s singles I find it hard to get wildly excited about them and this is no exception. There’s something efficient and pristine about the music which I find slightly off putting. I had tickets to see them at Crawley Leisure Centre on their UK tour of 1983 but they cancelled – allegedly because George had a sore throat. Perhaps that coloured my judgement.
    Prince made more compelling use of the backbeat this year with ‘Let’s go crazy’ – it’s one of the minuses of the year that despite the success of ‘Purple Rai’n (movie and album) none of the singles made number 1 in the UK.

  20. 20
    Jonathan Bogart on 10 Aug 2009 #

    I have never had to resist the urge to dance across campus listening to my iPod harder than when this song comes up. A ten from me.

    But then I’ve never heard (or more precisely paid attention to) any of Wham!’s other songs. And if they’d make me like this less, I don’t want to.

  21. 21
    jamesf on 10 Aug 2009 #

    I had heard this song many, MANY times before I ever once stopped to consider the lyrics (never been a lyrics person, myself). I could not contain my incredulity when a friend informed me that the chorus of the song was, in fact, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go / Don’t Leave Me Hanging on Like a Yo-Yo” … IT CAN’T BE! surely this was the Weird Al version … nope, those seem to be the actual lyrics. Was this penned by a five-year-old?

    Nevertheless, it remains a fantastic pop song. although frankly, any song which can overcome such painfully horrible lyrical shortcomings and remain even listenable has certainly achieved something.

  22. 22
    Tom on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Incidentally, while we’ll have plenty of later opportunities to consider the unique contributions made by Andrew Ridgeley, his “guitar strumming” in this video is a wonderfully audacious bit of business. Or Bez-ness.

  23. 23
    will on 10 Aug 2009 #

    Definitely a let-down after the first three Wham! singles, all of which had a slight anti-establishment veneer (especially Wham Rap). WMUBYGG was (and still is) too bouncy for its own good. And I HATED those Choose Life T-Shirts.

    Re 1: Yes, growing up in Watford area myself, Wham were very much seen as local lads who’d made it. Circa 1983 everyone at school seemed to have some sort of spurious George Michael-related story. They’d seen him at the bus stop/ down the chippy/ his sister cut their hair etc

  24. 24
    LondonLee on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Like Will said, the first three singles all copped an attitude of some sort but this one just seemed empty headed. I actually find it a little cynical too, it stinks of George throwing off the parochial Englishness of the previous singles and writing a ‘taking over the world’ record. Which worked obviously.

  25. 25
    Snif on 11 Aug 2009 #

    >>And I HATED those Choose Life T-Shirts.

    I saw a lot of “Choose Death” t-shirts about in response to that.

  26. 26
    swanstep on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Yes, between the ‘Frankie says x’ shirts and the ‘Choose y’ shirts, and Talking Heads-heads trying to get everyone to just, please, Stop Making Sense (I was sympathetic), it felt like a pretty didactic time in pop. Even though most of it was largely content-free. Odd.

    Utterly compelling record first 50 listens:
    8

  27. 27
    Rory on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Thinking some more about why I reacted to this so warmly on a fresh listen yesterday, I think it’s partly Popular’s fault. This whole enterprise is a cynicism vaccine when it comes to pop songs, which neutralizes my teenage reaction of “what a sell-out piece of fluff”. Of course the makers of pop songs try to make them more popular – that’s the point. Once you accept that, the question then becomes “did they succeed?” – did they hit that sweet spot of an exquisitely catchy tune, polished production, and (in the image-obsessed ’80s) unforgettable look? With “Wake Me Up”, Wham! clearly did.

    And it’s really not such a drastic break from their early sound, despite the ’50s touches; this and “Wham Rap” are both full of horn stabs and dance-floor action. The lyrics may have lost their street vibe, but that wasn’t all it seemed, either: the lyrics to “Wham Rap” read as easily today as Tory apology than as Labour protest. “Hey kids, sorry you’re on the dole, but don’t let it stop you having fun!” As for the deeper messages of “Young Guns” (wise guys stay single!) and “Bad Boys” (let’s join a gang!), are they really that preferable to “take me dancing tonight”?

    I also want to go back in time and give the people who made the parody “Choose Death” T-shirts a good shake. Okay, so the Wham! ones were sappy (although hardly inconsistent with their “Wham Rap” message), but what’s so smart about the opposite? We all knew sixteen-year-olds who did choose death. I wonder what kind of 41-year-olds they might have been.

  28. 28
    LondonLee on 11 Aug 2009 #

    The ‘Choose Life’ t-shirts weren’t designed by Wham! but by Katherine Hamnett who created the baggy slogan t-shirt the year before.

    A word on the retro feel of this record. Sure, it’s catchy as hell but those lyrics would have gotten you booted out of the Brill Building or Motown HQ.

  29. 29
    lonepilgrim on 11 Aug 2009 #

    re28 you are too modest Lee – I’m very impressed by your involvement in the original Katherine Hamnett T-shirt production process

  30. 30
    Rory on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Lee, your comment has an href tag with mismatched quotes, which breaks some browsers – is there still time to fix it?

    We first met the Hamnett shirts in the Relax thread, so I wasn’t thinking that George and Andrew designed these, just that they popularized them. Made the slogan their own, as it were.

  31. 31
    AndyPandy on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Will @23: those tenuous attempts at a connection with Wham!/George Michael even stretched a few miles down the M25 to where I was – a girl who used to come clubbin’ with us in 1983/early 1984 was supposedly a cousin of George – she was half Greek too so it sort of seemed plausible at the time…it may even have been true!

  32. 32
    LondonLee on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Sorry about that Rory, I had some browser issue at the time that wouldn’t let me fix it. This is it:

    http://www.londonlee.com/2009/08/getting-shirty.html

  33. 33
    wichita lineman on 11 Aug 2009 #

    George M’s sister ran a shop in Highgate until recently, which he helped set up. It only sold white things. An intriguing concept, but I went in for some sugar once and she didn’t have any.

    Re 27: So glad I’m not the only person who doesn’t equate Wham Rap with Phil Ochs. “Soul” rhymes with “dole”, I think that was the line of thought. Sorry to sound cynical, Rory!

    Re 28: Not even a tea boy at either studio with that wafer-thin production.

    While we’re skirting the subject with Choose Life and Frankie Says, can I point out how hard it was to find decent clothes in the provinces in the “image obsessed” mid 80s? High street retailers were a pastel or loud check patterned nightmare. No wonder C86 was all about charity shops.

  34. 34
    Izzy on 11 Aug 2009 #

    A titbit from wikipedia: “Michael’s inspiration for the song was a scribbled note left by his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley for Andrew’s parents, originally intended to read “wake me up before you go” but with “up” accidentally written twice, so Ridgeley wrote “go” twice on purpose.” I love little stories like that, pop gold fashioned from the most unassuming sources.

  35. 35
    Tom on 11 Aug 2009 #

    #27 and #33 – I don’t think this lot could be taken as Tory apology:

    “HEY – JERK – YOU – WORK This boy’s got better things to do”
    “I ain’t never gonna work, get down in the dirt, I choose, to cruise.”
    “Hot-damn! Everybody, let’s play! So they promised you a good job – NO WAY!”
    “GIVE A WHAM GIVE A BAM BUT DON’T GIVE A DAMN COS THE BENEFIT GANG ARE GONNA PAY!”

    (excitable capitals courtesy of “sing365.com” not me!)

    Now this isn’t pro-Labour either by any means, and it’s not a programmatic song (or not in any way a realistic one), in fact it’s probably as much opportunist trolling as anything, but it IS political and doesn’t seem to me like a lazy accident.

    And to Rory – sure I agree w/the message of WMUBYGG more than the earlier stuff, but I also have a grillion songs with that message: the first four singles have a bit more character to ’em.

  36. 36
    Tom on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Incidentally, the video for Wham Rap is start-to-end OMG80s, especially

    – the unbelievable gormless woodenness of Andrew’s expression
    – “listen Mr Average YOU’RE A JERK”
    – “a jet black guy with a hip hi-fi” (session saxman holds up massive Walkman sheepishly)
    – “maybe leather and studs is where you’re at” (MAYBE INDEED)

  37. 37
    ace inhibitor on 11 Aug 2009 #

    Re #26, ‘a pretty didactic time in pop’, thats a really interesting point. Not that the New Didacticism shows up much in Popular; though ‘Wake me up…’ and ‘Relax’ are both titles taking the imperative form, they were the only ones from 1984; and my five minute survey suggests that 2 imperative number ones is actually very average (44 imperative No.1s for the 20 year period from 1965-84 makes 2.2 per year).

    In fact the high point for didactic number ones was the mid-70s, with 4 imperative titles in 1975 (‘Come up and see me make me smile’, ‘Stand by your man’, ‘Give a little love’, ‘Hold me close’), 3 in 1974 (‘Billy don’t be a hero’, ‘Rock your baby’, ‘Love me for a reason’) and a whopping 5 in 1973 (‘Cum on feel the noize’, ‘Get down’, ‘Skweez me pleez me’, ‘Can the can’, ‘See my baby jive’). ok, the last 2 are a bit dubious.

    Both 1969 and 1970, on the other hand, featured no didactic No.1s at all. Hippies.

  38. 38
    Pete Baran on 11 Aug 2009 #

    I think we need a pop imperitive number one graph.

  39. 39
    Rory on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Tom #35: Wellll… “Wham Rap” is political, yes, but it’s not exactly a stick-it-to-Thatcher song. That idea of “let’s party, the government are paying for it” is like a right-wing parody of lazy sponging lefties. Sure, there are artists and musicians who live off the dole to support their art, but they’re hardly living it large. The idea that dole life is a party life doesn’t sound like it comes from someone who’s lived it.

    Which may be the point: “Wham Rap”, like “Bad Boys”, is a fantasy portrayal of its subject. I see that George Michael grew up in a conservative area, which doesn’t mean he was conservative himself, but it doesn’t look as if he grew up walking the mean streets. (Maybe someone from Bushey can set me straight on that.) It isn’t what he thought his lyrics meant, though, so much as what others made of them, and because they don’t have that ring of truth it can’t have been hard for any lefty vibe to be ignored once Wham! made it big. Young Tories could dance to Wham! without guilt, because what were the early singles really saying anyway? In a way, “Wake Me Up” was a wake-up call, its trivial lyrics revealing how trivial most of their previous lyrics also were. Perhaps that’s what bothered me about it at the time. I’m not bothered now, though, because I’ve had two decades of not thinking of George Michael as a political lyricist, “Shoot the Dog” notwithstanding.

  40. 40
    will on 12 Aug 2009 #

    It should be noted that 1982/3 (when Wham Rap was first released) was long before UK tabloids became full of tiresome tales of ‘dole scroungers’. The unemployed, all 3 million of them, were seen as something of a noble, if pitiable, breed back then – viz Bleasdale’s Boys From The Blackstuff. Personally, I thought Wham Rap was funny, truthful and actually quite subversive. Few pop songs have attacked the time/work discipline of modern capitalism in such a gleeful manner.

  41. 41
    Rory on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Seen by whom, though? The Sun endorsed Thatcher, and I’d be a bit surprised if it wasn’t looking down on dole recipients by 1982. “Dole bludgers” had been a political football in Australia since the 1960s at least, and Murdoch would have known a useful hot-button topic when he saw one.

    I thought “Wham Rap” was fun and funny too, but I couldn’t know at fifteen whether it was truthful. It talked a good game; suggesting that a regular job is a sell-out was bound to appeal to young creative types. A subversive idea for sure, but it wasn’t the Man being subverted, it was the thousands of teenage psyches being encouraged to feel unsatisfied with what life was likely to offer them. If nine-to-five doesn’t turn out to be unalloyed bliss you’re a sell-out, and if life on the dole isn’t one big party you aren’t doing it right.

  42. 42
    wichita lineman on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Well, I was only saying that I don’t see Wham Rap as a political critique, or socialist in any way. My memory of the NME single of the week review is of something along those lines, and it gets referred to as at least ‘anti Tory’ constantly. It’s political but how is it “subversive”? In 1982/83 you’d have had to rely on a parental home to enjoy any kind of social life on the dole. Rory at 39 says it with flowers, can’t add much to that.

    But I will. Call me a killjoy – go on! – because Club Tropicana sounded to me, aged 18, like it had to be at someone’s expense, if only the bar staff’s, the “cheap holiday in other people’s misery” referenced just six years earlier. You can draw modern banker/pension investor parallels. Same with soul/dole on Wham Rap. Fantasist maybe, but not smart or subversive.

    So, to me at least, Wham! and “choose life” came over as kinda unthinking breezy middle Britain youth. I know George Michael loved Joy Division and wrote a few pretty good songs down the line, but WMUBYGG and its grinning, blonde-highlighted predecessors pushed all the wrong buttons for me. In 2009 Wake Me Up sounds like a Special K ad at best. On The Rebound only got 5, people!

  43. 43
    Tom on 12 Aug 2009 #

    You’d need a parental home to live life the Wham Rap way – yes, this is there in the song: the context is totally kids living with their parents. Parents and politicians say “get a job”, kids say “sod that”, effectively using the dole to call their bluff. As Will suggests, this is surely at least as realistic as the portrait of the dole as succour for the noble British artist painted by Jarvis Cocker etc. in later years.

    And enacting a caricature of a right-wing bogeyman – this is always a good and funny thing for pop to do IMO.

    No, it’s not remotely socialist, and nor did anybody here say it was – total straw man, comrades! As I said up above, it’s a bit of opportunistic trolling of politicians by attacking a value (work) they all agreed on.

    I do sympathise with Rory’s concern that Wham!’s outlook if thought through was totally irresponsible and selfish, and I’ve used similar yardsticks to damn records on Popular before (eg “Vincent”). Especially as GM was a total hypocrite – an extremely hard-working pop star. But I still love the record – in my top 100 of the 80s for certain.

  44. 44
    Matthew H on 12 Aug 2009 #

    #39 Mean streets of Bushey? My mum let me walk the half-mile to the library by myself from the age of 8. There was a gift shop called Hardy’s Ambit and a supermarket called Bishop’s. It was all very nice. I’m sure George had a lovely time.

    A devoted Wham! fan, I bought this but never considered it a favourite. My top choices are still to come. It’s a glorious pastiche, but in the same way I never felt particularly close to it – it sounded like a sop to the mums. It worked.

  45. 45
    Erithian on 12 Aug 2009 #

    ##37-38 – only people like us could have this sort of (faintly tragic) conversation! OK, 1970 had no didactic titles, but “In The Summertime” was full of instructions, many of which could really get you into trouble…

  46. 46
    Pete on 12 Aug 2009 #

    I have to admit to being a Hertsmere youth, but I was in Borehamwood, which was the outnumbered Labour town surrounded by poshos in Bushey and Potters Bar, returning Cecil Parkinson to the House.

    It would have been about this time that Cecil, came to my middle School to chat to an assembly, clearly he had time on his hands post resignation. As School swot with loudest voice I was chosen to introduce Cecil to the School, and together with our English teacher we came up with two speeches. One, for the rehearsal, fawning over CP. And one, which I actually used on the day, slightly more critical of the Tory party and with a few not subtle at all digs at his downfall. The kids didn’t get any of these satiric gags (mainly about children and the fact he had a new one), but the teachers loved it which meant I got the softest detention ever. I fear however it set me from being a goodie goodie student to being a little bit more disruptive at a later School.

  47. 47
    Steve Mannion on 12 Aug 2009 #

    I do love the contrast in attitude between the protagonist of ‘Wham Rap’ and one Man Parrish of NYC who, according to ‘Boogie Down Bronx’, you would never catch “on the welfare line”. Parrish and Michael would perhaps find common ground further into their respective careers, on the subject of male strippers.

  48. 48
    Pete Baran on 12 Aug 2009 #

    The idea of the dole as Pop Star YTS seems ingrained in the British pop myth, with a number of record companies going to bat for it in recent times! Though the relative worth of UK dole and US Welfare has to be compared too (esp in the 80’s).

  49. 49
    Conrad on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)

    is not politically-motivated I don’t think. More about espousing a decadent lifestyle, or at least a lifestyle where you prioritise fun over anything else – the clue’s in the title. Live for now,have a laugh with your mates, enjoy your youth, stay free – the same sentiments cropped up in the follow-up. All pretty good advice really

    God, the first two Wham! singles were great – Wham! Rap is up there among the greatest debut singles ever, yet rarely seems to get much attention for some reason.

  50. 50
    ace inhibitor on 12 Aug 2009 #

    live for now, prioritise fun = not political? depends. seems to me there were (at least) 2 different political registers in play at the time. One, dating back to the 30s (at least) was the labour/left/collectivist tradition of the dignity of work and the indignity of poverty, manifested in the early 80s in the ‘right to work’ marches, Boys from the Blackstuff as mentioned earlier etc. The other I think was a continuation/working through of the 60s, the politics of (individual) pleasure and leisure, the refusal of both work and consumption (Paris 68: ‘We do not want a world where the price of being certain of not dying of hunger is the risk of dying of boredom’); which found its way via various anarchist/communalist experiments in the 70s into the anarcho/punk/hippie/crustie nexus in the 80s, as well as the culcha more generally. (I had a page from the NME blue-tacked to the wall featuring a snaking queue of contemporary subcultural types under the headline ‘What are we offering them? The right to work? In other words the right to be exploited’. Po-faced 18 year old that I was.)

  51. 51
    Tom on 12 Aug 2009 #

    I refer you all to that fount of knowledge Wikipedia!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wham_Rap!_(Enjoy_What_You_Do)

    Fifth paragraph particularly germane ;)

  52. 52
    ace inhibitor on 12 Aug 2009 #

    that proves it then. Also of course, in context, ‘Wake me up before you go go’ could be read as a coded endorsement of the mass picketing strategy in the miner’s strike, that was reaching its zenith in this very month, Battle of Orgreave etc (picketing being an early morning affair, generally)

  53. 53
    Rory on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Last edited on 25 July 2009 by SmokeyTheCat: “The political nature of the song; unsourced admittedly but worthy of inclusion I think. Please discus it if you feel the need to delete.” Can we delete it now that we’ve discussed it here? ;)

  54. 54
    Snif on 12 Aug 2009 #

    Just out of curiosity (if not ignorance) was that young lady whose face adorns the sleeve anyone in particular?

  55. 55
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    It’s Shirlie isn’t it, of Pepsi & Shirlie, Wham! backing singers and briefly pop stars in their own right. In fact they’d be getting their own entry here if it wasn’t for their former employer.

  56. 56
    Glue Factory on 13 Aug 2009 #

    ..and apparently featured on another artist’s number 1 in 2000, according to the ever reliable wikipedia.

    (Is it really Shirlie? I don’t recognise her with differently coloured hair)

  57. 57
    Matthew H on 13 Aug 2009 #

    That is no way Shirlie.

  58. 58
    lonepilgrim on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Shirlie you can’t be serious?

  59. 59
    Tom on 13 Aug 2009 #

    I admit I did not consult a picture of P&S before rushing to this judgement.

  60. 60
    Alan on 13 Aug 2009 #

    pepsi & shirley v wendy & lisa FITE. (actually this is way too one sided, cos W&L do all the telly music innit)

  61. 61
    Pete Baran on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Unless she bought Andrew Ridgley’s nose off of him, its unlikely!

  62. 62
    Pete Baran on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Further viewing of the video shows FOUR backing singers, of which the one second from the left looks similar to single sleeve girl.

  63. 63
    Mark M on 13 Aug 2009 #

    Re 50 etc: To that extent, you could argue that it was Wham-era George, rather than Morrissey, who was channeling the spirit of Arthur Seaton (“I’m out for a good time – all the rest is propaganda!”). More Saturday Night And Sunday Morning-type sentiments in a later Wham No 2, which I’m sure will be discussed in time…

    I tend to side with Adam Curtis on the argument that whatever its initial intentions, that kind of hedonistic individualism ultimately proved a very useful lever for advanced consumer capitalism via us being encouraged to define ourselves by our desires.

  64. 64
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Aug 2009 #

    JIDDERBERG. My (now teenaged) sister adored this song and funnily enough as a toddler I loved hearing her sing it to me. This track is as stencilled into my bones as The Grand Old Duke Of York – for me there is no question of liking or disliking but merely Existence.

  65. 65
    Billy Smart on 20 Aug 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Wham! twice performed ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ on Top Of The Pops;

    24 May 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Status Quo, Alvin Stardust and Evelyn Thomas. Janice Long and Mike Smith were the hosts.

    7 June 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Spandau Ballet, Evelyn Thomas, Bananarama, Bronski beat and Sister Sledge. John Peel and david Jensen were the hosts.

  66. 66
    Glue Factory on 21 Aug 2009 #

    “Also in the studio that week were; Spandau Ballet, Evelyn Thomas, Bananarama, Bronski beat and Sister Sledge. John Peel and david Jensen were the hosts.”

    Bananarama, Bronksi Beat and Evelyn Thomas – surely the most gay TOTP ever?

  67. 67
    pink champale on 24 Aug 2009 #

    gutted to miss out on the discussion of the politics of ‘wham rap’. i once told a work colleague that wham! were the most important political band of the 80’s (not unaware i was trolling him) and he replied urgently “yes, but for the wrong side!”. i don’t think his analysis extended much beyond cheerfulness + highlights = thatcher, but for all that george didn’t intend it, as others have said there definitely is something a bit thatcherite the sod society message of ‘wham rap’ (great snook though it also cocks) and certainly in club tropicana, which celebrates of the (actually quite positive) side of thatcherism sought to demolish know your place-ism.

    probably also worth mentioning that the specials’ ‘bright lights’ “i thought i might move down to london town/i could get in a band, have fun all the year round/the living down there must be pretty easy/if people rip up their jeans deliberately/the streets really must be paved with gold/if everyone goes wham! and has fun on the dole” so jerry dammers not a fan!

    wmubygg itself is great of course. for me the best bit is the way – in a song that’s pretty excited already – george manages to summon even more excitement in the way he sings “my BEATS PER MINUTE…”.

  68. 68
    Billy Smart on 24 Aug 2009 #

    #66 I think that this must be the most gay top ten in UK history;

    NME Singles Chart, 23rd June 1984.

    1. Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
    2. Smalltown Boy – Bronski Beat
    3. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go – Wham!
    4. Only When You Leave – Spandau Ballet
    5. High Energy – Evelyn Thomas
    6. Sad Songs Say So Much – Elton John
    7. Pearl In The Shell – Howard Jones
    8. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes – Ultravox
    9. Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
    10. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – The Smiths

    (Also down from 10 to 14 that week, ‘Searchin’ by Hazell Dean. Further down this chart I see Dead Or Alive, Bananarama, Queen and The Associates, amongst others.

    I also see something called ‘Doin’ It In A Haunted House’ by Yvonne Gage at 33. What was that? It sounds disco to me… Mike?)

  69. 69
    wichita lineman on 24 Aug 2009 #

    Re 67: One man’s “manages to summon even more excitement” is another man’s “sounds unbearably pleased with himself”.

    Unwilling to leave the can of worms alone, doesn’t the macro-pop title Make It Big sound a little Thatcherite? At one pole with Dexys’ Let’s Make This Precious at the other?

  70. 70
    mike on 25 Aug 2009 #

    #66/#68 Ah yes, the great gay-ification of the singles charts in the late Spring/early Summer of 1984 – I remember it well. Heady days indeed! And such weird timing as far as I was concerned, as I’d only discovered the gay scene within the previous 18 months, and was still very much going through my honeymoon period (which also coincided with Hi-NRG’s emergence and its own short-lived golden period). So to have my discoveries and passions so swiftly reflected back through mainstream pop culture felt like a vindication, of sorts.

    As for Yvonne Gage: “Doin’ It In A Haunted House” was, shall we say, heavily inspired by “Thriller”. A passing novelty, of little consequence.

  71. 71
    SteveM on 25 Aug 2009 #

    but…doing WHAT? the ironing?

  72. 72
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    I hated Wham! then, but I like this song now. It was great to dance to at recent office christmas party.

  73. 73
    Brooksie on 6 Feb 2010 #

    The girl on the cover I have always believed is the same girl doing the ‘backing’ singing in the video with Pepsi and Shirlie. I believe she is also the love interest in the ‘Last Christmas’ video, a model by the name of ‘Kathy Hill’.

  74. 74
    Brooksie on 4 Mar 2010 #

    Oh… and I love the song. Pure joyful cheese. It still fills a dancefloor because there is nothing remotely negative anywhere in song (other than the cynical audience targeting). This began the most economical and successful run of any if the British invasion bands: Duran had a royal flush of fuckups; ditto Culture Club; Frankie could never last; Tears for Fears took too much time out and came back bloated. Wham! hit the top with this, and stayed at the top until they chose to bow out. A sublime run in both the UK and the US and it all began here.

    Whenever I hear people knock this song, I think of all the ‘cool’ bands from back in the day who treated Wham! like a joke, but unlike Wham! they really didn’t see the big picture and let fame go to their heads.

  75. 75
    Jimmy the Swede on 16 Sep 2010 #

    “‘Cause I’m not planning on going solo”, eh, George?

    Sorry, flower, but being put on Rule 43 is for your own good!!

  76. 76
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2012 #

    From Wikipedia:

    In 1984, Japanese singer Hideki Saijo did a cover version [of “Careless Whisper”] in Japanese called “抱きしめてジルバ” (Dakishimete Jitterbug).

    Ohhhh Realyyyyyy?

  77. 77
    Tom on 28 Mar 2014 #

    The political qualities of “Wham! Rap” just got thrown into total confusion.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/26774451

  78. 78
    hectorthebat on 4 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)

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