19
Oct 09

WHAM! – “I’m Your Man”

FT + Popular33 comments • 3,853 views

#560, 30th November 1985, video

Wham!’s first single for a year followed the “Wake Me Up”/”Freedom” model – a Motown template airbrushed for the mid-80s, brisk and bright and shiny-toothed. But something’s changed – George Michael’s no longer the lens of the song, he’s now its focus. “I’m Your Man” does what the title promises, introducing us to someone confident in his stardom and sure of his ability to hold your attention without too much assistance from the music.

It’s an unfussy record that feels far more like a solo outing than “Careless Whisper” did – the arrangement bobs along on a keyboard line that’s tucked discreetly low in the mix, and the slight echo on George’s voice makes it sound like he has the studio almost to himself to go in for a spot of old-fashioned soulboy begging. On “Whisper” Michael shared hookspace with the sax, but “I’m Your Man”‘s horn solo is perfunctory and shoved quickly offstage to make room for George’s most urgent straight-to-camera plea – “BABY your friends do not need to know!”. Most of this record is pleasant but ordinary, but these moments. when he breaks out of the song’s flimsy restraint and hustles us direct – “I’ll be your first I’ll be your last I’ll be the only one YOU ask” – are where “I’m Your Man” convinces. Even if what it convinces us of is more ambition than devotion.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 19 Oct 2009 #

    “Dammit Andrew we’ve run out of hairspray”
    “Could we get some out of the sleeve budget George?”
    “My god, you’re right! You’re still good for SOMETHING, Andy my boy”

  2. 2
    Pete on 19 Oct 2009 #

    I’m Your Man is odd because in my head, and as a child, I thought of it a bit Wham! by numbers. As you say it follows the airbrushed Motown template, and has sufficient levels of raunchy and weakness. So there isn’t much new here, but it may well be the best iteration of this formula, but best use of formula makes it a touch flat. But the call and response stuff is great, and George really knows how to sell bland or corny lines. It is a happy memory but its not a happy memory of anything in particular.

  3. 3
    will on 19 Oct 2009 #

    This is easily my favourite of Wham’s four Number Ones and the one that holds up best today, I reckon. I love the squelch of the intro, the two hooks for the price of one and the way it’s Motown-influenced without being obviously so.

    8 from me. And that’s deducting a mark for the awful black and white ‘we’re just a rockin’ live band’ vid.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 19 Oct 2009 #

    This might be the most functional single we’ve had on Popular for years. It certainly succeeds in serveing its purposes; gives Wham! another number one, has a memorable chorus, is something that you can dance to, you tap your toe when it comes on the radio.

    And yet, I’ve never really felt that was any point to this song. If it hadn’t existed, I don’t think that anybody’s life would have been any different – either for the participants or the listeners. And I wouldn’t say that about any previous Wham! single up to this one.

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 19 Oct 2009 #

    IIRC it inspired a song I’m fonder of, The Smiths’ Panic, which Morrissey wrote when a chortling Steve Wright introduced this straight after some horrific news item.

    It’s flatter than I remember, though in the context of ’85 number ones I suppose the production is relatively crisp. Beyond that, yes, it’s functional cod-Motown; sat alongside You Little Thief it sounds like yer actual Funk Brothers.

    Does he sing “I’ll make you rich” in those tail end ad libs?

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Morrissey said in 1988 that if George Michael had to live his life for ten minutes he’d kill himself. I wonder.

    Even though I really don’t mind this, this run of chart-toppers has reminded me how much more necessary and exciting The Smiths, The Mary Chain and New Order seemed to me at the time.

  7. 7
    pink champale on 19 Oct 2009 #

    by no means my favourite wham! record (though like pete i now rank it higher than i did at the time) but a work of genius next to the whining, warbling and if i was-ing of the last few entries.

  8. 8
    Tim on 19 Oct 2009 #

    #1: This sleeve is yet another Peter Saville number, albeit a diabolically bad one, so it probably cost CBS (and ultimately Wham!) a fair old chunk of cash. I note from the listings that “If I Was” was another Saville cover – looking now it’s kind of obvious but once again it surprised me.

  9. 9
    AndyPandy on 19 Oct 2009 #

    And the only one of Wham!’s Number ones that George Michael has any time for today as shown by the remix complete with contemporary hiphop vibes and the weird ragtime piano coda.

  10. 10
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Morrissey said in 1988 that if George Michael had to live his life for ten minutes he’d kill himself

    Who exactly is this an indictment of though?

    My plan is the next time P.Saville gets to keynote-address some fancypants design conference we all dress up in his most rubbish airbrushed-from-history record sleeves and shameparade him into brief purdah. He is a tiresome cliche-bag dimwit whenever he opens his mouth anyway, so we are saving the planet also. Some people should be seen and not heard.

  11. 11
    Lex on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Morrissey said in 1988 that if George Michael had to live his life for ten minutes he’d kill himself

    Jesus Christ, Morrissey is such an insufferable cunt.

    (Sorry for butting in, I have no opinion about this song and neither Wham’s other material nor Tom’s 6/10 judgment make me want to hear it!)

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 19 Oct 2009 #

    I agree with pink champale @ 7.

    Other than that I have little to say about this at the moment.

  13. 13
    thefatgit on 19 Oct 2009 #

    The beginning of the end for Wham! After Careless Whisper, George was always going to be a more intriguing prospect, than keeping the Wham! project ticking over with IYM. Andrew’s hooked up with Keren Woodward of Bananarama by this time. Ready to settle down and race cars for fun. This just feels like going through the motions. Most of the likeable stuff on this comes from the mixing desk. 3 down 1 to go.

    A 5 for me.

  14. 14
    Jungman Jansson on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Another previously unknown entry for me. This particular song, that is, not Wham! – I’m not THAT lost.

    The bassline got my attention initally. I like prominent basslines. But that interest quickly faded, and I was left rather uninmpressed. However, after a couple of listens, I suddenly found myself walking down the street the other day with the refrain playing in my head – so it is catchy, in a way. (Yes, I’ve begun to “cheat” by looking one song ahead.) “Functional” is a perfectly apt description of the song, as Billy says. There’s nothing particularly great about it, and nothing particularly poor either – but it does what it’s supposed to.

    The one thing I did notice is that George is nominally pleading, but he does it in a way that sounds like he’s convinced he doesn’t actually need to do it – it’s just a matter of form, or courtesy perhaps. But he pulls it off without coming across as smug. Otherwise, I think the production sounds a bit weedy, a litle too slick (yes, mid-’80s, I know, but still). Something slightly more unpolished would probably have suited the song better. I did examine George’s reimagining from ’96, but that was not what I was looking for.

    But all in all, not too bad. A 6 sounds about right.

    SwedenWatch: Entered at #16, climbed one spot to #15 and then dropped out. It also entered the Tracks chart at #8, but quietly slid down a couple of places every week after that, disappearing before Christmas.

  15. 15
    Jeremy on 19 Oct 2009 #

    I first heard this played in a Peter Kay episode (not sure which one) and tracked it down, and thought it was a little too blunt and annoying.

  16. 16
    MikeMCSG on 19 Oct 2009 #

    This record heralded two less appealing characteristics to George Michael. One, his ability to write the same few songs over and over again this being “Freedom” with different words, less melody and a few growls for added faux-raunch. The other his enduring tendency to take himself far too seriously.I can remember his po-faced and bearded Smash Hits cover (no sign of Andy)with the quote “I’m Your Man is more about us.. it’s more about sex!” plastered across it.Well it didn’t float my boat George! This was also evident in the video where he created an alternative history for himself (three years before U2’s Rattle and Hum thing) by apparently doing a gig at The Marquee an exclusively rock venue that would never have booked Wham in a million years. (I think I’m right in saying Wham hadn’t played a single concert before their first single ?).

    The only good thing I can say about this is that it probably diverted sales away from that awful Elton single he guested on makig it a lesser hit.

  17. 17
    Rory on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Having been a huge Wham! fan at 15 I was hardly aware of this at 17-going-on-18, but not because I’d stopped paying attention to the charts (which I hadn’t): when this went to number one in the UK, I was preoccupied with end-of-year exams and the impending trip of a lifetime. Between “I’m Your Man” reaching the top in the UK and being displaced, my family flew from Australia to Japan and then on to London for a Grand Tour of Britain and Europe in classic Antipodean style. In Australia, ten years’ continuous employment entitles you to three months of paid “long service” leave on top of your regular annual leave; it’s mostly only public servants and academics who can rack up that length of service, but that was my parents, so off we went, swapping our long hot summer for the Northern winter of 1985-86. We landed at Heathrow on the last day that this was number one, so I managed to miss it pretty much completely; in Australia it peaked at number three a couple of weeks later, while we were over here.

    I just had a look at my few 35mm photos of that first day in Britain. From the blue of the gloom I expect they were taken around 3.30, just as it was starting to get dark, but that whole day felt impossibly gloomy; Japan’s winter days had been crisp and clear, and the view from Anchorage airport enroute had been of bright white snow, so the contrast wasn’t just with summer back home. It felt like someone had emptied a giant hoover on Piccadilly Circus. No wonder blowing your nose turned a handkerchief black.

    Compared with that Dickensian December welcome, this song sounds like the early summer we’d left behind. But that was the appeal of Wham!’s Fauxtown hits: either mirroring the sunshine outside the door or promising an escape to it. As late Wham! hits go this sounds a little too rote, but the chorus and groove are catchy, and at least the Motown stylings avoid the worst of 1985 production. If I’d been here when it was here or there when it was there I might like it more, but as I was there when it was here and here when it was there, I’ll give it five.

  18. 18
    Izzy on 19 Oct 2009 #

    (crikey, what a route to take to get to Blighty!)

    Perfunctory is the word I’d use for this. It actually sounds more like a demo to my ears. It’s only with the horn solo that it sounds like they’ve actually gone to the expense of having a real instrument, and giving it some kind of production.

    It reminds me most of the discussion we had about ‘A Town Called Malice’, how soul pastiches too often cross the line from invigorating into exhausting (though in this case there’s enough space in the mix that the line it approaches instead is ‘boring’). I’m surprised, listening to it more carefully now, to find that it isn’t a four-on-the-snare beat – it shares the quality of many such records in seeming to go on far longer than it actually does.

  19. 19
    swanstep on 19 Oct 2009 #

    I don’t have much to add to what’s already been said. One point, which effectively just rehearses my response to ‘Easy Lover’ earlier in the year, is that ultra-proficient pop-music often grows uncomfortably close to generic advertizing jingle and copy (‘the new EZ wiper, gets a hold on stains forever’).

    For me, the ‘if you’re gonna do it, do it right…’ bits of ‘I’m your man’ are the bits that stand out (they’re how I remember this song), and they trigger the jingle/ad copy response: ‘Gonna buy a car this weekend? Then Finsbury Park Honda will do it right for you….’

    So, while ‘I’m your man’ goes down easy enough on one level, I’m half yawning by the time it’s over, and somewhat determined to avoid it/change the radio station (it’s like listening to an ad after all) next time it comes on:
    5

  20. 20
    Mark M on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Love the bassline, have always liked the song.

    Re 6 and subsequent: I’m taking Billy’s point to be that the real life of George Michael, as opposed to that projected in Wham! videos, was probably not so unlike silly old Moz’s, and the two converged more in the years to come.

  21. 21
    TomLane on 20 Oct 2009 #

    A #3 in the U.S. This Motown homage might not be original, but Michael is at his best when he unfurls his pop smarts. I give it an easy 8.

  22. 22
    punctum on 20 Oct 2009 #

    In one of his many memoirs, Simon Napier-Bell muses on Wham!’s tour of China in 1985 – they were the first prominent Western pop act to do so, but he remarks that the duo were completely uninterested in that country’s history or culture, unwilling even to venture to the Great Wall for anything other than publicity shots. They were young and in the middle of a gruelling world tour which would see at least one of their backing musicians sectioned with a total mental collapse. But there is the strong possibility that George Michael’s subsequent career is a long-term exercise in atonement for this kind of thing, even for missing Morley’s gag about “I never knew I was capable of making [my mind] up.”

    “I’m Your Man” was the first new Wham! product in a year and is a sufficiently slapdash affair to confirm that Michael’s interest was quickly running out as his youth fled. A feeble simplification of “Freedom” with a rhythm/bass line borrowed from the Human League’s “Mirror Man” and some horrid Kronenberg 1667 lager saxophone, it relies on Michael’s increasingly desperate attempts to attract any Other, and may act as the other bookend to the journey which will culminate in “Fastlove.” Even at 22, he doesn’t really seem to want to offer anything more than sexual pleasure (“I know I’ll make you happy with the one thing that you never had”) and dribbles out a host of contradictory pledges (“I’ll make you rich, I’ll make you poor/Just don’t use the door”), all of which appear to signify that he’s the one in true need of reassurance and possibly even salvation.

    The video was shot in monochrome on the stage of the Marquee Club in a vain (in both sense) attempt to jump on the last Soul/Passion/Honesty ambulance out of town, complete with a gurning percussionist cantering idiotically around the front of the stage who really should have been taken out and shot. But the real indicator towards the exit door is signified by the record’s B-side, “Blue (Armed With Love)” – the great lost Wham! song, and the true missing link between boy band George and George the faithful adult; a flightly electro-soul affair which suggests recent familiarity with the work of Jam and Lewis, over which mellow, sandy surface a slightly distended Michael repeatedly cries “Can’t you see I’m falling apart?” Which, indeed, they were…like China in their hands.

  23. 23
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 20 Oct 2009 #

    yikes, putting the pun back into punctum!

    the doc abt the china tour was — notoriously, hilariously — filmed by lindsay anderson, about as bizarre a sensibility-mismatch as can be imagined: if…. notwithstanding, LA was never especially youth-friendly, let alone fun-friendly — i have never actually watched it; when i was writing the if… book i slightly steered clear, because i sensed i could (and would) end up writing 80 pages alone on this non-meeting of cultures, semi-closets and aesthetic world-approach, and it would only have been germane in my head

    maybe i should do it as a popular special!

  24. 24
    Doctor Casino on 20 Oct 2009 #

    Really surprised at the reaction to this! Have to say this is one of my favorite #1s of the decade, a joy to sing and bob along to, and a wonderfully silly declaration of macho energy from the same lineage as, I dunno, “Shake Your Bon Bon” by Ricky Martin – this guy is way too ridiculous to be menacing so you just grin along with him as he desperately/confidently propositions his object of interest. And the climax (the “I don’t need you to care!” section) is like all the heavens opening up and singing Hallelujah to another successful sexual conquest. Great song, at least a 9 from me.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 20 Oct 2009 #

    Not in the very top drawer perhaps, but a thoroughly competent pop song and performance with the beat underpinning everything and a vocal that carries you along. Mike #16, you know Wham! wouldn’t have been booked at the Marquee, I know it, and they know it, so for me it was a genius touch for the band to book it themselves for the video to give themselves the more “adult” cachet they – or rather George – was looking for. As fantasy-aspirational in its way as the Club Tropicana video, and it served its purpose well. (Looking at it now, those film-reel flashes of numbers – “10-9-8-7-SEX” look pretty naff, but the rest is effective.)

    My brief DJing days were coming to an end, but this was a small coup for me – having seen it previewed on the Chart Show or whatever it was as a new release, I went out and bought this with some of the small amount of funding the community centre gave me, and played it at the next kiddies’ disco night to an audience most of whom would have gone mad for previous Wham! singles, but few of whom would have heard the new one yet. It got a pretty good reception, and I wonder if any of the kids, now in their mid-30s, remember where they heard it first?

    BTW, first prominent Western pop act to tour China? I suppose you could maybe question “prominent” and even “pop”, but Jean-Michel Jarre played in Beijing and Shanghai in autumn 1981.

  26. 26
    Abe Fruman on 20 Oct 2009 #

    I absolutely hated Wham! at the time but this isn’t too bad really and definitely one of their best singles.

  27. 27
    anto on 20 Oct 2009 #

    I’m surprised this is so well thought of. One of the things I’ve noticed about Popular is that engaging oneself with it leads one to consider musical preferences/prejudices that might have been taken for granted sometimes finding particular songs are not as annoying or as exciting as you might have thought.
    Whams frequent appearances at this stage have lead me to consider why I don’t care for their records. I guess it’s because to my ears Wham songs are shrill and repetitous and George Michaels vocals just don’t appeal to me. ” I’m your Man ” is indeed atypical Wham which is why I don’t rate it that highly.

  28. 28
    LondonLee on 21 Oct 2009 #

    On the one hand I find this less annoying than ‘Wank Me Off Before You Go Go’ and think it’s the better song, but on the other hand it seems sort of pointless and doesn’t seem to be anything more than *another* Wham! single.

    I find the video quite shameless in it’s marketing/positioning motives too, not sure if I should be annoyed or admire that either.

    I don’t know what I think anymore.

  29. 29
    MikeMCSG on 21 Oct 2009 #

    #25 Ian, pedantic point but I think The Chart Show started around Easter 1986.

  30. 30
    Matthew H on 22 Oct 2009 #

    Yeah, I like this well enough, but mainly for the bit Doc Casino references at #24 – that “I don’t need you to care” section reaching apotheosis with “I’m your maaaaaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaaa…” is a true hands-in-the-air moment. Glorious.

    I’ll also second Punctum’s props to ‘Blue’ at #22. Poignant, sinuous little thing. ‘Blue’ that is, not Punctum. Although I don’t know for sure.

  31. 31
    Brooksie on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I love all the Wham! singles, but for me this one is George playing things by the book. It seems to lack inspiration. Whereas on previous singles the backing music seemed as structurally important as the singing / lyrics, on this it just seems there to hustle you to the end of the record. This is the Wham! song on which the “plastic” accusation they so often faced is the clearest to me. I totally agree with Punctum; the B-side ‘Blue (Armed With Love)’ means much more to me and leaves a more lasting emotional impact. It’s how Wham! sounded when George was striving for ‘honesty’. Frankly, George always sounded more honest when he was being miserable.

  32. 32
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Dec 2013 #

    Good God, that sleeve. My favourite photo-developing themed single until a pop-punk bunny fourteen years later featuring Zooey Deschanel as you’ve, er, never seen her before.

  33. 33
    Izzy on 20 Dec 2013 #

    Ha! I was going to say if that had been done by Peter Saville it’d be hanging in a museum – glad I went back and checked to see if anyone had made that joke already.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page