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Nov 09

WHAM! – “Edge Of Heaven”

FT + Popular57 comments • 3,589 views

#572, 28th June 1986, video

Tempting to give this one the deep consideration G. Michael did when writing it, i.e. none at all. A final Wham! single was required, yes, but “Edge Of Heaven” doesn’t round them off in any particularly satisfying way. Instead it rather coldly underlines quite how vestigial Wham! had become to him, as a band and brand. It’s another pop-soul pastiche, full of dutiful yeah-yeahing, differentiated from previous Wham! number ones mostly by the bitchin’ axe solo that wanders through on its way to someone else’s record. It could have been written specifically to fill a gap in a future megamix.

It’s not terrible, but there’s no fun in it either, and Wham! without the vigour are nothing. “I’m a maniac!” pleads George, followed rather deflatingly by “I’m a doggie barking at your door”. In truth he’s neither, he’s a man marking time until the end of an awkward date.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Conrad on 28 Nov 2009 #

    I’ve just given this a spin on the videogram, not as bad as I was expecting. In fact I remembered the chorus hook straight away. Like the rhythm on this more than the relentless I’m Your Man style Motown-pastiche beat. It’s more syncopated. Can do without the guitar solo though. A 5 or a 6.

  2. 27
    snoball on 28 Nov 2009 #

    I imagine this song as being a companion piece to “Freedom”. In the earlier song George is chaste, but in this he’s a sex “maniac”. He just about gets away with the sexual aggression here, but embarrassingly overplays it on the much later “Freeeeeeeeak!”.
    For a singer who is simply doing something out of contractual obligation, GM sounds pretty energetic. His vocal enthusiasm is more or less the only thing driving a song that otherwise is a plodding backing track with Motown horns stuck over the top. The bass guitar particularly sounds like a lead weight.

  3. 28
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 28 Nov 2009 #

    baby-boomer conversation is on this thread: relevant extended comments by koganbot, rosie and me, tho several others are contributing

  4. 29
    LondonLee on 28 Nov 2009 #

    The classic Motown sound doesn’t have the stain of Boomer nostalgia on it in the UK the way it is in the States — we don’t really think about “Boomers” as a monolithic bloc anyway — it was constantly played on the radio right through the 70s so it never really felt “old” because it was always there and seems free from history somehow. Instead of being tied to one generation it was everybody’s music and every home (that I went to anyway) had one or more volumes of ‘Motown Chartbusters’ sitting on the shelf. That’s the way I saw it anyway. It’s the people’s music!

    I was at an English friend’s wedding in New York a few years ago and his drunk brother got up on the stage at the reception, started singing “This Old Heart of Mine” and tried to get everyone to join in. The only people that knew the words were the Brits, the Americans were clueless, (and possibly not drunk enough) because that stuff was in our DNA.

  5. 30
    Caledonianne on 29 Nov 2009 #

    Don’t think I’ve ever heard this before, and can’t say I feel as if I’ve missed anything.

    #12 Mike. Steely Dan. Now THAT’s More like it!

  6. 31
    wichita lineman on 29 Nov 2009 #

    Re 29: This neatly explains why I never understood the significance of The Big Chill, and its life-altering rediscovery of Motown for thirty-something Americans. Thanks Lee!

    As for TEOH, for its somewhat thicker production, and its rather more meandering tune, I prefer it to I’m Your Man and Freedom. Slim pickings for me in this leather-bound Fauxtown stuff, 5.

    Swanstep – surely no one thought these records were produced by Moroder/Prince/Horn?? They sound so undercooked (tough lump of beef excepted); Lenny Kravitz did a more convincing job on retro-soul and I wouldn’t put him within two leagues of Prince either.

  7. 32
    MichaelH on 29 Nov 2009 #

    Always rather liked this one: felt stronger, somehow, than the previous Motown pastiches. For those of us who – at that time – couldn’t stand Wham!, there was also the comfort that this was goodbye (by this point they were long since a girl’s band, though at the time of Wham Rap and Young Guns, they were widely admired at our school by every single lad who went on to become a B-boy. Gateway rap, perhaps).

    Anyway, I suspect Jens Lekman was listening: A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill sounds like the indiepop version of Edge of Heaven.

  8. 33
    Gavin Wright on 30 Nov 2009 #

    Following on from the ‘A Different Corner’/’Atmosphere’ single sleeve comparisons the other week, is it just me or does the cover for this look quite New Order-ish?

    My initial reaction to this entry would have been to say that this is the one Wham single I actually quite like but I can’t remember anything about it beyond the “yeah yeah yeah yeah” bits (which are great)…

  9. 34
    wichita lineman on 30 Nov 2009 #

    Re 33: Peter Saville did the sleeve for I’m Your Man (or, more likely, a Saville underling). Haven’t got a copy to check but I’m guessing this is his work too.

  10. 35
    Gavin Wright on 30 Nov 2009 #

    Re 34: You’re right – just had a look on here:

    http://tosq.com/petersaville/disc/

    Never knew that Peter Gabriel album was one of his. For me one of the unexpected pleasures of Popular has been seeing all the record sleeves – often just for the contrast between how low-budget/rushed the singles look compared to the same act’s respective album(s).

  11. 36
    Lena on 30 Nov 2009 #

    @22: Faith, paired with Guns ‘n’ Roses, effectively marked the end of Reaganrock – that being anything & everything from Huey Lewis & the News to Starship, Billy Ocean to Kenny Loggins, Bruce Hornsby to Lionel Richie, Whitesnake to Mr. Mister and yes even John Parr – they all had #1 singles, more than one in some cases, and after late ’88…not so much. (I might also include Ratt & Motley Crue, though not Twisted Sister, if only for their giving the kid the immortal phrase “I wanna rock” in one of the funniest videos ever.)

  12. 37
    MichaelH on 30 Nov 2009 #

    @36 Not sure that’s so true. Motley Crue’s bestselling album was Dr Feelgood, from 89. Richard Marx became a huge star with his second album in 1989. We Didn’t Start the Fire, the song that brings Reagan’s foreign policy to the charts, was No 1 in 1989. Michael Bolton’s mullet was still ubiquitous through 89-93. Wilson Phillips were having No 1 in 1990. The artists you name might have been fading at this point, but there were plenty who sounded just like them who continued having big hits.

    Looking at a list of US No1s, the key year for change appears to be 1991, when R&B based pop really becomes a dominant trope, comfortably eclipsing white middle-of-the-road rock.

  13. 38
    taDOW on 30 Nov 2009 #

    Huey Lewis released a jazz fusion album, Bruce Hornsby abandoned his sound (though the songs he still wrote in that style and gave to Don Henley and Bonnie Raitt still turned into big hits in 89 and 92(?)), Starship broke up, Lionel Richie stopped recording for a decade: not sure how many of these can be tied to George Michael (he’s not a freemason by chance is he?). Whitesnake peaked alongside George Michael (enough that you could as easily claim Whitesnake killed his career in the States as the reverse), Motley Crue had their biggest album in sales, airplay, and hits after Faith, their second biggest the same year as Faith, the same year Ratt had their last big hit (of how many total – four?). What I could vaguely buy Faith bringing about was the death of buppie domination on R&B radio – black radio resistance to hip-hop was very very real, rooted mainly in generational and class divide, and Faith’s success (esp it’s AMA win as best r&b album) was fairly controversial, at least as a symbol that something was wrong (imagine a take on DORF) that’s more Jet than the Nation); w/ hip-hop meanwhile doing very very well on pop radio, Mtv, and in sales that ‘black’ radio was meanwhile much more receptive to a white brit doing wet behind the ears Marvin, a smarter Michael Bolton really, than to pick yr golden age hip-hop act (esp at a time when hip-hop was getting increasingly politicized) had to provoke some self-examination (nevermind it was just bad business). Enter New Jack Swing to give R&B radio an option besides embracing Brand Nubian, etc and exit any future for George Michael (or Michael Bolton) on black radio.

  14. 39
    thefatgit on 1 Dec 2009 #

    Hmm…I always thought hip hop and thrash metal killed off MOR in the States.

  15. 40
    Lena on 1 Dec 2009 #

    I’m sticking, clearly, to the simple yardstick of US #1 singles; if you look at, say, this list and, oh, this one, you’ll see a whole new set up that has not changed very much since. And it started to change in late ’87-’88, more or less.

  16. 41
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Dec 2009 #

    if there’s one thing i’ve learnt in 20 billions years writing about pop it’s that nothing is ever “killed off”

  17. 42
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Dec 2009 #

    it’s along time since i read it, but doesn’t nelson george’s book “the death of rhythm and blues” explicitly cite george michael’s success as a symptom: not because he was white and lame, but because he was a young brit who was making better music than the then-soul industry

    (note: “death of r&b” as title — r&b so far from being killed off that [insert present-day delight/despair here])

  18. 43
    MichaelH on 1 Dec 2009 #

    @40 The 91 list is the one I was looking at that clearly suggested a change had occurred. But that’s four years after you were saying Reaganrock was killed off. Surely, in something as fast moving as pop (even if the US changes nowhere near so quickly as the UK) that’s too great a gap to attribute effect in 91 to cause in 91? Clearly there was a huge sea change in the early 90s, but I’m not sure we’ve reached the bottom of it here. Interesting in @38 the argument that what George really helped do for was “buppie” music – do you mean O’Neal, Vandross etc – when I was at school the black kids listened to that kind of soul, or to reggae (none listened to hip-hop in the mid-80s where I was, interestingly – though it was a soul and reggae town).

    Be interesting to see US album charts for this period. I imagine Axl’s influence might be more keenly felt there than in the singles charts.

  19. 44
    taDOW on 1 Dec 2009 #

    our first year of listening w/out prejudice (unless it’s against noted hitmaker john parr).

    nearly cited george’s death of rnb except i haven’t read it in ~20 yrs and couldn’t remember his take on george michael or luther vandross or anita baker or jimmy jam & terry lewis or whether or not new jack swing even enters into it (do remember his concern over michael jackson and prince’s playing to a white audience).

  20. 45
    MichaelH on 1 Dec 2009 #

    @ my own 43: sorry, should be “cause in 87”.

  21. 46
    Lena on 1 Dec 2009 #

    The death of Reaganrock is from Popstrology, which Ian Van Tuyl wrote a few years ago; he ends the book with Richard Marx, in 1989, but specifically says that it took Michael AND Guns ‘n’ Roses to eliminate the compromise of corporate ‘rock’ that had (partially, I’ll admit) taken over the charts. I mentioned 1991 to specifically show the gulf between the singles and the albums.

    (I agree that nothing is ever really ‘killed off’ in music as much as it becomes deeply uncool/unfashionable to the ‘kids’ – and can be rescued/resurrected a generation later, much to the perplexment and even dismay of those who never liked it in the first place.)

  22. 47
    MichaelH on 1 Dec 2009 #

    @46 … doesn’t necessarily make him right, though!

  23. 48
    MichaelH on 1 Dec 2009 #

    PS Is the book still in print? Be curious to read it.

  24. 49
    Lena on 4 Dec 2009 #

    It is a fine book and it’s definitely available from amazon on either side of the Atlantic – here’s the UK link. I wish a UK chart version of it existed, I might have to write it myself!

  25. 50
    wichita lineman on 4 Dec 2009 #

    The idea of Guns’n’Roses killing off corporate rock is a little odd. They may have dissed the man but musically it was all so stagnant*. I know it’s just me…

    Easier to spot in Britain I’d say, Lena – corporate ‘pop’ effectively on borrowed time once Happy Mondays/Stone Roses appeared on the same TOTP in ’89 (opens small can of worms, stands back…)

    *I’d take Richard Marx’s Hazard over the entire G’n’R catalogue.

  26. 51
    AndyPandy on 4 Dec 2009 #

    But it’s hard to see the Stone Roses as exactly breaking boundaries – unless we’re talking boundaries that had already been broken about 20 years before. (And their TOTP appearance hardly put them on the lips of the nation in 1989 or even gave them a very big hit).

    ie There was all this exciting never-been-done-before electronic dance music in the charts/on the streets and groups like the Stone Roses were intent on retreading some old sixties influenced guitar stuff.
    A lot of us would have rather had the pop-rap of “Street Tuff” by the Rebel MC and Double Trouble than the whole of the Stone Roses catalogue…

  27. 52
    LondonLee on 4 Dec 2009 #

    The funky drummer beat of ‘Fools Gold’ was considered quite “new” at the time was it not?

    Not only is that the only Stone Roses record I ever bought but it’s the only one I’ve ever heard. That I remember anyway.

  28. 53
    wichita lineman on 5 Dec 2009 #

    Re 51: Yes, of course you’re right. But if we’re talking about specific end points for eras (ie G’n’R killed corporate rock with their violently new sound, and a guitarist from Stoke), it felt as if that TOTP marked a sea change – the radio dominance of major label sponsored, gated snare pap in the UK was soon to be over. For better or worse, Radio 1 were barely acknowledging the “never-been-done-before electronic dance music” even when it was number one in 1987 (shhhhh), more sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping it was a passing craze, like the Mambo.

    Fools Gold and Hallelujah (the singles on that programme) weren’t really sixties influenced guitar stuff either. If you’re going to make me use the term ‘indie dance’, dammit, I will.

    But maybe this is a debate for later…

    I love Street Tuff too.

  29. 54
    hectorthebat on 15 Jan 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 22

  30. 55
    Steve Williams on 1 Jan 2017 #

    Inevitably I’ve been revisiting loads of Wham stuff this week, and I’ve been reminded that at the age of seven I honestly thought Edge of Heaven was the most exciting pop record I’d ever heard in my life. I’d bought totally into the idea that Wham splitting up was the most important event to happen in my lifetime (I recall Mike Smith on Radio 1 more or less emphasising that throughout this summer) and the Pops performance, as shown again the other night, just emphasises the idea of it being the absolute high water mark of pop music with a million people on stage.

    I mean, admittedly in the summer of 1986 I also thought the ninetieth anniversary of Heinz Beans was a big, big story because they had loads of promotions in the comics I was reading, but Wham certainly did seem incredibly important.

    Anyway, I still think this is a fantastic record, I know a lot of pop songs that try to create some kind of epic feel just end up going on far too long, but I do love the kitchen sink production, the guitar solo as mentioned and also how it’s drenched with sax as well (THE sign of sophistication to me aged seven). And it really motors along, too, at a million miles an hour. George just flings everything at it, and it really works for me.

  31. 56
    Mostro on 15 Jan 2017 #

    #55 Steve Williams; I agree with you.

    On paper this sounds like it *should* be Wham by numbers, but in practice it’s got a bristling energy that- to me- their previous tracks didn’t. Probably the best thing they did, IMHO.

    I was never a fan of Wham at the time, and “Edge of Heaven” didn’t even register that strongly with me when it came out. (#) Yet something about it must have stuck at the back of my head and I felt drawn to check it out again on YouTube around a year or so back. And yeah, it’s bloody good.

    For all that it’s true that Edge of Heaven is “drenched” in sax, what’s important is that sax never gets in the way or annoyingly in your face; it’s there, but in the background with plenty of spacious, atmospheric echo, and never syrupy or hectoring. I’m generally not a fan of having brass all over records, but it really works here.

    (#) When I’d have been around ten

  32. 57
    Adam Puke on 17 Jan 2017 #

    #55 #56 Yup, love it too. As noted earlier, it may use WMUBYGG as a template but I’d argue it’s come out on top due to not suffering that song’s overexposure in the intervening years. There’s also a bit of ‘Heatwave’ in its DNA, a subtle melancholy undercurrent and some Spectoresque wall of soundery going on to boot. All good!

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