Nov 09

WHAM! – “Edge Of Heaven”

FT + Popular57 comments • 4,957 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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  1. 1
    thefatgit on 27 Nov 2009 #

    The final single was “Where Did Your heart Go?”, a cover of a WasNotWas song.

  2. 2
    pink champale on 27 Nov 2009 #

    at the time i was quite caught up with their final single being An Event and i absolutely loved eoh and thought it was incredibly exciting. as for now, okay, it’s a bit too obviously confected and forced, but i still think it’s pretty exciting. the way everything is pounding and pushing forwards, the ba ba bas, the way the chorus spirals upwards and upwards, the extra “believe me baby, one day..” bit. george may be trying to remind everyone of the good times without putting the neccessary work in, but i’d still rather have that than many things (including a fair amount of what was to come from him). probably an 8 from me.

  3. 3
    Izzy on 27 Nov 2009 #

    I’m really into this one and would score it highly. Terrific energy, stupidly catchy tune, great pleading lyrics and performance. Fantastic triplets in the melody too, which is always a clincher for me.

    I’m surprised this was their final single, and even more so that it came out soon after a George solo hit. But I like that it’s just a normal, excellent tune, rather than trying too hard to be a big ‘goodbye’ number. It’s another puzzling sleeve too – did they get Peter Saville to do one properly this time?

  4. 4
    Tom on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Maybe I’m just too sleepy and grumpy for it today then!

  5. 5
    Pete Baran on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Yes, this is an insanely low score for this. Admittedly not their best, but I like the scales sung in the chorus and the “Yeah Yeah Yeah – lalalalala” is almost Wake Me Up Before You Go Go catchy. It does seem a little second hand, but I remember when it came out it being a rather exciting thing (THEIR LAST SINGLE) and not being all that disappointed. And while the sax may be cheap, its still reminds me of how good pop sax could still be.

  6. 6
    thefatgit on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Ooops! Looks like I stepped on a Wiki mousetrap. Apologies all.

  7. 7
    David Belbin on 27 Nov 2009 #

    I have no memory whatsoever of this beyond the title. Spotifying it now, I can see why. Pleasant enough for the devoted fanbase, but lacking a hook. 4 seems right to me.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 27 Nov 2009 #

    I thought that this was okay when I was 13, but a bit minor in relation their earlier singles.

    I prefer the remembered version of this that I have in my head to what it actually sounds like; rasping, arid, blaring… above all far too effortful. It makes me think that George had a sore throat at points. The pastiche idea is fair enough, but this should either sound nimble and fleet-footed or a bit more organic.

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Number 2 watch: A week of Nu Shooz’ swingorilliant ‘I Can’t Wait’. Now, that would have been a fantastic number one.

  10. 10
    swanstep on 27 Nov 2009 #

    The phenomenon of the big star getting to #1 with less and less distinguished material is horrible to behold. Simultaneously busy and boring, this is the sort of suckily self-impressed record that I suspect turns people off pop music, creates indie-kids, etc.. Hang the dj.

  11. 11

    “suckily self-impressed” is a tremendous phrase which i here and now stealing but i don’t see how indie dodges its lethal raygun gaze!

  12. 12
    MikeMCSG on 27 Nov 2009 #

    This has a lot in common with the Jam’s “Beat Surrender” a deliberate farewell single ,available in a VFM double pack and a long way from the artist’s best.Unlike that record which was a musical bridge to Weller’s subsequent work with The Style Council this sounds more like a mopping up exercise deploying familiar trademarks in a rather tired fashion. On the plus side it did avoid the self-valedictory bullshit that Foxton and Buckler reluctantly had to accompany.

    On a personal note this began a string of George Michael chart toppers that accompanied milestone moments in my life. I graduated to this one and he was also there when I started work and when I met my future wife (with his last one to date). In fact only The Police stopped him being there when I left school in 83. This isn’t the song I most associate with leaving university though. That last Saturday I was waiting for my housemate to return so I could say goodbye and looking around for something in his tape collection to play. After a desperate rummage through Phil Collins, Elton John and lord help us George Melly I found a Steely Dan compilation and played “Haitian Divorce”. That line “Day by day those memories fade away” seemed very apt and the moment stays with me.(Leaving school by contrast was a real anti-climax as you’re only with those doing your last exam and I don’t think there was anyone from my first day in primary school there.)

  13. 13
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Memo to Tom – Are you going to be at Poptimism next Friday? I was at the last one but you were in the States. It would be nice to meet finally.

  14. 14
    lonepilgrim on 27 Nov 2009 #

    It’s OKish but compared to the pastiche/homage that’s coming next this is thin stuff. GM seems content to go through the motions and just as the video seems to be a montage of images from or references to previous videos so this song echoes previous hits.
    GM reminds me of Bryan Ferry in the way in which his music increasingly resembles polished exercises in style and becomes consequently less interesting as his career develops.

  15. 15
    Tom on 27 Nov 2009 #

    #13 I will be there yes!

  16. 16
    MikeMCSG on 27 Nov 2009 #

    # 14 Yes – I made that same comparison in the “Different Corner” thread. What makes it worse in GM’s case is all the b/s about the record companies not respecting his right to artistic freedom and then when he wins the case he just sounds exactly the same as before !

  17. 17
    punctum on 27 Nov 2009 #

    For their farewell record Wham! took the “Beat Surrender” approach; an all-guns-blazing Valhalla cheerio of a main track and a double-45 gatefold-sleeved package. Fittingly the E.P. is an equally split curate’s egg. The revisiting of old haunts that is the “Wham! Rap ’86” remix is a somewhat redundant exercise; with their 1986 bank balances, were we still supposed to lap up George and Andrew’s pro-dole pamphlet, which in their latter days looked uncomfortably like the whims of underemployed millionaires? “The Edge Of Heaven” itself, which basically adopts the template of an adult “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” strains just too hard to demonstrate itself as Real and Not Fluffy Boyband with its shrieking horns, car chase guitar solo, Elton John on Hammond organ and George’s suspiciously less-than-spontaneous-sounding “Whoo!”s. Following a rather unsavoury first verse with its references to “lock you up,” “chain you up” and “strap you up,” the song settles rumbustuously into a celebration of one long last animalistic fuck before waving the whole caboodle goodbye (“One last time might be forever”).

    That the E.P. also serves as a calling card for Solo George is demonstrated by its other two, rather more intriguing tracks. “Battlestations” is topped and tailed by a sardonic female voiceover, the first an answerphone message and the latter a French monologue. Clearly influenced by Prince, Michael’s vocals give the song a little too much in the way of beef, but musically it wanders hitherto unchartered nooks; the dolorous electrowhine recollects Cabaret Voltaire, the lugubrious, echoing trombone suggests a “Ghost Town” antecedent.

    But it’s the fourth track which suggests, pace Morley’s Blitz! interview, that George knew exactly what he was doing with Wham! from second one; a cover of “Where Did Your Heart Go?” from the first, incandescent Was (Not Was) album, released on Ze Records two weeks before my father died, hailed by Morley as the Escalator Over The Hill of pop, a declaration of New Pop principles just when it was all starting to blossom. Now, at the other end of the half-decade, with the promise in ruins – or so it seemed – Michael turns to the song, with its “rusty can of corn” and its suicidal ending, and gives it the “Careless Whisper” treatment to demonstrate just how A can evolve, or degradate, into B. Its long, resonant, voiceless fade seems to bid a vaguely tearful farewell to an era, and even though New Pop was slowly and subtly being assimilated into the mainstream – the next Popular entry, for example, would have been unimaginable without it – its status as a resigned requiem is still moving.

  18. 18
    thefatgit on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Ok after my initial “factoid” was rightly slapped down, I am confident on this one:

    It’s Danny John-Jules of Red Dwarf Cat fame who leaps up on stage in the vid.

  19. 19
    Billy Smart on 27 Nov 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Wham! performed ‘The Edge Of Heaven’ on the Top of the Pops broadcast on June 26 1986. Also in the studio that week were; Bananarama and Owen Paul. Mike Smith and Steve Wright were the hosts.

    Wham! then performed ‘Where Did Your Heart Go?’ on the Top of the Pops broadcast on July 3 1986. Also in the studio that week were; The Housemartins, Samantha Fox, Claire & Friends and Sly Fox. Janice Long was the host.

  20. 20
    Lena on 27 Nov 2009 #

    I have yet to hear any of the other songs on the EP but this sounds as if they really are out, going, no really they are going thank you very much. Is Andrew Ridgeley the luckiest man in pop? I think so. And now George Michael goes off to record an album that will conquer America and help end Reaganrock, thank goodness.

  21. 21
    tim davidge on 27 Nov 2009 #

    Wham!’s last big one and I do like this. It’s full of vim and vigour, it’s catchy and it sounds like the guy really enjoyed making it! I love the brass (at least it sounds like brass), the sax and the guitar in the arrangement – the guitar solo especially, and I think overall it’s as good as the totally different “A Different Corner” of a few weeks back. One small detail – there’s a werewolf-like “ah-oooooOOOOOH!” right at the end. It’s very faint, so if your hi-fi’s got a hum, you’re in a car or just listening to it on the kitchen radio, you won’t hear it. But it underlines the sense of fun that the whole thing conveys, which is what pop records are about. Well, some of them are… Not an all-time great, but a thoroughly enjoyable piece of pop nevertheless. An eight from me.

  22. 22
    swanstep on 28 Nov 2009 #

    @21, TimD. I’d never noticed the howl after the end of the song before (or the few seconds of studio noise that accommpanies it). Thanks. I’m pretty sure, however, that that’s not been a background noise problen for me, rather I’ve just never enjoyed the song enough to actually listen all the way to the end! Anyhow, I agree that it’s a nice touch – emphasizing yet again the ‘ladies and gentlemen, thank you and goodnight’ character of the record, and, I assume, literally picking up on the earlier barks/whines accenting the ‘like a doggie barking at your door’ line. I guess this is as good a time as any to salute Michael’s incredible musicianship and studio prowess (i.e., along with his great voice). My understanding is that from the very beginning he arranged and produced every Wham record and as time went on played more and more of the parts. Yet, in an era of extreme self-promotion, he never swanned around pronouncing himself to be this great studio genius or musical polymath the way Prince kinda did (a lot of Michael’s fans probably just assumed that there was, say, a Trevor Horn or Quincy Jones behind Michael and Wham making everything sound great, etc.). It’s an impressive performance (esp. by someone so young), even though for me it meant that Michael’s stuff grew more and more claustrophobic over time, and that mainly his collaborations worked for me from here on.

    Lastly, listening to Edge of Heaven for the first time in many years, it’s been reminding me of something fairly recent, and it’s taken me until just now to pin down what that is: the guitar sound and yeah yeah yeah’s are somewhat similar to a (viciously South Park-lampooned!) part of U2’s Vertigo.

    @ 20, Lena. What Reaganrock did Faith help end? And why didn’t Joshua Tree (let alone Hysteria or Aerosmith taking their newly Run DMC-gifted cred. to the bank) more than cancel any such alleged effect out? (I’ve never thought of Faith as a cultural turning point the way, say, Appetite for Destruction, Jane’s Addiction/Lollapalooza, Stone Roses, then Nevermind absolutely were. But maybe I’ve missed something.)

  23. 23
    anto on 28 Nov 2009 #

    Well said Swanstep at #10. I dislike the way certain people can assume the number one position as if it were a seat in a swanky restaraunt.
    I’ve tried to listen to this cold, pumped-up, “CLENCHED” song twice and given up. I can see how a 12-16 year old in 1986 would have grown disillussioned at this point. Another flat daytime radio earwax-inducer that pastes on a few ” sixties soul ” signifiers already worn threadbare by Paul Young, The Eurithmics, Spandau Ballet and even goons like Go West.
    As it turned out four smart, artistic teenage boys from Blackwood Gwent were thinking approximately along these lines at the very moment this record was at the top.
    In which case Thank you Wham! You inspired something wonderful xxxxx

  24. 24
    TomLane on 28 Nov 2009 #

    This peaked at #10 in the U.S., and like “Different Corner”, it has all but been forgotten. Too bad. Michael is clearly enjoying crafting hit singles, and while this isn’t as good as “I’m Your Man” it still deserves more airplay than it’s gotten since it slid off the charts some 20 years ago. I give it a 7.

  25. 25
    taDOW on 28 Nov 2009 #

    is there any specific reason 80s british pop leaned so heavily on 60s motown tropes (there’s been more 80s brit fauxtown #1s already than actual motown and that’s without elvis costello, “this charming man”, “church of the poison mind”, and many many many others)(and overwhelmingly mainly square in the phil collins/wham! lineage rather than the soft cell line)? the 80s stateside was awash in boomer nostalgia and you had the big chill soundtrack, that hall and oates album w/ ruffin and kendricks, and the california raisins *shudder*, but someone here (sinker maybe) said the boomer thing isn’t nearly as prominent or powerful in the uk. was it just success breeds imitators? an easy way to reach different age groups? some delayed pat boone style thing? in any case george michael really raped that sound for all it was worth and by this point the returns were well past diminished.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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.

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    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!

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