Aug 09

WHAM! – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

FT + Popular80 comments • 10,470 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.



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  1. 61
    Pete Baran on 13 Aug 2009 #

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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…”.

  8. 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?)

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 71
    SteveM on 25 Aug 2009 #

    but…doing WHAT? the ironing?

  12. 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.

  13. 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’.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!!

  16. 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?

  17. 77
    Tom on 28 Mar 2014 #

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


  18. 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)

  19. 79
    Gareth Parker on 8 May 2021 #

    Again, another really fun single from Wham! I think I could go up to 8/10 here.

  20. 80
    Gareth Parker on 8 May 2021 #

    Joyous single from Wham! 8/10.

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