Wham Makes it Big With This Classic Pop Album
When George Michael passed away December 25, 2016. It was shocking news, and the only good thing that happened in the days that followed was resurgence of the music of George Michael and Wham. In the 1980’s I got a few songs by George Michael, and I liked Whams songs, but I never purchased their record until now.
The album Make It Big is pure pop perfection, and I could kick myself for waiting so long to get it.
It got me wondering how did this album come about and how was this record crafted?
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley had formed their group Wham in 1981. Their first album Fantastic reached number one in the UK record charts when it was released in 1983. In the United States, it reached number 83.
For the album Make It Big, George Michael took control and was a writer, producer and the result was a smash. The album reached number 1 in England and America.
What is it that caused the album to be so successful?
First the guys themselves were the perfect looking guys to be on a pop album. They were handsome, but it takes more than looks to make it in the music field. They also had talent, and George Michael was the driving force in the band’s success.
George Michael met Andrew when they were both teenagers, and according to Songfacts
When Michael was in high school, he met Andrew Ridgeley (who would become the other half of Wham!). The two of them realized that they both shared an intense love for pop music. When their friendship first blossomed, Ridgeley was the outgoing, good looking, and confident one while Michael was the shy, unsure, introvert. Ridgeley groomed Michael into a pop star by teaching him how to style his hair, how to dress, and how to be a charismatic performer.
George said his love for music began when he received three 45 records one Christmas as a kid. One was by Tom Jones entitled Delilah, the other two records were by the Supremes. He credited both for influencing him.
The critics immediately praised this album,
. Christopher Connelly from Rolling Stone wrote, "George Michael's music is an unabashed rehash of Motown", adding "Make It Big almost flawless pop record, a record that does exactly what it wants to and has a great deal of fun doing it.
George Michael had such a great tone to his voice, and he could put real feeling into his singing.
1. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go this was the first single from the album and the first song to go number 1 in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The song was inspired by a note Andrew Ridgely had written to his parents. George Michael wanted to make a pop single that had the best elements of 50’s and 60’s songs. It took me awhile to warm up to this song, but it is so infectious I soon found myself liking the youthful joy it brings.
2. Everything She Wants is a million selling gold song by the group. It was released in 1984. The song is about a man who is disillusioned with his partner because she is materialistic, and no matter how hard he works it will never be enough for her. George Michael said that this was his favorite Wham song and he continued to sing it at his concerts once he began his solo career.
3. Heatbeat is the third song on the album. It wasn’t released as a single, but it is a great song none the less. The song has a sound of the 60’s to it with tambourines, and light guitars and steady drum beat. It also has a bit of the Bruce Springsteen sound to it too. The song is about a guy happy in his relationship until he sees someone who attracts him more. He wants to go for the new relationship even though he knows it will all end in tears.
4. Like a Baby the group slows things down with this beautiful tune. It has a jazzy feel too it. Years later when George wanted to go solo it was because he wanted to do more adult music. I guess this was his toe in the water by doing this song. The song is slow and beautiful with George coming into the song just when you thought the group was doing an instrumental. It fits very nicely into this album.
5. Freedom was a song that was another hit for the dynamic duo. It reached number one in the UK singles charts, and number three in the United States. It is easy to see why. This is a classic pop song. George has a lover he forgives of an indiscretion and he states he doesn’t want another lover or freedom he is in love for now and that person is all he wants. The video is memorable because Wham goes to China to do a concert and the song fits right in with the thoughts of Communist China they don’t want their freedom. The video also shows the guys playing soccer with the Chinese and going around China looking around. It later shows them in concert and shows how music unites people no matter what their beliefs. It is a wonderful song and video.
6. If You Were There was previously recorded by The Isley Brothers, but George and Andrew make the song their own. George has such a soulful way of singing. He sings like an angel in this song. The song is upbeat and George is stating he just wants to be there with his love. It is a beautiful song saying trust in me this man loves you.
7. Credit Card Baby this song has almost a beach music sound. It is bouncy, it is a cute song with George telling the girl you can keep my credit card baby, but keep your red hot fingers off my heart. It seems the girl is one who can’t help but go after every man she sees. George doesn’t want any part of it. George won’t be fooled by her charms.
8. Careless Whisper this is the first song that comes to mind when I think of Wham. The song was a monster hit It reached number one in 25 countries selling 6 million copies world wide. George wrote this song when he was seventeen years old. He was on a bus on the way to his job as a movie usher. The song wasn’t personal. Songfacts website stated, According to 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Michael said, "I wasn't secure enough to write something that would expose my feelings, so it's very clichéd in a lot of its terms." He also has complained, "It disappoints me that you can write a lyric very flippantly and it can mean so much to so many people."
Songfacts also said, George Michael claimed that he got more compliments on his writing of the sax solo at the beginning of the song than on anything else he had ever written. The saxophone part was played by Steve Gregory, a session player based in London. As verified by Chris Porter, who was the engineer on the session, 10 different sax players tried to do the solo before Gregory came up with the sound Michael was looking for. The persistence for the perfect sound paid off because when that saxophone starts off the song there is no doubt that the song is Careless Whisper.
He Was Serious About Pop Music
George Michael stated, in GQ in 2004: "I never minded being thought of as a pop star. People have always thought I wanted to be seen as a serious musician, but I didn't, I just wanted people to know that I was absolutely serious about pop music."
George, you were definitely serious about pop music, and the songs you wrote and performed were pop perfection. You defined music in the 80’s and 90’s and beyond. Your music will never die and all of us fans will feel forever young listening to your music.