There are certain moments in my musical history that I remember very vividly: sitting with my mom as she observed the 10 minutes of silence after the death of John Lennon; my first concert (Level 42 opening for Steve Winwood); and two moments tied to George Michael and Andrew Ridgley, otherwise known as Wham! The first was the first time I heard “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, and the second was the moment I heard (via MTV) that they were breaking up.
First contact with Wham! occurred in the shower (stop that!), where I would always have the radio on in the morning. I turned on the radio, hopped in the shower, and “Go Go” was about halfway done. Instantly, I was hooked, and I practically tripped over myself to get to the radio to hear who had created this revelation of a song. Really, when you get down to it, the song structure is classic, and there is a definite retro vibe going on, but in a sea of New Wave and Hairy Metal, the song stood out like a diamond in a pile of coal. I owned that 45 within a week of hearing it the first time, although it took a while to get the full-length. That would come with “Careless Whisper”, which I could not get enough of.
Speed ahead about a year, and a Boy Scout trip to Philadelphia. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Everything She Wants” seemed to be on the radio every hour, and I was loving it. I was in full-on geek fandom mode, although being a boy in high school, I tended to keep it in check until I got home from school or my part-time job. I remember riding with my grandmother to go cross-country skiing that following winter, and she had the Wham! tape and the Woman In Red (because she loved “Part Time Lover”) soundtrack in her truck. Pretty cool grandma, eh? Even the “I’m Your Man” EP, which probably was my first maxi-cassingle, was completely played out. (“He’s great! He’s tough! Mr Ridgeley, do your stuff! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”) I forgot how much I loved that video, even with the cheesy subliminals.
In between Make It Big and Music from the Edge of Heaven, I discovered Fantastic, which didn’t quite have the same impact of Big, but it still had me with “Wham Rap”, “Young Guns”, “Club Tropicana”, and “Bad Boys”. It was as if they had released another album, although I was several years behind the curve on that one. However, I caught up fast after the MTV report on the breakup of the band. While I didn’t do anything stupid or get all emotional, I remember really being struck by this. It was if two newly-acquired friends had moved away, and I didn’t have any idea if I would see them again. This feeling has occurred a few times since then, but as cliched as it is, I guess you never forget your first favorite band breakup.