Looking at the very grown-up, accomplished artist he is now, it’s hard to believe George Michael was a very different proposition back in the early Eighties.
As one half of super-sparkly, neon-loving duo Wham! George had a run of brilliant, poppy hits, all written by his own fair hand, and while fans loved them, George and his pal Andrew Ridgeley weren’t taken all that seriously by highbrow critics. And then one record not only changed that view, it also spelled the dawn of a whole new career for George – it was time to go solo.
Careless Whisper had been knocking around in various forms for a few years – Andrew and George had written the track together before their career took off, some of it was even composed on a bus. Wham!’s signature sound was distinctly poppier than the tune Careless Whisper would turn into – they’d just spewnt two weeks at Number 1 with Wake Me Up Before You Go Go – so despite the group being smack bang in the middle of an album campaign, it was decided to release the cautionary tale of adultery and gossiping at the disco as George’s first solo record in the UK.
If fans were put off by Andrew’s absence, they didn’t show it – record shops (where you had to go to buy singles in those days) couldn’t stick it fast enough. It spent three weeks at Number 1 and ended up in the Top 5 sellers of 1984.
Appearing on the band’s Make It Big album, Careless Whisper was credited to Wham! in some countries, including the US, where it also topped the charts, but any casual observer could tell you that things were soon to change for Wham! for ever. In the end, it took two more years and three more Number 1s before Wham! properly called it a day in summer 1986.
But to the fans buying Careless Whisper, that crushing news was yet to come. In the memorable, impossibly glamorous video, George is the very picture of heartbreak as he laments those “guilty feet” of his and holds on to a lot of rope. And across the UK, and indeed the globe, millions of hearts broke with him.
The perfect tune for the last dance in the disco, Careless Whisper was the first solo Number 1 for George. He managed another chart-topper all by himself while still in Wham! – A Different Corner also spent three weeks at Number 1, in 1986 – and then a further five once he’d broken free. That full roll call of chart-toppers: I Knew You Were Waiting, with Aretha Frankin (2 weeks in 1987); Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, with Elton John (2 weeks in 1991); the Five Live EP ,with Queen & Lisa Stansfield (3 weeks in 1993); Jesus To A Child (1 week in 1996) and Fastlove (3 weeks in 1996). Phew!
Careless Whisper is George’s biggest selling single, with over 1.4 million copies sold. He does have another million seller, thanks to Wham!’s festive hit Last Christmas, which was kept off Christmas Number 1 by another song George appeared on, albeit uncredited, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?
Watch the video of another George classic before we count down the rest of this week’s retro Top 5. Yay! This is a legendary Top 5, by the way. Hold on to your wide-brimmed hats.
2: Agadoo – Black Lace
Ah-gaaaa- do do do push pineapple, shake the tree. Agadoo do do, push pineapple, grind coffee. We didn’t even have to Google that one. Yes, it’s party singalong superstars Black Lace scoring their highest charting hit and a staple of any school disco for most of the Eighties. It was the band’s second Top 40 hit – the equally incredible Superman hit Number 9 in 1983. And how do you top Agadoo, why you release versions of Do The Conga (Number 10 in 1984) and the Hokey Cokey (Number 31 in 1985) and have two more Top 40 hits, that’s how! This video is not to be missed.
3: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
George’s Careless Whisper was a big change from the super-shouty monster Number 1 from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, which fell two places this week in 1984. It topped the charts for an incredible nine consecutive weeks and sold over 1.6 million copies. Its predecessor Relax has sold over two million! They were the first act to top the Official Singles Chart with their first three singles since Gerry & The Pacemakers in 1963, a feat since repeated by acts including Spice Girls and, erm, Jive Bunny.
4: Hazell Dean – Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)
Up four places this week in 1984, the lady who would never see a disco ball go lonely, Hazell Dean. The Essex-born singer scored her highest charting hit with this empowered anthem, the follow-up to her very first Top 10 Searchin’ (I Gotta Find A Man). She wouldn’t return to the Top 10 for almost four years – grabbing another Number 4 hit with Who’s Leaving Who, penned by ‘80s pop legends Stock Aitken Waterman. Two more Top 40 hits followed, including a cover of Kylie album track Turn It Into Love, but since 1988 it’s been all quiet on the Hazell front. She is still performing, though – in 2012 she brought the house down at the Hit Factory Live extravaganza.
5: Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
Down two this week, the iconic Tina Turner, who was still relatively new to this solo chart biz – her first UK hit by herself was 1983’s Let’s Stay Together. Flying solo, Tina’s had nine Top 10s – she’s never improved on Number 3, either. One more track, 1985’s We Don’t Need Another Hero, also made it to bronze position. With former husband Ike, Number 3 was also the best she could do – the classic River Deep Mountain High was essentially a solo Tina record, but Ike got his name on there. It was Tina’s first UK hit in 1966.
This time last year…
Twerking came back in a big way thanks to hedonistic Miley Cyrus, her skull made of fries and her mates all larging it in her debut Number 1 We Can’t Stop. See the full Top 40 for this week last year.