Waking Up to Utter, “Oh No!” – 1963-2016

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wham

Commentary by Rick Hiduk

On Christmas Day, we were having great fun testing out the Google Home smart stereo system at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Pittston Township. When the system kept taking my niece, Samantha’s, request for Christmas music in darker directions, my brother-in-law, Steve, said, “OK, Google. Play Perry Como’s Christmas album,” and it did.

When that was finished, I said “OK, Google. Play ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham!”

Following that time-honored pop holiday classic, the system maintained an even keel of similar well-known Christmas songs. As we so joyfully celebrated the holiday as a family, we could never have imagined that half of Wham! – enigmatic solo artist George Michael had just died of heart failure.

Upon hearing the news on CNN this morning, my first thought after “That’s sad” was “Wow, he was younger than me!” Only by a year, mind you, but it was somehow easier to accept the deaths of David Bowie and even Prince because they were older than I.

Nonetheless, a flood of nostalgia overtook me as I recalled not only playing so many of his hits on the radio and in clubs, but the way in which the young man to whom I’d once referred as a “British Pop Tart” consistently rivaled America’s Madonna as MTV royalty. His cute, booty-shaking videos now seem pale in comparison to Madonna’s writhing and posturing, but both persistently broke down barriers.

Speculation over his sexuality was both instantaneous and unrelenting. He and Andrew Ridgeley (the other half of Wham!) were so stinking cute, they had to be gay – right? Quite frankly, I didn’t care. I simply piled them on top of the giant plate of progressive pop songs that I was sharing with my own audiences. When George went solo in 1986, however, it seemed that he was subversively feeding his anti-gay critics via his video persona while vehemently refusing to sexually identify himself.

In various interviews in the 1990s, including those after his arrest for propositioning an undercover officer in 1997, George related that, in the ’80s, he feared harming his career and embarrassing his mother. As the years went by, he told interviewers, he was simply offended by being told what he was, when he wasn’t even sure himself. I get that.

While acknowledging his attractiveness, I wasn’t personally drawn to him. As a DJ, however, I could not deny the power of his music. His 45s and Lps were always near the front of my music crates.

As an industry insider, I was fortunate to know who/what Wham! was prior to their first big US hit, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” Don Tandler, a DJ on WILK am (Wilkes-Barre) and Q-102 (WTLQ – Pittston) was already introducing nighttime listeners to “Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do),” “Young Guns (Go For It)” and “Bad Boys,” the latter of which even charted in the W-B/Scr market thanks to Tandler’s ear for up-and-coming artists.

Bad Boys” was in fact the first of the duo’s hits to make Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at #60 in September of 1983 after reaching #2 on the British pop charts. George Michael would eventually have 10 chart toppers in the US, three of them with Ridgeley, one with R&B superstar Aretha Franklin, and one with Sir Elton John. George also reached the top of the British chart 10 times.

The charts that follow rank George’s success on the Billboard Hot 100, his biggest hits on the UK charts, notable entries on other US charts, my personal favorites, and comments by my DJ friends and other fans of George and Wham!

Note that four of George’s US #1 solo hits did not even make the British Top 5, meaning that he was more popular in the US than in the UK during the late ’80s. The tide returned in his favor in the UK in the early ’90s. Radio play of George’s songs in the US pretty much dried up after his 1997 arrest, but he continued to chart regularly in the UK into this decade.

American Hits (W=Wham!, solo if not denoted) / Peak (wks at #1) / Total Wks Charted / Year

  1. Faith 1(4) 20 87
  2. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (W) 1(3) 24 84
  3. Careless Whisper (W) 1(3) 21 85
  4. One More Try 1(3) 18 88
  5. Everything She Wants (W) 1(2) 20 85
  6. I Knew That You Were Waiting For Me* 1(2) 17 87
  7. Father Figure 1(2) 17 88
  8. Monkey 1(2) 16 88
  9. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me** 1(1) 20 92
  10. Praying For Time 1(1) 14 90
  11. I Want Your Sex 2 20 87
  12. Freedom (W) 3 18 85
  13. I’m Your Man (W) 3 18 86
  14. Heaven Help Me*** 5 16 89
  15. Kissing a Fool 5 15 88
  16. A Different Corner 7 16 86
  17. Jesus to a Child 7 14 96
  18. Fastlove 8 19 96
  19. Freedom ’90 8 16 90
  20. Too Funky 10 20 92
  21. The Edge of Heaven 10 13 86
  22. Waiting For That Day 27 10 91
  23. Somebody to Love**** 30 9 93
  24. Mother’s Pride 46 9 91
  25. Where Did Your Heart Go? 50 8 86
  26. Last Christmas (W)***** 58 2 97
  27. Bad Boys (W) 60 9 83
  28. Killer/Papa Was a Rolling Stone 69 7 93

*w/Aretha Franklin **w/Elton John ***Deon Estus w/George Michael ****w/Freddie Mercury *****recorded 1984

(Andrew Ridgeley hit #77 on the US charts in 1990 with “Shake,” his only solo entry. It reached #53 on the British charts.)

Top British Hits / Pk / Yr

  1. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (W) 1 84
  2. Careless Whisper (W) 1 84
  3. Freedom (W) 1 84
  4. I’m Your Man (W) 1 85
  5. The Edge of Heaven (W)* 1 86
  6. A Different Corner 1 86
  7. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me 1 91
  8. Somebody to Love** 1 93
  9. Jesus to a Child 1 96
  10. Fastlove 1 96
  11. Bad Boys (W) 2 83
  12. Everything She Wants (W) 2 84
  13. Last Christmas 2 84
  14. Faith 2 87
  15. Spinning The Wheel 2 96
  16. Star People ’97 2 97
  17. You Have Been Loved/Strangest Thing 2 97
  18. Outside 2 98
  19. Young Guns (Go For It) (W) 3 82
  20. I Want Your Sex 3 87
  21. Older/I Can’t Make You Love Me 3 97
  22. Club Tropicana (W) 4 83
  23. Too Funky 4 92
  24. As f: Mary J. Blige 4 99
  25. Amazing 4 04
  26. Praying For Time 6 90
  27. Freeek! 7 02
  28. Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do) (W) 8 83
  29. One More Try 8 88
  30. Flawless (Go to the City) 8 04
  31. Waltz Away Dreaming f: Toby Bourke 10 97
  32. Father Figure 11 88
  33. Shoot The Dog 12 02
  34. Monkey 13 88
  35. An Easy Affair 13 06
  36. December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) 14 06
  37. Club Fantastic Megamix (W) 15 83
  38. This is Not Real Love f: Mutya Buena 15 06
  39. White Light 15 12
  40. Kissing a Fool 18 88
  41. Waiting For That Day 23 90
  42. True Faith 27 11
  43. Freedom ’90 28 90
  44. Heal The Pain 31 91
  45. Round Here 32 04
  46. Cowboys & Angels 45 91
  47. Let Her Down Easy 53 04

*B-side “Where Did Your Heart Go?” charted simultaneously **B-side “Killer/Papa Was a Rolling Stone” charted simultaneously

Success on other American charts

Not surprisingly, George Michael’s soulful ballads were huge hits on both Billboard’s Adult and R&B charts.

Top Adult Hits / Pk / Yr

  1. Careless Whisper (W) 1(5) 84
  2. One More Try 1(3) 88
  3. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me 1(2) 91
  4. Kissing a Fool 1(1) 88
  5. I Knew That You Were Waiting For Me 2 86

Top R&B Hits / Pk / Yr

  1. One More Try 1(1) 88
  2. Heaven Help Me 3 89
  3. I Knew That You Were Waiting For Me 5 86
  4. Father Figure 6 88
  5. Careless Whisper (W) 8 85

Many of his songs also graced the Dance/Disco charts in their original form or as remixes. George Michael never made the American Rock, Alternative, nor Country charts.

I’ll keep my lists simple. The first is my synopsis of George’s biggest hits based on crowd response and requests over the years, followed by my personal favorites.

Response/Requests:

  1. Faith 87
  2. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go 84
  3. I Want Your Sex 87
  4. Father Figure 88
  5. Careless Whisper 85

Personal favorites:

  1. Last Christmas 84
  2. Faith 87
  3. Careless Whisper 85
  4. Everything She Wants 85
  5. Father Figure 88

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Facebook comments/ George Michael favorites read December 26, 2016:

Don Tandler – “Another artist not appreciated until he’s no longer around to feel the love. Bittersweet.” (Careless Whisper – Gorgeous piece of music. Hypnotic.)

Nikki Walton Stone – “‘Can’t believe our childhoods are getting ripped away like this. George Michael had a powerful voice and was one of the great talents of the ’80s. I’m sure hoping that this is not another case of doctor-induced death by prescribed medications.” (Careless Whisper – often sung to her by her boyfriend at the time.)

Christine Zagata – “He was such a versatile performer. He had a wonderful voice.” (Father Figure. Careless Whisper, Last Christmas, Wake Me Up, Faith, Freedom)

Wendy Layou – “‘Still love his music. Most of his music would get you moving or singing. Sad to see him die so young.” (Faith)

Jean Bean Lynett – “Just so sad.”

Kimberly Woodruff (Father Figure)

Barbara Rognoni Walder (One More Try)

Wendy Harvey (Faith)

Sherry Baker Grow (Careless Whisper, One More Try, Father Figure, Monkey, Faith)

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Managing Editor of EndlessMtnLifestyles.com, dedicated to providing interesting information about life in the Endless Mountains region of northern Pennsylvania. The website - a meager investment with no immediate return - is meant to be community-based and to reflect the varied tastes of its readers. Submissions from legitimate organizations and event coordinators are welcome and will be published as space and time allow. This website is operated by Endless Mountains Media Services. I am seeking submissions of news stories, promotional press releases, and photos for posting with full recognition for the submitter. I am also hoping to build a base of correspondents who would enjoy being my "ears and eyes" in parts of the four county region where news is happening. I am also a self-employed media consultant and freelance writer/editor, providing professional services for businesses, municipalities, and organizations for which retaining a full time staff writer is not a viable option.

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