TrackSingle / Album
Young Guns (Go For It!)Fantastic
Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)Fantastic
Bad BoysFantastic
Club TropicanaFantastic
A Ray Of SunshineFantastic
Wake Me Up Before You Go-GoMake It Big
FreedomMake It Big
If You Were ThereMake It Big
I'm Your ManEpic A 6716
Everything She Wants / Last ChristmasEpic GA 4949

Wham photo 1

George Michael, Andrew Ridgeley (photo Chris Craymer)



Wham! playlist



Contributor: Dave Ross

“Hey sucker …” – and so George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley announced Wham! to an unsuspecting Thursday night TV audience 40 years ago in October 1982 with Young Guns (Go For It!). I actually remember watching it with my dad and brother as a 17-year-old still trying to work things out and being blown away by the sheer spectacle of it. Allowed on Top Of The Pops despite being outside the top 40 – unheard of in those days – they grabbed their opportunity with both hands. Ridiculously funky, slick choreography, Dee C. Lee, Shirlie Holliman and a Stevie Wonder-style backing band. Oh, and those lyrics telling a story anyone over the age of 18 could immediately relate to. Wham! Have that!!

Young guns having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run
Wise guys realize there’s danger in emotional ties
See me, single and free
No fears, no tears, what I want to be
One, two, take a look at you –
Death by matrimony

I’ve really got nothing more to add as this clip sums up Wham! and what they were about better than any words I could use. If you feel nothing after watching this then the next 9 songs aren’t for you either. If you love it like I do join me on a ride through 10 of the greatest feel-good pop performances you’ll ever see.

Still with me? Thank you. Performance is an important distinction. I listened to all these songs on Spotify and they still sound great of course but it’s only when you see them performed that they really come to life and fully explain the Wham! phenomenon. If you have stayed with me after Young Guns I hope you’re able to see as well as hear what follows.


They followed Young Guns with the rerelease of Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do?) and once again blew away the cobwebs with their sheer energy and self-belief. This time rapping their way through a social commentary song about unemployment and disillusionment at Thatcher’s Britain. Like the Sugar Hill Gang meets the Specials but in leather jackets, jeans and espadrilles instead of Fred Perry’s, Sta Press and tassels. While the Specials told their story through the gloriously eerie Ghost Town, George and Andrew danced and partied on their benefits refusing to accept their fate.

Hey everybody take a look at me,
I’ve got street credibility,
I may not have a job,
But I have a good time,
With the boys that I meet down on the line

This, again, from Top Of The Pops sealed Wham!’s position as pop princes with a message who had to be reckoned with.


Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou was born in June 1963 in East Finchley. His father was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur who had lived in the UK since the 50s. His mother was an English dancer (that’s where he got those moves). The family moved to Radlett in Hertfordshire and George attended Bushey Meads School, a secondary school near Watford where he met Andrew Ridgeley. Andrew was born in January 1963 in Surrey. His father was of Egyptian and Italian heritage. His mother was a primary school teacher. He was already a pupil at Bushey Meads when George arrived. He took George under his wing as the new boy at school. This is relevant because to understand Wham! is to understand just how important Andrew Ridgeley was to the whole thing and specifically to George. Andrew was the driving force in those early days. No Andrew, no Wham! George Michael? Who knows. By my next selection though, Bad Boys, George was absolutely front and centre while Andrew for the first time was behind a guitar. The shy fat George was neither shy nor fat any longer. His Triumph leather jacket already a sign of things to come. Bad Boys is a relentless funk/soul stormer with some wonderful, hysterically funny lyrics. It’s just a brilliant pop song. The confidence to come up with these lyrics …

Dear mommy, dear daddy
Now I’m nineteen as you see
I’m handsome, tall and strong
So what the hell gives you the right to look at me
As if to say, “Hell, what went wrong?”

… and deliver them with such assuredness and conviction would have been beyond most. George did it effortlessly and with absolute belief. I defy you to watch this without smiling.


After all that, the bad boys on the dole or with sleepless nights on an HP bed seemed to have done rather well for themselves. In the absolutely iconic video for Club Tropicana they’re now pilots living it up where the drinks are free with enough fun and sunshine for everyone; George’s Tippex-white teeth, equally blinding white trunks and tanned torso sending women and men wild with lust and jealousy. Such a great feel-good song and video. It was released in 1983. In 1984, I went on my first lads’ foreign holiday as a skinny 19-year-old still without a clue. Thanks to watching Club Tropicana I managed to invent a whole hedonistic, alcohol-fuelled artifice of a persona that stayed with me through the 80s. (Minus the white trunks.) Coooool … not really but it was the 80s.


My next choice was picked purely based on this performance from The Tube. A non-single, joyously funky slice of Michael magic. The shorts, the band, the shorts. The influences as obvious as the shuttlecocks and those shorts. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the keyboard player is told what he’s wearing. Enjoy A Ray Of Sunshine:


One of the things I really love about Wham! is the sheer brazenness of it all. All my first five choices were from Fantastic. Of course it was called Fantastic. The next album was called Make It Big. So they made it bigger. Statement titles. Confidence backed up by those songs, that chemistry and that voice. Unstoppable. I haven’t stopped smiling yet.

So now we reach possibly the most unashamedly commercial pop song ever created. Another one of those iconic 80s videos, creating that year’s fashion for baggy statement t-shirts. An outright Motown lift with some Pearl and Dean style ‘bah bahs’ and just about as much fun as you can have legally. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. Cool? Probably not. Fantastic? Making it big? Absolutely.

You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day


Now by the time the next song was released on 1st October 1984, two years after Young Guns, I had a girlfriend. I know, get me. I also had this desire to look like George Michael, who didn’t? As the old saying goes, though, you can’t polish a turd. But I could grow, highlight and blow-dry my hair. Couldn’t I? Now, fortunately, or with hindsight, unfortunately, my girlfriend had worked for a couple of weeks as a hairdresser so, one evening, the deed was done with a plastic cap and some peroxide. Luckily for me no photos remain of the ensuing yellow mess. There is this though, how it should have looked, from Top Of The Pops with George as Greek God. I was more Greek yoghurt. Freedom was at number 1 while I continued to look like a number 2. Edit: I’ve just noticed it’s the same keyboard player as in the Ray Of Sunshine clip. He looks much happier in his tuxedo than vest and shorts.

So there, as if it were possible, was George showing off his influences on Freedom more than ever. It was a Motown/Northern Soul mix that was irresistible to those who were too young to know what either of those things were in 1984.


My next choice is a cover of the Isley Brothers classic If You Were There. I adore the Isley Brothers and this song and cover were perfect for Wham!. George could show off his vocal range, it’s a great pop song, a perfect album filler and again most Wham! fans were too young to care or realise it wasn’t one of George’s songs. They probably just imagined George singing those wonderful lines to them through that poster on their wall. Not me obviously, I had a girlfriend.

You’re the one that makes my day a dream come true
Yet and still you wonder if I think of you
You ought to see how the other girls behave when you’re not round
And only then you would know that it’s on your finger I’m wound

Unfortunately, as it wasn’t a single, there isn’t a decent performance video out there but I love the song so much it’s going in my 10 anyway. There is this which uses footage from their famous trip to China. It’s easy to forget just what a big deal this was at the time. It includes a surreal game of football with some Chinese lads in a local park. George rocking a leather hat and Andrew in his full QPR strip carrying it off with some aplomb. Brilliant. Did I say there wasn’t a performance video for this?

Before I move on, I want to give an honorary mention to Careless Whisper. A Wham! song from Make It Big but released as a George Michael solo single even though it was co-written with Andrew Ridgeley. Wikipedia tells me: “Andrew Ridgeley came up with the chord sequence on his Fender Telecaster he had received for his 18th birthday. They continued to work together on the music and lyric both at Michael’s house in Radlett, and Shirlie Holliman’s aunt’s basement flat in Peckham, where Ridgeley was living.” However true that is it ensured Ridgeley would be looked after financially long after Wham! split. Careless Whisper being the first step towards that. I’m not including it in my 10 but we can all agree it’s a monster.


Now, if it’s ok with all the Wham aficionados I’m going to leave Make It Big for a moment and leap forward to 1985 and I’m Your Man. Another Northern Soul tune completely ripped off from Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You but given a huge slice of Wham! cheese along with George growing his stubble for the first time. I have this hope that Ian Brown and John Squire were listening to I’m Your Man when they came up with I Am The Resurrection but who knows?

There was no stopping Wham! at this point. Well, except, of course, George deciding it was time to go solo. The image in this video a clear sign of where he was heading. I can’t fit in Edge Of Heaven from 1986 which was the final Wham! single but if you seek it out it’s Faith George in all but name. Andrew took his royalties, fell in love with a Bananarama and moved to Cornwall. The story goes that he has settled into a quiet family life, supporting local charities and generally becoming one of the coolest guys you could meet, dealing with being Andrew Ridgeley with a quiet dignity which is to be admired. Let’s not forget that in a Smash Hits Q&A from around 1983, Andrew stated his favourite song was Just Like Gold by Aztec Camera. He’s always been cool.

He did release one solo album after Wham! but that is a story all of its own for another day. I was also introduced recently to a song by Black Box Recorder called Andrew Ridgeley which is lovely. As it seems is Andrew.

So that’s it. Wham! over and out in four remarkable years. What’s that? Only nine songs you say? Of course, I knew that. Take a break, get a cup of tea and a mince pie because we’re doing Last Christmas now to finish.

I’ll start by saying the annual social media phenomenon of Whamageddon disappoints me greatly. People trying to prove how cool they are by avoiding Last Christmas for as long as possible then whining because they were caught unawares in Top Shop. I don’t understand this hatred of one of the great Christmas songs.

It was released as a double A-side with Everything She Wants. The girlfriend I mentioned who butchered, sorry highlighted, my hair was obsessed with the song and in a cruel twist of fate dumped me for a young farmer just after we’d celebrated Christmas together. To be honest, looking back at the lyrics to Everything She Wants it was a lucky escape although let me tell you it didn’t feel that way at the time.

And now you tell me that you’re having my baby
I’ll tell you that I’m happy if you want me to
But one step further and my back will break
If my best isn’t good enough, then how can it be good enough for two?



Right, Last Christmas. George writes about relationships a lot. All the way through this top ten there’s a relationship theme. Good or bad, George has a hook for it. What he did here is where the sheer genius of Last Christmas lies. George acknowledges that Christmas can be a bit shit, especially in relationships. The expectation, the temptation, the parties, it’s all set up to go wrong. It isn’t all simply having a wonderful Christmas time or rocking around the Christmas tree and some people absolutely don’t wish it could be Christmas every day. I came across this video article about the song and I’ll share it because it’s good to hear from Andrew Ridgeley. There’s some great back story to how George threw Last Christmas together and Andrew backs up my views perfectly.

From the opening intro you know you’re on a relentless sleigh ride of a Christmas song but there’s already the whiff of melancholy about it. Then in those opening lines George sums up how Christmas feels for many of us, not every year necessarily but I suspect we’ve all had at least one Last Christmas and then it’s repeated just to make sure we’ve got the message. I imagine there’s not many people – on hearing those lines – that don’t experience a flash to a Christmas where they were either the offender or offended because of a drunken night out or a work Christmas party. Much like the Pogues’ Fairy Tale Of New York, Last Christmas looks at the darker side of the festive season and relationships which I think goes a long way to explaining its popularity and ubiquity. We’ve all been there.

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special

Simple yet effective. He’s bumped into an ex, at Christmas, a year on from something bad. This is awkward. But let me tell you, it won’t happen again. Right, where’s this going next?

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye
Tell me baby, do you recognize me?
Well, it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me
Happy Christmas, I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying “I love you”, I meant it
Now I know what a fool I’ve been
But if you kissed me now, I know you’d fool me again

Brilliant, isn’t it? She treated him like a doormat. Accepted his gift but has probably forgotten him already. She’s moved on to some other mug (probably a farmer) but poor George despite all that, despite knowing he’s been a fool, accepts with a heavy heart that if he allowed it, he’d be a fool again. It’s not just me, is it? We’ve all been there, right? And still the relentless melancholy sleigh ride chugs on keeping us hypnotised.

A crowded room, friends with tired eyes
I’m hiding from you and your soul of ice
My God, I thought you were someone to rely on
Me? I guess I was a shoulder to cry on
A face on a lover with a fire in his heart
A man under cover, but you tore me apart
Oh, oh now I’ve found a real love
You’ll never fool me again

The aspirational video set in the Swiss mountains conveys the room with tired eyes after a lavish booze-filled dinner party. They could hardly have set it in the local Sheraton hotel could they? Those of us who’ve experienced this kind of betrayal know where these things are likely to happen. Why? Really. Why do businesses do that? Cheap hotel, cheap booze, Christmas parties for office workers (or young farmers) can only end in disaster and often do. Anyway, poor George is now hiding from her and her soul of ice. She really is a piece of work this one. She tore him apart and now he’s trying to convince himself but, as we know, once you’ve been on the end of a betrayal like this you can’t ever really trust anyone, even yourself, again.

We then get two more rounds of the chorus ending with a yearning, pleading, hopeful “special”. He’s trying to convince himself here. Then the denouement.

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart (I gave you mine)
A man under cover but you tore him apart
Maybe next year I’ll give it to someone
I’ll give it to someone special

He’s moved on from this year to maybe next year and we listeners are left none the wiser as to what actually happened. Was he fooled again?

It’s such a clever song musically and lyrically and with George passing away on Christmas Day in 2016 it adds a certain poignancy; capturing a mood around Christmas that clearly strikes a raw nerve with the millions of people who actively seek it out each year, rather than try to avoid it. Those that hate the song probably left this top ten at “Hey sucker”. I’m not really expecting to convert anyone but it’s near on 40-year festive season ubiquity has swamped the message somewhat. Its stats are astonishing, only missing out on topping the charts because of Band Aid back in 1984. Let’s not forget how George changed the melody of his part in that song. “But say a prayer” flipped on its head much to the astonishment of Geldof & co. George Michael was a genius and I think Last Christmas actually showcases that genius for getting a song just right better than most. Classic, simple, brilliant, genius.

If you did make it this far, well done for a start. Secondly, I hope you are able to discover new love for one of the truly great Christmas songs from a band whose light shone furiously for four years and still flickers today, especially at this time of year. Special …


Wham! aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I get that. Don’t get me wrong, I love some post punk, raincoat wearing, spikey haired doom and gloom as much as the next Bunnyman. But I can’t listen to it all the time. Sometimes I need a band like the Monkees, Haircut 100 and of course Wham! to just make me feel better. Some musical dopamine to get the good stuff running through my veins without opening a bottle. While searching out the video clips for this top ten, I genuinely found myself smiling, or at times literally laughing out loud, at the sheer nonsense of it all but, because it’s George Michael, there’s that incredibly rich seam of talent running all the way through it. When considering George’s post-Wham! life compared to Andrew, you do wonder. George took fame and fortune into the stratosphere but was he ever that happy again? I wrote a piece earlier this year on the reissue of George’s 1996 solo album Older that turned into a comparison with Billy Mackenzie and their journeys from the early 80s to the mid 90s. Both lives ultimately, tragically, ending far too early. It prompted this look back at Wham!.

There’s no doubt in my mind the world is a better place with Wham! and their music in it. I really hope this Toppermost Top Ten has conveyed that joy while never underestimating the size of the talent, chemistry and work required to pull it all off so spectacularly.



Wham photo 2

Dee, Andrew, George, Shirlie (l-r)

George Michael (1963-2016)


Wham! (Wikipedia)

Wham! Toppermost 10 Video Playlist (YouTube)

George Michael official website

Andrew Ridgeley official website

Dee C Lee official website

Shirlie Holliman (Wikipedia)

Toppermost #676: George Michael

Wham! biography (AllMusic)

Dave Ross lives near Windsor and hides under his online pseudonym Dave Amitri to talk mainly about cricket and music. He has written a drama “Jimmy Blue” featuring the music of Del Amitri and has recently published his first book “12 Bowie Albums In 12 Months” based on a series of posts on The Afterword website. Follow him on twitter @DaveAmitri. His other posts for this site are on The Associates, The Blow Monkeys, Nick Heyward, The Lotus Eaters, Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins.

TopperPost #1,051


  1. Austin Fisher
    Dec 14, 2022

    A really enjoyable read. I certainly remember the early days of Wham! where the fans’ attention was more on Andrew than George. You’re right to say that Andrew’s influence was crucial – he gave George the confidence and support he needed to establish himself and he basically sent George on his way.
    Everything She Wants is a ruddy masterpiece and I have always loved Freedom and Edge of Heaven. Wake me up…is not a song I like very much but dammit I know an instant classic pop song when I hear one.
    Enjoyed the Ray of Sunshine clip and would also offer Where Did Your Heart Go? as deserving a mention.

    • David Ross
      Dec 15, 2022

      Cheers Austin. Doing this has reminded me what a Marmite band Wham are. Andrew is absolutely as important as George. If anyone can watch that Ray Of Sunshine clip without smiling they must be very hard to please…

  2. David Lewis
    Dec 14, 2022

    As I said in my George Michael toppermost, in my humble opinion, George had the best male voice of his generation – a generation that was filled with great voices. As uncool as Wham! was supposed to be, there was no getting away from that voice. (I got into some trouble for not highlighting his amazing songwriting rather than his incredible covers, and I do accept that. But that voice …)
    I also stated I thought I wasn’t qualified enough to do Wham! and I was right given the excellent rundown this is. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for doing it.

    • David Ross
      Dec 15, 2022

      Thanks David. Oh yes George’s voice is extraordinary I really love it on If You Were There. It really was the best fun to do. Musical dopamine

  3. Andrew Shields
    Dec 15, 2022

    Have to admit I am still ambivalent about Wham! but this is the best case for the defence I have read. And I also think you are spot on about ‘Last Christmas’.

  4. David Ross
    Dec 15, 2022

    Thanks Andrew your comment sits firmly in the “job done” category

  5. Ian Ashleigh
    Dec 16, 2022

    Away from the music, my late Dad used to tell the story of how he took George Michael in his taxi and how charming he was. This was at the height of Wham!’s fame.

  6. David Ross
    Dec 17, 2022

    Thanks for that story Ian. You only hear good things about how George treated others. Seems a shame he didn’t appear to treat himself so well.

  7. Paul (aka MarineBoy1)
    Dec 19, 2022

    Always love to read your posts Dave, thank you for this one as well, a lovely summary. For myself, I always really loved the relative rarity that is “Blue (Armed With Love)” which as you will probably know was the b-side of “Club Tropicana” and never appears anywhere digitally and is all the more special for it … I would say that was the first hint at what would come from GM’s solo career. I’m also the very proud owner of the very first InnerVision “Unsocial Mix” of Wham! Rap bought in the summer of 82. I loved it right away but not knowing what was about to follow … happy times. Thanks again Dave for the lovely read and I hope to see you again soon.

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