The definitive doco on a pop sensation, this is the tale of two best friends who shot to stardom across 4 years before calling it quits.

Prepare to plant a smile on your face from beginning to end with the new Netflix documentary, Wham! which transports back to 4 glorious years in the 1980s.

Yes it was only 4 years, 1982 – 1986 that Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael shot like a meteor across the world of pop music, selling 30 million records in the process.

By 1986 George Michael embarked on his superstar solo career after a final sell-out concert as the duo at Wembley.

The new doco special from director Chris Smith (Tiger King, Sr.) and producers John Battsek (The Deepest Breath) and Simon Halfon (Supersonic) is gifted by extrordinary personal archives including remarkable and never-before-seen footage, alongside rare, candid and previously unheard interviews.

The voices of Michael and Ridgeley recall memories across the special in a comprehensive way, rather than just being edited in here and there.

From their meeting at Bushey Meads School -at ages 11 and 12- to Number 1 chart success and World Tours, this covers it all.

“Wham! was never going to grow up… it was like a dream,” they recall. “How could these two idiots become so bloody massive?”

By the age of 16 the two were attempting a teen band, The Executive playing Ska music in 1979 -but it was the start of songwriting.

Even then, Andrew and “Yog” were musically joined at the hip, and dancing in combination at the local Beetroot Club, a forerunner of what would become “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)”. The boys were writing social lyrics with disco beats but unable to land a record deal until meeting Mark Dean of Innervision Records, who had discovered ABC and Soft Cell.

But record sales were slow with Wham Rap at #105 until an arresting performance on Top of the Pops in 1982 with backing dancers Dee C. Lee and Shirlie Holliman. It ignited chart sales with a release of Wham Rap hitting #8.

Even “Careless Whisper” was written in 1981, with Michael admitting at the time, “I don’t know if I’ll be good enough to sing it, but that is a number one song.” It would not be released until 1984 with a hypnotic video, years after other Wham! successes.

Michael told Ridgeley of his attraction to men during a visit to Ibiza for “Club Tropicana” (1983), which saw him stay in the closet largely due to his conservative Greek-Cypriot father (“Bad Boys” lyrics reflect his feelings) but also due to the pressures of fame -the band were idolised by teenage girls across the country.

Michael admits to creating a “character” to front the pop act which had shifted to wholesome bubblegum pop, a factor which grated against Michael’s burning desire for songwriting recognition. Despite a string of hits including “Freedom”,”Everything She Wants”, “Last Christmas”, “I’m Your Man” and the smash hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, the band were panned by music critics.

Amid some of the doco’s more fascinating archives is the 1985 trip to China -designed to attract the interest of the US market as a two man cultural revolution. As the first modern pop band to play in Communist China it worked. The vision here of Chinese concert fans, and the band walking the Great Wall of China, is rare access.

Ridgeley acknowledges the star power of Michael but does not begrudge him the desire to break out into a solo career. At the same time Michael was struggling with his sexuality being kept under wraps.

‘I want to be able to develop as a human being but I feel trapped,” Michael recalls.

“It must be one of pop music’s most noble gestures, for Ridgeley to agree to a split at the height of fame and allow a childhood friend follow his true calling.

Australia features briefly in the doco, with a Molly Meldrum interview as the first of the special and a later reference of fans sleeping overnight at Melbourne Airport for a glimpse of the band.

In 2017 a Channel 4 doco by filmmaker and close friend, David Austin reflected on the stardom of George Michael not long after his early death.

But Wham! is the definitive screen archive of the pop duo. Choose Life. Don’t miss it.

Wham! screens Wednesday July 5 on Netflix.

5 Responses

  1. Yeah, this was a really enjoyable tale of two best buds and exemplifies Andrew’s reputation as being an absolute gentleman, loyal friend and dignified human being. I’ve started listening to Wham! and George’s albums in order and it’s fascinating to hear his rapid maturation as an artist.

  2. Saw this yesterday, and what struck me was these 2 guys were mates, and were still mates when Wham folded. Not a Wham fan but it was really good to watch.

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