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Wham!

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Biography

Wham! sparked something of a pop revival in the mid-'80s and could arguably be held responsible for sparking off the boy band trend of the '90s. They were unashamedly pop, to the point of padding the front of their trousers for television appearances. At the heart, however, was a string of catchy singalong singles written by George Michael (born Georgios Kyrriacos Panayiotou in London to a Greek restauranting family).

George met Wham!'s other half, Andrew Ridgeley, at school in the London suburb of Bushey, and in 1979 they started performing together as part of the ska-based band the Executive. When that group dissolved, they wrote songs, made demos, and rushed into a recording contract with the equally eager independent label Innervision, scoring an instant hit with "Wham Rap!" (they thought that "wham" was the sound they made when Michael and Ridgeley performed together). In order to move to a recording contract with Sony label Epic, Wham! was forced to walk away from most of the royalties from their debut album, Fantastic. None of that mattered when their 1984 single, "Wake Me up Before You Go Go," became a worldwide hit, accompanied by a video of the pair cavorting in their sportswear. Almost immediately, George Michael started thinking of a solo career, and released "Careless Whisper," issued in the U.S. under George Michael of Wham!

Wham!'s end came suddenly two years later, in 1985, reputedly when the group's manager, Simon Napier-Bell (later to manage Take That), decided to sell a share of his management to a South African entertainment conglomerate. Supposedly, as part of a stand against South African politics, George Michael immediately announced Wham!'s breakup. They gave their farewell performance before a sold-out audience of 72,000 fans at London's Wembley Stadium.

George Michael comfortably stepped straight into his own highly successful solo performing and recording career. Andrew Ridgeley's post Wham! album, Son of Albert, sold poorly and produced just one minor hit, "Shake."

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