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Digging Deep
When George Michael was found dead on Christmas Day, 2016, endless images of the party-boy pop-star at the height of his power were pumped out by the world’s media. In truth, the singer-songwriter’s life had been troubled in more recent years, but the outpouring of grief over his untimely death, at the age of 53, reminded us all that he was revered as the British male artist of his generation. Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, George’s suburban upbringing signalled little of the extraordinary story that lay ahead. He was an insecure, overweight child, but a move to secondary school paired him with someone who would change his life. In many ways, Andrew Ridgeley was everything George was not. Andrew’s effortless charisma could easily have been anathema to the shy newcomer, but the pair became inseparable. The music-mad friends would go on to form a school band called The Executive, and George, who also went busking and was an occasional DJ, would later admit that he modelled himself in the image of his best friend. If that might lead some to dismiss his early career, George’s extraordinary songwriting skills were evident right from the start. He wrote the future classic ‘Careless Whisper’ when he was just a teenager, and it was this track that most excited the A&R team at Innervision, an indie label allied with the then-mighty CBS Records. George and Andrew had formed Wham! in 1981, and their first single ‘Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)’ was released in the summer of the following year but failed to chart, despite a string of club dates to publicise the track, and some favourable notices from the music press. Another school friend, Shirlie Holliman, was recruited as a back-up dancer and vocalist for the promotional appearances, and it was this trio, with Dee C Lee, that opened the 4 November edition of Top Of The Pops with their second single, ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’. The standout performance, electrified by their slick choreography, looked like nothing else on the show at that time and became the stuff of legend, shooting the single all the way up to No.3 in the British charts. A reissued ‘Wham Rap!’ returned them to the Top 10 before ‘Bad Boys’ became their biggest hit, hitting No.2 in June 1983. George would later dismiss the record, saying it was the only time he had tried to write a hit to order, but it became a fan favourite. The duo’s debut LP, Fantastic, was released in July and became a British chart-topper, selling a million copies domestically and featuring the ultimate 80s party anthem ‘Club Tropicana’. Billed as The Club Fantastic Tour, the band’s first concerts also sold well and helped distract George from a legal battle that was by now threatening to overwhelm this first wave of success. In what proved to be only the first of his legal tussles with record companies, George challenged his contract with Innervision, claiming he was being tied to an unfair deal. The row rumbled on for months, leading the label to release a megamix of some Fantastic tracks as stop-gap single, which George and Andrew swiftly disowned.
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uDiscover Music transparent Essential Albums
Faith

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Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1

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Older

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Songs from the Last Century

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Patience

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