Tag Archives: Wham!

2011 ➤ Wham!’s cunning plan for a Christmas No1 as climax to the 80s revival

❚ TWO REASONS TO CELEBRATE. Mother-of-two Shirlie Kemp has just exhumed a load of fab clothes from her heyday with Pepsi Demacque as the all-jiving all-singing girls in Wham! She has piled a load of glam photos of her stage clothes on to her otherwise sedately titled blog, No Place Like Home. We see her Melissa Caplan sheath from the 1982 Top of the Pops debuts of herself as Shirlie Holliman and of the clubland group’s single Young Guns in the lucky TV turning point [above] that broke the group after their first single Wham Rap! had initially failed to take off.

Shirlie Kemp, fashion, Kahn & Bell,Wham!

Shirlie’s bling leather top for Wham! It bears the Kahniverous label. Photo from shirliekemp.com

Shirlie also shows the cowgirl fronded suede top from American Classics in Endell Street, worn in an earlier incarnation of Young Guns.

Most eye-catching of all are those skimpy, gilded, blingy black leathers by the Brummie design duo Kahn & Bell who had shops in Birmingham and Chelsea. However, after a deep search through Wham’s YouTube videos as the first Western pop group into China, we find no footage of Shirlie’s claim that she wore them onstage there in 1985  — see below for Everything She Wants filmed live in China by British director Lindsay Anderson (which is wrongly dated). By then they had achieved three number-one singles in a row in the US with Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Careless Whisper and Everything She Wants, while the Billboard year-ending chart listed George Michael’s Careless Whisper as the US number-one song of 1985.

➢ Click pic for the fizzing Wham Rap! video in a new window

Above — “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes the  group’s clubbing credentials in the opening shots of their Wham Rap! video by reading The Face cover story, The Making of Club Culture, written by yours truly in the February 1983 issue

❏ The reason why we’ve been catching glimpses of Pepsi & Shirlie around the media is the second reason to celebrate. An explosive 25th anniversary comeback by Wham! themselves takes the shape of a 27-track 2-CD anniversary edition of The Final, their farewell compilation album from 1986, with its minimalist Peter Saville cover design. Embracing all four years’-worth of output, it contains six UK No 1 hits, plus both George Michael solo singles (Careless Whisper and A Different Corner). A deluxe edition includes a DVD of 13 restored videos.

Wham!, The Final, albums, Peter Saville The Final is such a double-whammy of greatest dancefloor hits that its November 28 release is a calculated pitch for the top spot in the Christmas chart. And with Duran’s magnificent comeback year all but spent musically, Wham!’s cunning plan will represent the last major chart assault by the 80s revival that has warmed our cockles for a full two years.

Wham! went out on a high 25 years ago with an eight-hour grand finale of a concert at Wembley Stadium which coincided with their farewell single The Edge of Heaven hitting No 1 in June, 1986. Pepsi says: “A lot of thought went into stopping when we did — we were at our peak, it was such a high and that’s why we can celebrate Wham! The Final now, because we all still have great memories and we’re all still great friends.”

➢ “Maybe George was going through a cowboy phase” — this week’s interview with Pepsi & Shirlie for RealMusic Blog

➢ Rich List puts George Michael top of the popstars
from the un-lucrative 80s


2011 ➤ When Shirl asked Peps if she fancied an arena tour, Peps said to Shirl, Why not?

❚ ON THE EVE OF THE HERE & NOW TOUR, Shirlie Kemp from 80s pop duo, Pepsi & Shirlie, talks to Vanessa about reuniting with Helen “Pepsi” DeMacque after 20 years — and why the reunion took so long. Answer: “Because when I had my daughter I realised that was all I wanted. I had a beautiful husband, Martin Kemp, a beautiful baby, and I wasn’t going to risk losing that.” Shirlie (née Holliman) also recalls how she joined Wham! as a backing singer to two of her former schoolmates, Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael. When Pepsi & Shirlie went their own way in 1986 their debut single Heartache went to No 2 in the UK singles chart and the American dance chart.

➢ The Here and Now 10th anniversary seven-city tour runs June 24–July 2, 2011, taking in Birmingham’s LG and London’s O2. Starring Boy George, Jason Donovan, Jimmy Somerville, Belinda Carlisle, Midge Ure, Pepsi & Shirlie and A Flock of Seagulls


➤ George Michael celebrates his golden years of Faith

❚ NEWLY RELEASED JAN 31, 2011: A remastered version of George Michael’s debut solo album, Faith, from November 1987, is out on Epic/Legacy in the UK and tomorrow the US. There is also a DVD featuring a TV special from 1987, George Michael and Jonathan Ross Have Words, a 25-minute Music Money Love Faith EPK, plus seven remastered promo videos. All available through Michael’s international online retail store.

Faith won a Grammy Award as album of its year, for which Michael wrote and produced every track except one, among them six top-five singles. The first released, I Want Your Sex, went to No 3 in the chart and not unexpectedly caused censorship problems around the world. The daddy of US pop radio hosts, Casey Kasem, refused to say the full song title on air, referring to it only as “the new single from George Michael”. Having gone solo, Michael was after all trying to lay the ghost of his teenybopper image so successully established in Wham! at the age of 20 with his best friend Andrew Ridgeley. Sample their first Top of The Pops appearance as Young Guns, which hit No 3 in 1982, below.

Michael had of course already enjoyed  two UK chart-toppers, Careless Whispers in 1984 and A Different Corner in 1986, and in all has achieved eight No 1 singles in the US, his last in 1991. Before all that stuff happened.


2010 ➤ Rich List puts George Michael top of the popstars from the un-lucrative 80s

❚ ONLY THREE MUSICIANS FROM THE 1980s are included in the annual Rich List of Britain’s top 50 music millionaires, published today by The Sunday Times. The richest musician of the decade who holds his own amid the older gods of rock is singer-songwriter George Michael who is worth £90m ($138m) today. He sits at No 25 in the ST’s top 50. George is pictured above in Wham!’s Club Tropicana video (where “the drinks are free”). His group’s “pure pop” epitomised the sybaritic style which by 1983 was signalling the divide in British music between electronic earnestness and full-on hedonism.

Rich List, 2010The other two richest stars from the 80s are each estimated to be worth a relatively puny £35m ($54m). They are Lancastrian Mick Hucknall of Simply Red (their summer tour climaxes with a farewell concert on Dec 19 and is booking now), and pop diva Kylie Minogue who found fame in the UK through the Australian TV soap, Neighbours. The Sunday Times justifies Kylie’s presence in this UK list, as someone who often seems “more British than the British”. She herself has regarded the UK as “my adopted home” almost since 1988 when her debut single, I Should Be So Lucky, went to No 1 and set her on the path to becoming the most successful female artist in the UK charts. She was honoured by the Queen with an OBE in 2008.

Mick Hucknall

Simply Red’s Hucknall: a December farewell

Since the 2009 Rich List, three 80s stars have dropped out from the top 50 musicians: Annie Lennox, Simple Minds vocalist Jim Kerr and Sade – though her sensational album comeback this year is likely to be reflected in next year’s list. Astonishingly the creative genius behind Kylie and the huge stable of Stock Aitken and Waterman acts – Pete Waterman – last appeared in the Rich List in 2007.

Should we assume creativity does not equate to profitability? From a musician’s perspective the 80s have been the least lucrative decade in pop history, apart from the Noughties from which only TV impresario Simon Cowell emerges as a multi-millionaire (£165m). Inevitably, older musicians have had longer in which to sell records and accrue proceeds, so the 1960s yield 20 musicians in the Rich List who are still millionaires today, led by Sir Paul (£475m, $731m), Sir Mick (£190m) and Sir Elton (£185m). From the 1970s there are ten in the top 50, with Sting way out in front (£180m).

Among the richest artists from the 90s is Victoria (“Posh Spice”) Beckham (£145m whose fortune the ST oddly entwines with her footballing husband’s). Robbie Williams is now worth £85m and Gary Barlow £35m – both started out in boyband Take That. The Gallagher brothers of Oasis are worth £55m, and Jay Kay of Jamiroquai £35m.

Kylie Minogue, 1987, Lucky

Getting lucky in 1988: Kylie went straight to No 1 and never looked back. Photograph © by PAL Productions Ltd

The Rich List names 13 moguls ruling the UK biz, led by former songwriter and Warner Music Group chairman, the American Edgar Bronfman who has made his home in London, and is worth £1,640m ($2,522m). The ST reports him as being “well placed to snap up the beleagured EMI”, effectively Britain’s last homegrown record company, founded in 1931.

Leaders among the younger British businessmen are Simon Fuller (£350m, $540m), the former Spice Girls manager who struck gold as creator of TV’s Idol franchise which has been sold worldwide during the past decade, and Jamie Palumbo (£150m, $231m) who founded the Ministry of Sound clubbing empire.

➢➢ Summary of The Sunday Times Rich List Musicians 2010