■ THE YEAR WAS 1982. Spandau’s seventh single Instinction had put them on Top of the Pops during Easter week and sales were rocketing. The night of May 8, towards the end of Spandau’s first nationwide tour, with stand-up comedian Peter Capaldi in support, has become known as The Return of the Scream. The moment the house lights dimmed, a mighty roar lifted the roof off the Empire, the city’s legendary music venue. It didn’t stop for 75 minutes. The band hadn’t heard anything so intense and were visibly shaken when they came offstage. Guitarist Gary Kemp said in disbelief: “I had to stop playing. I couldn’t hear my own monitor.” ➢ Click through to read all about 8 May 1982 – the return of The Scream to British pop
Yes says Jan: that’s me shinning up
the drainpipe in 1982
■ A 30 YEAR-OLD MYSTERY HAS BEEN SOLVED. At the climax to Spandau Ballet’s first national tour in 1982 fan mania broke out on a level comparable to the 1960s. When their single Instinction crashed into the UK charts with freshly injected energy from producer Trevor Horn, three extra tour dates were added in May. After the show in Liverpool, the creative birthplace of British pop music, a crowd of about 500 fans mobbed the stage door at the fabled Empire theatre. A shadow had only to fall across the band’s dressing room window for screams to erupt in the street. Two girls then decided to shin the drainpipe and beat the window with their handbags until they were let in…
The Band Aid band, Nov 25, 1984: most of the pop stars who performed, plus artist Peter Blake who created the record sleeve for Do They Know It’s Christmas?
◼︎ TODAY WAS THE DAY IN 1984 THEY RECORDED the song that became, for 13 years, the biggest selling UK single of all time. Do They Know It’s Christmas was released four days later, stayed at No 1 for five weeks, sold over three million copies and raised significant funds for famine relief in Africa. The project lead naturally the next year to Live Aid, the biggest globally televised rock concerts ever, viewed by two billion people in 60 countries, who coughed up still more dollars…/ Continued inside
In the BBC 6 Music studio for Lost Clubs: Princess Julia, centre, with deejay Gemma Cairney at front. (BBC)
◼ AT FACEBOOK TODAY original Blitz Kid and club deejay Princess Julia reports: “Jolly afternoon recording a Radio 6 show with presenter Gemma Cairney due to be aired Sunday 1pm. Graeme Park is on as well, we did a live link-up and covered nightlife from over 4 decades! Past, present and future #lostclubs all in the space of an hour!”
➢ Tune in to Julia live on Sunday at 1pm or catch up later at BBC 6 Music online – “As a companion show to Lamacq’s Indie Venue week, Gemma Cairney explores the rich history of clubs like the Blitz, Hacienda, Club NME, and White Trash that are no longer running, and look at how Fabric was saved. Talking to experts and those involved with the clubs, she’ll play tunes that were the soundtrack to a night out. Expect Happy Mondays, New Order, Bowie, Oasis, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Pulp.” [BBC Online]
Simper’s 25th birthday at Aldo Zilli’s Il Siciliano in Soho: visible faces clockwise from front left: Lilli Anderson, Alex Godson (standing), Sam McKnight, the host (standing), Josie Jones, George Michael. Photo by Simper
Paul “Scoop” Simper arrived in London as a cub
journalist who soon became a backbone of No1, one
of the two leading pop magazines covering the
Swinging 80s. He also became a face about clubland
and in the years after he first met George Michael,
when Wham! was launched, became friends.
Shapers of the 80s is pleased to publish Scoop’s very personal tribute to one of the UK’s leading superstars who died this week
◼ OF COURSE HE HAD TO LEAVE US ON CHRISTMAS DAY. As a pop lover, especially one raised in the 80s, George Michael has been a part of mine and so many people’s Christmases for years.
This one was no exception. Nipping up the high street to the supermarket for one last shop on Christmas Eve, there was something both joyous and comforting about hearing him – not just as Wham! but on his lonesome giving us December Song and on Band Aid – whilst trolling up and down the aisles for a bottle of fizz and a few more festive nibbles.
If anything, this year he’d felt ever more present. A pre-Christmas gathering of my old 80s pals had stirred up memories of Whambley – that perfect pop farewell on the sunniest of days in ’86 in front of 72,000 adoring but heartbroken fans when George and Andrew signed off at the top of the charts (both albums and singles) with their friendship still intact.
Wham! fans came in all shapes and sizes. Not long ago I’d been listening to a bootleg of The Final concert, lovingly recorded and shared with me by No1 magazine’s then editorial assistant Dave Ling, later of Metal Hammer, a heavy metaller through and through, who made an honourable exception when it came to George and Andrew.
As I think about it now, not being a Wham! or George fan has always been a bit of a deal-breaker. One early relationship of mine came to a very swift end when she questioned my love of George. My pal June Montana (lead singer with Brilliant and gatekeeper on the Limelight’s VIP bar, who was actually a bona fide friend of his) and I were like the George gestapo. We could sniff out a non-believer at 100 paces.
Part of that devotion came from the fact that in 80s London clubland, Wham! were never really cool. They were outsiders. They were from Bushey, Hertfordshire. As a country lad from Wiltshire I felt a kinship, particularly with George.
He was a year younger but for both of us our first introduction to the game-changing London club scene of the early 80s was Le Beat Route – a Soho club I was gagging to go to the second I saw Spandau Ballet’s Chant No1 video, the anthem for this pop moment.
In the last interview I did with George, in 2006, when we were talking about Spandau, he remembered the thrill of going down for the first time to what was then the hottest club on the planet and actually sighting both Steve Strange (on the Space Invaders) and Tony Hadley (at the bar).
George’s 35th birthday where Simper was deejaying dressed as a Spice Girl angel: George was obliged to introduce him to Ginger Spice. Photo by Simper
Le Beat Route was where Andrew Ridgeley came up with the “Wham! Bam! I am a man!” rap. It was where George would perfect his pair dancing with Shirlie Holliman to D-Train, Was Not Was and Evelyn “Champagne” King. It was the inspiration for Club Tropicana.
Of equal importance though had been Saturday Night Fever – the movie that rang the death knell for disco for the cool kids of the underground dance scene but for those in the sticks in our teens the first pulling back of the curtain (even though it was actually set in faraway Brooklyn) on a thrilling new world. On reflection, it’s perhaps surprising that George never covered a Bee Gees song, with the exception of side project Boogie Box High’s Jive Talkin’, but he was always a massive fan, applauding their return to the top of the charts after a lengthy absence with You Win Again and marvelling, after a visit to Barry Gibbs’ home in Miami, that he was the only man he’d met who took even longer over his hair than George did.
Friday nights at Le Beat Route were just about over by the time I first interviewed George and Andrew in October ’82, although Wham! did throw one last Christmas party there to celebrate leaving their first record company, Innervision. Instead it was now The Wag on Wardour Street, which, as Wham! took off, increasingly became George’s place to hang out, unbothered.
If Chant No1 belongs to Le Beat Route, then The Wag at Christmas ’84 is where I think of for Wham!’s Everything She Wants. It was where I first heard deejay Fat Tony play the 12-inch mix with its glorious, expanded middle eight, which George had handed him that night to test out on the dance floor. From its rapturous reception and the delighted look on George’s face you could see he’d got the confirmation he was after. Like Chant, he’d delivered his club classic.
First at Melody Maker, then at No1, I was lucky enough to get my fair share of interviews with George. In early No1 days that included him going on a Blind Date with Keren Woodward from Bananarama which ended with him popping up to the 26th floor of IPC magazine’s HQ in King’s Reach Tower to play us a just-finished mix of Bassline (later retitled A Ray of Sunshine) on our tinpot stereo system.
They were more innocent, uncomplicated times in terms of pop coverage but even once Fleet Street turned its attentions to him and much of that side of it became more wearisome, he continued to be one of my favourite pop stars to interview, funny and forthright, as I hope the two interview clips attached here illustrate.
GEORGE/SIMPER 1987 INTERVIEW ON BEING CAMP:
GEORGE/SIMPER 1987 INTERVIEW ON UNDERPANTS:
Thanks primarily to June – “Don’t forget Simper!” she’d holler – I saw him more socially once Wham! finished and his solo career began. Merry Chianti-filled nights at Aldo Zilli’s two Dean Street restaurants, Il Siciliano and Signor Zilli’s, and dancing to his records at Brown’s and later Abba, the weekly Hanover Square one-nighter run by June and Fat Tony.
I loved the fact that he danced to his own records. After all if you can’t dance to your records why should anyone else? Fellow clubber and George fan Bayo Furlong reminded me that George always danced exactly like George Michael – the soul boy steps, the arms aloft, the finger and toe points, the hips shake, the swivel, the spin – which is even more brilliant. He was the singing, dancing embodiment of his own Wham! mantra (Wham!tra?) “Enjoy what you do”!
And what a voice. Of his generation, take your pick between him and the other George, for greatest white male soul singer of the 80s. It was there as early as Wham! ballads Nothing Looks the Same in the Light and Club Tropicana B-side Blue and grew on Careless Whisper and A Different Corner. His duets with Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige – ringing endorsements in themselves – raised the bar again only for him to reach even higher with the likes of Older, You Have Been Loved and Jesus to a Child.
He said himself that he wasn’t the most prolific of writers. Two Wham! and four solo albums of original material and rarely much left over for B-sides (though Fantasy is a little gem) but as a pop star he aced it – twice over.
First in the perfect pop group, two teenage buddies who remained in spirit, sound and success as Wham!-like from the opening volley of Wham Rap! and Young Guns to the last howl of The Edge of Heaven. Then a second time, making the daunting leap from teen idol to internationally successful solo artist, barely breaking a sweat where so many others have fallen.
He told me he’d set himself the goal of joining the then 80s elite of Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen. If the Faith album was his Thriller, with its 25 million sales, he went one better than MJ, surpassing it artistically with Older. And, despite the subsequent fall-out with Sony over record sales, Listen Without Prejudice Vol I – which includes the gorgeous Bacharach-style ballad Cowboys and Angels – isn’t too shabby either.
As our careers both went in different directions, I got to interview him less, but deejay for him more. Fat Tony got me on board to help out with George’s 30th birthday celebrations and I was there again for his 35th in 1998. Both had fancy-dress themes, the latter one Cowboys and Angels, and good sport that he was he didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked him, dressed in a fetching Spice Girl Union Jack bathing suit and wings, to persuade a reluctant Geri Halliwell to do a photo with me.
“He’s a bit strange,” George explained to Ginger Spice, “but he’s a very old friend.”
I’ll settle for that. He did a lot more for me than I’m sure I ever did for him. Dancing to Everything She Wants – dancing like him to Everything She Wants – still gives me more pleasure than most things in life.
At the time of that last Spandau interview he was in the studio still working on his final studio album, Patience. When he played me Flawless (Go to the City) I knew he’d got me again.
“It’s no good waiting. You’ve got to go to the city.”
That small-town thrill. The anticipation for those Beat Route, Saturday Night Fever moments was still somewhere in our DNA.
I was back in the countryside, tucked up in bed at my mum’s, when I heard he had gone. I only ever went to his house in Goring once, one Boxing Day thanks to June and another good pal, his wonderfully considerate PA Shiv Bailey. He sent a car for me and the only way it could have been any more perfect is if Richard and Judy hadn’t just departed. Otherwise it was all my Last Christmas joy rolled into one.
So thank you, George, for all those happy Christmases, and for everything else you gave.
Wham! on The Tube, 1983: George Michael with his partner Andrew Ridgeley on guitar (Photo: ITV)
“ Five albums in 25 years is not exactly prolific
but I think pretty good in terms of quality. . .
The body of work is safe now. If I get hit
by a bus tomorrow, people will remember
what I have done and they’ll still enjoy it ”
– George Michael, 2008
◼ WHAM! SOLD 40 MILLION RECORDS WORLDWIDE in four years after emerging from London’s innovative clubbing scene in 1982. As a solo singer-songwriter George Michael then sold another 100 million records, scored seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits in the US. He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, with Billboard magazine ranking him the 40th most successful artist ever. And he won every major world music award, often more than once. Yet his career was sporadic, interrupted by odd breaks, bouts of melancholy, health problems and in recent years a series of run-ins with the law over reckless driving, drugs and sex.
On his music, disc jockey Paul Gambaccini says: “George is likely to be remembered in two different ways: in Britain he’s a pop star and in America he’s a soulboy.” On his hedonism as propaganda, author Mark Simpson in Rolling Stone concludes: “Whatever the long term effects on his happiness, being ‘openly closeted’ for so long seems to have been key to not only making Michael a commercially-successful artist but also a surprisingly subversive one. And perhaps it also lay behind his determination, once out, not to go back into the biggest closet of all: respectability.”
➢ Singer who became Britain’s biggest pop star
– Guardian obituary: “ George Michael, who has died aged 53, was Britain’s biggest pop star of the 1980s, first with the pop duo Wham! and then as a solo artist. After Wham! made their initial chart breakthrough with the single Young Guns (Go for It!) in 1982, Michael’s songwriting gift brought them giant hits including Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Careless Whisper, and they became leading lights of the 80s boom in British pop music.
“ From the late 1990s onwards Michael was beset by a string of personal crises and clashes with the law caused by drug use. He had always felt ambivalent about the demands of stardom, and found it difficult to balance his celebrity status with his private life. After years of concealing his homosexuality, he eventually came out in 1998, after being arrested for engaging in a “lewd act” in a public lavatory in Beverly Hills, California. . . ” / Continued at The Guardian
“ After early success in the duo Wham! he went on to build a solo career that brought him a string of awards and made him a multi-millionaire. But there were times when his battle with drugs and encounters with the police made lurid headlines that threatened to eclipse his musical talents. He admitted that he often went out at night seeking what he called “anonymous and no-strings sex”. . . ” / Continued at BBC online
“ Outside of Elton John, I’d say he is
probably the greatest philanthopist
in popular music ” – Paul Gambaccini
➢ Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline founder: “ For years now George has been the most extraordinarily generous philanthropist, giving money to Childline, but he was determined not to make his generosity public so no-one outside the charity knew how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children. Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him – to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped through supporting Childline. ”
George with Kenny Goss in happier times… they met in 1996 and broke up in 2009 (Photo: Rex)
“ The truth is my love life has been a lot more turbulent than I’ve let on ” – George Michael
➢ Spending time together with love of his life – The Sun: “ George Michael had secretly become close again with the love of his life Kenny Goss, just weeks before his death. George had reached out to Kenny following their difficult split. A close friend revealed: “George and Kenny are back spending time together again and it’s an exciting time for those of us who have been so worried over the last few years. The pop superstar split from Texan art dealer Kenny in 2009 after 13 years and his life quickly spiralled, culminating in a lengthy stint in the world’s most expensive rehab clinic in Switzerland last year.
“ On the opening night of his Symphonica tour in 2011, the singer admitted: “In truth Kenny and I haven’t been together for two and a half years. I love him very much. This man has brought me a lot of joy and pain”. . . ” / Continued at The Sun online
➢ Jim Fouratt, US 80s club host and activist: “ No one seems to remember the incident between George Michael and the president of Sony Music America, Tommy Mottola. I do. George Michael set up a meeting with Mottola, having sold 80 million records worldwide, reaping huge profits for the company. Michael was not happy with how his new album was being marketed. Suddenly, from behind closed doors, the Sony staff could hear Mottola shouting: “Get this faggot out of my office!”
George left. Mattola’s homophobia shocked him. He went back to England. Sued Columbia and spent six years without a release in the US. Finally David Geffen signed him to his new label Dreamworks after settling the lawsuit which gave Dreamworks all rights in the US for a new George Michael album. A hit. George Michael was back on the charts in the US. Then the arrest in a public bathroom in Beverly Hills made headlines across the world. Michael (finally) came out.
Very sad to learn of George’s passing. But he stood up for himself after he was very publicly outed. Yes, he could have come out earlier – but Mottola’s action gives one insight into why he did not. ”
➢ Owen Jones, Guardian writer: “ The popstar’s openness about his sex life, and his campaigning for LGBT rights, offered a liferaft to many – particularly at a time when anti-gay sentiment was rife. As a closeted teenager back in 1998, it is impossible not to recall the courage and defiance of George Michael. A talented and much adored musician, yes. But also a gay man, and a gay icon, who made the lives of so many LGBT people that little bit easier.”
➢ 20 essential songs: The best of the pop icon George Michael’s hits – at Rolling Stone: “ George Michael swiftly transitioned from teenage pretty boy to outspoken pop force. “It says something for the power of the music,” he told Rolling Stone after the release of his smash 1987 solo debut, Faith, “that I’ve managed to change the perception of what I do to the degree that I have in this short a time. Because it’s something that a lot of people thought wasn’t possible. . . ” / Continued online
Andrew Ridgeley, schoolfriend, partner in Wham! – “Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. He had a voice that would transport you, he was the finest singer/songwriter of his generation & has left the best of himself for us. RIP.”
Michael Lippman, Michael’s manager, told Billboard that he died of heart failure and was found “in bed, lying peacefully”. . . “I’m devastated.”
Spandau Ballet – “We are incredibly sad at the passing of our dear friend George Michael. A brilliant artist and great songwriter.”
Simply Red – “It’s hard to take in. One of our most talented singer- songwriters has left us. Such sad, tragic news.”
Mark Ronson – “George Michael was one of the true British soul greats. A lot of us owe him an unpayable debt.”
Paul McCartney – “George Michael’s sweet soul music will live on even after his sudden death. Having worked with him on a number of occasions, his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humour made the experience even more pleasurable.”
Tony Visconti, producer – “I lived through early grief of my pop idols dying on me. Nothing, however, prepared me for this year. Of course the biggest blow was when David Bowie passed. He was my colleague, but more importantly a friend for 48 years. I’m just barely in the acceptance stage with that; my philosophical attitude, ‘this just happens’, helped a lot. But today, with the death of George Michael, this is a little too close to home. Wham made their first album in my Good Earth studios with Chris Porter engineering and he eventually producing George Michael. As my office was in the studio I would pop my head in and say hello. This has happened too much this year. As of today it feels like a damn conspiracy.”
Chaka Khan – “Performed a few shows with George Michael when he was with Wham in the 80s. Here’s a clip of him covering Ain’t Nobody from 1991.”
Sir Elton John – “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.”
➢ Choose “View full site” – then in the blue bar atop your mobile page, click the three horizontal lines linking to many blue themed pages with background articles.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
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A UNIQUE HISTORY
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❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
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UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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