Number Ones: #20


  • GEORGE MICHAEL Careless Whisper (Epic)
  • Week Ending 25th August 1984
  • 1 Week at #1


And lo, it came to pass, that in the eighth month of our year Nineteen-Eighty-Four AD, George Michael invented the “solo career”.

Looking at the sleeve now, every hallmark of the archetypal George Michael release was already in place; the moody black-and-white portrait, the stylish calligraphy, the colour palette (gold and navy blue would also become available).  Everything is just so. Call it manufactured, or over stylised if you wish, but maybe it’s also a case of artist and record label simply knowing exactly what’s required and what will best serve their commercial ambitions. If the music itself is a pile of stinky old horse manure, then all the glossy artwork in the world won’t help.

Careless Whisper seemed to arrive into the world as a fully-formed classic; it’s almost hard to remember a time when it was a brand new entry on the charts, or when it was first announced that one half of premier shuttlecock users Wham! had made a single on his own. Well, obviously these days we know all Wham! records were made by George Michael on his own, but Epic Records were obviously keen to begin the gentle easing apart of our perma-tanned duo (this theory is unfortunately complicated by Andrew Ridgeley having a signifcant part in the genesis of Careless Whisper, and plans for it to be released shortly after the Fantastic! album in 1983 by their old label Innervision, but nevermind the little details eh?). In the U.S., it was more accurately marketed as Wham! featuring George Michael, although more as a reflection of their less-established profile at the time (Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go had only just given them their American breakthrough).

The version eventually released was a second attempt at recording it, after George decided he wasn’t happy with the original produced by Jerry Wexler. Whether by chance or design, its saxophone heavy, soulful vibe fitted perfectly between the likes of Sade’s Diamond Life album and Spandau Ballet’s recently-issued Parade opus (they must have been kicking themselves they didn’t get I’ll Fly For You out earlier as it found itself completely eclipsed in the sophistipop-soul stakes). A swish-looking video that predated the Miami Vice aesthetic by almost a year, provided plenty of glamorous young ladies flouncing off to the airport while George practised his bell-ringing technique (no, that isn’t a euphemism; bear in mind it was 1984 and he was purely heterosexual of course).

August, specifically the end of August and start of September, when the single was at its peak (both on the UK Top 40 and on my own) marked the last knockings of the summer holidays, so no doubt Careless Whisper would soundtrack or evoke many a bittersweet holiday romance, adding poignancy (and a few hundred thousand extra sales) to its appeal. Or at least that’s what I am told.

Quite what such a grown-up ballad was doing at the top of my personal chart, I’m not totally sure, but clearly I had recognised something in George Michael’s music that appealed to me even if I remained committed to Howard Jones, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Thompson Twins and Blancmange for the meantime.





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