Released today in 1987: Father Figure

1228

Epic EMU4

The GEORGE MICHAEL Story Part 4

“We became the all-time ultimate pin-up band. And that was what I thought I wanted, but as success has a tendency of doing when it finally comes round, you find it wasn’t really what you were after and you have to re-evaluate. I could easily have carried on like that, I think I am a good enough actor to have pursued a solo career and Wham!, but we felt, ‘why should we?’. We proved that we did it better than anyone else so why bother carrying on an image that wasn’t suited to you anymore? I mean, I’m a more serious person now, I have rapidly got older and I know we could have got away with it, but why bother? It’s much better this way.” So George Michael told Smash Hits in June 1986, shortly before Wham!’s final gig at Wembley Stadium. Confirmation that the band was ending came on the 1st March 1986 edition of the television chat show ‘Aspel And Company’, where Michael admitted, “There’s no point trying to tell people we’re not splitting up… what we wanted to do when we formed the band four years ago had been just about achieved.” The following week, he flew to LA to record his next solo single, his first with no involvement from Andrew Ridgeley. The two had agreed to an amicable split by mid-1985, as Michael explained in a letter to fans that he asked Smash Hits to print: “Basically, Andy and I had decided that Wham!’s natural timespan was drawing to a close, that it was time to move on… the ‘split’ was not to be immediate, as we still had a few records planned, and wanted to play Wembley Stadium during the summer. And that’s still how we feel. Our differences with our now departed management company, unfortunately brought everyone’s attention to our plan, roughly six months early. That’s all. What’s important for you to know is that no matter what you read or hear, Andrew and I are still the good friends we always were…”

It was the change of management company that had heightened speculation that Wham! were about to split, as the rumour was Michael had changed his arrangements without informing Ridgeley. CBS remained neutral: they publicly welcomed solo material from both artists. While an album from Ridgeley wouldn’t be forthcoming until the 1990s, Michael’s solo career was already establishing itself before Wham! had put our their final record. “I’m making a single with Aretha Franklin, and possibly one in June with Michael Jackson,” he said. “With opportunities to work with people like that how can you not be happy?” There was even a rumour of an anti-apartheid single with Stevie Wonder. In the meantime, that Wham! farewell at Wembley – a six-hour extravaganza on 28 June 1986 – sold out in little more than twice that time. A final EP made #1 that summer.

1987 began with the release of the duet with Franklin (another #1), followed by I Want Your Sex, a song with deliberately provocative lyrics which sounded like he had recorded it in his garage and which he appeared to drop from his repertoire soon after. “Sex is natural, sex is good/not everybody does it, but everybody should,” he sang; the promotional clip saw Michael writing the words ‘explore monogamy’ in lipstick on a model’s back in case he was accused of inciting orgies. This scene in the clip was also the only acknowledgement from Michael of the concept of safe sex, and this being the year of the government’s Don’t Die Of Ignorance campaign to combat the rising numbers of HIV cases in the UK the release of I Want Your Sex didn’t seem very timely. Broadcasters were nervous about it too, and it received little airplay except some late-night airings of the video on MTV. It made #3, sales generated by the mild controversy it had caused and audience loyalty.

The rest of the content of Faith, his debut album, was more conventional, although none of the singles made #1 in Britain, the title track (and next single) coming closest when it reached #2. Nevertheless, the album was well received, sold millions worldwide, and won the Grammy for album of the year in 1989, and the 1988 Faith World Tour was a sell-out success. However, these achievements required Michael to work full-time on the Faith album and its related products for over two years, and he found the schedule (writing, recording, PAs to promote singles, video and photo shoots, live dates and rehearsals, world travel, award acceptance, interviews, etc) exhausting. To leave himself time for developing his music, he told CBS he wanted a reduced promotional workload on future records.

☛ What happened next
Michael’s assertion that “I’m a more serious person now” in that Smash Hits interview quoted at the top of this article set the tone for his 1990s career. The pretentiously (and some at the time said, arrogantly) titled second album Listen Without Prejudice Volume One was a rather solemn affair, and he did very little in the way of promotion for it, refusing even to appear in promotional clips for the singles. The album went to #1 all the same, but while it sold millions it was nowhere near selling as many copies as Faith. Michael blamed Sony (who had acquired CBS); they argued that his self-instigated reduced profile lessened the appeal of the product for fans. A lengthy legal dispute between Michael and Sony began, which would ultimately do him few favours, during which time he refused to record any new material, abandoning a Volume Two of Listen Without Prejudice from which just one single, Too Funky, emerged. Successful covers of Elton John (1991) and Queen (1993) songs were released during the dispute (on Fontana and Parlophone respectively) that returned him to #1 in the UK.

Thereafter, his recordings have appeared sporadically. In 1996 he returned on Virgin with Older, a critical and commercial triumph that confirmed him as one of Britain’s premier recording artists. All six of its singles made the Top 3, with Jesus To A Child and Fastlove making #1, his last chart-topping singles. The album was his last album of original material for eight years, although a number of standalone singles and collaborations kept him in the singles chart, with every release in the ten and a half years from late 1991 to early 2002 making the Top 10. A ‘best of’ and an album of standards were money-spinning long-players in the late 1990s. He returned to Sony in 2004 for his next – and to date, last – studio album Patience. It went straight to #1 although it lacked the string of big hit singles that might have been expected. But for some 25 years Michael has positioned himself as an ‘albums artist’ rather than the maker of chart singles he was in the 1980s. The industry pays attention when he releases a record, as do the critics, and his standing remains such that he was asked to participate in the closing ceremony at the London Olympic Games in 2012.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 28
1987
BANANARAMA I Can’t Help It (London NANA15)
DEPECHE MODE Behind The Wheel (Mute BONG15)
Billy IDOL Hot In The City (Re-mix) (Chrysalis IDOL12)
George MICHAEL Father Figure (Epic EMU4)
1988
DURAN DURAN All She Wants Is (EMI DD11)

Released today in 1985: I’m Your Man

Epic A6716

Epic A6716

The GEORGE MICHAEL Story Part 3

The second half of 1984 for Wham! was just as rewarding as the first. Talking to Record Mirror (3 November 1984) shortly after the band’s third #1 single, George Michael said: “When we started at the beginning of the year with ‘Wake Me Up’, that was the first surprise of the year for me because I could see that in commercial terms it was a great leap. We already knew we had Careless Whisper to come out, also we already knew about … our next single, ‘cos I’d written that in February… We knew we had three singles that were potential #1s and that we’d take one single off the album, which hadn’t been written then. Our goal was, all things being perfect, we’d get four #1s this year. Freedom was the least likely to get to #1. When we released that I always considered it a bit of a risk but I really wanted us to put it out. The fact that Freedom has got to #1 is great because it means with a very commercial one as the fourth single we might just do it.”

That fourth one was Last Christmas (“It’s real slush, sleigh bells and everything,” he said) and it fell short of the #1 target Michael had in mind for it by one place. Nevertheless, he got his fourth #1: he was a soloist on the single that kept it off the top, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?. And Last Christmas did ultimately achieve another ambition Michael had for it: “My aim is for our Christmas single to sell a million and a half,” he had told Smash Hits (27 September – 10 October 1984) – to date it has sold over 1.7m copies in the UK alone. Still ambitious at this stage, he wanted these kind of sales every time. “I would like every record I write to be a #1. Careless Whisper and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go sold more than we ever sold before because they are very, very good pop records. A lot of people who don’t like us were even shaken a little by Careless Whisper. But it’s so grudging! They say, ‘we like Careless Whisper but we don’t like Wham! so help, what can we say? Oh, let’s say, what a great sax solo.’ It’s as if I had nothing to do with it. It’s a great sax solo because I wrote it.”

Comments like that last one were the sort of thing that got Michael in trouble with his critics, and he recognized at the time that some of what he said could be construed as arrogant. But false modesty can be equally nauseating, so why not just speak his mind? There were some sections of the music press that simply wouldn’t accept him or his talent regardless of how he presented himself, denying him even the ‘grudging’ respect he had already alluded to. The one piece of unequivocal evidence in his favour was the sales return report. “There’s a certain credibility in selling a million records,” he said. “In the last twelve weeks we’ve sold nearly 2 million singles. When you’re selling those amounts, why do you need people who don’t understand what you’re doing? Like the miners’ benefit we did recently. We were there to do people some good, and all we got were insults. We did it to make money for the miners. It’s so pathetic.” He commented in more detail about this in the Record Mirror article. “It was final proof that we don’t appeal to a market that reads Sounds, NME and Melody Maker, they’ve got such a self-righteous attitude. Although the majority of the people at the gig were all right, there were some really blind, intolerant, self-righteous people out there… the actual gig itself I’m really glad we did. If they did another one, we’d do another one. Just to show people that the only reason we’re there is that 300 or 400 kids who pay £5 a time make money that goes towards the benefit.”

There was one other #1 for Wham! in 1984: album number two, Make It Big. “With the first LP we were kind of looking for a market, with the second LP I’ve just written what I liked and got rid of my influences in one go,” Michael said in Record Mirror. “I suppose the next LP will be more or less a case of us having to find our own sound or me as a writer having to find my own niche. Not so much putting more thought into it, but not having to depend so much on being derivative. Not that I think there’s anything wrong in being derivative – but this is a very derivative LP – it makes the next LP a challenge. Make It Big has been derived from so many different areas that it hasn’t left me very much that I know.” In fact, there would be no next LP for Wham!, but the end of the group was still some way off.

If 1984 had been about record sold, 1985 was about ticket sales. The two most notable events of the year for Wham! were a tour of China early in 1985 (the first western band to tour there, which attracted a huge amount of publicity), and Live Aid in July. At the latter, Michael and Andrew Ridgeley did not perform as Wham! as such, although Ridgeley was in a chorus of backing singers for Michael’s solo performance of Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. (John himself was another of the backing vocalists; Michael returned the favour later in the year when he provided vocals on John’s hit single Nikita.) British director Lindsay Anderson was engaged to make a film about the China tour which he intended to call ‘If You Were There’, but in the end his film was rejected and the footage recycled for an alternative package released on VHS called ‘Foreign Skies: Wham! In China’. With these activities, studio time to record another record was limited. There was just one new record from Wham! that year, the single I’m Your Man, the promotional clip for which continued the emphasis on live work: it was filmed to look like a gig at the Marquee Club.

Speaking to Smash Hits (20 November – 3 December 1985) at the time of the single’s release, Michael seemed a little less hungry for fame than he had in the interview he had given the magazine twelve months earlier. “I always thought I was incredibly ambitious. I thought nothing could stop us becoming the biggest stars in the world. But you get to the stage where you realise you’re chasing your own tail.”

NEW SINGLES on sale from Nov. 11
1983
Julian COPE Sunshine Playroom (Mercury COPE1)
The STYLE COUNCIL A Solid Bond In Your Heart (Polydor TSC4)
THOMPSON TWINS Hold Me Now (Arista TWINS2)
Paul YOUNG Love Of The Common People [Re-issue] (CBS CBSA3643)
1985
Sal SOLO Forever Be (MCA MCA1012)
WHAM! I’m Your Man (Epic A6716)

Released today in 1984: Careless Whisper

Epic A4603

Epic A4603

The GEORGE MICHAEL Story Part 2

“He has a huge reputation as a real asshole and there’s no doubt that Simon will make a lot of money out of us,” said George Michael in 1985 about new Wham! manager Simon Napier Bell. “But what he really wants out of it is to be responsible for managing a group that is one of the biggest in the world.” Part of getting Wham! that kind of star status meant getting them released from their contract with Inner Vision, and Mark Dean held Napier Bell responsible for driving the final wedge between his label and the Wham! duo. But strong management from an experienced music industry professional like Napier Bell was exactly what the group needed at this point. He got them a lucrative deal with CBS records, and Michael and Andrew Ridgeley now received proper reward and remuneration as artists on the Epic subsidiary which helped motivate them to focus their efforts on scoring their first #1.

Napier Bell couldn’t work miracles all the time though. He couldn’t prevent Inner Vision’s issue of the dreadful Club Fantastic single, an awful medley of tracks from the Fantastic album released at the end of 1983. Inner Vision won an injunction to prevent Wham! recording for another company on 11 November 1983, and the single was released two weeks later. (Michael and Ridgeley urged fans to treat it as the cash-in it was and not to buy it, but even so it went to #15, such was their popularity.) But, while he negotiated the out-of-court settlement that would release Wham! from Inner Vision in March 1984, Napier Bell did ensure that Inner Vision had no right to release Careless Whisper in that period, a track already written when Wham! joined the label, but one not appearing on Fantastic. This song was to be reserved for Wham!’s next record company and, as it was to play out, for Michael’s first solo record.

But before that, there was Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, the first release under the Epic deal. Dee C. Lee had left the group by this point, although she had also signed to CBS (shortly before Wham!) as a solo artist. (She also started to work regularly with the band she was later to join, The Style Council.) She was replaced by Pepsi Demacque, and this new line-up on their new label came with a new attitude and new look. The Club Tropicana atmosphere was preserved for ‘Go-Go’: it was a party record, a full-of-energy contemporary take on mid-century pop classics with its “pa-pa” backing vocals which mentioned the dance-craze jitterbug. Unlike Club Tropicana the video for the song was studio based this time, but it again depicted Wham! with other fun-seekers, this time an audience of adoring fans. Wham! were depicted as a band for the first time with a full set of musicians on stage with Michael and Ridgeley, the latter cast as guitar player. Famously, they wore Katharine Hamnett T-shirts with the legend CHOOSE LIFE for the first half of the film, changing into day-glo colours in the second; Michael came to despise the luminous gloves he wore when this image of him was over-used.

So strongly did ‘Go-Go’ come to identify Wham! in the weeks following its release, it is probably just as well that the follow-up, issued just over two months later, was done so in Michael’s name rather than the band’s. The previously mentioned Careless Whisper was a mature ballad with sensitive lyrics (Michael didn’t think so, dismissing the song as frivolous in later years) and a memorable sax solo. It was a sensible move to issue it as a solo single because it is difficult to see how Ridgeley could have contributed to its promotion, but it should be noted that he is credited as co-writer. Also, Michael made it clear at the time though that this wasn’t the start of his solo career: work on a second Wham! album was to continue, and tours were planned. But the music industry was starting to take him more seriously. He’d just taken two singles to #1, the second of which had given Epic their first million-seller, and in addition to records the mention of his name could sell concert tickets, clothing, magazines, and more: when people copied his Careless Whisper haircut (dubbed the most expensive in history, as he had it re-styled during the video shoot for the single meaning for continuity reasons expensive scenes had to be re-shot) he became a trend-setter in fashion circles too. All this, and it was only half-way through 1984: he was still yet to truly make it big.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 23
1982
The ASSOCIATES 18 Carat Gold Love (Associates ACS3)
CHINA CRISIS African And White [re-issue – check label] (Virgin INEV011)
The FUN BOY THREE Summertime (Chrysalis CHS2629)
1984
George MICHAEL Careless Whisper (Epic A4603)

Released today in 1983: Club Tropicana

Inner Vision IVLA3613

Inner Vision IVLA3613

In 2006, celebrating George Michael’s 25 years in the music industry, Sony Music released the appropriately-titled Twenty-five, a compilation of tracks from (supposedly) throughout his career. There were pitifully few selections from his years in Wham!, with just four songs (all 1984 – more tomorrow) making the cut: Everything She Wants, Freedom, Last Christmas and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. (Two other tracks recorded during the Wham! years were included – Careless Whisper, also 1984, and A Different Corner from 1986 – but in the UK at least these were issued as solo singles.) This made the collection somewhat lacking, as it really only commemorated a 22-year period given that the first Wham! album, Fantastic, was ignored. Had I been compiling it, I would certainly have found a place for one track from that record, Club Tropicana.

A satirical look at the popular Club 18/30 holiday culture, it’s a song about sun, sand, sangria and … well, not sea, because “all that’s missing is the sea,” as the lyrics state. (“But don’t worry, you can suntan!”) The opening line, “Let me take you to the place/Where membership’s a smiling face,” is just wonderful; if only that were true of the exclusive Pikes hotel (the scene of a number of lavish celebrity parties in the 1980s) in Ibiza where the memorable promotional clip was filmed, with the group dressed in beachwear at the start and revealed to be airline pilots and stewardesses at the end. Fun, witty, knowing: it was Wham!’s first great single and set a standard for their forthcoming second album Make It Big, on which most of the other tracks that did make it on to Twenty-five first appeared.

Footnote: I would also have made a case for 1985’s standalone single I’m Your Man’s inclusion on Twenty-five.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 22
1983
The BELLE STARS (Jennie McKeown) Indian Summer (Stiff BUY185)
STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE Trees And Flowers (92 Happy Customers HAP001)
WHAM! Club Tropicana (Inner Vision IVLA3613)
1985
Nik KERSHAW Don Quixote (MCA NIK8)
UB40 I Got You Babe (DEP International DEP20)

Released today in 1983: Bad Boys

Inner Vision IVLA3143

Inner Vision IVLA3143

The GEORGE MICHAEL Story Part 1

What a kick just a buddy and me/
We had every big shot good time band on the run boy/
We were living in a fantasy/
We won the race/
Got out of the place.

Freedom 90

In those lyrics from 1990, George Michael must have been looking back to his days in 80s group Wham! with friend Andrew Ridgeley. They met at school and both wanted to be in a band. In 1981 they put together some demos (recorded in Ridgeley’s parents’ living room) and tried to get a record deal. None was forthcoming until a friend of Ridgeley’s, Mark Dean, heard the tapes and saw their potential. Dean had just secured a contract with the mighty CBS records in the UK: his own independent label, Inner Vision, would be partially funded by CBS and they would handle the manufacture and distribution of Inner Vision’s records, paying Dean a royalty for those sold. An agreement seemed beneficial to both Wham! and Inner Vision. Michael and Ridgeley would get the attention and personal service associated with being on a small independent label while having a major company ensuring their product made it to the record shop racks; Inner Vision would be launched with an exciting new band. In March 1982, a contract was drawn up, but Michael received advice that it wasn’t a particularly attractive one. Royalties were small and there were all sorts of clauses that limited his and Ridgeley’s earning potential. At that time, the Wham! boys were rehearsing in inadequate facilities and Michael’s father was not sure George should be investing so much time in this pipedream of becoming a rock star, given there was a job for him in the family business. So when Dean informed Michael that CBS would not include Wham! in the summer release schedule unless Inner Vision had him under contract, Michael signed anyway despite the concerns with the terms. The alternative seemed to be another year going past before a Wham! single was issued, and even the smallest percentage of some sales was better than 100% of no sales at all.

Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) was chosen for the first single. Was it a protest record? Was this serious political commentary? What was a white boy from Hertfordshire like Michael doing making a rap record? And what exactly was Ridgeley’s contribution? The answers to these questions weren’t terribly important: it was just a fun song with a bit of a social conscience and an early fan was Neil Tennant, who made it his Single Of The Fortnight when writing in Smash Hits on 24 June: “A hard, hot and witty rap on the subject of unemployment. Brilliant words, real excitement, hundreds of ideas, built-in participation and maximum humour. I’d be lost in admiration if I could find time to stand still.” Despite this endorsement, it wasn’t a hit. It did scrape inside the Top 100 for a few weeks in July but that was it.

Next single Young Guns (Go For It) established Michael as main composer, lead singer and producer (and sometimes instrumentalist) for Wham!. The group’s big break came in November 1982, when another act pulled out of appearing on the BBC’s early-evening ‘Top Of The Pops’ show. Although the single was only at #42 that week – ‘Top Of The Pops’ usually focused on the hits in the Top 40 – they were invited to fill the slot that had opened up. Shown on the edition of 4th November, it was a remarkably assured debut featuring a charismatic performance from Michael and Ridgeley and regular backing singers/dancers D. C. Lee and Shirlie Holliman (who would appear on the cover of Smash Hits herself a few years later as part of duo Pepsi and Shirlie). The single went up the chart 18 places the following week. It was what they had needed to get themselves noticed, and a repeat broadcast of the same performance on the show two weeks later sent the single into the Top 10.Wham1

The next move was to re-promote Wham Rap! which made the Top 10 early the following year. By now, work on the debut Wham! album, to be titled Fantastic, was nearing completion. Bad Boys was the final single to be released prior to the album and it became Wham!’s biggest hit to date when it was released on the May Day bank holiday in 1983, going all the way to #2. It also gave them their only hit from Fantastic in America, making #60 on the Hot 100. Despite this, it has apparently never been one of Michael’s favourite compositions; he once described it as an “albatross”. (The 1997 album If You Were There, from which the title of this blog is taken, was compiled by Michael himself and included all he thought worth preserving from his Wham! years. Bad Boys was notable by its absence, although it had appeared on other Wham! compilations in the past.)

Unfortunately, at this stage Michael and Ridgeley weren’t making any money, and the realisation that they weren’t likely to in the near future no matter how many records they sold had started to dawn on them. The production costs of Fantastic were covered by Inner Vision but they were recoupable from Wham!’s sales royalties. Wham! found even after three Top 10 hits that if they were making a PA in the evening, they had no money to get a cab home again afterwards. Much of this had to do with the deal that Dean had made with CBS over a year earlier. It included clauses such as this: CBS would pay no royalties to Inner Vision for 12” singles until a minimum of 30,000 copies of a title had been sold. As Inner Vision was specializing in dance music – the very genre where the 12” format was most popular – this restricted an important potential revenue stream for Dean. He had passed this problem on to Wham! with their contract with Inner Vision: Michael and Ridgeley didn’t receive royalties for 12” singles at all, no matter how many they sold. As they were a dance act, and tens of thousands of the singles sold were likely to be on 12”, not all the sales contributing to a high chart placing were earning them any money.

Michael decided his band needed a new producer and new record company. Just as Fantastic appeared in the shops in July 1983, Simon Napier Bell was hired to look after them.

NEW SINGLES on sale from May. 2
1980
ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK Messages (Dindisc DIN15)
1983
WHAM! Bad Boys (Inner Vision IVLA3143)

Released today in 1986: A Different Corner

Epic A7033

Epic A7033

As stated in the About section of this blog, If You Were There is concerned with 7” singles released during the 1980s, that being the dominant music format in the UK at the time. However, during the decade another format was also being popularized: the 12” single. Marketed at roughly twice the price of a 7” single, by the middle of the 80s it was commonplace for new singles to be issued on both 7” and 12” formats and for the consumer to select his preferred medium.

12” singles gained popularity in the UK during the disco period in the mid-to-late 70s. This was a genre that did not adhere to the typical ‘three minute pop song’ as disco tracks often had a playing time of well over 5 minutes. The grooves on 7” discs had to be kept fairly tight to fit these on to the vinyl. The closer the grooves, the quieter the playback, and this was not the dynamic sound range that DJs were looking for at club nights. The solution was a larger disc: a 12” diameter record (the same size as an album, but 12” singles were still played at 45rpm rather than the 33⅓rpm used on long-players) allowed wider grooves which preserved the sound quality; it also enabled DJs to cue records more easily as it the track bands could be more clearly seen. In the disco era, even if the commercial single was still issued on the 7” format, promotional 12” singles were routinely made available initially for DJ use. Ultimately both formats would be issued commercially (Enough Is Enough, the 1979 disco duet between Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, had the distinction of being issued on 12” by Streisand’s label CBS and simultaneously on 7” by Summer’s label Casablanca) and in some cases, 12” only for particularly long tracks.

By the early 80s, non-disco artists were also issuing their singles on 12” alongside the regular 7” which allowed for alternate mixes of the lead track to be made available for fans. Radio stations demanded that songs were restricted to the usual three minutes or so, so as not to unduly annoy listeners who didn’t like a particular song or artist and consequently the version of the song on a 7” was often not the original but an ‘edit’, a shorter cut of a track considered too long for radio airplay. 12” singles allowed fans to hear the song in its intended duration, or perhaps a more experimental version of the track that wasn’t commercial enough for radio. The format also allowed for more content than a 7” single: they generally had two tracks (A- and B-sides) and 12” singles could have three or four or more songs without compressing the sound quality. In some cases, the ‘featured track’ (advertised A-side) would appear on both and then each format would have exclusive extra content that would require consumers to buy both to have all the material.

Accordingly rules had to be re-defined regarding which releases were eligible for inclusion in the singles chart: some 12”, 45rpm records marketed as singles or EPs had playback durations similar to those of full-length album releases, and so a maximum playing time, and maximum number of tracks, had to be specified for chart compilation purposes, amongst other refinements. One single issued on both formats that didn’t cause any such concerns for chart compilers though was George Michael’s A Different Corner. The music featured on both versions was identical and there was nothing extra to be gained by music fans from buying the more expensive 12” version. The only incentive was the superior packaging: it came in a gatefold sleeve featuring an enlarged version of the arty photograph used on the 7” sleeve.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Mar. 24
1986
A-HA Train Of Thought (Warner Bros W8786)
George MICHAEL A Different Corner (Epic A7033)

Released today in 1987: I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)

Epic DUET2

Epic DUET2

The Queen of Soul’s chart career had a much-deserved revival in the 1980s. In her native America, Aretha’s albums had sold steadily throughout the seventies, but they were minor hits compared with her past catalogue and, according to the Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (1997), the latter half of the decade saw her output “marred by recordings that were at best predictable, at worst dull. It was never the fault of Franklin’s voice, merely that the material was often poor and indifferent”. Her move to Arista Records in 1980, and a memorable cameo in the hit movie The Blues Brothers in the same year, marked a return to prominence.

Awards were plentiful for her at this time. Her Hollywood Walk of Fame star was placed in 1981, and her Hold On! I’m Comin’, from that year’s album Love All The Hurt Away, received the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Aretha won that award on two further occasions in the eighties, for the track Freeway of Love and for the 1988 album Aretha. There was a gold disc from the RIAA for sales of that album, and for 1983’s Jump To It. And in 1987, she was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But it was 1985’s platinum-selling LP Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (Aretha’s 32nd studio album) that re-established her as a singer of hit singles. Previously mentioned lead single Freeway Of Love and its follow-up, the album’s title track, both made the US Top 10. Four more Top 30 hits followed before she found herself at #1 with I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), her duet with George Michael. The success of this single was repeated here in the UK too. Duets also provided Franklin with a pair of hits in 1989 to finish the decade: Through The Storm with Elton John, and It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be with Whitney Houston.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 19
1987
EIGHTH WONDER (Patsy Kensit) Will You Remember (CBS 6502647)
Aretha FRANKLIN and George MICHAEL I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (Epic DUET2)
FUZZBOX What’s The Point? (WEA YZ101)