The Second Disc

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Reissue Theory: WHAM! “The Final: Live at Wembley”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look back at notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Twenty-five years after one of pop’s guiltiest pleasures said goodbye to a packed live audience, we wonder what a release of that show would look like.

On June 28, 1986, twenty-five years ago today, WHAM! became a past-tense pop act. It wasn’t your typical pop meltdown, however; it was a breakup for the ages. What other group bids their fan base (80,000 attendees worth) farewell with a handful of guest megastars and a lengthy, sugar-sweet set list?

Of course, that was par for the course for WHAM!, who had entered 11 of their 12 singles into the U.K. Top 10 (six of which were chart-toppers) and would sell about 20 million albums worldwide when all was said and done. From the beginning, when a lucky scheduling conflict got them a spot on Top of the Pops in 1982, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were two of the flashiest stars on the pop scene.

As an unironic fan of WHAM!’s effortless bubblegum pop, it would give this writer great pleasure to see some sort of catalogue activity occur for the boys. And this final show at Wembley Arena might be the flashpoint for any such product. Hit the jump to read up on how everything in the band’s career culminated in that show – and how we’d present the concert for fans, Reissue Theory-style!Despite all the mugging for the camera and good-time grooves offered by WHAM! in their three-year run, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were all business. Unlike other pop idols of the day, they were heavily involved in the creation of their own music; Michael (along with Ridgeley, often unfairly relegated to “other guy” status in retrospect) wrote and co-produced the band’s debut, Fantastic (1983) and fully produced the follow-up, 1984’s Make It Big.

The boys also crafted a pretty unique sound all their own, thanks to assistance from some crack musicians backing them up. Childhood friend David Austin backed the boys up on keyboards, Deon Estus laid down some seriously funky bass tracks, saxophonist Andy Hamilton laid down his second-best work for an ’80s U.K. pop band (Duran Duran’s Rio remains a high point for the sax in general) – and who could forget the bubbly presence of backing vocalists Pepsi & Shirlie?

Although some hardcore fans have credited Ridgeley with a fair amount of the band’s progress – it was he who spearheaded the band’s move from royalty-stingy Inner Vision Records to Epic, the change in image from leather-wearing party-boys to white-soul idols and was responsible for two of the band’s biggest hits (one, by leaving a jokey note for his parents asking that they “wake [him] up-up before [they] go-go”; the other by co-writing the immortal “Careless Whisper”) – it’s clear that Michael was destined for big things. “Careless Whisper” and “A Different Corner” were credited to Michael alone, and a chart-topper with Aretha Franklin in 1987 would only be the beginning of a sterling few years in the pop spotlight.

So the duo announced in the spring of 1986 that they would amicably split, following a farewell single (“The Edge of Heaven,” subsequently included on the band’s compilation The Final and its American counterpart Music from the Edge of Heaven) and a grand finale show at Wembley Arena in London. The eight-hour event (including the premiere of the band’s Foreign Skies documentary, chronicling their unprecedented trip to perform in China) featured all the hits and guest appearances from two of the U.K.’s biggest musicians: Elton John (who had featured Michael on his 1985 single “Wrap Her Up”) and Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, making a rare guest appearance away from the band (who were in the final stages of recording Notorious).

All in all, a strong show, but not one widely represented in bootlegs, either audio or visual. Arguably, an official release would be best served as a DVD (pro-shot footage, though rare, surely exists), in order to capture the scope of the show (and the photogenic nature of the band).

WHAM!, The Final: Live at Wembley 1986 (Epic/Legacy)

  1. Everything She Wants
  2. Club Tropicana
  3. Heartbeat
  4. Battlestations
  5. Bad Boys
  6. If You Were There (a cover of the Isley Brothers song)
  7. The Edge of Heaven
  8. Candle in the Wind (with Elton John)
  9. Credit Card Baby
  10. Like a Baby
  11. Love Machine (a cover of The Miracles song)
  12. Where Did Your Heart Go?
  13. Why (a cover of the Carly Simon song)
  14. Last Christmas
  15. Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)
  16. A Different Corner
  17. Freedom
  18. Careless Whisper
  19. Young Guns (Go for It!)
  20. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  21. I’m Your Man (with Simon Le Bon)

Written by Mike Duquette

June 28, 2011 at 17:32

8 Responses

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  1. Hello, I think David Austin was rather a guitarist for the band, and Tommy Eyre was on the keyboards… I might be wrong though…

    Christophe Allier

    June 28, 2011 at 18:20

  2. A few times every year, I go on a rabid search for pro-shot footage from this show…yet it somehow remains out of circulation. I love you for writing this up.

    Jason

    June 28, 2011 at 22:21

  3. Agreed, after 25 years, it might be fun to see what all the hype was about. Having seen some of the youtube footage there are some great moments – although most of that source the crowd noise is the only thing you can hear.
    I would much rather see a catalog run on the original 3 albums (THE FINAL best of in the UK etc. – )
    FANTASTIC already has CD versions out there with instrumentals and remixes built on, but most of the actual 12″ releases remain only on vinyl. MAKE IT BIG the bands’ smash has at least a few instrumental mixes out there as b-sides, but also the original version of “Careless Whisper”, the single mixes of “Everything She Wants” and “Freedom” (at least two remixes of “Freedom” are out there on 12″ etc).
    The studio mix of “Blue”, along with “I’m Your Man”, “Battlestations”,”The Edge Of Heaven” (and even) “A Different Corner”(- if you want a stretch) make up the “new material” from THE FINAL (or MUSIC FROM THE EDGE OF HEAVEN in the US – the title still makes me cringe). There are ideas there.

    Todd R.

    June 29, 2011 at 02:46

    • As far as I know the Wham! tracks that are still not easily available on CD (i.e. not on Fantastic, Make It Big, Music from the Edge of Heaven, The Final, Twelve Inch Mixes or If You Were There) are:

      Wham Rap! (7″ version) (first single)
      Wham Rap! (Club Mix) (b/w first single)
      Wham Rap! (Social Mix) (first 12″)
      Wham Rap! (Unsocial Mix) (first 12″ too)
      Going for It! (b/w Young Guns)
      Wham Rap! (part 1, a.k.a. Radio Version) (*)
      Wham Rap! (part 2)
      Young Guns (US Re-Mix) (from a 12″ available in a special bundle in the UK)
      Bad Boys (Instrumental) (b/w Bad Boys)
      Bad Boys (12″ Mix)
      Blue (Armed with Love) (b/w Club Tropicana)
      Club Tropicana (Instrumental) (b/w Club Tropicana 12″)
      Club Fantastic Megamix (7″ version)
      Club Fantastic Megamix (12″ version)
      Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Instrumental) (b/w Wake Me Up…)
      A Ray of Sunshine (specially recorded for the Tube) (b/w Wake Me Up… 12″)
      Careless Whisper (Instrumental) (b/w Careless Whisper)
      Careless Whisper (Special Version a.k.a. Jerry Wexler Version) (b/w some Careless Whisper 12″)
      Freedom (Instrumental) (b/w Freedom)
      Last Christmas
      Last Christmas (Alternate Version) (found on the japanese 12″, wrongly labelled as Pudding Mix)
      Everything She Wants (7″ Remix)
      Do It Right (b/w I’m Your Man)
      I’m Your Man (Acappella) (b/w I’m Your Man 12″)
      A Different Corner (Instrumental) (b/w A Different Corner)

      If you add:
      Fantastic (with its three bonus tracks),
      Make It Big,
      Music from the Edge of Heaven,
      the tracks available only on The Final, Twelve Inch Mixes or If You Were There (**),
      more songs ‘specially recorded for The Tube’ (on video of course!),
      the video for Foreign Skies,
      the video for The Final in Wembley and
      ALL the music videos (i.e. including Bad Boys) you have enough for a WHAM! BAM! BOX!

      Christophe

      (*) Wham Rap! was issued twice: as their first single and as their third, right after Young Guns. The single was reissued with at least two different covers (a very blue one, and a white one with a drawing of two faces) in 7″ and 12″. Even though the titles were different on the covers (‘part 1’ on the blue one, ‘Radio version’ on the white one) and on the labels (all the A-sides, 7″ or 12″, were called ‘Special US Re-Mix’, and all the B-sides were labelled ‘Special Club Mix’) the content was the same :
      7″ A-side : part 1,
      7″ B-side : part 2,
      12″ A-side : part 1+2 (this is the version available on Fantastic, The Final or Twelve Inch Mixes),
      I don’t know for sure but it’s even possible that the ‘7″ version’ and the ‘Club Mix’ from 1982 were in fact the same part 1 and part 2…

      (**)
      Young Guns (12″ version) from The Final or Twelve Inch Mixes,
      Careless Whisper (single version) from The Final,
      Freedom (Long Mix) from Twelve Inch Mixes,
      Freedom (alternate mix) from The Final,
      Everything She Wants (12″ Remix) from The Final or Twelve Inch Mixes,
      I’m Your Man (single version) from The Final,
      I’m Your Man (Extended Stimulation) from Twelve Inch Mixes,
      A Different Corner (single version, without intro) from The Final,
      I’m Your Man ’96 from If You Were There,
      Everything She Wants ’97 from If You Were There

      Megatof

      June 29, 2011 at 06:50

      • Megatof I would buy this “WHAM! BAM! BOX!” (cool name for the box set by the way) ina “Heartbeat”! =)

        Nuno

        June 29, 2011 at 18:44

  4. I love this idea, although I doubt this theory will ever materialize. George stated that he will not allow any performances being released pre 1996. Too bad though

    Sven1987

    June 29, 2011 at 06:53

  5. i do like enthusiasm for back catalogues and it’s plainly shown here.
    Still rumbling on throughout the internet is the debate regarding the edsel reissues of the Thompson Twins catalogue. Edsel used inferior vinyl for a lot of the material. Fans have superior stock to do this and have continually trumped any official releases.

    It was a half decent effort, but there was too much detail in the original vinyl releases that they were bound to screw up, sometimes royally. I would say, personally, that 70% of the material was done well and the other 30% I have had to replace with online material thru fan forums and fan made compilations.

    The product is in the hands of the fans nowadays, not the bands. The band or artist only made it, they didnt buy it religiously like the fans. And the band don’t cherish anything about the releases except the returns. That’s not a problem with me. All hail the fans!

    Gary clarke

    June 29, 2011 at 11:39

  6. Coming from another unironic fan of this band. This is all great stuff. One of the reasons I come to this site. Thanks.

    PATRICK

    June 29, 2011 at 21:37


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