Wham! was the foundation for George Michael’s incredible worldwide success as a musical artist. He happens to be a good-looking man, too. Although Michael became a household name in the 1980s, he is still rocking in the free world, and cranking out as many hits as ever. However, this blog isn’t about the immortal Michael. It’s about Andrew Ridgeley, the other guy in Wham!, who, after the band broke up, abruptly disappeared from the North American radar.
Ridgeley was neither the usual songwriter nor the lead singer of Wham!, although it is rumored he co-wrote at least one highly successful song on the band’s albums. A reasonably handsome guy, he played a mean saxophone and guitar. Wham! sold more than 25 million records in the 1980s. They were the only British act in the 1980s to achieve three No. 1 singles in both the UK and the US. (take that, Spice Girls – oh, wait – they were a confusing 1990s phenomenon). Manager Simon Napier-Bell, (a brilliant publicist), fabricated a story that Ridgeley was punched on the nose in a nightclub, to get more publicity for his clients. Eventually, he admitted that the bandages on Ridgeley’s face were from plastic surgery he had done on his nose. Well, the surgery is understandable. Ridgeley’s better half was a better-looking kid.
Wham! had two UK No. 1 singles in 1984 and were competing that year with pop rivals Duran Duran, an equally kick-ass British band, to be Britain’s biggest pop act. It’s hard to say who won. They were both stupendous. As far as longevity goes however, Duran Duran matured into a sophisticated band that went beyond their 1980s pop sound. A trio of members came and went, however, the band still tours Europe and are huge in the UK. Most of the original and current members are still married to their first wives. Cool. But I digress.
In 1986, Michael left Wham! to move into an entirely different genre of music and, well, we know how that turned out. Ridgely moved to Monaco, and tried his hand at Formula Three racing. Seriously. Bit of a career change, that. Ridgeley had no success in that area and he moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting and well, we know how that turned out. Another no-go. Clearly, Ridgeley was not the talented half of Wham! By 1990, Ridgely got the message and he made a permanent move back to Britain, appearing before a crowd of one (his mother) at the airport. The Spice Girls, I believe, scared him out of North America.
CBS Records released a guitar and drum driven solo recording from Ridgeley, Son of Albert (better than Son of Sam), in 1990. His brother Paul, an occasional percussionist for Bananarama, (cool), played drums on the album. Singles included “Shake” and “Red Dress”. “Shake“, which was the first single from his solo album, had moderate success, reaching No. 13 on the Australian charts and No. 58 in the UK charts. Well, that’s not so bad. But “Red Dress” didn’t make the charts at all. The introductory video demonstrates why it did not. At least he was in good shape for the video. And that’s what matters.
CBS nixed the option of a second album. Son of Albert was one of the worst received albums of 1990, achieving only half a star in a savage Rolling Stone magazine review. Quote: On the credibility scale, Andrew Ridgeley falls somewhere between LaToya Jackson and oblivion. Ouch. Ridgeley later said: “It was disappointing and depressing to receive quite such a beating over that album.” And you thought I was mean. Since 1991, Ridgeley has generally shunned the limelight, but he did agree to give an interview on camera for a 2005 documentary A Different Story, about the life of George Michael. Ouch again. When a documentary producer contacts you to appear in a documentary about someone else, that’s gotta hurt. Ridgeley looks hot in it, however. He has aged gracefully. Kudos.
Ridgeley still writes music under pseudonyms. He made £10 million from sales and royalties of records since 1990. Although the single “Careless Whisper” was issued as a George Michael solo piece, it was credited as being co-written by Ridgeley. It has sold six million copies worldwide and, to date, is the 34th best-selling single of all time in the United Kingdom, having sold over 1.3 million copies. Ridgeley still benefits financially from receiving thousands of pounds per annum from his share of “Careless Whisper” royalties alone. Not too shabby for a vanishing act. That’s an issue that confuses me. If he writes such great songs for other bands and singers, why not write them for himself? Meh. One of those weird music industry things, I guess.
Ridgeley did alright in the romantic arena too. He lives with attractive, former Bananarama member Keren Woodward, in Wadebridge, Cornwall. He’s also an environmental activist and is a member of a bizarre-sounding eco group, Surfers Against Sewage. Surf’s up in Cornwall? Who knew? Perhaps a come-back isn’t in the cards, nor is a solo career. But a musical history with one of the world’s most prominent pop musicians ain’t a bad achievement either.