After the breakup of their first band The Executive, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley formed their new duo act Wham! in 1981.
They signed an awful recording contract with the independent label Innervision in 1982 and released their debut album Fantastic
. It climbed as high as the #4 spot on the charts in Britain, and produced four UK Top 10 singles with "Young Guns (Go For It!)
," "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)
," "Bad Boys," and "Club Tropicana," quickly turning the duo into teen idols.
According to Ridgeley, Wham! wasn't supposed to last forever. "Wham! was the expression of our friendship, the humor, the vitality the exuberance of youth," he told Top 2000 a gogo
. "It represented the optimism and the drive and the aspiration of youth and the limitless horizons."
He added: "Wham! was never going to be middle-age. It wasn't going to be us in our 50s."
Wham! saw little money from the success of their first album because of the unfair contract they signed with Innervision. Michael spoke in his book Bare about not being able to continue with the label: "I realized that it was getting ridiculous to have no money, to have to keep asking for a little bit of money for clothes and stuff, when you know how much you are making for other people."
Michael and Ridgeley were forced to give up most of the revenue generated from their first album in order to opt out of their contract and sign a new deal with Sony's sister company, Epic Records.
There was a change in their image for their second album, Make it Big. Under the advisement of Ridgeley, they moved on from their leather-wearing, angry and somewhat political sound to a fluffy, flashier, friendlier pop sound. Michael spoke to Q in 1988 about never quite being comfortable with wearing white shorts and all the earrings. "That was so feminine looking!," he said. "When I look back on that it's so disgustingly embarrassing. I saw a clip from ('Wake Me Up Before You) Go-Go' recently and I thought, Who the f--k is that? What the f--k was I trying to prove? I've never really been quite sure who in the audience goes for this look."
Image won over substance with the popularity of MTV, though, and Make it Big went gold in the United States.
After the incredible success of their second album, Michael began to hear a shift in the sound of his songwriting. It resulted in Wham! announcing in 1986 that they would go their separate ways. They played one last farewell show in June to 72,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
When the duo split, rumor had it that they were not getting along, which caused their breakup. Michael insisted that they ended Wham! for artistic reasons, and that these rumors were started by their former, embittered management. He wanted to write to more honest emotions in his records, creating songs that people could personally relate to. He echoed those thoughts to Billboard, stating: "It became a very restrictive thing, and I felt I was ready to do other things musically."
He spoke to NME in 1986 about the duos relationship and the false rumours, "It makes it all look such a sham. If we weren't friends in the first place we wouldn't have stayed together this long."
After Wham! broke up, Michael went through an eighth-month depression. He realized that there had been a period in Wham! where he had completely lost himself. He confessed to Q in 1988 about not knowing who he was anymore. "The problem was just that I had developed a character for the outside world that wasn't me," he said. "I was having to deal with people all the time who thought it was. So I made the decision to uncreate the person I had created and become more real."
Michael asserted that Ridgeley was supportive during this time. "He worries about me being at the center of all this fuss again without anyone to bounce off. We talked and I reassured him that I can cope with it all a lot better than I could before."
Michael's iconic Faith image - the ripped jeans, leather jacket, and scruffy beard - were a return to the early days and image of Wham! It became known as his "fairy biker" look.