535. ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, by Wham!

In my last post, on ‘The Reflex’, I wondered if Duran Duran had produced the most obnoxious-sounding intro ever. In this post, I will pose a similar question: is the intro to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ the happiest intro ever?

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, by Wham! (their 1st of five #1s)

2 weeks, from 27th May – 10th June 1984

In fact, is this entire record not just the happiest piece of music ever recorded? It’s pure, pure pop. If you were to look up ‘pop song’ in the dictionary, I hope the entry would simply read: Noun. 1. As in ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by Wham. There are finger-clicks, there are organs, there are Jitterbugs!… The moment where George Michael goes for the I wanna hit that high… line, and the horns come smashing in, is perfection.

You can picture the smile on Michael’s face as he sings – though his voice isn’t quite as strong as it would grow to be – probably because he knows he’s just sealed his first UK (and US) chart-topper. In the back of your head you’re thinking: this should be way more annoying than it is, nothing this perky can be ‘good’… But the irritation never comes, not for me anyway. Lines like You put the boom boom into in my heart… float past unchecked. ‘Go-Go’ is rhymed with ‘yo-yo’, and nobody bats an eyelid…

The record’s innocence runs deep. George is upset, he feels betrayed… All because his friend went dancing without him. (I just noticed the potential pun in the title: ‘go-go’, as in ‘go-go bar’…?) The video is also a slice of wholesomeness: an all-white set, George and Andrew in their ‘Choose Life’ tees, as if they are hosting a primary school anti-drugs talk, before things go all neon. (At the very end, as the music fades, a message on screen reads: ‘Go-Go Buy It’, which feels very eighties…)

There’s a cleanness and a simplicity to this record, especially compared to the Blitzkrieg-pop that was ‘The Reflex’ and ‘Relax’. It’s timeless, appropriate for everything from a kids’ party to a stag do, and everything in between. On a completely unrelated note, I’ve always subconsciously connected ‘Wake Me Up…’ with Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’. Both are slight outliers in their band’s discography, both are ridiculously catchy, both are throwbacks to the fifties and sixties – rock ‘n’ roll in Queen’s case, doo-wop and Motown in Wham’s. Doris Day even gets a name check here!

This was the first single to be released from Wham’s second album, and it was clearly a step up into the pop stratosphere. They’d had their earlier hits – ‘Wham Rap’ and ‘Club Tropicana’ among them – but this made them global superstars. Back when I wrote my post on ‘Relax’, I confidently claimed 1984 as Frankie’s year. But maybe they’ll need to share it with Wham!, and George Michael, who will also have scored three chart-toppers before the year is out, plus one of the biggest-selling number twos in history. ‘Choose Life’ versus ‘Frankie Say…’ Much more to come from both camps…


24 thoughts on “535. ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, by Wham!

  1. AND – both Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Wham! both took message T-shirts to new levels of popularity and sales.
    (Yeah – great pop song too. ) 🙂

  2. AND – both Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Wham! both took message T-shirts to new levels of popularity and sales.
    (Yeah – great pop song too. )
    (Oops! I was logged in to my other blog, above.) 😀

  3. I liked Wham (listed as Wham UK, here) and George Michael. My teenage self kinda knew, even back then, that Georgie was gay. Loving to dance (you recall me talking about “shagging”), jitterbugging is fun, too and this song is a fun piece. It’s been years since I’ve danced a jitterbug. When I was still with my ex-Marine, we did a lot of two-stepping & West Coast swing.

  4. On paper i should love this one. Im a fan of all their singles esp the fab club tropicana and that very exciting holiday video before id ever been on anything remotely like a club holiday. I adore Motown. And yet i just found this one annoyingly chirpy motown-by-numbers programmed to be big. Plus george’s new hairdo and all the headlines about him trashing a video cos his hair wasnt quite right and wasting cash flying to get another perm just rubbed me the wrong way! I ended up forgiving him when the next gem came out but this is still my least fave wham single – not counting the awful record company megamix cash in that george didnt want released.

    • See, I think the next Wham single is the more retro-by-numbers (though still good). I’m sure there will be a day when I hear this one and find it just too damn perky, but that day is yet to come…

    • Oh, and I think the hair drama was when he was filming the ‘Careless Whisper’ video. Still, it was a dickish thing to do (even if his hair is spectacular in that video…)

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  6. For Americans, this is where it all starts with George Michael and listening to it now you can hear why people went crazy for it in 1984 and why Michael wanted to move away from stuff like this going into his solo career. As Tom Breihan points out, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is one of those ‘80s songs that has refused to die with how often it’s used in comedies and animated movies. Sure, it’s heavily campy and silly with the smiley retro production and performance but it’s hard for me not to be happy when it’s on.

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