In the early 1980s playgrounds you were either a Whammer or a Duranie. There was another group into Spandau Ballet but we won’t dwell on them. I was most definitely a Whammer, especially when those first amazing tracks came out Young Guns (Go For It), Wham Rap and Bad Boys were played to death on my record player.
It’s odd to think that Wham only reigned supreme on the charts for a short four years. Obviously George Michael went on to have massive success on his own but what became of the other member, Andrew Ridgeley?
He tried for chart success which evaded him, then got into racing and surfing and set up home with a member of Bananarama for most of the time. When George Michael died on Christmas Day 2016, he was thrust back into the spotlight, making a moving speech at the Brit Awards 2017, flanked by Wham backing singers Pepsi and Shirley.
It made sense that the inevitable book followed. I do love a tell all celebrity book but I did pick this one up with trepidation, even down to the title “George and Me”. I was worried that Ridgeley was going to cash in on his time with George at the beginning of his career. My fears were unfounded to a degree. Ridgeley is unfailingly positive in his recollections of George and their time together but I doubt very much if he would have written a book of this nature if George had still been alive.
The book does tend to be more a retelling of the launch of George Michael from someone near to him than a recounting of Ridgeley’s experiences which can border on uncomfortable. For instance, he tells the story of George coming out to him on the Club Tropicana video set. Is this a Ridgeley story or a George story?
Since about a year into Wham’s career, Ridgeley has always been pushed into the shadows. It is interesting to see how the music industry machine was already separating them when writing the second album, Make It Big, sidelining Ridgeley while George created musical magic. He spends a large part of the book defending his creative input which can get slightly tired after a while.
As someone who knew George as well as anyone in their early years, he paints a picture of a decent soul who we didn’t value enough when he was with us. The media turned him into a caricature, piling relentless pressure on someone with substance and emotional issues. Thankfully Ridgeley doesn’t comment on this period of Michael’s life and in fact is incredibly careful what he says about his post Wham life.
He absolutely doesn’t mention any of his own life experiences since 1986 when Wham split. That is to the detriment of the book. It would have been fascinating to understand how he came back to Earth whilst still in his twenties and planned a life for himself. I think, even now, he misunderstands the fondness fans feel for him. He is known to be intensely private but that would make me question why write the thing at all.
In summary, I didn’t really enjoy reading this book. It felt uncomfortable in parts and unnecessary in others. It probably would have served the memory of George better to let the, let’s be honest fairly dull, stories rest with him.