When George Michael cheekily sang 'Careless Whisper' bare chested and the audience went berserk

25 February 2022, 14:41

Wham! were the first ever western pop group to perform in the Republic of China and the screams of the crowd prove just what a special night it was for everyone who witnessed the concert.
Wham! were the first ever western pop group to perform in the Republic of China and the screams of the crowd prove just what a special night it was for everyone who witnessed the concert. Picture: Big Boys Overseas Ltd/CBS Records

By Giorgina Hamilton

George Michael was on tour in China in 1985 when he stepped out on stage wearing just a white suit – and nothing else – to sing a stunning rendition of 'Careless Whisper'.

Fashion may have changed in 30 years, but George Michael singing 'Careless Whisper' stripped to the waist may just never go out of style...

Wham! were the first ever western pop group to perform in communist China and the screams of the crowd prove just what a special night it was for everyone who witnessed the concert.

The Wham! star was on tour with Andrew Ridgeley in the city of Beijing when the audience gradually fell silent as he serenaded them with 'Careless Whisper'.

The Wham! star was on tour with Andrew Ridgeley in China when he performed his first solo single to the packed audience who gradually fell silent as George serenaded them.
The Wham! star was on tour with Andrew Ridgeley in China when he performed his first solo single to the packed audience who gradually fell silent as George serenaded them. Picture: Big Boys Overseas Ltd/CBS Records
22-year-old George Michael sang the romantic ballad - backed by Andrew Ridgeley on the guitar -  to the crowd of 12,000 at the Workers' Gymnasium in Beijing
22-year-old George Michael sang the romantic ballad - backed by Andrew Ridgeley on the guitar - to the crowd of 12,000 at the Workers' Gymnasium in Beijing. Picture: Big Boys Overseas Ltd/CBS Records

22-year-old George Michael sang the romantic ballad – backed by Andrew Ridgeley on the guitar – to the crowd of 12,000 at the Workers' Gymnasium in Beijing where tickets were just $1.75 each.

Wham! played just two concerts in Hong Kong and two in China, on April 7 and April 10, 1985, on their Asian tour.

The trip cost $1.5 million and was entirely self-funded by the band and their record company, but was priceless in terms of the huge media attention it garnered across the world.

Wham! released a documentary of the ten-day tour entitled Wham! in China: Foreign Skies which premiered in front of a crowd of 72,000 at their Wembley Arena farewell concert on June 28 1986.

The East Asian trip cost $1.5 million and was entirely self-funded by the band and their record company, but was priceless in terms of the huge media attention it garnered across the world.
The East Asian trip cost $1.5 million and was entirely self-funded by the band and their record company, but was priceless in terms of the huge media attention it garnered across the world. Picture: Big Boys Overseas Ltd/CBS Records

Speaking about their 10-day Chinese tour, Andrew Ridgeley has since said: "It was an extraordinary experience.

"We were the first contemporary band, I think The Chieftains had been there – [who were] an Irish folk cross pop cross over – we were the first kind of pop act as people would understand it to go to China, it was still very much a communist country and was in the process of industrialisation and it was very, very tightly controlled – we were guests of the Chinese Youth Workers Party."

After being signed to independent label Innervision Records in 1982, George Michael's bandmate recalled how they became popular very fast and were "in a bubble", so weren't quite aware of how famous they were.

Wham! were the first ever western pop group to perform in the Republic of China, pictured in Tiananmen Square in 1985.
Wham! were the first ever western pop group to perform in the Republic of China, pictured in Tiananmen Square in 1985. Picture: Getty

Andrew said: "The success came very quickly and it was a different age so one's awareness, especially in a global sense wasn't quite the same as it was these days because of social media and because of the huge variety of media that people are exposed to.

"We were in a little bubble to a degree, but you'd never really know what was going on elsewhere, you'd done a tour in the States and then you wouldn't really know what the reaction was out of the shows because it wasn't immediate on Instagram and Twitter. It wasn't perhaps as broad as it is these days, it was fab though."