Pepsi & Shirlie look back on George Michael friendship and joining Wham: "It was fate we all met"

11 July 2022, 06:00 | Updated: 15 July 2022, 11:15

Pepsi & Shirlie interview: George Michael, Wham! and Us

By Tom Eames

Pepsi & Shirlie burst onto the pop scene in the early 1980s when they formed part of Wham! alongside friends George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.

The pair appeared as backing dancers and singers for the legendary pop duo, and later formed their own successful pop act after Wham! called it a day in 1986.

In an exclusive interview with Smooth Radio's Paul Phear, Pepsi & Shirlie open up about their close friendship with George Michael, how they joined Wham! in the first place, and the legacy they all left behind.

Watch the interview above

In the Global Player special, Pepsi & Shirlie speak about the magical moment that they first heard 'Careless Whisper' in Shirlie's car, how George first came out to Shirlie, and the power of George and Wham!'s music to this day.

They also speak about what it was like to go out on their own, and how they both met George and Andrew as youngsters.

Andrew played 'Careless Whisper'. And I literally went cold, and just had a vision – because I’m always very intuitive. I just had this vision of this voice— I’d never heard a voice like this, first of all. It was just something I hadn’t heard before in a male singer. And I remember thinking, 'The whole world is going to know this person. They’re going to know him. That voice is just so appealing to every sensory cell in your body'.

- Shirlie Kemp

The interview is a revealing and moving look back at one of pop's best-ever groups, and is a much watch for any George Michael fan.

Speaking about how she met the duo, Shirlie said: "I was the year above them. So I didn’t hang out with them at school. But I bumped into Andrew once we’d all left school, and we just remembered each other from school, and spoke about music for a whole night.

"I went through the whole punk thing, watching bands, and it was just something I loved. And I hadn’t met someone so passionate about music. So he ended up going, 'You’ve got to come and see Yog.'

Wham On Stage with Pepsi & Shirlie
Wham On Stage with Pepsi & Shirlie. Picture: Getty

"And I was going, 'Now, who’s Yog?'. I couldn’t remember who Yog was from school. And then as soon as we went to his house – I drove – he opened the door, and I went, 'Oh, the boy who used to play violin.' So I’d remembered him.

"And it was so lovely because the three of us, as fast as I connected with Pepsi in my car – me, George, and Andrew just got on so well. I don’t know. It’s just a connection that I’d not really had before so instant."

On joining Wham!, Pepsi said: "I think for us, we were very fortunate as far as – we weren’t stuck in the back doing vocals. We were actually upfront with George and Andrew.

"They had a set of backing vocals, but we were part of the show. It was something I had to actually get used to, because I was like, 'OK, I’m going to be a backing vocalist for Wham.' But Andrew was like, I remember, being a bit concerned as to… 'When am I going to do my backing vocals?'

Pepsi & Shirlie
Pepsi & Shirlie. Picture: Getty

"Shirlie was like, 'OK, let me talk to the boys about this'. And Andrew said to me 'Right, Peps. Do you want to be stuck behind a microphone, doing the backing vocals? Or do you want to be upfront with us?'

"And that’s what happened. We ended up being like the dancers and part of the entertainment and everything. So we were just up there with the boys. Which one would you choose? I chose being up there with the boys."

Watch the full interview exclusively on Global Player here

Pepsi & Shirlie's autobiography It's All in Black and White is out now in paperback.

George Michael's special 25th anniversary edition of Older is released on August 12.