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24 June 2023, 10:34
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley appeared on TV show 'Saturday Superstore' in October 1982.
Teenage George, who at the time was a part-time DJ by night and a cinema attendant by day, seemed like he'd performing for years as he sang 'Wham Rap' and 'Young Guns' on TV for the first time.
Joined on stage by bandmate Andrew Ridgeley and singers Dee C. Lee and Shirlie Holliman, George stunned the audience with the accomplished performance that eventually got Wham! spotted by the producers of Top Of The Pops.
Wearing matching turned-up jeans and white espadrilles that cost just £9.99 from Dolcis, teenagers George and Andrew sang their hearts out on the show and afterwards threw themselves into answering questions about their lives to callers and reading out competition answers and winners.
But what looks like an energetic and polished TV appearance was actually a huge turning point for the devastated stars, whose single 'Young Guns' had failed to make any waves in the UK charts.
In his 2019 book Wham! George and Me, Andrew Ridgeley describes how their appearance on Saturday Superstore came as a huge lifeline for the singers, as it was just as their record label and manager were starting to despair that they perhaps wouldn't make it.
"‘Young Guns (Go For It!)’ had been released in September 1982, but with it only landing at number 73 in the charts, the odds of Wham! becoming internationally famous were lengthening by the day," says Andrew Ridgeley.
"Everyone from our radio plugger to (Innervision executive) Mark Dean was feeling jittery. However, when the charts came out the following week, ‘Young Guns’ had jumped to number 48 and all of a sudden the prospects of a Top 40 record and of being included on the all-important radio playlists was within reach.
"Then the bottom seemed to drop out of our world. In week three of its release, the single dropped to number 52. Despite all the PAs we’d done and the acres of print that heralded us as ones to watch, it seemed like failure was staring us in the face. It was calamitous and George took it badly.
"George’s mood was bleak. And with good reason. There was nothing more we could do to change its fortunes. I knew it and he knew it. Years later he claimed to have been almost suicidal at the news of the single’s stagnation.
"And then, in a heartbeat, our luck changed. Wham! was spotted by the children’s TV show Saturday Superstore," Andrew recalls.
"We’d been performing to yet another room full of apparently uninterested, boozy clubbers in London when one of the crowd was struck by the novelty and energy of our ‘Young Guns’ routine. And she happened to be one of the show’s researchers. We were invited to appear the following weekend. It was an amazingly lucky break!
"The programme was a big deal at the time and always featured bands it knew would appeal to its young audience. Everybody knew that an exciting performance in the studio could work wonders for a new act," Andrew says.
WHAM! first ever TV show Saturday Superstore 1982
"After watching the Superstore in the morning, viewers then tended to spend their pocket money on records in the afternoon. It was a heaven-sent lifeline and we jumped at the chance to appear. We knew it had the potential to generate the momentum we so badly needed.
"We put on a real show. Backed by a band and flanked by a pair of American muscle cars, we played ‘Wham Rap’ and ‘Young Guns’. Our performance generated an immediate upswing in fortunes."
"For a while, it looked like our appearance on Saturday Superstore might represent the dizziest heights of our success.
‘Young Guns’ moved up the charts, but only as far as number 42. It hadn’t broken us into the all-important Top 40. While it was a huge step in the right direction, we were still in limbo.
Andrew and George were thrilled that they had finally made it to TV, but their excitement soon started to fade when the single still failed to chart, but it was a huge stroke of luck from the back of their Saturday Superstore appearance that changed their fortunes forever.
"Unexpectedly, miraculously, Top of the Pops decided they wanted to have us on the show. There’s still something of a mystery surrounding the circumstances of our appearance, but apparently another band had dropped out at the very last minute. I don’t know who it was and we were never told, but fate stepped in and gifted us our golden opportunity.
Andrew Ridgeley on George Michael friendship and Wham's history
After Top of The Pops 'Young Guns' peaked at number 3 in the charts and the Wham! boys became overnight heart-throbs - all thanks to that first TV opportunity in 1982 and their boyish excitement to be famous.
"Everything looked effortlessly fun for us because it was effortlessly fun," recalls Andrew Ridgeley, "and that natural exuberance translated into huge commercial success."
Within a year, the two teenagers from Hertfordshire were competing with Duran Duran and Culture Club to be the biggest pop band in the UK and in 1983 Wham!'s debut album Fantastic shot to number one in the charts.
The rest, as they say, is 80s pop music history.