Andrew Ridgeley is to publish a memoir about his experiences as half of 80s pop titans Wham! alongside the late George Michael. Wham! George & Me will follow the pair from their childhood friendship to their final concert in 1986.
“They made and broke iconic records, they were treated like gods, but they stayed true to their friendship and ultimately to themselves,” said publisher Penguin in a statement. “Andrew’s memoir covers in wonderful detail those years, up until that last iconic concert: the scrapes, the laughs, the relationships, the good and the bad.”
Ridgeley and Michael met in the mid-1970s at Bushey Meads school in Hertfordshire. Speaking to Smash Hits in 1983, Ridgeley said of Michael: “He looked a bit of a wimp in those days, actually, because he had these great big glasses. Huge steel-rimmed glasses and loads of curly hair. He was very, very plump and had one eyebrow, going right across. He plucks the middle of it now, but it used to go across like a pair of seagull wings.”
Michael responded: “That’s one of the ways he influenced me: he took a pride in how he looked and I didn’t. I was such a state! Being the type of person he was then, I never understood why he was so keen to make friends with me. But it all turned out for the best.”
They briefly performed in a ska group called the Executive before forming Wham! in 1981. Michael helmed the writing, production and singing, leaving some fans confused as to the exact nature of Ridgeley’s role in the band.
In 1997, Ridgeley told Hello! magazine: “My material contribution musically was less than George’s, and George and I have both always been very open about that. We made a decision very early on that George would be the main songwriter because it was very apparent to all of us that he was better at it.”
While their 1982 debut single Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) failed to chart on its first release, their subsequent singles began a reign of chart success – including five No 1 hits – that lasted until the band broke up in 1986. In 1985, they became the first western pop act to play in China, partially thanks to the efforts of manager Simon Napier-Bell to thwart a similar attempt by rivals Queen.
Wham! in China: Foreign Skies, a documentary about the tour premiered at the duo’s final concert on 28 June 1986, where they performed to 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium. More than 1m fans are said to have applied for tickets.
The group never reunited. “One of the promises we made to each other was that Wham! would never be resurrected because it was about being young,” Ridgeley told Hello! in 1997. He tried his hand at Formula Three racing, acting and a short-lived solo career following the band’s split, while Michael enjoyed huge chart success as a solo star.
Michael died aged 53 on Christmas Day 2016. At the 2017 Brit awards, Ridgeley paid tribute to his former bandmate: “His is a legacy of unquestionable brilliance which will continue to shine and resonate for generations to come. George has left in his songs, in the transcendent beauty of his voice, and in the poetic expression of his soul, the very best of himself. I loved him, and in turn we, you, have been loved.”
Penguin imprint Michael Joseph will publish Wham! George & Me on 3 October.