Charlie's 80s Blog

This Day In Music, February 17th

On this day in 1985: Wham! were enjoying their first of three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with ‘Careless Whisper.’ The song features an iconic and prominent saxophone riff and has been covered by a number of artists since its first release. It was released as a single and immediately became a huge commercial success around the world. It reached #1 in nearly 25 countries, selling about 6 million copies worldwide—2 million of them in the United States. It would be ranked the #1 song of the year for 1985 in the United States by Billboard Magazine.

In 1981, Michael was working as a DJ in the Bel Air restaurant near Bushey, Hertfordshire. Michael explained in his autobiography, ‘Bare’, that he conceptualized “Careless Whisper” based on events from his childhood. Michael wrote, “I was on my way to DJ at the Bel Air when I wrote “Careless Whisper”. I have always written on buses, trains and in cars. It always happens on journeys…With “Careless Whisper” I remember exactly where it first came to me, where I came up with the sax line… I remember I was handing the money over to the guy on the bus and I got this line, the sax line… I wrote it totally in my head. I worked on it for about three months in my head.”

“When I was twelve, thirteen, I used to have to chaperone my sister, who was two years older, to an ice rink at Queensway in London,” he explained. “There was a girl there with long blond hair whose name was Jane. I was a fat boy in glasses and I had a big crush on her – though I didn’t stand a chance. My sister used to go and do what she wanted when we got to the skating rink and I would spend the afternoon swooning over this girl Jane.”

“A few years later, when I was sixteen, I had my first relationship with a girl called Helen”, Michael continued.

It had just started to cool off a bit when I discovered that the blonde girl from Queensway had moved in just around the corner from my school. She had moved in right next to where I used to stand and wait for my next-door neighbour, who used to give me a lift home from school. And one day I saw her walk down the path next to me and I thought – now where did SHE come from? She didn’t know it was me. It was a few years later and I looked a lot different. Then we played a school disco with The Executive and she saw me singing and decided she fancied me. By this time she was that much older and a big buxom thing – and eventually I started seeing her. She invited me in one day when I was waiting for my lift and I was … in heaven.

Michael observed that after he stopped wearing glasses, he began getting invited to parties. “And the girl who didn’t even see me when I was twelve invited me in”, he noted.

So I went out with her for a couple of months but I didn’t stop seeing Helen. I thought I was being smart – I had gone from being a total loser to being a two-timer. And I remember my sisters used to give me a hard time because they found out and they really liked the first girl. The whole idea of “Careless Whisper” was the first girl finding out about the second – which she never did. But I started another relationship with a girl called Alexis without finishing the one with Jane. It all got a bit complicated. Jane found out about her and got rid of me … The whole time I thought I was being cool, being this two-timer, but there really wasn’t that much emotion involved. I did feel guilty about the first girl – and I have seen her since – and the idea of the song was about her. “Careless Whisper” was us dancing, because we danced a lot, and the idea was – we are dancing … but she knows … and it’s finished.

Despite the success, Michael was never fond of the song. He said in 1991 that it “was not an integral part of my emotional development … it disappoints me that you can write a lyric very flippantly—and not a particularly good lyric—and it can mean so much to so many people. That’s disillusioning for a writer.”

Here’s the complete Top 20 on the U.S. singles chart from this day back in 1985:

1 3 CARELESS WHISPER –•– Wham! Featuring George Michael (Columbia)-9 (1 Week at #1) (1)
2 1 I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS –•– Foreigner (Atlantic)-11 (1)
3 2 EASY LOVER –•– Philip Bailey & Phil Collins (Columbia)-13 (2)
4 4 LOVERBOY –•– Billy Ocean (Jive)-12 (4)
5 7 METHOD OF MODERN LOVE –•– Daryl Hall & John Oates (RCA)-10 (5)
6 8 NEUTRON DANCE –•– The Pointer Sisters (Planet)-13 (6)
7 16 CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING –•– REO Speedwagon (Epic)-5 (7)
8 11 THE HEAT IS ON –•– Glenn Frey (MCA)-11 (8)
9 5 THE BOYS OF SUMMER –•– Don Henley (Geffen)-15 (5)
10 13 CALIFORNIA GIRLS –•– David Lee Roth (Warner Brothers)-5 (10)

11 14 SUGAR WALLS –•– Sheena Easton (EMI-America)-9 (11)
12 12 SOLID –•– Ashford & Simpson (Capitol)-15 (12)
13 6 YOU’RE THE INSPIRATION –•– Chicago (Full Moon / Warner Brothers)-14 (3)
14 17 THE OLD MAN DOWN THE ROAD –•– John Fogerty (Warner Brothers)-9 (14)
15 21 MR. TELEPHONE MAN –•– New Edition (MCA)-9 (15)
16 20 MISLED –•– Kool & The Gang (De-Lite)-13 (16)
17 9 LIKE A VIRGIN –•– Madonna (Sire)-14 (1)
18 19 FOOLISH HEART –•– Steve Perry (Columbia)-13 (18)
19 10 I WOULD DIE 4 U –•Prince & The Revolution (Warner Brothers)-10 (8)
20 18 OPERATOR –•– Midnight Star (Solar)-12 (18)

On this day in 1989: David Coverdale married actress Tawny Kitaen (known for her provocative appearances in Whitesnake’s music videos ‘Here I Go Again, ‘Is This Love’ and ‘Still of the Night’). The couple divorced in 1991.

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