Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wham! - Make It Big

Today (October 23rd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Make It Big, the second studio album from Wham! The multi-Platinum seller hit number 5 in France and Germany, number 4 in Austria, and number 3 in Sweden. It held the number 1 spot on the charts in Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the UK. It also went to number 1 here in the US, with a total of eighty weeks on the Billboard Album chart.

Side one opens with the high energy dance track “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”. As the lead single, it charted at number 17 in France, number 6 in Austria, number 2 in Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland, and number 1 in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the US and the UK. The story goes that George was inspired by a note left on a pad by Andrew to his parents that was supposed to say “wake me up before you go”. Andrew accidentally wrote “up” twice so he then turned “go” into “go go”. This song was a big hit at parties and the clubs back in the day. As soon as those opening “jitterbug” chants came on, everyone rushed the floor. It came to represent fun, carefree times. Even if a little cheesy, it remains a favorite of mine to this day.

“Everything She Wants”, the fourth single, went to number 21 in France, number 9 in Belgium, number 8 in Germany, number 7 in Australia, number 6 in New Zealand, number 5 in Austria, number 4 in Norway, number 2 in the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK, and number 1 in Ireland and the US. The lyrics tell of a man who is frustrated by his girlfriend’s unquenchable need for material things. When she winds up announcing she is pregnant with his child, he cannot even find happiness in that because it just means more financial pressure on him. I always liked the blend of the percussion and the keyboards here.

“Heartbeat” was the B-side to the third single. The music makes me think of 60’s Motown and beach songs; the mid-tempo swaying rhythm and George’s angelic vocals are very soothing.

The side ends with “Like a Baby”, a jazzy ballad. Back in the day, this was my least favorite track on the entire record; I would often flip the record before it came on.

Side two begins with the anthem “Freedom”. As the third single, it peaked at number 23 in Austria, number 16 in France, number 14 in Germany, number 9 in Sweden, number 8 in New Zealand, number 5 in Switzerland, number 3 in Austria, the Netherlands and the US, number 2 in Belgium, and number 1 in Norway and the UK. Again, this was another one that had us bouncing and bopping at parties and such, with everyone singing loudly along with the chorus of “I don’t want your freedom….!”

Next up is a cover of “If You Were There”, a tune first recorded by the Isley Brothers in 1973 for their album 3 + 3. The delivery is pure pop confection.

“Credit Card Baby” continues that classic sound with a song about a guy who buys his baby things every time she pouts. He is willing to let her have his money but not his heart.

The closing track “Careless Whisper” was released as the second single. It went to number 3 in France, Germany and New Zealand, number 2 in Austria, Belgium, Norway and Sweden, and number 1 in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the US and the UK. The mid-tempo ballad features a signature 80’s saxophone solo performed by Steve Gregory. This was a slow dance go-to for a number of years afterwards. This was also one of those songs I turned to when I was going through a break-up; it tended to sum up any sadness I was feeling quite effectively.

As a fan of Wham! from their debut album, I quickly picked up Make It Big on vinyl in the fall of 1984. It got a ton of play on my turntable for the coming years thanks to the popularity of all the hits that came from it. It was one of the albums that I would put on when getting ready for a night out at the clubs since it put me in the mood to dance. In 2007, when I was setting up my digital library, I went out and picked the album up on CD to replace my long-gone vinyl copy.

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