Friday, July 1, 2016

Wham! - Music From the Edge of Heaven

Today (July 1st) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Music From the Edge of Heaven, the third and final studio album in the 1980's from Wham! This 1986 record went to number 10 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a twenty-eight week total run) and number 9 in Canada and Japan. North America and Japan were the only marks for this release; the rest of the world got The Final on May 31st, 1986, instead (which was a greatest hits compilation with four identical tracks from this album also included).

Side one (labeled 'Hot Side') begins with "The Edge of Heaven". Featuring guest Elton John on keyboards, this third single went to number 22 in France and on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 11 in Austria, number 10 in Sweden and on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 in Germany and Switzerland, number 3 in Italy, number 2 in Australia and Norway, and number 1 in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK. It starts out with a thumbing bass line and builds from there into an explosive dance track with powerful horn accents. The attitude-filled lyrics tell of a frustrating love relationship. As a young adult in college, I blew off a lot of personal steam through dance to this one.

"Battlestations" opens with an answering machine message (I wonder if anyone ever called that number - I certainly didn't) before being overlaid with another energetic rhythm. Here, we have another relationship that dances across the lines of love and hate. The man is tired with her games and the dodging of phone calls with an answering machine. This is easily my favorite of the deep cuts from the album.

"I'm Your Man", the second single, went to number 55 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 42 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 34 in France, number 22 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 15 in Sweden, number 14 in Austria, number 13 in South Africa and on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 7 in Switzerland, number 4 in Norway, number 3 in Australia, the Netherlands and on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 in Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK. This is another track from the album that I like a ton; it was one of my jams at the clubs during the latter part of '86 and early '87 that called me to the dance floor every time it played. It is guaranteed to brighten my day even today when I hear it.

"Wham Rap '86" was the B-side to the third single in the UK and the fourth single. The song is a reworked and revitalized version of "Wham Rap" which appeared on their debut album Fantastic. It closes out a solid side of dance songs that I often used as a warm-up for my nights out at the clubs in my early 20's.

Side two (labeled 'Cool Side') opens with "A Different Corner". This ballad is overflowing with loneliness and heartbreak as the lyrics pose possible what-ifs to try and recover a lost love. If side one was all over my soundtracks of having a good time, this side was perfect for those times of quiet melancholy.

This live version of "Blue", recorded on tour in China, was the B-side to the third single in the US. With a mid-tempo melody, this one balances on an upcoming break-up. For me, it always had a bittersweet twinge of hope to it as if things could be salvaged at the last minute.

"Where Did Your Heart Go?" was written by David and Don Was and appeared on their 1981 debut album Was (Not Was). Wham! released their cover as the fourth single which went to number 54 in Australia, number 50 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 37 in the Netherlands, number 23 in Austria, and number 1 in Ireland and the UK. This version was the one I was first familiar as I did not get into Was (Not Was) until later in the decade.

"Last Christmas", the album closer, was first release as a single in December of 1984. It went to number 22 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 9 in Spain, number 8 in Poland, number 6 in Switzerland, number 4 in Austria and Germany, number 3 in Australia, Denmark Finland, and Greece, and number 2 in Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. It was re-released again in December of 1986; and it has digitally hit the charts every year from 2007 through 2015. The lyrics tell of reflection of a past love at the time of the holidays. For me, it isn't the Christmas season until I've heard this one at least a time or two. But it is also a song I can listen to and enjoy at other times of the year too. Over the years, the song has been covered by the likes of Billie Piper (who appeared on a few seasons of Doctor Who), Hilary Duff , Ashley Tisdale, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, the cast of Glee and more.

My first copy of Music From the Edge of Heaven was on cassette, bought in 1986 and played countless times in the following few years to the point it was worn out. I picked up my second copy on CD in the early 90's. Thirty years later, it still remains a favorite of mine. Normally, I like my albums mixing up the tempos but on this one the straight separation really worked well. When I was in the mood to dance, it was side one. When I was in the mood to be alone with my thoughts, it was side two.

For more from Wham!, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

In the latest Eighties or maybe even the earliest Nineties, the Tucson Mall (as seen in the film Can't Buy Me Love) was home to an Import Only CD store. After several fruitless trips, I purchased the only two way over-priced discs I ever bought there - it closed within a year and was widely rumored to be a cash grab by the local record chain Zip's, which suddenly saw an increase in their own imports sections after the store's closing.

The two discs were Wham!'s The Final and Daft by Art Of Noise. Best I can recall, I paid $25-$30 per disc. Still have both discs, too.

Somehow, the vinyl Music From The Edge Of Heaven came into my life - it may very well have been among the last albums my future wife bought before we joined our futures and pooled our vinyl collections in March 1987.

Before either The Final or Music From The Edge Of Heaven, I had the three twelve inch singles:
"Last Christmas"
"I'm Your Man"
"The Edge Of Heaven"
appended to my own Wham! Bam Thank You Ma'am* greatest hits cassette which may or may not still be lurking around the Hideaway Archives.

*May or may not be the actual title.