Last Christmas, we lost George Michael of Wham! We remember him now with “Heartbeat,” a mid-’80s flip side he wrote and sang lead for that duo and a solo flip side, “Mother’s Pride,” from the beginning of the next decade.
By Warren Kurtz
Flip side: Heartbeat
A side: Freedom
Top 100 debut: July 27, 1985
Peak position: 3
George Michael brought his clear and powerful vocals to the British duo WHAM! along with guitarist Andrew Ridgeley. In 1984, Columbia released their album with the foretelling title “Make It Big.” It’s first single was the lively, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which served as a great showcase for George Michael’s upper vocal range when he sang “I want to hit that high” and then went even higher with “yeah, yeah” which followed. This single spent three weeks at number one, as did the next single, which truly introduced the world to the depth and clarity of George Michael’s vocals on the ballad “Careless Whisper.” In the U.S. the single was labeled as “WHAM! featuring George Michael” and in some parts of the world as a George Michael solo single. The next million selling single, “Everything She Wants” also spent multiple weeks at number one.
The final single from the album was “Freedom” with the lines, “I don’t want your freedom, I don’t want to play around.” The flip side was “Heartbeat,” also from Make It Big, with a Phil Spector style percussion backdrop and George Michael’s lyrics, “Another summer, another vacation is over. It is September now, with the sun and the smell of clover.” The same month of this single’s release was the Live Aid concert, where Elton John found a new friend in George Michael to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with him. George Michael returned the favor early in the following decade with Elton John as a guest on his number one live version of the song, as part of his “Cover to Cover” tour.
The next album from WHAM!, “Music From the Edge of Heaven,” also brought four songs into the Top 100, plus “Last Christmas.” This was George Michael’s second Christmas single, as he had been part of Band-Aid with “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”
By 1987, George Michael was officially a solo act with several number one hits carrying him into the early part of the next decade beginning with “Faith,” from the album of the same name.
In 1990, George Michael offered a more mature approach on the album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1” beginning with the number one cassette single, “Praying for Time.” The next single entitled “Freedom,” not to be confused with the WHAM! single of the same name, declared, “You gotta give for what you take.”
The final single from the album, released as a cassette single in the U.S., and a vinyl single in the UK, was “Waiting for the Day” with an ending which blended in lines from the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Its flip side, also from the album, was “Mother’s Pride,” a beautifully sung, tender tale about a soldier, released at the time of the Persian Gulf War. Enough radio stations played this flip side, interspersing messages from soldiers, that in addition to the A side reaching the number 27 position, this flip side, reached number 46 in 1991.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, around 9:05-9:25 a.m. Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”