Monday, 13 July 2009

1986 Wham!: The Edge Of Heaven

With the demise of Wham! now announced and their final concert imminent, 'The Edge of Heaven ' was touted as the last single we'd get from the duo, a state of affairs that caused more sorrow and consternation amongst those of a certain age in 1986 than is normally shown on the news of a Royal death.

But make no mistake, in 1986 Wham! were royalty - pop royalty maybe, but they were as big a phenomenon as pop music had seen to date and the gravity of the occasion is well illustrated by Mr Ridgeley who stares from out of the sleeve with the expression of a doctor about to deliver some Very Bad News Indeed.

It was a golden opportunity to go out with a bang, but far from Wham! at their joyous best, it has as much fizz as a glass of Panda Pop that had been left out in the sun all day and it's telling that Michael on the sleeve looks as if his mind is elsewhere.

From the off, 'The Edge Of Heaven' positively drips with a deja vu ennui and the kind of anti-climactic aura that must have been shared by those who watched Don Bradman being bowled for that final duck. Because we've heard it all before; the finger snapping opening bars may be missing the backing cries of 'Jitterbug', but from the get go it's clear that 'The Edge Of Heaven' is jerry built on the recycled chassis of the demo of 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go'.

The suggestion is that Michael had already used all the plum pieces from his Meccano kit to build everything he wanted and so when it came to a last hurrah, he didn't want to open the shiny new ones he had in his room. Instead, he had to make do with what was left behind in the old box, and on the evidence of this there wasn't a hell of a lot left in the kitty. And where there weren't enough parts to cover all the gaps then a few lazy 'yeah, yeah, yeah's' and 'la la la la's' would just have to do.

I can't say I've ever been much of a fan of Wham!, but this is one of the few songs of theirs that I actively dislike. It was promoted as a musical event, and in truth their 'final single' would have hit number one had they covered Varèse's 'Ionisation', but 'The Edge Of Heaven' is nothing so interesting. It's cynical and it wears its cynicism on its sleeve, an autopilot exercise in squeezing the last drops from a lucrative cash cow.

Stretching the song to twice the length it needed to be to try and give it an epic feel doesn't wash either, and the 'risqué theme and lyrics fall flat and are even just a little sinister in a context where Michael knew his core audience were still writing his name on the covers of school exercise books:

"I would strap you up, but don't worry baby

You know I wouldn't hurt you 'less you wanted me to"

Whether he had in mind a ready made 'Frankie' type scandal to divert attention from the second hand music, or whether he thought it was further evidence of his growing 'maturity' and move into a more 'adult' market is debateable, but such was the clamour for the product that I don't think anybody paid too much attention in any case:

"I'm like a maniac, at the end of the day

I'm like a doggie barking at your door
So come take me back to the place you stay
And maybe we can do it once more"

Strewth, never mind making the sun shine like Doris Day, as long as they're good in the sack eh George? Which sums up 'The Edge Of Heaven' quite nicely - as effective as a Terminator programmed to kill a small child in doing it's job, but with just as much heart and soul.

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