Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 26/09/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Cracking the Wham! mystery

Regular readers of Gusworld will be aware of three facts:

Today, we are going to bring together these three threads in a wide-ranging discussion of the classic 1982 Wham! single 'Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)', centred around a concept which Gusworld has already obsessed over with other artists: just how many versions of the song are available on CD, and how do they differ?

First, some background. 'Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)' (henceforth known as WR) was the band's first single, back in 1982, but was originally a flop, and only charted after 'Young Guns (Go For It)' became a hit. It is one of three songs in the Wham! canon cowritten by Andrew Ridgely (along with 'Young Guns' and 'Careless Whisper'), and is the only song on which George Michael has no hand in the original production (it was handled by American producer Bob Carter). It features on Wham!'s first album, Fantastic; well, sort of, as we shall see.

The CD copy of Fantastic I possess differs from the original release by including three instrumental remixes of lesser tracks, bringing the number of songs up to 11. Given this obsession with adding length, it's not surprising that the version of WR included is not the single mix (which, on a compilation CD I have, times in at 3:32), but runs for 6:46. To begin with, we will refer to this version as the standard 12".
WR next showed up on Wham!'s third and (apparently) final album, the hits compilation The Final. Again, it's not an exact replica of the original release; in this case, it omits the live track 'Blue', recorded on the band's China tour. Despite that, though, it does include the same standard 12" mix of WR (showing up with a time of 6:42 but otherwise identical). Why not include the single version (not available on any current Wham! CDs) and 'Blue', given that the 12" is available elsewhere? We may never know.
In the US, where Make It Big was the first album, releasing a greatest hits as the second was a bit premature. So it was retitled Music From The Edge Of Heaven and excluded the Make It Big! and Fantastic singles. What it did include, though, was the 86 remix of WR, released as part of a double-pack single version of Wham!'s last UK hit, 'The Edge Of Heaven'. It also included 'Blue', and 'Last Christmas' (the same extended mix as was used on The Final, making the original single mix something of a CD rarity). Oddly enough, the 86 remix runs for 6:38, making it virtually the same length as its earlier counterpart.
Not long after the band's demise, five extended versions of Wham! tracks were released as part of an Australian series called The 12" LP/Tape. Surprisingly, these eventually made it onto CD, and the Wham CD The 12" Mixes includes a third extended remix of WR, known as the Unsocial Mix and running for 6:43. The sound quality of this track suggests a slapdash mastering job from a relatively poor quality tape. Confused yet? Don't worry, you soon will be.
In 1992, Sony Music UK (a bit strapped for George Michael product) took the same disc, replaced 'Careless Whisper' with 'Young Guns' and released it as the mildly different The Twelve Inch Mixes. (For some reason, the Australian 12" Mixes CD claims on the label to include the UK track listing, but 'Careless Whisper' is on there.) However, the 'Unsocial Mix' of WR on the UK CD is in fact our old friend, the original 12", although my CD player claims it runs for 6:43 (the exact same length as the actual Unsocial Mix on the Australian disc). Clearly, someone in the mastering department stuffed up.

And the confusion doesn't end there, even if we don't bring in the US CD version of Fantastic (which features just 8 tracks, and may conceivably have the single rather than the extended version of WR). The original vinyl 12" of WR (#IVLA132442) features two versions of WR: the Special US Re-Mix on Side A and the Special Club Re-Mix on Side B. The former runs for 6:43, and is the standard 12" featured on Fantastic, The Final and The Twelve Inch Mixes. The latter, despite its grandiose title, is the 3:32 single mix.

As if that weren't bad enough, a sticker on the sleeve of this single (and bearing the same catalogue number) claims that what is actually featured on the record is the Unsocial Mix of WR on Side A (time 5:30) and the Social Mix on Side B (time also 5:30). As the timings here indicate, this is clearly inaccurate. Nonetheless, it may be this information that led the UK CD compilers astray.

All that's as may be, and a possible contribution to the world of record archiving. The more patient reader may be wondering, though, which of these versions is actually better. It's a tough call, although the 86 remix's effective use of the word 'shit' may have helped it over the line. However, what also emerges from the confusion is another important fact: despite existing in at least four distinct versions, 'Wham Rap!' always maintains its identity as a song. Not for these boys the endless anonymous dance remixes named after DJs. Remixing just becomes a question of emphasis. I gather that George Michael doesn't have quite the same attitude nowadays, but the times, as they always say, are a changin'.

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