Photo credit: Becky Rui (www.beckyrui.com)
It’s the 25-year anniversary of Wham! The Final and to celebrate, we caught up with Wham!ettes Pepsi and Shirlie to talk about the old days. Still close after all these years, the pair were a hoot to interview, cackling their way through a forest of memories…
So, Pepsi and Shirlie – my earliest memory of Wham! was watching you do Young Guns on Top Of The Pops. Do you remember that?
Shirlie: “Yes – that’s probably one of my earliest memories too! Do you remember we went all cowboy and nobody knows why – we weren’t cowboys in the video…”
Pepsi: “Then suddenly we were on Top Of The Pops…”
Shirlie: “I blame George – maybe he was going through a cowboy phase…”
So it’s 25 years since Wham! The Final – what are your highlights?
Shirlie: “For me it was that first TOTP doing Young Guns. We’d been doing PAs around the clubs, then suddenly we were in the Top Of The Pops studio and everything was so shiny – the floor, the lights – and you think, wow, how did we get here?”
Pepsi: “My abiding memory is joining the band. A car was sent to bring me to rehearsal which was impressive, and we did a spot at the Lyceum for Capital Radio. We were on stage and all these girls were screaming so loudly that eventually, I started screaming back at them. I remember thinking ‘yeah, I could get used to this…”
So how did you come to join the band?
Shirlie: “Well I knew George and Andrew from school – we were all from Bushey.”
Pepsi: “And I joined when DC Lee left to join The Style Council and they needed a replacement. I did the audition, but I didn’t know who it was for until I was told I got the job. When they told me it was Wham!, I thought, ‘Oh, those white boys that rap’…”
So do you still remember all the dance moves?
Shirlie: “Those dance routines were made up in George’s house and consisted mainly of us flinging our legs and swinging our arms – my daughter dies laughing when she watches us. There’s really not much to remember…”
Pepsi: “Liza Minnelli came to see us in Miami and they were looking for somewhere to put her before the show – and she ended up in our dressing room. So she came in and started to warm up, doing high kicks and all of that. We were sat drinking our tea thinking, ‘Now now Liza, calm down dear’, and she was like, ‘Come on girls!’. That was very surreal.”
Shirlie: “We needed a video camera that day – we’d of tweeted it if it existed then!”
Do you still have your Choose Life T-shirts?
Shirlie: “I don’t think I do – apparently Dolce and Gabbana are bringing out a Wham! T-shirt though. Clearly we’re vintage…”
And you’re still in touch with George and Andrew?
Pepsi: “Absolutely – we went to see George’s show the other night and went backstage. He was so pleased to see us and he’s thrilled we’re doing this…”
Any chance of a full Wham! reunion?
Shirlie: “We would and George could be persuaded, but Andrew wouldn’t want to do it – he has a lovely life. He always told me at school that he wanted to get rich and not work after he was 30 and he’s achieved his goal!”
I remember you said you wouldn’t get on-stage again though…
Pepsi: “Everything Shirlie says she’s not going to do, don’t listen to her… This year we did the Here And Now tour and first thing she said to me was, ‘I’m not going to prance up and down the stage Pepsi’. What was the first thing she did? Prance up and down the stage.”
Shirlie: “Bit of reverse psychology there. Don’t listen to a word I say.”
Did you do your own stuff on the tour or a bit of Wham! too?
Pepsi: “Our own stuff, but for future gigs we will do a couple of Wham! songs too – people seem to want it and if the public demand it, we shall sing!”
Would you like to have gone on longer in Wham!?
Shirlie: “No – I think it was perfectly timed. Everything all of us took from Wham! was positive – it took George to where he wanted to go, it gave us a great ride and it gave Andrew the life he has now.”
Pepsi: “A lot of thought went into stopping when we did – we were at our peak, it was such a high and that’s why we can celebrate Wham! The Final again now because we all still have great memories and we’re all still great friends.”
What are your memories of the Wham! The Final concert?
Shirlie: “It was sweltering hot and it was crazy backstage – I remember Elton John running around, Duran Duran, loads of people…”
Pepsi: “Everyone had tricks up their sleeves, we were swapping clothes and Shirlie and I came on-stage in these beehives. George and Andrew didn’t know about that and I could see George trying not to laugh when I was dancing with him because he’s such a professional. But honestly, I looked like Marge Simpson, we looked ridiculous…”
I interviewed Bananarama a couple of years back and they told me they recreated the Last Christmas video with George and Andrew a while back – any plans to do that?
Shirlie: “Well I didn’t have, but I do now – that’s a great idea!”
Pepsi: “A while ago we went back to Ibiza with a load of friends and recreated the Club Tropicana video – it was hilarious. Who knows where that’s gone now?”
Shirlie: “I loved the Club Tropicana video – it’s my favourite. We got a free holiday to Ibiza to shoot it and I got to dress up as a air hostess – it was fab!”
Is that your favourite Wham! video?
Shirlie: “Yes – that and Last Christmas because that was all our mates too. To this day I’ve no idea how they got something out of that, because we all just seemed to sit around and eat and drink…”
Pepsi: “Mine is Wake Me Up Before You Go Go because they put an announcement out of Captial Radio to come along in day-glo clothing and people did. Watch the video and we go wrong again in the dance moves but it still works! I met Kate Moss at one of George’s parties and she told me she was in the crowd that day.”
Looking back on your style in the 80s and now – which do you prefer?
Pepsi: “We were having fun in the 80s, but back then it was all about being cool without being seen to be cool. So we were one of the first girl groups to have a clothing range in Top Shop but when we were asked to promote it and model it, we didn’t because it was uncool.”
Shirlie: “I really regret that now – we didn’t know anything back then. Can we have another chance now please?”
What’s next for you now?
Pepsi: “We’ve got a smattering of dates booked for next year to be Pepsi and Shirlie and if people want to see us, we’ll be back on the stage. I’d also love to do a smokey, jazzy, sultry album – a Bacharach-style affair.”
Finally, if Pepsi and Shirlie could be the love child of any two artists alive or dead, who would you choose?
Pepsi: “Tina Turner as my mum…”
Shirlie: “…and Barbra Streisand.”
Pepsi: “A gay marriage! I think that could work!”
Wham! The Final: 25th Anniversary Edition is released on November 28th.