Michael's inspiration for the song was a scribbled note left by his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley for Andrew's parents, originally intended to read "wake me up before you go" but with "up" accidentally written twice, so Ridgeley wrote "go" twice on purpose. Released in May 1984, it heralded the beginning of a softer, sunnier image for Wham!, who had spent the previous year as a moodier, more politically themed duo, with songs about unemployment, young marriage, and battles of will between parents and their children. With the release of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", they re-emerged with wider smiles, more colourful clothing, and a more positive disposition in interviews.
In 1984, George Michael had this to say on the development of the song:
"I just wanted to make a really energetic pop record that had all the best elements of Fifties and Sixties records, combined with our attitude and our approach, which is obviously more uptempo and a lot younger than some of those records. It's one of those tracks that gets rid of a lot of your own personal influences; it reminds me of so many different records that I couldn't actually nail them down. I'd done a demo at home that just had a bass line and a vocal on it. Usually, I write the record in my head; I know what all the parts are going to be and I sing them to all our musicians. And it was great. ... We actually did it as a rehearsal. We used a Linn drum because the drummer was late, and it was such a good track that we kept it."
The song entered the UK Singles Chart at number four — after much hype from the duo claiming they would go straight in at number one, which was a rare occurrence then — and climbed to the top spot seven days later, staying there for two weeks. The song also went to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
The music video, essentially the duo performing (it also introduced Ridgeley as a guitar player for the band) to a teenage audience, was memorable for the clothes, which became a lasting sartorial image for the 1980s as a decade. Michael and Ridgeley were wearing Katharine HamnettT-shirt designs which said "CHOOSE LIFE". Michael was also seen in luminous gloves, which he later bemoaned as the clip of him always picked out by advertisers whenever "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" went on to a compilation album. The video was filmed at the Brixton Academy in South London.