|Single by George Michael|
|from the album Make It Big|
|Released||24 July 1984|
|Studio||Sarm West Studios, London|
|George Michael singles chronology|
The song features a prominent saxophone riff, and has been covered by a number of artists since its first release. It was released as a single and became a huge commercial success around the world. It reached number one in nearly 25 countries, selling about 6 million copies worldwide—2 million of them in the United States.
Composition and writing
Unlike most of the other Wham! singles, the song was co-written by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. The two wrote it together as developing artists three years earlier in Watford, England. Michael and Ridgeley wrote the song when they were 17, taking inspiration from stories from Michael's early romantic overtures. Michael explained in his autobiography, Bare, that much of the song's content is based on events from his childhood. Michael wrote in his biography, "With 'Careless Whisper' I remember exactly where it first came to me, where I came up with the sax line... I remember I was handing the money over to the guy on the bus and I got this line, the sax line..."
"When I was twelve, thirteen, I used to have to chaperone my sister, who was two years older, to an ice rink at Queensway in London," he detailed. "There was a girl there with long blond hair whose name was Jane. I was a fat boy in glasses and I had a big crush on her - though I didn't stand a chance. My sister used to go and do what she wanted when we got to the skating rink and I would spend the afternoon swooning over this girl Jane."
"A few years later, when I was sixteen, I had my first relationship with a girl called Helen", Michael continued.
It had just started to cool off a bit when I discovered that the blonde girl from Queensway had moved in just around the corner from my school. She had moved in right next to where I used to stand and wait for my next-door neighbor, who used to give me a lift home from school. And one day I saw her walk down the path next to me and I thought – now where did SHE come from? She didn't know it was me. It was a few years later and I looked a lot different. Then we played a school disco with The Executive and she saw me singing and decided she fancied me. By this time she was that much older and a big buxom thing – and eventually I started seeing her. She invited me in one day when I was waiting for my lift and I was ... in heaven.
Michael observed that after he stopped wearing glasses, he began getting invited to parties. "And the girl who didn't even see me when I was twelve invited me in", he noted.
So I went out with her for a couple of months but I didn't stop seeing Helen. I thought I was being smart – I had gone from being a total loser to being a two-timer. And I remember my sisters used to give me a hard time because they found out and they really liked the first girl. The whole idea of "Careless Whisper" was the first girl finding out about the second – which she never did. But I started another relationship with a girl called Alexis without finishing the one with Jane. It all got a bit complicated. Jane found out about her and got rid of me ... The whole time I thought I was being cool, being this two-timer, but there really wasn't that much emotion involved. I did feel guilty about the first girl – and I have seen her since – and the idea of the song was about her. "Careless Whisper" was us dancing, because we danced a lot, and the idea was – we are dancing ... but she knows ... and it's finished.
The song went through at least two rounds of production. The first was during a trip Michael made to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where he went to work with producer Jerry Wexler at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Michael was unhappy with the original version produced by Wexler, and decided to re-record and produce the song himself; the second version was the one ultimately released as a single.
After the backing track and George's vocal had been recorded, Wexler had booked the top saxophone player from Los Angeles to fly in and do the solo. "He arrived at eleven and should have been gone by twelve", recalled Wham! manager Simon Napier-Bell. "Instead, after two hours, he was still there while everyone in the studio shuddered with embarrassment. He just couldn't play the opening riff the way George wanted it, the way it had been on the demo. But that had been made two years earlier by a friend of George's who lived round the corner and played sax for fun in the pub."
While the saxophonist appeared to be playing the part perfectly, Michael told him, "No, it's still not right, you see ..." and he would lower his head to the talkback microphone and patiently hum the part to him yet again. "It has to twitch upwards a little just there! See ...? And not too much."
Napier-Bell consulted with Wexler over Michael's dispute with the sax sound. "Is there really something George wants that's different from what the sax player is playing?" Napier-Bell asked.
"Definitely!" replied Wexler.
I've seen things like this before. There's some tiny nuance that the sax player is somehow not getting right. Although you and I can't hear what it is, it may be the very thing that will make the record a hit. The success of pop records is so ephemeral, so unbelievably unpredictable, we just can't take the risk of being impatient. But this sax player's not going to get it, is he!
The version Wexler produced was released later in the year, as a (4:41) B-side "Special Version" on 12" in the UK and Japan.
The record label Innervision were going to put out the Wexler version of "Careless Whisper" after the Club Fantastic Megamix as far back as 1983. Song publisher Dick Leahy said that while he could not stop the release of the Club Fantastic Megamix, he could stop the release of this single on the basis that as a publisher they "have the right to grant the first license of the recording of a tune of which he controls the copyright". He was unable to do anything about the Club Fantastic Megamix because it was already released material. He said: "We knew how big that song could be, so it was necessary to upset a few people to stop it."
Michael later went back to London's Sarm West's Studio 2 to rework the track. According to English jazz musician Dan Forshaw, saxophonist Steve Gregory had received a call to re-record the song's distinctive solo; he was the eleventh saxophone player to record the solo, for Michael was determined to get the sound he wanted. "Session musicians do not have much idea what they are going to be recording until they arrive, and this was the case for Steve and another saxophonist who was ahead of him in the (queue)", Forshaw recalled.
As usual there was a lot of waiting around and the guy in front of Steve threw in the towel saying, 'it's only going to be some crappy B side anyway so I'm off'. Steve waited and then discovered that the solo wasn't that easy to play in the written key, as his old Selmer Mark VI tenor didn't have a top F# key. So, the engineer slowed the tape down so that Steve could record the solo a semitone lower than intended. Once the tape was put back to the normal speed, a 'unnatural' saxophone sound was created that sounded a bit like an Alto in the Paul Desmond vibe, but lacking a bit more depth and darkness to the sound. George Michael had just arrived at the studio and said 'that's the one, that's the sax solo I want'. This could be down to that whole 80s synth concept where sounds became increasingly 'manufactured', or just that George never recognized it was 'wrong'.
The officially released single was issued in August 1984, entering the UK Singles Chart at number 12. Within two weeks it was at number one, ending a nine-week run at the top for "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It stayed at number one for three weeks, going on to become the fifth best-selling single of 1984 in the United Kingdom; outsold only by the two Frankie Goes to Hollywood tracks, "Two Tribes" and "Relax", Stevie Wonder with "I Just Called to Say I Love You", and Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?". The song also topped the charts in 25 other countries, including the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in February 1985 under the credit "Wham! featuring George Michael", Spending three weeks at the top in America, the song was later named Billboard's number-one song of 1985.
Despite the success, Michael was never fond of the song. He said in 1991 that it "was not an integral part of my emotional development ... it disappoints me that you can write a lyric very flippantly—and not a particularly good lyric—and it can mean so much to so many people. That's disillusioning for a writer."
The official music video (which uses the shorter single version instead of the full album version and was directed by Duncan Gibbins, who previously directed "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go") shows the guilt felt by a man (portrayed by Michael) over an affair, and his acknowledgement that his partner (Lisa Stahl) is going to find out. It was filmed on location in Miami, Florida, in 1984 and features such locales as Coconut Grove and Watson Island. The final part of the video shows Michael leaning out of a balcony at the last floor of Miami's Grove Towers.
A first original version of the video was edited with the Jerry Wexler 1983 version, and featured Andrew as a cameo, handing over a letter to a dark-haired George. This version had a more detailed storyline, but was then re-edited later.
According to producer Jon Roseman, production of the video was "A fucking disaster". According to Michael's co-star Lisa Stahl, "They lost footage of our kissing scene so we had to reshoot it, which I didn't complain about ... Then George decided he didn't like his hair so he flew his sister over from England to cut it and we had to reshoot more scenes." 
|7": Epic / A 4603 (UK)|
|1.||"Careless Whisper" (Single Edit)||5:04|
|2.||"Careless Whisper" (Instrumental)||5:02|
|12": Epic / TA4603 (UK)|
|1.||"Careless Whisper" (Extended Mix)||6:31|
|2.||"Careless Whisper" (Instrumental)||5:02|
|12": Columbia / 44-05170 (US)|
|1.||"Careless Whisper" (Extended Mix)||6:20|
|2.||"Careless Whisper" (Instrumental)||4:52|
|12": Columbia Promotional / AS-1980 (US)|
|12" maxi: Epic / QTA 4603 (UK) – Special Edition|
|1.||"Careless Whisper" (Extended Mix)||6:31|
|2.||"Careless Whisper" (Jerry Wexler Special Version)||5:34|
|3.||"Careless Whisper" (Condensed Instrumental Version)||4:52|
- Note: The Extended Mix is identical to the album version from Make It Big.
Credits and personnel
- George Michael – lead and backing vocals
- Steve Gregory – saxophone
- Deon Estus – bass
- Trevor Morrell – drums
- Chris Parren – keyboards
- Anne Dudley – keyboards (uncredited)
- Hugh Burns – electric guitar
- Danny Cummings – percussion
Credits adapted from the Extended Mix's liner notes.
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||1,500,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
"Careless Whisper" has been covered by many other artists. Among the most significant versions are:
- Sarah Washington on a dance version that peaked at number 45 on the UK Singles Chart (1993).
- 2Play produced a cover version in 2004. It charted at number 29 in the UK.
- Kamasi Washington and El Debarge performed it to pay tribute to George Michael at the 2017 BET Awards.
In other media
- While with the Oakland Athletics, "Careless Whisper" was right fielder Josh Reddick's walkup music.
- A karaoke version of the song is sung by Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) and Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) in the Legends of Tomorrow episode "The Curse of the Earth Totem".
- List of best-selling singles
- List of best-selling singles in the United Kingdom
- List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1980s
- List of Dutch Top 40 number-one singles of 1984
- List of number-one singles of 1984 (Ireland)
- List of number-one hits of 1984 (Switzerland)
- List of number-one singles from the 1980s (UK)
- List of RPM number-one singles of 1985
- List of Hot 100 number-one singles of 1985 (U.S.)
- List of number-one adult contemporary singles of 1985 (U.S.)
- Greenwald, Ted (1992). Rock and Roll: The Music, Musicians, and the Mania. Mallard Press. p. 31.
- Molanphy, Chris. "Keanu and the Remarkable Chart History of George Michael, "Black" Music Star".
- "George Michael: 50 years in numbers". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
- The Complete Guide to the Music of George Michael & Wham! L Ellis ... - 1998 – Music Sales Group
- Michael, George (1991). Bare. Penguin. pp. 128–129.
- Michael, George (1991). Bare. Penguin. pp. 56–57.
- Corey, Russ (28 December 2016). "Solo version of 'Careless Whisper' recorded in the Shoals". TimesDaily. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
- Napier-Bell, Simon (2015). "Simon Napier-Bell: George Michael & Recording Careless Whisper". Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay: The Dodgy Business of Popular Music. Random House UK. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
- Michael, George (1991). Bare. Penguin. p. 166.
- Buskin, Richard (1 March 2013). "Classic Tracks: George Michael 'Faith'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
- "Cambridge Saxophone". Facebook. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "Google Maps".
- georgemichaelVEVO (25 October 2009), George Michael – Careless Whisper (Official Video), retrieved 6 June 2017
- Careless Whispers: The Life & Career of George Michael: Revised & Updated By Robert Steele
- I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Rob Tannenbaum, Craig Marks
- Q magazine, June 2009
- Niles, Laurie (14 February 2017). "Adele and George Michael: The Messy Art of Getting It Right". Violinist.com. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
- Careless Whisper (Extended Mix) (LP, Vinyl, CD). George Michael. CBS Records. 1984. 11-004603-20.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Australian Top 50 Chart Week Ending 23rd September, 1984". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Austriancharts.at – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Ultratop.be – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Top RPM Singles: Issue 9533." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 9579." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Hits of the World" (PDF). Billboard. 2 February 1985. p. 80. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Singlet 1984-11 marraskuu" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Lescharts.com – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Offiziellecharts.de – George Michael – Careless Whisper". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "George Michael Chart History". RÚV. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Careless Whisper". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Media Forest weekly chart (year 2016 week 52)". Media Forest. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Indice per Interprete: W: Wham" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "George Michael Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- ワム!のランキング (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 36, 1984" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Charts.nz – George Michael – Careless Whisper". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – George Michael – Careless Whisper". VG-lista. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Portuguesecharts.com – George Michael – Careless Whisper". AFP Top 100 Singles. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "SloTop50: Slovenian official singles weekly chart" (in Slovenian). SloTop50. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
- Fernando Salaverri (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
- "Swedishcharts.com – George Michael – Careless Whisper". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Swisscharts.com – George Michael – Careless Whisper". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "George Michael Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "George Michael Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Hot Singles Sales". Billboard. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "George Michael Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- "The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- "Top 100 1984 – UK Music Charts". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- "Top 100 Singles of 1985 in Canada". 5 November 2015.
- "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1985". Retrieved 26 December 2018.
- "Top 100 Hits of 1985/Top 100 Songs of 1985". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
- "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2016 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
- "Canadian single certifications – Wham – Careless Whisper". Music Canada. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
- "Les Singles en Argent :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
- "French single certifications – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in French). InfoDisc. Select GEORGE MICHAEL and click OK.
- "Italian single certifications – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 12 January 2015. Select "1984" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Careless Whisper" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
- "List of best-selling international singles in Japan". JP&KIYO. 2002. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
- "Dutch single certifications – George Michael – Careless Whisper" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 27 June 2012. Enter Careless Whisper in the "Artiest of titel" box.
- "George Michael on the charts". Music Week. Intent Media. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- "British single certifications – George Michael – Careless Whisper". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Careless Whisper in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "American single certifications – Wham – Careless Whisper". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 27 June 2012. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.
- "ChartArchive – Sarah Washington". archive.is. 19 January 2013. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "OFFICIAL SINGLES CHART RESULTS MATCHING: CARELESS WHISPER". Official Charts. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- "Watch Kamasi Washington & El DeBarge Cover George Michael At The BET Awards". Stereogum. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- "One 'Deadpool' Soundtrack Song Stands Out By Perfectly Capturing The Spirit Of The Character". bustle.com.
- "Never Gonna Bat Again: Oakland A's Josh Reddick on 'Careless Whisper'". Rolling Stone.
- Sava, Oliver (26 February 2018). "Legends Of Tomorrow blends superheroes and pirates for swashbuckling galore". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 26 February 2018.